The art of cold emailing, or I need a little of that human touch

Warning: The first half of this blog post is a rant, feel free to scroll down to the first subtitle.

I recently received an email that sent me off my rocker. I have this thing. I get really frustrated when I see people making obvious mistakes. Mistakes that could easily be fixed. It pissed me off so much that it made me want to blog about it.

Nowadays most of my blogging is done for our site at Switch Digital, it is the one that brings food to my table. But this is not really a marketing issue. Well, it is. And it isn’t. And this is why I’m writing here, because I can afford to be slightly more relaxed, because I can afford to be pissed off at people here.

But then I thought that instead of being pissed off, maybe I should take the time to analyze the email I received and point out what made it so infuriating.

This is it, first of all:

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 16.00.29

And what is so offensive about this, I hear you ask? Well, this email is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to decide where to start.

First of all, let’s take the email at face value. It’s doing a good job by telling me that lots of people are on Facebook (everybody knows this, but let’s let that slide for the moment because it is correct and relevant). It is also telling me why I should create Facebook games (to outperform the competition).

Taking the email at face value, you should also spot a number of issues. The grammar is atrocious, the layout is somewhere between a mass mailer and a personal email and the design of the image thrown in is questionable at best.

But what’s the guy’s biggest mistake?

He did not research who he was sending the email to. He did not even bother to read up on me. If he had done so he might have just realised that I don’t need to be lectured about the power of Facebook. He might have also realised that I offer the same services he does. Once he did that, he could have taken two paths – he could have simply moved on to someone else, an easier target, or else changed the gist of the email completely to offer me collaboration or to see whether I’m interested in outsourcing work to him.

He reminded me of this guy who recently sent us a private message on Facebook saying:

Hi i am xxx xxx a Business and It (HONS) student at the university of Malta and would be highly interested in taking care of your Facebook page to maximize audience and to reach a larger amount of people, at a monthly fee. It is highly recommended to increase sales and awareness. Kindly contact me if interested

followed by:

are you interested ?

about 7 minutes later.

Seriously?

So, what can we take out of it? If I don’t come to this, then it would have been one of my rantiest posts ever. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?

The art of cold emailing

Email marketing is a knife that cuts both ways. If you’re not going to commit to doing it well, then just don’t do it at all. I won’t go into all that goes in to mass email marketing because that will take ages. Instead I’ll focus on the rare occasions where you might want to send someone an email to potentially start getting business from them.

Think of our ancestors hunting in the woods. If they ran right into a clearing slashing around with their knife they might have a slight chance of hitting something (or themselves), but they would most probably have died of hunger pretty quickly.

On the other hand, the hunters who survived and thrived had the patience to learn the patterns of their prey before attempting to catch them. Once they did learn the patterns, they took it easy and only approached slowly and carefully, ideally waiting until the weakest one in the pack was at its most vulnerable.

Cold-emailing a potential client should be pretty similar. Instead of trying to email 500 different people a day by harvesting their email addresses at random, try approaching the subject in a scientific manner. You will waste far less time, bother less people and increase your chances of success greatly.

Here is the pattern I usually follow. It has always served me well.

Identify your ideal target market

You’re not good at everything. The quicker you accept this, the better. Especially if you’re just starting out in business, you have to understand that there are areas in which you have a natural affinity to succeed. So do your best to identify these areas.

Find the leaders in the market

Once you have a clear idea of which industry (or which sectors within an industry) you would like to target, then you need to find the companies that are doing the best job in what you want to offer. If it’s social media marketing for aviation schools you’d like to offer, then find the companies in the field who have the best social media presence. You don’t want to approach these, well, at least you don’t want to approach them yet, but you need to know what they’re doing. You need to make it your mission in life to learn all you can about what is making them successful.

Find the companies which have potential but are struggling

Once you have the leaders identified, you have to look for the low-hanging fruit. These are usually the companies that are just outside the top 3-4 businesses in any sector and are doing their utmost to be within that top three position. These are the companies who would probably do with a little leg up and chances are they know it.

Take your time to study them well

You now know who you want to approach. Learn everything you can about them. Learn their products as if they were your own. Learn their pitfalls, learn their strong points, learn their weaknesses and find their biggest threats. Learn as much as you can about the people working there, stalk them on LinkedIn and make sure you know as much about them as you know about the players in your favourite football team.

