The Case For Always Answering Your Emails (Even Just To Say 'No'!)

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I'll try not to make this one a rant.... here goes!

Receiving unsolicited (or what some people might call 'cold') emails might be irritating, especially for the kinds of business people that wake up inundated every day. And sometimes sending them out can seem like a bit of a useless task too, and makes lots of people uncomfortable. The fact is though, that email remains the main method of communication online for formal interactions and is therefore absolutely invaluable for entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

'Cold emailing' is a way of forging connections, collaborations and even generating sales, and no matter how icky it makes you feel, it's still less sleazy and more effective than other selling techniques when it's done properly.

I am cold-emailing a lot recently: for market research, for work experience, and to guest lecturers that come to my University to give my course talks. Most people reply, but some don't, and I hope I can convince anyone reading this that they should have a template ready to fire off to anyone who cold-emails them, just to say 'thanks but no thanks!'

So why should you bother?

  1. Closure
Many of the people who are cold-emailing you are looking for something - yes. That something may be an opportunity, a possibility to collaborate or to intern, or even to make a sale. However they are making an informal step towards starting a conversation that doesn't have to take an aggressive lilt, and may be as happy with knowing you read the contents of their message and decided it was not needed or appropriate to their organisation as anything. Being ignored just leave a big fat question mark where the potential for opportunity creation once existed, and that's a real downer for the person reaching out.

2. Professional Image

It's simply not professional to not answer emails, especially if you are a small business. It does appear rude and disorganised, even if it is not intended in this way. It's fair to say a small-scale part-time crafter who attends the odd fair is not drowning under a burgeoning inbox where some others might. If you're reaching out, exercise your best judgement when you cold-email so you can manage your expectations on whether or not you will receive a response. 

3. You don't lose the contact

If someone is offering you free coverage, their services, or any kind of work for free it is simply ridiculous to not respond. Remember that if the results are low quality, you are not obliged to share it or use it, but as a small business you need to be maximising your resources. I was amazed when a local fair didn't respond to my offer of freely photographing their event (they could have used the images for promotional purposes, and on social media) or when an app start-up didn't acknowledge my email telling them I had featured them on this blog (as small and insignificant as it may be). 

They may not have felt the photography or article was of a good enough quality, but I always think you should give people the benefit of the doubt. At 17 I was photographing weddings (the biggest day of people's lives, apparently) and just as capable as photographers twice my age. Let people do their thing if they are offering it to you, you may be surprised and delighted by the results.

Ok, rant over. Now let me know if you agree in the comments section below...

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As always, thanks for reading and make sure you leave any comments you have below!

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