We need to talk about your direct mail…

First of all, I’m going to have a rant. 

I’ve always received cold emails across my career, but the volume at which they grew when I set up CEW was crazy. I know, as a business owner/decision-maker it was bound too. But what continues to shock and aggravate me is just how terrible the direct mail hitting my email and LinkedIn is. 

When we were fortunate enough to be included in the Startups 100 last year, the amount of inbound I received shot up even more. We were now one of a hundred names on a list that a huge variety of service-based businesses could approach. We became an easier target.

It was rare that I responded to any email or LinkedIn message that came after that. If I did it was to ask for CEW to be removed from their mailing list, and sometimes I might be polite enough to decline. 

For the first time in a (almost) ten year PR career, I have more empathy for journalists than I ever have before. [Note - the following rules also apply to pitching the media.]

The amount of time wasted reading emails from people who couldn’t be bothered to do their research in the first place, is frustrating, and personally, I just think it’s plain rude. 

We’re all increasingly time-poor due to the demands of work, demands of life, and the notifications and calls for our time from people we already know and want to stay connected with. 

So, if you are the person who needs to send a direct mail - for whatever reason - to someone you don’t yet know, PLEASE READ BELOW. 

1) Think about the ‘why’
The email you send a prospective client will be different from the first email to a potential investor. 

The information you share, how you position it, and the way you approach them all need to be considered. The two things to invest time into are your messaging and getting to the crux of what you’re asking for - but doing it in such a time that people receiving the email don’t waste time and can make faster decisions. 

Invest more time before you hit send, then you do wasting time in follow up emails. 

2) Research
What was really clear when CEW was featured in the Startups 100 list, was that practically every company who emailed us was sending the same email to the other 99 companies. 

Aside from a generic ‘congratulations...’ and ‘we’re super impressed by...’ the rest of the email would go on to talk about a service that we didn’t need, and relate it to the sort of company that we aren’t. 

It seems so simple that you’d assume everyone knows they should do it. BUT RESEARCH THE COMPANY AND PERSON BEFORE YOU EMAIL THEM. 

A simple 30 seconds spent looking on our website or LinkedIn would tell you enough to know if you are a service of value to us. 

Adding as much as a few lines that are targeted about the business you are contacting makes a significant shift in the mindset of the individual reading it. The second I see that someone doesn’t understand what we do - I STOP READING AND IGNORE THE EMAIL. 

You need to reel people in. Personalise the email and make sure that who you are targeting is relevant. 

For critical future contacts invest even more time in the research piece upfront. 

3) Seriously, make sure you get somebody’s name right. 
I’m not going into detail on this, just highlighting that if you email cathy@cewcomms..., do not address the person in the email as Kathy/Cassy/Catchy/Thy/Caroline. 

Yes, I once responded to an email and someone who popped Cathy in the first email, then responded to ‘Caroline’. 

Small details are the big details! 

4) Please stop ‘expanding our networks’ 
This is something I see a lot on LinkedIn, and I hate it with a fiery passion. 

Firstly, anyone who connects with you so you can both ‘expand your networks’ is using this as a sales technique. 

Personally, it comes across as incredibly phoney to me and while I used to say ‘yes’ to most people approaching me through LinkedIn, I now mainly say no unless I can see you’re part of my existing network. Which goes against the whole point of ‘expanding our mutual circles’. 

I prefer to add people I have actually met in person or have had a lot of contact with. However, I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people who use LinkedIn and it carries a sales benefit. 

All I suggest is that if you are going to add a cold contact, be honest about why you’re adding them. Make it punchy, pay attention to the details as with email, and stop adding time-wasters like me to your network if all I’m going to be is another number. 

Make the connections that really count. 

5) Review your tech and be careful with follow-up emails
We know that a lot of salespeople use systems to send out initial emails and follow up with the people they were contacted - we get it, tech saves time etc. but if you’re not watching all the details like a hawk, it can backfire terribly. 

Firstly, make sure you’re being GDPR compliant and make opting out easy to find. Add a button or flag you’re ok to receive an email responding that you want to be removed from the database. THEN REMOVE THEM STRAIGHT AWAY. 

This is where the human to tech relationship can fall down. If you forget and then they get another email, you’re in trouble. 

But another issue is when tech doesn’t spot out of offices, and can’t take what the out of office might say, into consideration. What if you send a chaser email to someone who was recently bereaved, or someone who said they’re disconnecting for two weeks. The tech may be ‘at fault’ but it’s people that need to pay attention to all the details. 

Remember, every ‘lead’ you’re emailing is a human being, just like you. Email them as you would want to be emailed and be respectful of their time. It’s very simple really, but far more effective in the longer term. 


BY CATHY WHITE, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF CEW COMMUNICATIONS.