Prepare a detailed proposal

Never email someone with a mass-produced proposal (if you want to get any work). Take your time to either build or at least tailor your proposal in a way that shows them that you care about their business, that you care about their success. Your only way of getting the contract is by clearly demonstrating what’s in it for them. Your proposal should show that you’ve invested a significant amount of time in understanding what makes their business tick you have to make sure that your proposal contains as many “aha” moments as possible. Moments where the people seeing it are thinking to themselves: “damn, we should have seen that ourselves”.

Target the email carefully, follow up, ask for a meeting

You can’t put everything in a proposal, and you sure as hell can’t close a sale in a single email (unless you’re extremely lucky or you know someone personally), so make sure that your email gets to the right person within the organisation. Once you think that they’ve received it you should follow up (by email or over the phone) to make sure that they read it. Try to get yourself a meeting based on the proposal. Assume that nobody actually read it all, so be prepared to have to go over it again in detail, explaining the nuts and bolts. This is the time for you to show them that there’s more to you than one proposal. This is the time for you to show them that you’re the person for the job.

I’ve used variants of this for over ten years and it has always served me well. Nowadays I’ve honed it to a level where around 60-70% of the time I get it right. This is not only because I prepare great proposals, but also because I know when I should not even bother. Larger business will come, in time, but till then I’m only going to reach for the fruit I can pick.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestDiggStumbleUponEmail

Notes on mobile phone photography

It's me, I'm Cathy

It’s me, I’m Cathy

I’ve always been somewhat of a purist where photography is concerned. I’m not a fan of heavy editing, and I’m particularly wary of applying any automated changes made by some random algorithm to my carefully planned out shots.

Call it pride, call it being a dinosaur, hell call it stupidity, or combine all three – but as a result I never really shot anything on my phone other than “memory” photos.

Most phone cameras are incredibly limiting. Even when you get something with an above-average sensor, the lens is so basic that you can hardly control any aspect of your photography. There are exceptions, granted, but they’re usually compromises, either in terms of size or in terms of software. I’m not prepared to lunge around a camera with a phone stuck to its back on a daily basis, and I’m not quite ready to go back to Symbian OS.

And so I was left with a decision. I could either just ignore mobile phone photography and diss it or I could try my hand at it. And, given the old adage in photography is that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you at the time, I decided to bite the bullet and try my hand at being more creative with my phone’s camera.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I started off where everybody else seems to dip their toes in: Instagram. Now whereas I was slightly wary of mobile photography, I was actively anti-Instagram for quite a few reasons.

First of all it took ages to come over to Android, and when it did iPhone users felt betrayed. Seriously? Next there was the issue of Facebook buying them out at a time when Facebook was trying to claim it owned the rights to all your life and, finally Instagram itself was claiming it owns the rights to your photos (and thoughts). Thankfully this was sorted out and I was finally ripe for the picking.

I started looking for a few instagrammers, first the ones I already knew and followed on other social media (including my biggest inspiration in mobile photography, Michelle Robinson). Then I tried looking through the most popular photos as suggested by Instagram itself and was pretty disappointed. Most of the popular instagrammers are either famous people who use it to document their lives and are therefore stalked my many (I even chose to stalk a few myself) or hot chicks who take suggestive self-shots in the mirror (erm, I followed a couple of these too).

But the point is that very few people on Instagram are there for the photography. The ones who are more interested in aesthetic qualities of photography are few and far between, and finding them usually proves to be quite a challenge.

As with everything else, I guess it all boils down to whatever floats your boat. If you’re after proper mobile photography then you’ll outgrow Instagram’s severe limitations pretty quickly. There is only so much you can do to fix a photo with a retro filter. And applying funky filters will never help you out with the basics of photography such as lighting and composition.

If you do have the basics right and are ready to accept the limitations of the medium, then I think there is a lot of scope for mobile phone photography. Until we get proper lenses and decent sensors I think we shall have to base most of our skills on post-processing, but till then I believe that there is a lot of fun to be had and beautiful photos to be taken.

I might have joined the party late, but I intend to make the best of it now.

P.S. I post all my mobile phone photography on Instagram, even though you can catch a few on Facebook from time to time.

These shoes

These shoes

Foggy morning

Foggy morning

Sunday morning

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestDiggStumbleUponEmail

Forget about the evidence. Live your life.

