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Cold Email Outreach Excellence with Jon Buchan of Charm Offensive (Part 2)

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Jon Buchan of The Charm Offensive shares his tips for cold email outreach that’ll get a response from anyone. This is Part of 2 of 2.

Mentioned in this episode:

Jon Buchan’s Charm Offensive website
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For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Cold Email Outreach Excellence with Jon Buchan of Charm Offensive (Part 2):

Full Transcript

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston Witherill:
Now in today’s episode, I’m bringing you my second interview with Jon Buchan of Charm Offensive. So if you didn’t listen to the first one yet, go back and listen to that. This interview builds off the things he said in the first one. Jon is known for sending a drunk email that changed his life and people know him for his irreverent and really objectively funny laugh out loud, cold email style. In today’s episode, the second of two interviews, Jon and I will be talking about how he uses this style to actually structure his cold outreach and how he used it to move beyond just getting referrals and word of mouth and waiting passively for business to come in. So we’ll be covering all of that and he’ll be talking about how many emails to put in your sequence, and what will go in each of those emails and how to structure completely that first most important email that you send to new people when you reach out to them.

Liston Witherill:
If you have any questions about today’s episode or a past episode, do go to liston.io/podcast, you can now leave a question for me there, it’s like a voicemail. You may even hear your voice on an upcoming episode. So that’s liston.io/podcast. And if you go to liston.io, on my homepage, you’ll see a free download for five sales email templates that every consultant needs. It helps you chain together the most important sales moments and gives you a template for each of them that you can steal and apply to your business right now. So once again, just go to liston.io and the download is available for you there.

Liston Witherill:
And if you need immediate help with your business and building a sales process that feels good, is wonderful for your clients and even gets you compliments for the way you conduct yourself in your sales process and ultimately of course helps you build a thriving business and the industry leadership that you’ve always wanted, I can help you with that too. All you have to do is head over to liston.io/strategy to book a strategy call with me right now.

Liston Witherill:
And now I’m going to bring you the second part, part two of my interview with Jon Buchan. Jon, welcome back to another episode. And in the last episode you were talking about how every single interaction matters. So tell me what do you mean by that and how do you make sure each interaction goes well?

Jon Buchan:
So here’s an example, and this refers to not only just the first email, and I am going to use an example from the first email.

Liston Witherill:
Please.

Jon Buchan:
Because it’s a part of the first email that isn’t a particularly humorous part, but it’s actually a big part of the persuasion and a big part of why it works. So there’s a line in there which says, obviously there’s the funny part, which is, “If you agree to have a chat with me about your digital marketing needs, I will take you for coffee or lunch or tequila shots and I promise to be somewhat entertaining. If you’re lucky, I may even wear a top hat.” But that’s not the most important bit, that’s funny, and people may smile and laugh at it, it’s the next bit that is the persuasive bit. Which is, “First off, I’d just like to give you some ideas that you’re free to steal.” So this repositions it as, “Oh, I’m not going to be hard sold to, I actually stand to gain from this and it’s going to be probably quite a fun conversation. This person doesn’t sound like someone that knows how to hard sell or wants to.”

Jon Buchan:
Yeah, it’s persuading them that that call is not a bad idea. Just that little line there changes their expectations of the call, that they see it as a way that they can get something out of it now. And I have other lines like, “If you agree to a call with me I’m tell you the lamest joke I know. Or some random trivia you’ll find borderline fascinating.” You just sugarcoat that little request. And this applies to every other interaction as well. So I’ll give you an an example of these little things, when I launched my group, obviously I’ve now looked and reverse engineered how I grew the group, how I’ve done what I’ve done, the principles that are behind all of this, and one of them, and I don’t do this deliberately just for the advantage, it turns out you get a benefit from it, but I don’t do that for that purpose, I’m very gregarious and I contact people that are in my group. If they made a post that I like, or if they’ve posted about being depressed or they’ve failed at something and they’re struggling, I’ll message them and usually I’ll help them or I’ll send them just some product. Sometimes it’ll be a paid product and I’ll send it them and I’ll just say, “Check this out. This will help you. If you need any help, just send me a message.”

Jon Buchan:
As I say, I’m not doing that for the benefit, but I’ve noticed that those people become advocates. And that’s just a little tiny moves that I’ve made that now they engage with my content, they recommend me, they tag me in stuff. Again, it’s just these little interactions. It’s the same, for instance, with if you’re in a sales meeting, even if I would do an audit of a client’s website and their marketing, it might be absolutely horrendous, but I would never, unless they speak about it that way, I would be understated and constructive in my criticism and I would try and find something, a few examples of something that’s good just to mention that to make it balanced.

