Dear Sir or Madam, You Suck at Networking. Part Deaux.

Last blog, we discussed network stalking, which again, I feel compelled to inform you all is different than actual stalking.

Doing this research is one of the best bang-for-the-buck investments you can make to help your career. But what if the person you’re trying to network with is like a prepper or lives in a cave or something? Right. You’re going to have to go in cold and you’re going to have to do it with a solid email. So you climb into the saddle and after six or seven videos of cats trying to jump off of stuff, you punch out the greatest email of your life! Two weeks later, and still no reply?

Wellllllll that’s because your subject line sucked.

In part two of this series of blogs on how you’re all terrible at networking, we’re going to take your email subject lines from that awful American version of Super Mario Bros. 2, “Doki Doki Panic,” to the most excellent real version of Super Mario Bros. 2, “The Lost Levels” outside of Japa–I’ve said too much.

Let’s recall the process at hand here. You can have the best resume, but it needs to be attached to a solid email, which needs to swing in with a subject line that screams YOU NEED TO READ THIS EMAIL RIGHT NOW! But email subject lines are such an afterthought for most people.

Think about the last ten emails you sent.

Even if you wrote a quality email with a quality message in it, how many of those ten emails used a subject line with more substance than “Hey”? Zero percent? NEGATIVE zero percent? Exactly.

“But DC, if I’m cold emailing someone that I don’t really know, why would they ever open my email?”

“I’m glad you asked third person DC.”

First, you do know something about them, because you’ve network stalked them.

Maybe you’ve shared or liked some of their chirps? Maybe you’ve recently connected on LinkedFace. The point is that getting your name in front of them will go a long way towards building a new relationship, even if it’s only subliminally. If, however you really, truly can’t effectively network stalk them and you absolutely must go in cold, don’t forget…

You do have something to offer them! The ability to enable them to share their expertise! Be real. People LOVE talking about themselves and all the great crap they do. Well, it’s pretty likely that the reason you’re emailing this individual in the first place is because of some of the expertise they have, so play on that.

“But how DC! TELL US HOW!”

Alright… just settle down! Jeeze!

First, you need to get people interested in what your email says. The trick here though is…you don’t want to give it away. There are some trademarked terms I could use here–the “curiosity gap” is truly what you’re trying to build. Something that is so compelling that you absolutely MUST find out what it says on the other side. This is also known as “clickbait” and regardless of what you think of “yellow journalism,” clickbait WORKS.

However, in an email subject line using straight up clickbait is a bad move. Why? Because it violates the next most important way to get your email read: making it personal. No one will ever even think about reading an email that has a spammy sounding subject line even if they know you, because they’ll just assume your email got “hacked” (which is a whole other thing I don’t have time to rant about right now). The goal then is to build the curiosity gap, and make the subject line personal.

Leaving political affiliations aside, let’s look at some email subject lines from Obama’s 2012 campaign.

His campaign did a fascinating thing where his team would send an email looking for donations to small groups of his supporters, and based on how well each subject line worked (based on donations received) they then rolled that email/subject line combo out to the masses.

The worst from his crop “The one thing the polls got right…” straight clickbait. “Thankful every day” who cares? “Deadline: Join Michelle and me” has a call to action, has something personal, but perhaps it has an unrealistic ask? Anybody who has enough context for this email to work probably knows that join Michelle and me just means “give us money.”

But the winning subject line?

“I will be outspent”.




Why did this subject line win? Well, first, Obama had already gotten his brand out there. The people who received this email already had some idea of who Barack Obama was! That’s effective network stalking. Next, this subject line creates the curiosity gap. Outspent by who? How is he getting outspent? Why is that relevant? Third, it’s personal. Not like in Predator 2 where that one guy yells at that other guy about not yelling, and it doesn’t matter because everyone dies at the end anyway (spoiler alert?), but personal in the sense that he uses personal language — “I”– and he has a clear call to action in the context of the subject line.

LAST but not least. It’s short. People almost never think about their email subject lines in terms of mobile! Your subject line MUST MUST MUST work on a mobile platform. Go ahead… send yourself the email, and see how the subject looks on mobile? Bad? Ugh… now go look in your spam folder, they’re almost all on point. That’s because marketing is a thing, and people that are good at it can make money for their company.

So get it together you guys! Subject lines aren’t rocket surgery, they’re just a sales pitch for a sales pitch. Get out there and stalk your networks like Count Chocula on some diabetic driven craze! Make sure you’re creating that “curiosity gap,” and make sure you’re catering to the recipient by giving it that personal touch!

In the next blog on how you’re all terrible at networking we’ll be tackling your terrible, terrible networking emails because good god almighty… what in the actual hell are you all thinking sending these things?!

About the Author

Tweet DC @HeySeeDC He doesn’t use twitter, but instead has an account that is roughly analogous to his real life digital persona.

DC is however a real live person that works in the Garage at NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. He is a contributor for their blog which they apparently thought was a good idea. In his spare time he pays to take standardized tests and answers “C” on every question in order to find out if in fact that is the best answer. He also wrote this entire bio himself, in the third person.

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