I love photography. I am never far from a camera, and never quit looking for pictures. Sometimes I realize that whenever I’m out and about I automatically look for photos, no matter whether I am out shooting or not.

However recently I have been taking my camera out with me less in everyday life, and reserving my photography to specific times when I leave the house specifically to take photos.

Social media has most of us living in fear of losing the moment. We feel compelled to document our life in snapshots. In slices of reality that can decorate our Facebook Timeline.

In the ’60s Ray Davies (of the Kinks) sang that “people take pictures of the Summer, just to prove that it really existed”, but what would he sing now? Even if you don’t take your camera out with you, someone is always likely to have a smartphone which incorporates a camera good enough to produce magazine-quality prints. And they take it out. And we all need to stop until they get the right shot.

There is nothing wrong in wanting to keep photographic evidence of an event, but if we obsess over it too much, we give too much care and attention to the photo rather than actually living the experience.

I go about it by reaching a compromise of sorts. First of all I have set up specific times to go out shooting. When I’m traveling I will spend some quality time shooting exclusively, but then I will also leave the hotel without my camera (OK, I take my baby camera just in case) to simply absorb the place. Looking for a photo has its advantages, but in the process of looking for the perfect picture you lose touch of what’s going on around you.

At the end of the day it boils down to a simple choice. Do you want to spend the precious time we’re given living your life for yourself or do you intend to document it minutely to share with the rest of the world? If you’re playing with your kids in the park – what is more important, having 200 photos of them playing or actually playing with them? If you’re out drinking with friends, what do you want – memories of yourself enjoying it or spending the next morning ruing that you don’t have enough to come up with a Facebook album of the night out?

So what would I have you do? Ditch the camera, stop taking photos of what goes on in your life? Nope, that would hardly be practical. Set time aside for photos. The last time I went to a concert I shot a couple of frames of the artist, shot some video footage for posterity and then enjoyed the concert in its entirety. If I want more good photos or a full video I can always find some by rummaging around on the Internet. If I want to take good music photography I won’t do it at the concert of a band I loved.

Try it – spend less time thinking about how you’re going to preserve and share the memory and spend the rest of your time living your life as if you did not need evidence of the fun you had. As if you did not have to prove that the Summer really existed. I might be a bit extreme in this belief – I did not even want a photographer at my wedding.

And if you want to convince your friends you can have a good time on a night out, then take them out with you the next time you hit town. And when you’re standing in front of a stunning sunset, take your hands off the camera and use them to hold your better half’s hand. Breathe in and savour the moment through your own eyes, not through a lens.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestDiggStumbleUponEmail

Sorry Plato, democracy sucks

When joining the company I work at I was interviewed. I was assessed for my competence and then hired based on my performance and experience. I signed a contract which states that for me to remain at the company I should, well, you guessed it: work. I should do things in a manner that is expected of me. I should consistently perform well. If I drop my standards or stop delivering I expect to be fired. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way, I’m being paid to deliver.

If I went to a car showroom and ordered a brand new car, I stipulate what I want from it and what I expect it to include. If, when the vehicle is delivered, it fails to meet my expectations, then I would, quite naturally refuse to pay for it.

What I can’t understand is why politics does not work in exactly the same way. Why do we go out and vote based on a set of promises when politicians are never held accountable for their actions? True, sometimes a politician loses a job, but that’s when they try to steal 60 million, not when they fail to deliver on an electoral promise.

At the moment I’m finding the whole pre-unannounced-elections advertising campaigns hilarious. Labour have hit the nail on the head with their billboards (the only local medium I follow is outdoor advertising – I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio and I don’t read local print media). They are consistently quick to the mark, have brilliant locations and are always witty. Very witty. Their rebuttals of PN’s adverts are always hilarious, and PN’s attempts have paled in comparison.

However it means absolutely nothing. If I wanted entertainment I’d head to tumblr and browse my stream. This election is not about an amusing billboard or ten, it’s about our country.

Labour might be much more amusing than the nationalists, however they’re still a set of pricks in suits who think they can smile their way to power. No sir, you won’t be conning this guy again. I want a sign of commitment.

Fuck your political promises.
Fuck your phoney smiles and €1000 suits.
Fuck your coffee mornings.
Fuck the people who vote for you because their family says so.
Fuck idiots idolising politicians.