Jon Buchan:
It’s just all of these little things that you can do that on their own are probably not hugely important, but when you combine them, it becomes a persuasive weapon. And it’s definitely a way of dealing with people that I think, I don’t know if it’s a salesman’s attitude or because I’ve been in marketing and I’ve read about this persuasion, but it’s just always how I’ve dealt with people. And obviously as I’ve learned this kind of stuff, maybe that has become more effortful and that’s what I would like to show people and in the immediate future that is with copy, but I’m also starting to write more and more about how I won different deals, how I upsold, how I dealt with a situation when I made a mistake, I completely messed up how I dealt with that. When I knew how to fire a client, even though they spent a lot of money, and had to do that. All of these little interactions I’ve built up experience of dealing with them in the most optimal way and that’s what I’d like to teach.

Liston Witherill:
And so I want to get to how to apply this to start new relationships and win new business. I want to get to that in a second, but I’m curious. I think personally, and maybe some of the listeners are too, why did you leave the agency that you created in order to do what you’re doing now?

Jon Buchan:
It took me years to realize that I actually like doing this stuff the best. This is what I’m best at. I’m good at the digital marketing stuff, but my enthusiasm was not what it was and I actually just wanted to be a writer. I lost my enthusiasm. Then I realized, “Maybe I can give that a go.” And I started doing lead generation and that’s when I realized that actually this is one I’m really best at. The thing I didn’t like about digital marketing is, not digital marketing but agency life, and this was true at the agencies I’d worked at and the one that I ran, is that you could do amazing work, get the best results for a client, independent of spends, where there could be loads of spend, could be small, amazing results for someone and then another client you could get lackluster, not really great results and there will be no connection between the clients that would stick around and the clients that would go. And it was like, “Well what am I doing? If this is not about results and doing well, what is the point of this?”

Jon Buchan:
And then if you add on top of that some of the services that I offered, things like SEO, we could be really great at it influencing the variables, but there’s an externality there in Google, it’s not a direct, “Do this, it will result in this.” So I didn’t like the fluffiness around the results because I had to make payroll. I started doing things that I previously would complain about, I wouldn’t like. You’d have to kind of sugar coat reports because if you didn’t and you lost the client, it’s the several people in my team not getting paid. And that stress got to me, that was combination of things. And then I realized like, “Oh I’m just really good at this. Why don’t I just do the thing that I’m really good at?”

Jon Buchan:
And I think I didn’t want to because I thought it was kind of frivolous like, “Oh really you’re going to create a business around a drunk cold email?” Like I didn’t treat it seriously. And then over time I realized, “Oh actually no, this works.” As I kept using it more, I was like, “Actually this works for everything.” Any type of climate, any sector, no matter where they are, well I was never tested in every location in the world. And I realized, “No, actually this isn’t frivolous, this is powerful and it could help a lot of people.” And I saw when I started doing it for other people like clients and getting paid for it, as well as helping my friends get as many jobs as they want, I was like, “No, actually this is really powerful. This is something I need to talk about. Now I need to put myself out there and see if this resonates.”

Jon Buchan:
And when I did that and I was like, “This is the best business model I’ve been involved with. I love what I teach.” As much as I love the agency stuff, this is what I want to be doing. I did take a risk and I’m glad I did.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. And you know what I would say Jon is you were selling expertise in digital marketing and now you’re just selling expertise in a different way with a different business model. But I think you’re still going out of your way to help other people succeed, which is awesome. So let’s talk about, I know a lot of my clients, a lot of my coaching clients, a lot of my students, a lot of people I work with, they all experience the same thing, which you mentioned in the last episode, which is they survive on a few anchor clients or maybe one anchor client. They get some word of mouth, they get the occasional odd lead coming in through word of mouth or referrals, but they don’t have a level of control necessarily over the number of leads that are coming in and especially the types of leads that are coming in. And so to me, that’s when you start thinking about, “What are some other ways I can create more conversations and talk to people?” So in your opinion, when you’re talking to people, how do they start to think about when to start their outbound campaign and what is the structure that they need around that?

Jon Buchan:
Well for me the when is as soon as possible. As far as the structure, the cold email usually, one of the few rules that I stick to is I’ll send eight emails in total in a sequence. One email and then I follow one week apart for seven weeks. I know other people follow quicker than that, maybe three days, four days. I just do that out of courtesy, because I’m not the most important person in their life and I am asking something of them and I’m interrupting them. So it might be that you would actually get higher response rates from sending a follow up quicker, but that’s the way I look at things. I’m never looking at it just for that purpose. I’m trying to deal with people in the most polite way I can under the circumstances. And then you use this piece of software like Mailshake or GMass or Sendy or Reply.io to get the data, the prospect data, upload that, put the sequence in, add any personalization bits if you’re doing much personalization and then send it off.

Jon Buchan:
And usually with my followup sequences, I’ve got a initial email and then the seven followup emails. My sequence is, they can be bolted onto any email sequence because there’s no specifics in there. That update is just me trying to get their attention again with something funny. That’s how the sequence works. You can also add obviously a direct mail piece, so if you want to send a piece of direct mail with maybe a funny gift in there, a sticker or something unusual, and then you follow up with an email a few days later, maybe a whole week, maybe a few days, maybe a little less for this purpose and add the subject line, “Sorry for the ferret in the post.” Or whatever the silly item is. So obviously with me, it was my silly letter with a ferret sticker, a ferret with pretend bunny ears on, I would say, “Sorry for the ferret in the post.” in the subject line and the followup email.

Jon Buchan:
That strategy works really well for reaching sought after prospects, because not many people get stuff in the post, especially if you can do a handwritten letter. And there are companies that allow you to outsource the handwriting of your letters. So those are the main sort of structures is an eight part email sequence if you’re doing cold email, or a direct mail message and then seven follow ups on email. And also LinkedIn as well, you can use a similar system. Usually with LinkedIn actually I’ll send an invite to them and then a funny follow up message. And so that’s how I use LinkedIn. So yeah, those are some of the common structures that I use for cold pitching campaigns. When I used to bring them myself that is.

Liston Witherill:
Right. And so in the followup, I do have a question about that. So can you give an example? You said that each of your followups is designed to just recapture their attention and maybe have a joke in there. Can you give an example of what that looks like?

Jon Buchan:
Let me see if I can remember, it was along the lines, in the sort of mood of this, “Greetings or hello first name. My diary has reminded me that it’s time to pester you again, so here I am. I hope you don’t mind my professional perseverance. Please, if you would like to not get any more emails from me, click here and you will never hear from me again. Please note that this button also, for reasons unknown to me, makes a massive novelty hand slap me in the face. Please bear that in mind when you consider if you’re going to click this unsubscribe link. Thank you very much for your time, Jon.” Something like that. That one’s a little bit longer, but you’re basically saying, “Remember me?” In a way that is disarming and funny, hopefully. Again so basically it’s the same principles as the first email.

Jon Buchan:
I’m not going to suddenly go serious and try and win over the stern people. Now I’m going to continue doing the same thing, not the same jokes, because then the people that maybe so the first one but for some reason didn’t reply, they got distracted or whatever it might be, or they just didn’t think it deserved a reply, on that second one and I hit them again, you’re going to keep increasing your chances of getting a response. From the types of people that like that kind of thing. So that was just a brief example, but it’s generally that kind of thing. It’s just a most charming, polite, maybe silly way of just saying, “Hey, remember me? Do you mind if I get a reply?” But not in the way that a lot of people do, which is just so stern, like, “I’ve sent you an email four days ago and I didn’t get a reply. Can you please let me know?” Jesus.

Liston Witherill:
Right? No, I totally agree. I think it’s funny when the followup email is like, “Hey, did you see my last email?” It’s-

Jon Buchan:
What’s gone wrong?

Liston Witherill:
Whether you have or you haven’t, you’re sort of like, “Get out of my inbox.”

Jon Buchan:
Yeah it’s like you’re the least important person in my life right now.

Liston Witherill:
Right.

Jon Buchan:
And you’re acting like I owe you something.

Liston Witherill:
I am curious, so you send essentially eight emails over eight weeks. Your first email, obviously doing the most heavy lifting and conveying the most information. So I want to come back to that. But where in that sequence are you seeing the most response? Because I know some people think, “Eight emails, I could never do that, that’s overkill.” I’m wondering, where do you see the distribution of responses along the way?

