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B2b sales situation business letter examples
April 04, 2019 Anniversary Wishes 4 comments

Though sites are great for presenting your company and services, direct sales are still more effective, especially if your service costs over four.

Post summary:

  • A top priority for email marketing this year is to increase subscriber engagement, becoming even more important than segmentation, email marketing analysis and lifecycle messaging.
  • If you can increase subscriber engagement with every email you send, then you will increase sales, average revenue per customer and overall company profits.
  • We signed up to 1,000 newsletters and have collected the best B2B email marketing examples we could find, including email samples from Buffer, VWO, Kissmetrics and Headspace that you can copy and paste.

Email is the undisputed king of B2B marketing.

For lead generation, 87% of B2B marketers’ use email marketing to generate new leads, while 31% of B2B marketers’ cite email marketing as the channel that makes the biggest impact on revenue.

In terms of return on investment, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that email marketing delivers a $43 return for every $1 spent.

It’s numbers like these that makes email marketing so valuable.

But, how are you using email marketing for your business?

And what email initiatives are you focusing on in 2019?

A study by Strongview found that, for most businesses this year the top priority for email marketing is clear:

Increase subscriber engagement.

Increased subscriber engagement means more sales, higher revenue per customer and overall, better profits.

But, how do you increase subscriber engagement?

You can do this by sending different types of email campaigns.

Subscriber engagement is unlikely to grow if you send the same type of emails over and over again.

For example, think back over the last 12 months and the number of times you have sent the same kind of email to your entire list.

Did it increase engagement? Not likely.

Spay and pray marketing doesn’t work.

(This is exactly why more companies are investing in account-based marketing.)

So, what kind of emails can you send your email subscribers?

19 B2B email marketing templates

We’ve signed up to 1000’s of newsletters and shortlisted the best email marketing campaigns.

We’ll start with B2B email marketing examples from the top of the funnel and work our way through the entire customer journey to help you increase engagement and deliver better results for your email marketing strategy.

Let’s dive right in!

1. Welcome email template

Example provided by Buffer

First impressions count. A lot. Therefore, if a subscriber signs up to something, whether it is to receive future blog posts or a series of email tips, it makes sense to thank them and welcome them. By doing nothing, you make it difficult to create a strong impression. When you sign up on their web form, Buffer’s welcome email includes links to their support email address and a link to their Twitter profile. Simple yet effective!

How to implement: Whether you use auto-responders or send the emails manually, welcoming new subscribers to your company email list is a great way to build a strong relationship from the beginning. In the email, make sure you introduce yourself and company. You can also provide helpful links to content such as most popular blog posts or white papers, or links to your social media profiles

When to send: Each time you get a new subscriber

2. Curated content email template

Example provided by Hiten Shah

Each week, CrazyEgg and Kissmetrics founder, Hiten Shah sends a roundup of his favorite posts on topics that include SaaS, marketing, sales and growth. Hiten is able to deliver great content directly to his readers without them having to search the content out online He’s helping his readers do better, which adds a lot of value to his subscribers.

How to implement: Whether you’re in customer service, social media, banking or the automotive industry, create a list of the best content you’ve read and share it through email to your subscribers with links to this content. In doing so, you’re delivering value without being self-promotional.

When to send: Weekly or monthly, depending on how often you can curate content

3. Company announcement email template

Example provided by SumAll

“Extra, extra – read all about it!”

In in the mid-19th century, newspaper vendors would shout out when there was newer “news”. Even though the channels have changed (unless, of course, you have hired street vendors lately…), newsworthy content about your company is still valuable content for your readers. In fact, 26% of all B2B subscribers sign up because they want to be kept informed on company news, according to research by Chadwick Martin Bailey:

When SumAll acquired Flutter, a tool that helps businesses grow their Twitter following, one of the first things they did was inform their subscriber list. In doing so, they were able to create new interest in their product offering. So for prospects that were not sure whether SumAll was the right fit for their business, announcing this kind of news is likely to have a more positive impact.

How to implement: Whenever you have news to share, such as winning an award, changes to product offering or new pricing options, for example, announce this news to your subscriber list. You can either include all of the company news within the email or itself, or link the email to a landing page.

When to send: Each time you have news to share.

4. New article email template

Example provided by Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern has long been sending new article content published in his weekly “New Thinking” email series. The email content, which is a copy of the article content that is published on his website, is a great way to update his email subscriber list of new content, without the subscriber having to visit Gerry’s website.

How to implement: Whether you use this example for new blog post content or article content, you can copy and paste the content directly into the email, like Gerry does, or provide a link to the webpage and drive readers to your website.