I want measurable electoral promises. And then I want a contract. Sign a legally binding contract that you will be personally liable if you do not deliver on your promises and you will get my vote (if your promises make sense to me).

Fix the fucking roads, give us a university that works, get rid of all the bums who abuse the system, clean the place up and make it possible for us to make the country something we can be proud of.

We have let 60-odd dorks ru(i)n the country for long enough. Why should we look up to them? It is them who should be licking our feet for doing the real work. For providing the country with the manpower it needs to run. For being absolutely amazing at our jobs and consistently out-performing our international counterparts in so many fields that are not sexy enough for the idiots running our media to cover.

I’m sorry, Plato. Politics might have been a good idea in the time when people needed a brain to vote, however now it is just an easy way to mask corruption and to promote incompetence.

We can’t trust politicians because their word holds no value. This is the time for specifics. For things to be laid out in black on white. For politicians to be held accountable if they want to earn my vote.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestDiggStumbleUponEmail

A storm on a pizza, or The death of journalism in Malta

Most people love their country. Most people feel duty-bound to defend it at all times, no matter whether it’s right or wrong. I am personally more patriotic than I care to admit, because when push comes to shove I will always back my country in matters of importance (if I think we’re right).

I also believe, however, that we can’t only see things through rosy glasses, and that for us to ever improve someone needs to point out problems and issues and offer constructive criticism wherever possible.

So recently Malta played against Italy in a World Cup qualifier. So, we lost by two-goals to nil. So an Italian guy living in Malta commented about the match and taunted us about it on Facebook.

Lesson number 1: Social Media Marketing

From a social media marketing point of view it was a dumb thing to do. It was not dumb because he posted the comment, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and he who never taunted anyone else can throw the first stone. It was dumb that he posted the comment from his restaurant’s page. Social media is a double edged sword. If you intend using it to market your business, then take it seriously. Plan each and every post well. Time them, test their success and improve upon them constantly. Do not post random comments from your business’ page, that’s what personal profiles are for.

Lesson number 2: The official death of Malta’s national newspaper

The Times is officially being driven by click-hunters. They have stopped caring about good journalism and have fallen for sensationalism. Yes, I know, it is a cliche, but they have truly became what they despised. How can a spat on Facebook be national news? Where is the sense of responsibility, of owing it to the nation to filter the good from the bad, to only cover subjects that matter, intelligently.

Poor Mabel. If only she could see what her legacy would become I’m pretty sure she’d be the first one standing outside its doors with a flaming torch in hand.

It is a pity. I loved the paper and I still love the institution that gave me my first job and taught me so much. I just can’t tell what’s going on through their heads at the moment. Hopefully someone will wake up and realise what’s happening some time soon.

Lesson number 3: The line between nationalism and xenophobia is a fine one

And the Maltese tread along it very precariously. The reaction something gets when it involves a foreigner doing something to Malta or someone Maltese is as ridiculous as it is scary. Guys, build a bridge and get over it, the world is not only made up of Maltese people. So please judge people on their own merit, not by the cover on their passport or their accent. If someone taunts you, you can taunt back in a friendly manner, not get up in arms about it. And, yes, I know Ruzar Briffa’s poem too, thank you very much, but for heaven’s sake – learn the difference between an insult and oppression.

Micro-lesson: Facebook groups

Anyone who adds me to a Facebook group like the one that was created for this will be immediately unfriended and reported to Facebook as being “annoying”. Just sayin’.

And finally…

I’m off to have a pizza at this pretty little place in Xemxija, not sure if you’ve heard about it.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestDiggStumbleUponEmail

Some updates – posts on the interwebs

I have had quite a few articles away from the blog over the past few days.

Here goes:

Fixing What’s hot on Google+ (Media Tapper) - (#75 of 366 X 2012 project)

Running out of ink (EuroTech) - (#76 of 366 X 2012 project)

WikiLeaks: Assange To Run For Office (EuroTech) - (#78 of 366 X 2012 project)

Apple in Hot Water in Europe. Again. (EuroTech) - (#81 of 366 X 2012 project)

The Pirate Bay To Hover The High Seas (EuroTech) - (#82 of 366 X 2012 project)

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestDiggStumbleUponEmail