If, like me and many other startups, you don’t have a dedicated sales person then it will be you and you alone who has to find clients, win the work, do the work, and invoice for it. That’s not one, not two but three hats for you to wear.
If that’s the case, you need cost effective, quick and easy ways to reach out to possible clients and right now, the quickest and easiest option is almost certainly email.
Why? Because you can send an email right now without needing any other input from anyone. There’s no receptionist to halt it at the gate, no engaged tone, it can’t be diverted to voicemail, there’s no door to shut in its face, and it won’t be dismissed as an ad unless you make it sound like one. In short, it gets through. It will go to an inbox and be opened by someone and read — and that’s your opening to make your pitch.
What need can you meet? What problem can you solve? How can you say that as a tweet — in under 140 characters? You won’t send it as a tweet but if you start with that in mind you’ll cut out the waffle. You can use that faux tweet as part of your subject line because when someone is scanning down their list of emails, seeing a solution to their problem will jump out.
Then, in your email proper, tell them a very short story: start by describing the situation your customer is in and the problem they face. Then describe the consequences of their not solving the problem followed by a solution. Start your story with “If…”.
Starting with “if” leads to an automatic question in the reader’s mind: am I in this situation? Yes or no? If they say yes then they’re a potential customer and they are likely to read on.
Do not, whatever you do, start your email by saying things like: “I just wanted to tell you…” or “I’d like to introduce our services…”.
The best time to send a prospective email is at a time when you think the other person will be most likely to open it. If you use a programme like Mailchimp you will see when people opened your emails so you’ll be able to adapt your send out time to get better results.
To start with though, you won’t know when a good time is, so you have to take a best guess. For many of us the first email of the day we read is the one at the top of our inbox, which means it was probably sent after midnight. Avoid Monday and Friday because people are often busy catching up on tasks before or after the weekend so they won’t be paying much attention to emails from strangers.
If you didn’t get a reply, send a follow up asking if they got your first email and if they’ve had a chance to consider it — but always state you appreciate they are busy and may not have seen it.
The quality of the lead is important. You need to find out exactly who you should be emailing, look them up on their website, on LinkedIn or on industry news websites. You could even call the company and ask the receptionist: say that you need their help because you’d like to make sure your email gets to the right person.
Whatever strategy you use, you always need to make sure your email service is safe and secure. Your email system and the emails themselves are part of your sales pipeline so you need to make sure your emails aren’t being blocked because your recipient’s firewall thinks they look like spam or contain a virus or a phishing attack.
Making sure your email system is secure is part of keeping your wider IT system and your business healthy. The last thing you need is your email system going down or the content of your emails stopping you from using it to make contact with potential customers.
Lee Carnihan is a digital entrepreneur writing about small business IT security
You can read more about email best practice in our extensive resources.