When to send: Each time a new blog post or article has been published

5. Video email template

Example provided by Backlinko

When Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, sends an email, the chances that it contains a video are pretty high. By providing actionable content through video, Brian is able to not only deliver value, but build a rapport with his subscribers as they get to see and hear Brian on a regular basis, which builds an even deeper connection with his audience than he would create compared to reading web copy, as the person watching the video feels like they really know Brian.

How to implement: Take one of your best performing pieces of content and create a video version, and provide the tips in the content in your video. It doesn’t have to require a film crew or include special effects, all you need is to be visible and on screen.

When to send: Monthly. It’s a great way to engage on a new level with your audience

6. Inactive user email template

Example provided by Perfect Audience

According to Epsilon, approximately 40% of your email list in inactive!

This means that each time you send out an email, almost half are no longer interested in hearing from your company. In the example above, Perfect Audience has sent out an email to a new user who has become inactive. This email is a great way of restarting the conversation and reminding the user that they can use the product, or get answers to any questions they may have.

How to implement: Create a list of email subscribers who have not read or opened an email during the last 12 months (or, customers who have not logged in to the product within 60-90 days), and send an email that includes:

  • Who you are and what you do
  • Why they signed up in the first place
  • A question or an invite to start a conversation

When to send: Two-three times per year

7. Product promotion email template

Example provided by VWO

Accurate data is important to marketers’, especially when it comes to running tests on their website. When VWO launched SmartStats, they informed their audience of the new change and how it impacts users – and how it can help them with their tests. For prospects on the fence as to which vendor to choose, this is the kind of change that can lead to an increase in new customers.

How to implement: Your company’s product will evolve, and each time you add a new feature of improve an existing feature, it could be the improvement that turns many prospects into a customer. However, you need to get the word out and inform them so they are aware of these changes. The next time you update your product, send an email to your subscribers with a list of changes/ updates. Remember to use simple language so instead of including “Feature enhancement 4.2”, you explain how this change impacts the user, i.e. Users can create quotes and send via email in one click”.

When to send: Each time you update your product

8. Gated content email template

Example provided by SuperOffice

Each time SuperOffice launches a new white paper or guide, we send an email to our subscriber list. This is the fastest way to get more people to read and download the content. The reason why we do this is because according to research, 36% of B2B buyers’ seek out white paper content during the initial stage of the buying process (as shown in column one in the chart below). By delivering content directly to our subscribers’ inbox, we make it easy for them to consume the content they demand, while at the same time keeping SuperOffice top of mind.

How to implement: Next time you launch a new piece of gated content, announce the launch to your subscriber list. Just like in the example above, keep the email short, benefit driven and include a call to action, which asks the reader to download the guide from a dedicated landing page. The goal of the email is to drive readers to your website.

When to send: Each time you launch a new piece of gated content

9. Webinar email template

Example provided by Kissmetrics

As far as customer acquisition channels go, webinars are one of the most effective ways of speaking directly to your potential customers. Kissmetrics uses email marketing as one of the ways to promote a webinar, which makes it easy for subscribers’ to learn about upcoming events and schedule the time to attend. Webinars are a great way to showcase your expertise and engage with buyers’ who are further down the sales cycle and looking to make a purchase.

How to implement: Instead of creating a brand new topic to host a webinar on, use existing content and repurpose it into a webinar topic. For example, take a piece of content that performed well, and on a topic you are comfortable talking about, and then send an email to your subscriber list with an invite to a webinar. Make the date and time of the webinar clear, and include a description of what the webinar topic is about.

When to send: Each time you host a webinar

10. Live event email template

Example provided by ConversionXL

When Peep Laja launched his ConversionXL conference this year, it wasn’t too long until he let his email subscribers know about it. Do you know why? It’s because his subscribers are potential event attendees (and therefore customers)!

In fact, during a recent AMA (ask me anything) on Inbound.org, Peep went as far as saying 80% of his conference ticket sales come from his email list!

There’s no better way to promote an event that to invite people that already know who your company is and what you do. A study by BrightCove and Content Marketing Institute found that meeting potential customers is the most effective tactics for B2B marketers’. So next time you host an event, invite your email list!

How to implement: While hosting an event can be expensive and time consuming, there’s no better way to get face-time with prospects and create a relationship than event marketing. Promote the event through email marketing, and include the details of when, where and why attendees should join. And for your event, get your best sales people ready to meet and greet future customers!

When to send: Each time you host an event (I’m guessing one to two per year)

11. Case study email template

Example provided by Eyequant

As B2B buyer’s move further down the funnel, the value of a case study grows. A case study is a great way to show how your product can help a business improve, whether that’s in terms of sales, productivity or communicating with customers.

Eyequant’s case study email starts by explaining the challenges similar companies face. This is followed by the details of the case study, which includes how to use the product and what kind of results you can expect. The results are the most important part of a case study. Showcasing product value for companies similar to your prospects is a great way to earn trust and turn them into customers.

How to implement: You can take an existing case study and send an email to prospects with a link to the study, or you may have to ask your customers if they would like to be featured as a case study. The latter might take more time, but once you have a case study or two, you can use these for several months or years to come. Remember to focus on the results part as this is where the real value lies!

When to send: Bi-monthly or quarterly. This is for later stage buyers.

12. Request demo email template

Example provided by LinkedIn

In terms of lead quality, Software Advice found that 80% of marketers’ rate “live demo’s with sales reps” as the most effective way to generate high quality leads. Therefore, it makes sense to invite potential customers to a personalized demo with a sales rep. As part of their social selling campaign, LinkedIn not only sends a personalized email invite addressed to me by name, but they also signed off with an image from one of their sales reps. Adding a photo is a quick and easy way to build trust. The email is short, clear and personal – and therefore, very effective!

How to implement: Create a list of prospects that have completed at least one key action on the website (for example, downloaded a piece of content) but have yet to be entered into the sales process. Create a personalized email, and invite them to a live demo. The live demo can be hosted through screen sharing on Skype or through a video chat.

When to send: Can be done on a per lead basis, or on a monthly basis.

13. Getting started email template

Example provided by Evernote

When you sign up to Evernote, the first thing they do is send you an email to download the product. This email works because it continues the conversation that started when a user visited the website and signed up, to now asking them to download that product. Is the email effective? Definitely! It’s helped Evernote generate more than 200 million users!

How to implement: If someone signs up to your product, send an email to continue the conversation. Whether the new user has to install, download or login, make the focus of the email clear, and use only one to call to action (like Evernote does).

When to send: Each time you get a new user

14. Thank you email template

Example provided by Unbounce

If you download a piece of content, or complete an action on a website, a thank you email is a great way to connect with your audience. At Unbounce, they send you a thank you email when you download a piece of content – in this case, a white paper. What works well for Unbounce is the email is sent in plain text, rather than a HTML designed email template. It looks authentic and feels genuine, which makes the reader feel valued.

How to implement: You can send this type of email out through an auto-responder – when visitor does this, we do that – or you can send it manually. Start by thanking the reader, and if possible, include a direct link to the content, so they can access it immediately. In addition to the thank you, you can also provide links to your resource page and a link to your product page (just like Unbounce do).

When to send: Each time someone completes an action of your website

15. Survey email template

Example provided by Headspace

Although technically not a B2B email marketing email, it would be a crime not too include this Headspace survey email.

Headspace, the meditation app that has more than one million downloads, comforts the reader immediately with this survey email by opening up with “Yes, it’s a survey. But not boring”. Most people assume surveys are boring. This statement makes it clear it won’t be, or at least attempts to do so. To increase response rates, Headspace offers an incentive where participants can win a free 3 month subscription. And the focus of the email is clear. White back ground, green call to action button.

How to implement: Setting up the survey is the difficult part. You can use Google surveys, which is free or a paid tool, like Survey Monkey. Keep the survey short, as no one likes to spend more than 5-10 minutes on a survey, to increase response rates. As for the email itself, the focus is on getting people to participate, so make it clear what you want the reader to do.

When to send: Quarterly or two times per year. The feedback you collect is pure gold!

16. Free trial email template

Example provided by User Testing

UserTesting.com lets you pay for people to test your website. Each time a new user signs up for a free trial of their service, you get this email. Two things stand out in this email that make it great; the first is that the email addresses who uses their product, which emphasizes why the reader should remain engaged with their product and take the free trial, and second, the email provides resources to features, mobile testing and how it works sections of their website.

How to implement: Each time someone signs up for receive a free trial of your service, thank them for signing up and provide supporting information and helpful links to keep them engaged until the free trial service begins.

When to send: Each time someone signs up for a free trial.

17. Referral email template

Example provided by Buffer

Congratulations, the free trial period is over.

So, now what?

Well, what usually happens after a free trial is the communication takes one of two paths; the first path is that the free trial user becomes a paying customer – Whoohoo!

The second path is that the free trial user doesn’t become a customer, and therefore the communication comes to an end. However, what Buffer does really well is follow up with the user and asks for a referral. The referral email keeps the conversation going, even asking for input on suggestions or ideas to their product.

How to implement: Create an automated email that is sent between 3-4 days after the free trial has ended to all trial users who do not become paying customers and ask for a referral. In fact, the content of the email can be the same whether the user becomes a customer or not. Keep the email simple, focus on getting a referral and if possible, keep the conversation going.

When to send: Send this email 3-4 days after the free trial has ended.

18. What’s new? email template

Email provided by Leadpages

The benefit of SaaS products is that your product will continue to be improved, without the customer having to install new versions of it. But, while you’re busy developing new code, testing new features or rolling out Beta versions of a new product update, the majority of your customers will remain unaware. This is why a “What’s new” email is so important!

Your customers want to know you have their best interests in mind. If you don’t communicate new updates to them, then they might not think you are doing anything at all. You can easily avoid this by sending an email each time you have something new to share.

How to implement: Anytime you roll out a feature that impacts the user experience (like in the example above), communicate it by email. Ideally, you will communicate this BEFORE the update is rolled out, to give your users a heads up, but communicating it on the same day works too. Just don’t delay it any further, as any big changes that that aren’t clearly explained will lead to a surge in customer support tickets.

When to send: Send this email to your customer database each time you launch a new product. feature or improvement.

19. Upsell email template

Email provided by Buffer

We started this B2B email marketing list with Buffer, and as they are the masters of email marketing, we’ll end with Buffer as well. Most subscription businesses offer two forms of payment – monthly or yearly. The benefit of annual payment for the company is that it’s good for cash flow. For the customer, an annual payment is usually rewarded with a discount. It’s one of those rare cases when everyone wins.

In this email from Buffer, they offer a 15% discount by switching to an annual plan – meaning I’d be saving $36. Not bad for a single, click. What makes this email template even better is that they offer the option to cancel at anytime.

How to implement: This email requires automation as it’s based on behaviour and payment confirmation. If you’re a hyper-growth stage company, then you might want to implement this before their second monthly payment subscription is due, or after their third monthly installment payment in a row. make sure you highlight the benefits of why someone should switch, and make the process easy to do once they click the CTA in the email.

When to send: Each time a customer completes a specific number of monthly payments in a row.

Conclusion

The role of email as a measurable, cost-effective marketing channel is clear.

Backed up by both professional opinion and industry statistics, email has an important value for businesses in creating sales leads and revenue, and retaining customers.

So, if you’re one of the 59% of companies that do not use email marketing and you are looking for inspiration on what to send to your subscribers, use one of these 19 B2B email marketing examples to help you deliver engaging content to your audience.

What do you think of these 19 B2B email marketing examples?

Are there any B2B email marketing examples that we haven’t included?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.

P.S. If you found this post valuable, please tweet about it here!


Marketing

A business email is a less formal type of writing compared to a paper letter. most important skills you should acquire as a good business owner, sales person or So you've built a B2B email list and started sending out your cold emails. . include emails for offer letters, rejections, and other similar situations.

FREE Sample Sales Letters

b2b sales situation business letter examples

Maybe you think you don't need a step by step guide to writing a great business plan. Maybe you think you don't need a template for writing a business plan. After all, some entrepreneurs succeed without writing a business plan. With great timing, solid business skills, entrepreneurial drive, and a little luck, some founders build thriving businesses without creating even an informal business plan. 

But the odds are greater that those entrepreneurs fail.

Does a business plan make startup success inevitable? Absolutely not. But great planning often means the difference between success and failure. Where your entrepreneurial dreams are concerned, you should do everything possible to set the stage for success.

And that's why a great business plan is one that helps you succeed.

The following is a comprehensive guide to creating a great business plan. We'll start with an overview of key concepts. Then we'll look at each section of a typical business plan:

  • Executive Summary
  • Overview and Objectives
  • Products and Services
  • Market Opportunities
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Operations
  • Management Team
  • Financial Analysis

So first let's gain a little perspective on why you need a business plan.

Key Concepts

Many business plans are fantasies. That's because many aspiring entrepreneurs see a business plan as simply a tool--filled with strategies and projections and hyperbole--that will convince lenders or investors the business makes sense.

That's a huge mistake.

First and foremost, your business plan should convince you that your idea makes sense--because your time, your money, and your effort are on the line.

So a solid business plan should be a blueprint for a successful business. It should flesh out strategic plans, develop marketing and sales plans, create the foundation for smooth operations, and maybe--just maybe--convince a lender or investor to jump on board.

For many entrepreneurs, developing a business plan is the first step in the process of deciding whether to actually start a business. Determining if an idea fails on paper can help a prospective founder avoid wasting time and money on a business with no realistic hope of success.

So, at a minimum, your plan should:

  • Be as objective and logical as possible. What may have seemed like a good idea for a business can, after some thought and analysis, prove not viable because of heavy competition, insufficient funding, or a nonexistent market. (Sometimes even the best ideas are simply ahead of their time.)
  • Serve as a guide to the business's operations for the first months and sometimes years, creating a blueprint for company leaders to follow.
  • Communicate the company's purpose and vision, describe management responsibilities, detail personnel requirements, provide an overview of marketing plans, and evaluate current and future competition in the marketplace.
  • Create the foundation of a financing proposal for investors and lenders to use to evaluate the company.

A good business plan delves into each of the above categories, but it should also accomplish other objectives. Most of all, a good business plan is convincing. It proves a case. It provides concrete, factual evidence showing your idea for a business is in fact sound and reasonable and has every chance of success.

Who must your business plan convince?

First and foremost, your business plan should convince you that your idea for a business is not just a dream but can be a viable reality. Entrepreneurs are by nature confident, positive, can-do people. After you objectively evaluate your capital needs, products or services, competition, marketing plans, and potential to make a profit, you'll have a much better grasp on your chances for success.

And if you're not convinced, fine: Take a step back and refine your ideas and your plans.

Who can your business plan convince?

1. Potential sources of financing. If you need seed money from a bank or friends and relatives, your business plan can help you make a great case. Financial statements can show where you have been. Financial projections describe where you plan to go.

Your business plan shows how you will get there. Lending naturally involves risk, and a great business plan can help lenders understand and quantity that risk, increasing your chances for approval.

2. Potential partners and investors. Where friends and family are concerned, sharing your business plan may not be necessary (although it certainly could help).

Other investors--including angel investors or venture capitalists--generally require a business plan in order to evaluate your business.

3. Skilled employees. When you need to attract talent, you need something to show prospective employees since you're still in the startup phase. Early on, your business is more of an idea than a reality, so your business plan can help prospective employees understand your goals--and, more important, their place in helping you achieve those goals.

4. Potential joint ventures. Joint ventures are like partnerships between two companies. A joint venture is a formal agreement to share the work--and share the revenue and profit. As a new company, you will likely be an unknown quantity in your market. Setting up a joint venture with an established partner could make all the difference in getting your business off the ground.

But above all, your business plan should convince you that it makes sense to move forward.

As you map out your plan, you may discover issues or challenges you had not anticipated.

Maybe the market isn't as large as you thought. Maybe, after evaluating the competition, you realize your plan to be the low-cost provider isn't feasible since the profit margins will be too low to cover your costs.

Or you might realize the fundamental idea for your business is sound, but how you implement that idea should change. Maybe establishing a storefront for your operation isn't as cost-effective as taking your products directly to customers--not only will your operating costs be lower, but you can charge a premium since you provide additional customer convenience.

Think of it this way. Successful businesses do not remain static. They learn from mistakes, and adapt and react to changes: changes in the economy, the marketplace, their customers, their products and services, etc. Successful businesses identify opportunities and challenges and react accordingly.

Creating a business plan lets you spot opportunities and challenges without risk. Use your plan to dip your toe in the business water. It's the perfect way to review and revise your ideas and concepts before you ever spend a penny.

Many people see writing a business plan as a "necessary evil" required to attract financing or investors. Instead, see your plan as a no-cost way to explore the viability of your potential business and avoid costly mistakes.

Now let's look at the first section of your business plan: The Executive Summary.

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is a brief outline of the company's purpose and goals. While it can be tough to fit on one or two pages, a good Summary includes:

  • A brief description of products and services
  • A summary of objectives
  • A solid description of the market
  • A high-level justification for viability (including a quick look at your competition and your competitive advantage)
  • A snapshot of growth potential
  • An overview of funding requirements

I know that seems like a lot, and that's why it's so important you get it right. The Executive Summary is often the make-or-break section of your business plan.

A great business solves customer problems. If your Summary cannot clearly describe, in one or two pages, how your business will solve a particular problem and make a profit, then it's very possible the opportunity does not exist--or your plan to take advantage of a genuine opportunity is not well developed.

So think of it as a snapshot of your business plan. Don't try to "hype" your business--focus on helping a busy reader get a great feel for what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and how you will succeed.

