A Formula for Cold Emails

woman using laptop

Many years ago I participated in a workshop that included a graphic facilitator – an individual that recorded our discussions and ideas by drawing them on the walls of the room. It was an amazing experience and a skill I’ve been fascinated by ever since. So this past summer when I met Ashton Rodenhiser, CEO and Chief Graphic Recorder of Mind’s Eye Creative, I wanted all of you to meet her as well.

In our introductory conversation, we discussed the “how” of her company’s growth. Her answer was the opposite of both what I do and what I teach, which definitely sparked my curiosity. I asked if she’d be willing to share some of her prospecting “secrets” … and she agreed.

How did Ashton attract clients from around the world? Is it a system that will work for you this year?

It was the summer of 2016 and I remember sitting in the co-working space in my small community in rural Nova Scotia, hands on head, trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get more clients. My work has been called an ‘experienced good’ which means people typically have to experience it for themselves to really understand its value and benefits.

The previous year I’d decided that I was going to “go for it”. I had been doing a few small local jobs and from those jobs I would get other jobs, proving the nature of my work brought value to those who experienced it. But I wasn’t getting enough of these jobs to really feel like I was growing my business. It often felt more like a glorified hobby than a business.

I began researching different ways of attracting new clients and came across ‘cold pitching’. Not being a big fan of phone calls (sorry Mary Jane), I decided to delve into cold pitch emailing. Working with an online business coach that was preaching this method, I decided to give it a try. She recommended sending at least 100 emails before deciding that the process wasn’t working.

Since I embraced this process in early 2017, I’ve sent over 2000 cold emails. Here are some tips on getting started and proof that if it worked for me, it could work for you! 

I’m annoying them…

Getting ‘out of your head’ is the first roadblock to face when sending cold emails. You might feel like you are spamming, like you’re bugging or annoying someone. Or that they are going to send you ‘hate mail’ back. Out of the 2000 emails I sent, I would guess that I’ve had less than 10 email responses that were rude. If I get a negative response, it’s typically just a ‘no thanks’. So, let me assure you that people aren’t going to go all Hulk on you for sending them an email.

The conversation rate

There are a lot of things that go into what is considered a good conversion rate. From the 2000 emails I sent, I converted 9 into clients. Those nine clients are not even a 0.05% conversion rate.

I know what you’re thinking. That seems like a ton of work for not a lot of clients but stay with me. Each of those clients can ripple out to more and more clients. Like I said before, for me, work results in more work.

Also, those 2000 emails were pre-pandemic, from early 2017 to late 2019. Since March 2020, I’ve ramped up my cold pitching and my conversion rate had definitely increased. 

The Case Study: Dylan

Here’s an email response I got from my cold pitch email to Dylan about an event he had coming up.

Thanks for reaching out. In our past in-person events we've occasionally had an 
attendee creating drawings like this for some sessions which is amazing. So yes, 
we're keen to try this out for our event in August if it can fit within our budget. 

One random note for you, your link under Digital Graphic Recording - Let's Do 
This Already - is broken. (I'm not judging at all, just sharing that info from 
clicking around your site.) 

This week is pretty crazy with the schedule. I can chat next Tuesday, Wednesday 
or Thursday afternoon (PDT). Let me know what works for you and either send 
me an invite or I will send you an invite. 

Also, it's not a competition, but I have a pretty cool background for zoom calls 
as well. :-)

Cheers, Dylan

Here are a few things I love about his response.

  1. He’s experienced my type of work before. This saves me time and energy on having to sell my value and benefits – awesome! I just need to prove to him that my service and professionalism is worth paying for.
  2. He’s already thinking about how he can fit it into his budget – awesome!
  3. He took the time to look at my website, notice an error and let me know. Maybe a little embarrassing BUT I’m grateful he took the time to let me know in a kind way. This tells me that he might have the type of personality of someone I’d want to work with.
  4. He is giving me some options for a call.
  5. Because the last line of my email said something about a Zoom background, he responded with a fun comment about his. This really tells me that he’s fun and I’ll be able to joke around with him.

From his email response back to me I was excited to get on a call with him. I felt he was fairly pre-qualified and someone that I’d want to work for. His response put me at ease and calmed my nerves before getting on the call.

How I write a good cold email

Hey First Name.

I’m a casual kind of person so I keep my introduction casual. This is a personal preference. I sometimes do last names but not often.

Love Note

This is where you gush about why you love them. Researching is so important. Look through their social media, their website. Do they have a values or mission statement? What do you love about them? Keep this short and to the point but show that you know about this. This section is so important to get them to read on. They know it’s not just a copy and pasted email because you have gotten to know them. This will set you apart from the thousands of other cold emails they get.

Your Work and Value

This section is just a few sentences long but you are introducing them to your work, how and why you do what you do. If you have a statistic around how you can help them, throw that in there too.


Think about this as your tagline. What’s the one last thing you’d like them to know?

Sign off

Make it fun

Your first name, or last, up to you!

Remember, you are looking for one client that can turn into more clients. Below is a chart from one client that I pitched in 2017. You can see the ripple effect from just that one client. Does every one of my clients I get from a cold email turn into a giant chart like this? No. But each one certainly has the potential. And … some of these green circles are clients that have hired me more than once! 

I recently did up my numbers for 2020. Because of the uncertainty that 2020 brought me and my business, I once again embraced cold pitching. A whopping 44% of my business this year came from this strategy. This proves to me that even in a world stressed by a pandemic, this strategy works for me in converting my ideal clients. 

If you’d like some help with your cold emails or want to chat about doodling, please reach out to me at www.mindseyecreative.ca 


Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

10 thoughts on “A Formula for Cold Emails”

    • It is, isn’t it? I am looking forward to tracking my own results with this approach and sharing them in a future blog. Thanks for your comment, Justin.

  1. Thank you Mary Jane and Ashton. Great ideas to think about….particularly in my literacy work.

    The power of satisfied clients is what drives the other side of my business. I have been coaching students for medical school and other professional schools for 25 years. I work with students around the world. Thank you Skype and Zoom! 100 % of my students use my services as a result of a reference from a former student who has been accepted into medical, dental, etc. schools.

  2. Many thanks MJ – this is exactly what I need to do as many of my previously cold call people are working from home and hard to get hold of. Happy 2021!

    • Yes, Peggy, I’m in the same position. Good to investigate new ways of doing things that also fit with our values and personalities. Let me know how this approach works for you.


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