Artistic + intellectual pursuits. Social justice. Actress. Model. Musician. Eugene // Portland.
7 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
When I think of pitching, I think of presentations (unless we’re talking about baseball, of course).
Email is everywhere. It’s used by nearly everyone, it’s more personal than social media, and it’s less obtrusive than a phone call. When you need to introduce yourself and your company to someone, email often just makes the most sense.
So what’s the best way to go about pitching your business by email? After all, you want to be sure you aren’t just sending emails into a black hole where they’ll be deleted without a second thought. Even worse, you want to make sure you’re writing in such a way, or pitching in a way that won’t end up annoying the very recipient you’re trying to entice. A bad email can actually “burn bridges.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’ve already formed a personal relationship with the person you’re contacting (though that’s the ideal scenario), but it does mean that you know who they are, and that there’s a reasonable chance they’ll be interested in you.
Anything that you can do to get an introduction or connection to a person at the company first will be best, as you’ll then have smoothed the way for an email follow up. Impersonal emails that you spam out to hundreds of people will be nothing but a waste of your time and a bad blip on your reputation, so don’t even go there.
There are several red flag tactics you’ll definitely want to avoid: anything written in all caps; poor spelling; grammar errors, and a generic or template-based format are immediate tip-offs to the person reading that this is a “salesy” pitch or a sloppy email. Don’t let stupid mistakes land your email in the trash.
Bonus “red flag points” for starting an email with “Dear Sir” if there is even a tiny fraction of a possibility the recipient is a woman.
Think about an email you’d be likely to respond to yourself. You’d probably only respond to one that was personalized, relevant, error-free, and to the point. Ecquire offers a good example, of such an email. If you want to see an example of a horrible pitch email on the other hand -so you can visualize what not to do, check out this one on Hubspot.
A combination of knowing exactly who you are emailing, and careful composition will apply to any email pitch, regardless of the goal of the email.
Trying to sell a product or service? Introducing yourself and your company to a potential investor? Contacting a writer because you’d like to be featured in their publication? All of these scenarios require that you both research your email recipient and don’t contact them cold, and that you compose a personalized, grammatically correct email.
Email can sometimes be the best route to introduce yourself to an investor if you haven’t met them, or tell them more about yourself and your opportunity if you’ve engaged with them briefly.
You’ll want the subject line to be something that will jog their memory if you’ve met, or something that will make you stand out from spam if you haven’t.
The same goes for the beginning of your email:
“Hello John, Great to meet you on Saturday. I wanted to drop you a line and tell you more about [yourself, your company, and investment opportunity].”
Ideally, what you’re going for with an email pitch to an investor is setting up a real-time conversation with them, whether it’s a call or a meeting. So think about what you’d say in your elevator pitch, face to face.
Imagine you have just a few moments of time with an investor to pique their interest, and then translate what you would say into writing. Keep it concise and impactful. A great way to think about it is to state the problem your business solves, and how you solve it.
Close with some brief, concrete details to inspire confidence, such as how much money you’ve already raised or if you’ve hit a target number of customers, and then make the ask for a meeting to discuss the funds you’re currently trying to raise.
More resources on approaching investors:
There are a lot of entrepreneurs selling products or services that pitch potential partners or buyers via email. The same rules as ever apply; do your research, make it personal.
Then the focus shifts to the value you have to offer. Describe what you do and why it’s of interest to the recipient. Entrepreneur and blogger. Jason Zook, recommends keeping it short: three to four sentences should cover it. Longer, and most people probably won’t read it, as illustrated by this list of pitching pet peeves from the folks over at Buzzsumo.
There are some key things to avoid, especially since this is a sales pitch and most people are wary of them even when they actually want your product or service.
One is exaggeration, meaning essentially: Make sure to tell the truth. Don’t embellish the facts. You have a valuable product or service to offer and you believe this person or company would be happy with their purchase, so don’t oversell it. Be genuine.
Another is not flooding people with follow ups. One follow-up email is fine, and might even be effective: we’re all busy, and your first email could have simply gotten lost in the mix. However, bombarding people with multiple emails when you’re not getting a response is nothing but a waste of your time, and could get you flagged as spam. You can’t win them all.
Let me get this out of the way first thing: Read the author submission guidelines or “write for us” page of any site where you are trying to pitch content. Read it. You didn’t read it? Then don’t send an email, go find the site’s guidelines and read them first.
The most obvious reason for this is because it will tell you the appropriate address to send that email to. The most well-crafted email in the world can still end up in the trash if it’s sent to the wrong recipient. Don’t guess which one it is, or send it to the first email address you find on the site. Why waste your time?
Other key reasons to read the “write for us” page on any given site you’re pitching include: knowing what kind of content they are looking for and knowing their specifications for submission. Putting your best foot forward by actually following writing and submission guidelines is a sign of thoroughness and will immediately give you more respect in the eyes of the editorial team members. As a member of the editorial team at Palo Alto Software I can tell you this much: it really does make a difference. This one is a no-brainer.
From there, the same standards mentioned above apply. Know the site you’re pitching, have relevant and useful pitches to share, and ensure your final draft is free of silly spelling and grammar errors.
What it really comes down to with an email pitch is authenticity. There’s a lot of fake in the email world—from spam to outright scams—and most of us see it every day in our lives.
But, since you want your email to be effective, you’ve researched your recipient, crafted a thoughtful message, and you mean what you say. That will allow you to stand out from within a crowded inbox, and give your pitch a fighting chance.