Since a business plan should above all help you start and grow your business, your Executive Summary should first and foremost help you do the following.

1. Refine and tighten your concept.

Think of it as a written elevator pitch (with more detail, of course). Your Summary describes the highlights of your plan, includes only the most critical points, and leaves out less important issues and factors.

As you develop your Summary you will naturally focus on the issues that contribute most to potential success. If your concept is too fuzzy, too broad, or too complicated, go back and start again. Most great businesses can be described in several sentences, not several pages.

2. Determine your priorities.

Your business plan walks the reader through your plan. What ranks high in terms of importance? Product development? Research? Acquiring the right location? Creating strategic partnerships?

Your Summary can serve as a guide to writing the rest of your plan.

3. Make the rest of the process easy.

Once your Summary is complete, you can use it as an outline for the rest of your plan. Simply flesh out the highlights with more detail.

Then work to accomplish your secondary objective by focusing on your readers. Even though you may be creating a business plan solely for your own purposes, at some point you may decide to seek financing or to bring on other investors, so make sure your Summary meets their needs as well. Work hard to set the stage for the rest of the plan. Let your excitement for your idea and your business shine through.

In short, make readers want to turn the page and keep reading. Just make sure your sizzle meets your steak by providing clear, factual descriptions.

How? The following is how an Executive Summary for a bicycle rental store might read.

Introduction

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will offer road and mountain bike rentals in a strategic location directly adjacent to an entrance to the George Washington National Forest. Our primary strategy is to develop Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals as the most convenient and cost-effective rental alternative for the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year.

Once underway we will expand our scope and take advantage of high-margin new equipment sales and leverage our existing labor force to sell and service those products. Within three years we intend to create the area's premier destination for cycling enthusiasts.

Company and Management

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will be located at 321 Mountain Drive, a location providing extremely high visibility as well as direct entry and exit from a primary national park access road. The owner of the company, Marty Cycle, has over twenty years experience in the bicycle business, having served as a product manager for ACME Cycles as well as the general manager of Epic Cycling.

Because of his extensive industry contacts, initial equipment inventory will be purchased at significant discounts from OEM suppliers as well by sourcing excess inventory from shops around the country.

Due to the somewhat seasonal nature of the business, part-time employees will be hired to handle spikes in demand. Those employees will be attracted through competitive wages as well as discounts products and services.

Market Opportunities

460,000 people visited the George Washington National Forest during the last twelve months. While the outdoor tourism industry as a whole is flat, the park expects its number of visitors to grow over the next few years.

  • The economic outlook indicates fewer VA, WV, NC, and MD cycling enthusiasts will travel outside the region
  • The park has added a camping and lodging facilities that should attract an increased number of visitors
  • The park has opened up additional areas for trail exploration and construction, ensuring a greater number of single-track options and therefore a greater number of visitors

The market potential inherent in those visitors is substantial. According to third-party research data, approximately 30% of all cyclists would prefer to rent rather than transport their own bicycles, especially those who are visiting the area for reasons other than cycling.

Competitive Advantages

The cycling shops located in Harrisonburg, VA, are direct and established competitor. Our two primary competitive advantages will be location and lower costs.

Our location is also a key disadvantage where non-park rentals are concerned. We will overcome that issue by establishing a satellite location in Harrisonburg for enthusiasts who wish to rent bicycles to use in town or on other local trails.

We will also use online tools to better engage customers, allowing them to reserve and pay online as well as create individual profiles regarding sizes, preferences, and special needs.

Financial Projections

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals expects to earn a modest profit by year two based on projected sales. Our projections are based on the following key assumptions:

  • Initial growth will be moderate as we establish awareness in the market
  • Initial equipment purchases will stay in service for an average of three to four years; after two years we will begin investing in "new" equipment to replace damaged or obsolete equipment
  • Marketing costs will not exceed 14% of sales
  • Residual profits will be reinvested in expanding the product and service line

We project first-year revenue of $720,000 and a 10% growth rate for the next two years. Direct cost of sales is projected to average 60% of gross sales, including 50% for the purchase of equipment and 10% for the purchase of ancillary items. Net income is projected to reach $105,000 in year three as sales increase and operations become more efficient.

(And so on...)

Keep in mind this is just a made-up example of how your Summary might read. Also keep in mind this example focused on the rental business, so a description of products was not included. (They'll show up later.) If your business will manufacture or sell products, or provide a variety of services, then be sure to include a Products and Services section in your Summary. (In this case the products and services are obvious, so including a specific section would be redundant.)