Jon Buchan:
Yeah, yeah. So for me, usually for me, my first email gets the highest. And I know some people that I’ve spoken to said that’s not normal. My first email gets the most by virtue of it being different. And then I do get responses from the following ones. It’s usually the break up email and the one before that, obviously it’s not perfect, but I would say generally the first one and the last one, because I have put a lot of energy, I will admit, that’s probably because there’s a lot more effort in that final break up email. Because I can make a song and downside of it, because it’s a breakup email, I can say things like, “If you’re at all curious, please respond now or forever hold your peace.” Like I can really ham it up. So for me, I’ve always found that it’s the first one and the last one and then generally the distribution is closest to the six, seven, eight. But the first one gets the bulk of the responses.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. So can you talk a little bit about what goes in that first email? On the last episode you talked a little bit about what was in that email. And do you have, maybe not a standard structure, I don’t want you to say, “Go do this exactly.” But what are the elements that really need to be in there?

Jon Buchan:
There is because… [Languagify 00:15:41] this for lack of a better made up term and put it into structures. So the two different parts to it, one is I can obviously construct the joke formulas. So there’s the individual joke formulas and you can give them names, which is what I’ve been doing, give them names and a structure so people can copy them. But then it’s how you should structure the flow, the structure of each say email or whatever the media type is. And say for a cold email or direct mail, any kind of cold pitch, usually I will have the subject line, we’ll use curiosity. Usually just being unusual, not something you’d expect, or it will take advantage of the fact that people don’t know my name, I’m a stranger in their inbox. People differentiate between, “Oh I know those people. I may have subscribed to those newsletters. Okay I really definitely don’t know him. I’ve never seen his name before.” And I’ll have a subject line like, “Apologies in advance.” Because that takes advantage of the fact that I’m a stranger. “Why is this person I don’t know apologizing to me?”

Jon Buchan:
So I’ll either do something like that or I’ll just do something wacky. And then the first line of the email. So you would usually put something like, “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Jon” or “Hi Jon.” Even that I want to be different. So I’ll go with “Greetings Jon” or “Salutations Jon.” Or “Ahoy.” It seems like a real minor difference, but they add up. And then the next line I say that’s where you’re disarming. So you’ll say something like, “I wanted to introduce myself in a way that showed I was interesting, witty and clever. Alas, I wrote this email instead.” Or you can write something that is unusually honest, such as, “Greetings, Jon, you’ve never heard of me. Hi, I’m Jon, I got your details from a list. Gasp. But hey, at least you’re list worthy. That’s got to be worth something, right?”

Jon Buchan:
Basically having something either understated or self-effacing and honest to start with, so it’s disarming. It stops them going like, “Oh, this is a sales email.” You’ve made them smile, you’ve not only earned their attention, but they’re probably already liking you a bit. They already might be smiling. And then you get to say who you are. So the smallest part of my emails is the sales part. I keep it as short as possible because I’m persuading people that it’s a wise idea, it’s not a terrible use of their time to get on a call with me or meet with me. That is what the purpose of email. So then it’s the communication.

Jon Buchan:
So you start with impact, you’ve got to get attention, you want to disarm. So those two things happen at the same time, that disarming comment maintains their attention, they’re interested, they’re not just reading a boring sales email. Next is communication. So you talk about what it is you do. And you do it as short as possible, you don’t use jargon, you get right to the point and you can show your enthusiasm and your ambition.

Jon Buchan:
So I would have lines like, “I run a digital marketing agency with my brother and a team of 15. It feels like we’re doing the best work we’ve ever done and we’re loving it and it feels great to know that we’re not ripping clients off.” Or something like that and, “In our plans for world domination, we’re looking to win clients over away from those other evil… Okay, maybe not evil, but not as good, other agencies. If you agree to have a conversation with me about your digital marketing needs, I will buy you coffee or lunch or tequila shots and I promise to be somewhat entertaining. If you’re lucky, I may even wear a top hat. But first I would just like you to give you some ideas you’re free to steal. I have attached a picture of a ferret that had been dressed up. According to the internet, his name is Colin. I trust this will charm you into submission. I await your profanity-filled response. Have an absolutely wonderful day, Jon.” And then my signature.

Jon Buchan:
So basically it starts with disarming. Then very briefly, it goes into what I offer and I’ve probably missed out a bit, some elements there, if people search for the hashtag #FoundTheFerret on Twitter, you can see the letters I used to send out which have the exact same copy. So it starts with just get their attention, disarm, communicate what you do and then persuade. And the persuasion bit is I’m trying to get a call or lunch with them, but I’m going to make them an offer that they’ve never had before. I’d had competition that had far fancier offices, far better client names, the had money to entertain prospects, have fancy lunches. I had none of that, but what I did have is an offer that no one else can make them. No one else out of all the people that are trying to get their business have offered to take them for tequila shots. I would wager that no one else has tried that. And it just sugar that request.

