I recently started 1-on-1 mentoring sessions where one of the most popular questions has been:
Approaching a busy professional and asking for their time, so I could eventually sell them something, was a mystery to me when I started customer development. After some trial and error though, I found a workflow that converts pretty well.
Step 1: Get their Email Address
There are quite a few ways to get cold contacts’ email addresses, all of which I can recommend:
And now there’s a new tool in town that I’m really excited about: Kimono.
Kimono is a free web scraper that doesn’t require writing code. If you find a web page with the contact information of customers you’d like to interview, Kimono can collect it for you automatically. Here’s a quick video of how it works:
Step 2: Write the Email
There are 3 things a cold email must be in order to generate a response:
Let’s take an example:
Subject: Remote coding
I read your article on volunteering your professional skills in Guatemala – it was really inspiring. I’m looking to travel more and you’ve got me thinking about incorporating volunteering when I do!
I have a software company trying to improve remote medical record coding.
I’m not looking to sell anything, but since you have so much expertise with remote coding, I’d love to get your advice on our product so we don’t build the wrong thing.
If you’re available, I’d love to chat for just 20 minutes – Thur or Fri morning?
Thanks for any help,
Let’s see how we did:
Short? 5 sentences. That’s all you need. Any longer than that and you’re wasting their time.
Personal? This part is the most work, but it’s what’s going to separate you from the spammers. Plus, researching each of your customers to find something unique about them is going to give you incredible insight. Consider commenting on their:
- Blog posts
- Any professional organizations they belong to
- Companies listed on their LinkedIn profile
- Tweets they’ve sent
This is Important: Don’t skip this part. Without something personal in there you’re liable to get flagged as spam. If that happens enough times, you’ll forever be relegated to junk mail.
Valuable? In this case we’re offering to “improve remote medical record coding.” Our hypothesis is that Sam has problems with her remote coding process and by hinting that we’re trying to solve them, we’re giving her a reason why spending 20 minutes with us will be worth her time.
Without this line you’re “offering” to take 20 minutes of her time, and giving nothing back. Why would she sign up for that?
Note: Be vague. You don’t want to seed your customer with the problem you’re hypothesizing. Note how the email doesn’t say anything about making “remote coding”:
- More secure
- More accurate
When we interview Sam, we want her to tell us what problems she has with remote coding – no cheating.
Bonus Secret: Ask for Advice. The line, “I’m not looking to sell anything. I’m just looking for your advice so we don’t build the wrong thing.” is not only true (you’re not selling anything), it lowers your customer’s defenses and appeals to their inner-adviser.
Step 3: Send the Email
You can send the emails one at a time, but it’s boring and monotonous to copy & paste the same email over and over again. Plus, its annoying to keep track of who has replied and who hasn’t – especially when there’s a kick ass tool like Streak.
Streak is a CRM embedded in GMail, and it’s great for a number of reasons:
- Mail Merge – Automate sending mass, but personalized, emails.
- Easy Follow-ups – Track which customers have replied and which have haven’t. Send follow-ups to those who haven’t.
- Scheduled Email Delivery – Write emails at 2 am, but send them at 2 pm.
Here’s a video outlining exactly how to use Streak to request, and keep track of, customer discovery interviews:
If you follow these steps and no one replies, it could be back luck or…you could be solving a problem no one has.
This is Part 3 of our series of on Interviewing Customers. Check these bad boys out:
- Which Customers Should you Interview (The SPA Treatment)
- How to Find Customers to Interview
- Getting Customer Interviews with Cold Emails
- How I Interview Customers
- You’ve Interviewed Customers. Now what?
First time to Customer Development Labs?
Check out our other popular experiments:
- MTurk + Google News = Press
- Interviewing 100 customers in 4 hours with MTurk
- Testing your Domain Name