Bottom line: Provide some sizzle in your Executive Summary... but make sure you show a reasonable look at the steak, too.

Overview and Objectives

Providing an overview of your business can be tricky, especially when you're still in the planning stages. If you already own an existing business, summarizing your current operation should be relatively easy; it can be a lot harder to explain what you plan to become.

So start by taking a step back.

Think about what products and services you will provide, how you will provide those items, what you need to have in order to provide those items, exactly who will provide those items... and most importantly, whom you will provide those items to.

Consider our bicycle rental business example. It's serves retail customers. It has an online component, but the core of the business is based on face-to-face transactions for bike rentals and support.

So you'll need a physical location, bikes, racks and tools and supporting equipment, and other brick-and-mortar related items. You'll need employees with a very particular set of skills to serve those customers, and you'll need an operating plan to guide your everyday activities.

Sound like a lot? It boils down to:

  • What you will provide
  • What you need to run your business
  • Who will service your customers, and
  • Who are your customers

In our example, defining the above is fairly simple. You know what you will provide to meet your customer's needs. You will of course need a certain quantity of bikes to service demand, but you will not need a number of different types of bikes. You need a retail location, furnished to meet the demands of your business. You need semi-skilled employees capable of sizing, customizing, and repairing bikes.

And you know your customers: Cycling enthusiasts.

In other businesses and industries answering the above questions can be more difficult. If you open a restaurant, what you plan to serve will in some ways determine your labor needs, the location you choose, the equipment you need to purchase... and most importantly will help define your customer. Changing any one element may change other elements; if you cannot afford to purchase expensive kitchen equipment, you may need to adapt your menu accordingly. If you hope to attract an upscale clientele, you may need to invest more in purchasing a prime location and creating an appealing ambience.

So where do you start? Focus on the basics first:

  • Identify your industry: Retail, wholesale, service, manufacturing, etc. Clearly define your type of business.
  • Identify your customer. You cannot market and sell to customers until you know who they are.
  • Explain the problem you solve. Successful businesses create customer value by solving problems. In our rental example, one problem is cycling enthusiasts who don't--or can't--travel with bikes. Another problem is casual cyclists who can't--or choose not to--spend significant sums on their own bikes. The rental shop will solve that problem by offering a lower-cost and convenient alternative.
  • Show how you will solve that problem. Our rental shop will offer better prices and enhanced services like remote deliveries, off-hours equipment returns, and online reservations.

If you are still stuck, try answering these questions. Some may pertain to you; others may not.

  • Who is my average customer? Who am I targeting? (Unless you plan to open a grocery store, you should be unlikely to answer, "Everyone!")
  • What pain point do I solve for my customers?
  • How will I overcome that paint point?
  • Where will I fail to solve a customer problem... and what can I do to overcome that issue? (In our rental example one problem is a potential lack of convenience; we will overcome that issue by offering online reservations, on-resort deliveries, and drive-up equipment returns.)
  • Where will I locate my business?
  • What products, services, and equipment do I need to run my business?
  • What skills do my employees need, and how many do I need?
  • How will I beat my competition?
  • How can I differentiate myself from my competition in the eyes of my customers? (You can have a great plan to beat your competition but you also must win the perception battle among your customers. If customers don't feel you are different... then you aren't truly different. Perception is critical.)

Once you work through this list you will probably end up with a lot more detail than is necessary for your business plan. That is not a problem: Start summarizing the main points. For example, your Business Overview and Objectives section could start something like this:

History and Vision

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals is a new retail venture that will be located at 321 Mountain Drive, directly adjacent to an extremely popular cycling destination. Our initial goal is to become the premier provider for bicycle rentals. We will then leverage our customer base and position in the market to offer new equipment sales as well as comprehensive maintenance and service, custom equipment fittings, and expert trail advice.

Objectives

  1. Achieve the largest market share bicycle rentals in the area
  2. Generate a net income of $235,000 at the end of the second year of operation
  3. Minimize rental inventory replacement costs by maintaining a 7% attrition rate on existing equipment (industry average is 12%)

Keys to Success

  • Provide high quality equipment, sourcing that equipment as inexpensively as possible through existing relationships with equipment manufacturers and other cycling shops
  • Use signage to attract visitors traveling to the national forest, highlighting our cost and service advantage
  • Create additional customer convenience factors to overcome a perceived lack of convenience for customers planning to ride roads and trails some distance away from our shop
  • Develop customer incentive and loyalty programs to leverage customer relationships and create positive word of mouth

(And so on...)