Jon Buchan:
Again, it makes people think like, “Actually yeah, let’s do it. This could be fun and I might gain something from it.” So that’s the general structure; get attention, disarm, communicate, then persuade. Overall that is the structure. Obviously there are joke formulas that you can use within those that help you achieve the aims that I’ve set in there. But that’s the overall structure. So have a look at that on Twitter #FoundTheFerret that might give you a better idea if I’ve not described it as optimally as I could.

Liston Witherill:
No, I think you did a great job, Jon. Don’t be so hard on yourself. This is not the time to be self-effacing. So yeah, thank you for that description. I know it’s super helpful to the people listening to this. So you have a structure and a way of doing your first email. You’re even weaving in direct mail and other things and I think that what you’re describing is incredibly useful. I think for people to hear that, “Hey, you can actually be a human being in business and that’s okay. And actually it’s welcome.” Right? Because a lot of people think exactly some of the things you’ve been saying about how, “Well so-and-so is… I only work with CEOs and they don’t like to laugh and they don’t do anything fun, so I can’t be like that.” I guess what I would challenge people to do is really find their own voice and what’s comfortable to them. They don’t need to be Jon. They should just be themselves. And so kind of as a wrap up, if someone is exposed to you and Charm Offensive for the first time, how do you talk to them about the best way to start to make this their own?

Jon Buchan:
I make this point a lot is that people should definitely make it their own. It’s a massively beneficial skill. And also, people shouldn’t send these emails if it’s not congruent with who they are. If you think like the ferret attachment is stupid, you don’t find it funny, you shouldn’t be sending it. Even if it does work and you’re tempted by using it because it works, when you get on a call with them and you’re not at all like that, the customer I imagine is going to think like, “This doesn’t match up. The way you were in the email is completely not like how you are in person.” And that’s not to say I’m completely like that email when I meet people. It would be absurd to be that jokey all the time. But you can tell that, yeah, that it’s likely that I would write an email like that.

Jon Buchan:
I’m enthusiastic, I’m passionate… Someone that’s really dry and maybe not enthusiastic, maybe a bit more reserved, if that’s not their personality, if they don’t like it, they shouldn’t send it. They should try and make it their own. So there for them in the Charm Offensive group, actually conveniently today I’ve just started tagging the content, I’m going through all the old content and tagging it, you can learn all the tricks. You can learn how to write jokes like the triple, the triple reverse. You can learn other joke formulas, rhetorical tricks, things from speech writing. There’s loads of this stuff in the group and it’s basically you’ve got to practice, but I’ll give you the formulas. I’ll show you how to write different types of jokes. I’ll show you the little persuasive tricks that I use. And when you get good at those and you practice, it’s a very good skill.

Jon Buchan:
I really wish more people would do it. Definitely have a good group of people in Charm Offensive Professional though that are like that, but I definitely wish more people would do it. I’d love to be partly responsible for helping people become better writers, as well as all the business success and stuff. That would be a real cool thing to be able to do on a greater level.

Liston Witherill:
I think you’re discounting your value a little bit because I think what you’re really teaching people to do is become better, more interesting communicators and there’s obviously enormous value in that.

Jon Buchan:
Yeah. At the end of the day, the reason this has all worked, the reason I’ve been able to grow and do this for a living is that it works. And for anyone that’s thinking like, “I’m really not sure. “The bottom line is have a go and when you start to see results, you start getting responses and you start having these calls where people are just leveling with you, like almost a friend, you’ll realize like, “Yeah, this is the way things should be done.” I hope I can play a part of that happening. That makes my goal sound really grandiose. It’s definitely the money as well, but that would be a cool thing to be able to have promoted.

Liston Witherill:
Well, wonderful. And on that note, Jon, how should people follow up if they want to learn more about you or get ahold of you? What’s the best thing for them to do?

Jon Buchan:
Check out Charm Offensive on Facebook. There’s a Facebook group, not the page. The group at the moment it’s got 8,739 members, so something around there. You can also get me on LinkedIn, you can search for Jon Buchan, J-O-N B-U-C-H-A-N. You’ll know me because my profile picture is me rescuing a basket of kittens and a baby from a burning building. Or you can, if you so wish, go to the website, which is charm-offensive.co.uk. That’s charm-offensive.co.uk. Yeah, if you want to get in touch those are the ways.

Liston Witherill:
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for being here, Jon. I really appreciate it. I know this has been immensely valuable to everybody listening.

Jon Buchan:
Thank you very much for having me, man. I really appreciate it.

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