10 things about cold email outreach every indie hacker should know: Arnaud Belinga


3 things they will never tell you on cold email outreach courses 1) Go for cold emails ONLY if your tier plans are above $50/month. If not — don’t bother. You will never get to the level of ROI that would make you happy. 2) The LESS expensive your product, the MORE emails you will have to send. It’s a question of 100 customers fo $10 worth product vs 1 customers for a $1000 worth product. 3) You can use cold emails even if you DON’T have a product yet, or even NOT with sales purposes. Cold emails are great for — validating your idea — geting backlinks — warming up customers

1. Cold outreach is all about knowing your customer. My advice is — iterate on your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) constantly

You think you know your ICP. Hey, you’re building your product to scratch your own itch, so all your prospects must be like you, right? Wrong! Your ideal customer might be very differrent from you in terms of their tasks, goals, aspirations. And you have to learn them all to make your cold outreach campaign really efficient. Even if you are building your product for someone who doesn’t resemble you, amd you know it, your ICP are not casted in stone. Technology change, political change, narrative change — all these factors change your ICP constantly. Track these changes to stay up to date. Also, not knowing your ICP means sometjing different: you might not have landed on one yet. For instance, you might think your ideal customers are devs. But you have not tried engeneers yet. Or CTOs. Try different verticals of what you think is your ICP and see who resonates the most with what you are offering.

2. Hyper-target your outreach

Most cold email outreach campaigns fail because founders are not specific enough about their target audience. As a result, they come up with a generic messaging that doesn’t resonate with anyone in particular. You don’t want this. You want a copy that will reach the target and resonate, and boom! — create this Aha! moment for some specific group of people. The question is, how to identify this group. 2 pieces of advice:
  • Use tools like Builtwith to target 'warm' prospects using technologies of your competitors or technologies linked to your product.
  • Niche down. For example don't target “bloggers in the UK”, target “Formula 1 bloggers in Oxfordshire”.

3. Despite of what you might think, cold email outreach is very much about technical stuff. Use your tech skills to improve email deliverability

A number of obvious statements here, but never hurts to remind them:
  • Verify your email addresses so emails don’t bounce.
  • Warm-up your email address with an email warmup tool for at least 2/3 weeks before sending cold emails. Alternatively, you can ask 10-15 friends to send and receive emails from your new email address to make it “warm”.

4. The first important step is a compelling subject line. Subject line is like H1 on your landing page — it shuold hook in less than a second.

My personal recommendations: don't use many words. The more words, the less is open rate (at least for us).
What also worked well for Breakcold: — Quick Question (Do you use Notion?) — Quick Question {{company}} (Do you work with Oracle?) — Noticed something on {{company}} (I noticed this on your BuildinLabs website) Using a name of the business a person you are addressing works for always catches their attention!

5. Not only subject line should be short. Keep the whole copy as short as you can

No, people don’t spend their days anticipating your emails. Even if you manage to hook them with your subject line, they still have up to 1-2 seconds to decide if they want to follow up. Meaning, you should deliver ALL the main aspects of your message in 4-5 sentences. Seriously. Not 45. 4 or 5. What aspects are important?
  • 1-2 personalized first lines
  • 1 sentence — your value proposition
  • 1 sentence — your ask or call to action
There is no room for anything else. Never start with “how are you”, “hope this letter finds you well”. Simply forget these phrases for cold email outreach.

6. Don't try to look smart and use jargon words

Even is global communication is done in English, many of your prospects would not have English as their first language. Your attempts to look smart and use fancy vocablurary would not be much appreciated. If a person you are reaching out to has to check up at least one of the terms in Google — you’ve lost them.
Not sure where this data comes from but I’ve seen these figures: 70% of emails are written beyond a 10th grade reading level. Do the opposite of what you learned at school. Use a 5th grade email reading level. Don’t be primitive. Just be simple.

7. Make it about them, not you

If I see an email that starts with “hey, I have just....” I know instantly that this person really sucks at cold email outreach. Answer yourself honestly: how deep your interest is in a life of a total stranger. And I mean, total. Not someone you’re connected with on Twitter or LinkedIn. Not a person who has been sending you a weekly newsletter for the last 6 month. Not even a neighbor. Someone you know nothing about. How much do you care about things they have been doing recently? Probably not much. And guess what? Other people don’t care what you’ve been up to as well. Because you are a stranger to them.
I suggest to establish a rule: never use I, me, my, myself etc. in cold emailing at all. Every time you want to use it replace with “you” and read out loud. If it sounds reasonable — leave it. If not, there is no room for this phrase in your email.

8. Use personalized first lines

I’ve already mentioned that the first several sentenses must be saved for personalized first lines. They are essential, because they keep the attention on and prompt users to read further.
How does a personalized first line look like? ”I listened to the last episode of your podcast were you talked to X about Y and that’s exactly why I’m reaching out”. ”I love your recent post on LinkedIn where you explain Y”
“We’ve been attending the same school in 2006, and I’ve already established connections with all the classmates from that year. Now I’m reaching out to you”.
“Hey, {First name} I’ve been following you on Twitter” — IS NOT A PERSONALIZED FIRST LINE These necessary level of personalization demands research on socila media and Google search. Alternatively, you can use tools like Breakcold that will do this research for you.

9. Don’t pitch in the first email. Your goal is to start a conversation

So many cold outreach campaigns fail because founders start pitching straight away. Don’t do that. Don’t try to sell on your product instantly. Your main goal during the first interaction is to start a conversation. Sounds cheesy, but try to build a relationship first. The stronger your relationship — the easier will be your sell later.
But relationship is a tough matter to measure. How do you know if you’re moving in the right direction? I like to put measurable metrics on every campaign stage:
Goal number 1 is to get a reply to then book a call (unless t).
  • First interaction — a reply
  • Second interaction — book a call, etc.
In some cases the first reply is enough for you to hit your campaign target - ie backlinks, feedback, etc. Build your own metrics structure that will fit your use case.

10. Follow-up. Always. Not once, but 4 to 6 times!

Most of the time, people don't reply because they're busy, not beacuse they are not interested. A gentle reminder works wonders for us every single time. We manage to get x2 more replies sometimes when we follow up.
For us, a comfortable gap is 2 to 7 days between each follow up. It can be different for your business. Test different options.
Bonus - little template for Indie Hackers 😁 Hey {{firstName}}, {{Personalized first line}}. Are you doing
[[X]]? [[Client_Name]] achieved $ [[number]] in [[X]] days with [[Product_Name]]

Arnaud Belinga is a co-founder of Breakcold. Right now, cold email outreach is one of the major marketing channels for their startup. He managed to polish his strategy to the level where they get 78% open rate for almost all their emails.
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More about Arnaud you can read here.

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