You could certainly include more detail in each section; this is simply a quick guide. And if you plan to develop a product or service, you should thoroughly describe the development process as well as the end result.

The key is to describe what you will do for your customers--if you can't, you won't have any customers.

Products and Services

In the Products and Services section of your business plan, you will clearly describe--yep--the products and services your business will provide.

Keep in mind that highly detailed or technical descriptions are not necessary and definitely not recommended. Use simple terms and avoid industry buzzwords.

On the other hand, describing how the company's products and services will differ from the competition is critical. So is describing why your products and services are needed if no market currently exists. (For example, before there was Federal Express, overnight delivery was a niche business served by small companies. FedEx had to define the opportunity for a new, large-scale service and justify why customers needed--and would actually use--that service.)

Patents, copyrights, and trademarks you own or have applied for should also be listed in this section.

Depending on the nature of your business, your Products and Services section could be very long or relatively short. If your business is product-focused, you will want to spend more time describing those products.

If you plan to sell a commodity item and the key to your success lies in, say, competitive pricing, you probably don't need to provide significant product detail. Or if you plan to sell a commodity readily available in a variety of outlets, the key to your business may not be the commodity itself but your ability to market in a more cost-effective way than your competition.

But if you're creating a new product (or service), make sure you thoroughly explain the nature of the product, its uses, and its value, etc -- otherwise your readers will not have enough information to evaluate your business.

Key questions to answer:

  • Are products or services in development or existing (and on the market)?
  • What is the timeline for bringing new products and services to market?
  • What makes your products or services different? Are there competitive advantages compared with offerings from other competitors? Are there competitive disadvantages you will need to overcome? (And if so, how?)
  • Is price an issue? Will your operating costs be low enough to allow a reasonable profit margin?
  • How will you acquire your products? Are you the manufacturer? Do you assemble products using components provided by others? Do you purchase products from suppliers or wholesalers? If your business takes off, is a steady supply of products available?

In the cycling rental business example we've been using, products and services could be a relatively simple section to complete or it could be fairly involved. It depends on the nature of the products the company plans to rent to customers.

If Blue Mountain Cycling Rentals plans to market itself as a provider of high-end bikes, describing those bikes--and the sources for those bikes--is important, since "high-end cycling rentals" is intended to be a market differentiation. If the company plans to be the low-cost provider, then describing specific brands of equipment is probably not necessary.

Also, keep in mind that if a supplier runs out of capacity--or goes out of business altogether--you may not have a sufficient supply to meet your demand. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships, and describe those relationships fully. 

Remember, the primary goal of your business plan is to convince you that the business is viable--and to create a road map for you to follow.

The Products and Services section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:

Product Description

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will provide a comprehensive line of bicycles and cycling equipment for all ages and levels of ability. Since the typical customer seeks medium-quality equipment and excellent services at competitive prices, we will focus on providing brands like Trek bikes, Shimano footwear, and Giro helmets. These manufacturers have a widespread reputation as mid- to high-level quality, unlike equipment typically found in the rental market.

The following is a breakdown of anticipated rental price points, per day and per week:

  • Bicycle $30 $120
  • Helmet $6 $30
  • (Etc.)

Notes:

  • Customers can extend the rental term online without visiting the store.
  • A grace period of two hours will be applied to all rentals; customers who return equipment within that two-hour period will not be charged an additional fee.

Competition

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will have clear advantages over its primary competitors, the bike shops located in Harrisonburg, VA:

  1. Newer equipment inventory with higher perceived quality
  2. Price points 15 percent below the competition
  3. Online renewals offering greater convenience
  4. A liberal return grace period that will reinforce our reputation as a customer-friendly rental experience

Future Products

Expansion will allow us to move product offerings into new equipment sales. We will also explore maintenance and fitting services, leveraging our existing maintenance staff to provide value-added services at a premium price.

(And so on...)

When you draft your Products and Services section, think of your reader as a person who knows little to nothing about your business. Be clear and to the point.

Think of it this way: The Products and Services section answers the "what" question for your business. Make sure you fully understand the "what" factor; you may run the business, but your products and services are its lifeblood.

Market Opportunities

Market research is critical to business success. A good business plan analyzes and evaluates customer demographics, purchasing habits, buying cycles, and willingness to adopt new products and services.

The process starts with understanding your market and the opportunities inherent in that market. And that means you'll need to do a little research. Before you start a business you must be sure there is a viable market for what you plan to offer.

That process requires asking, and more importantly answering, a number of questions. The more thoroughly you answer the following questions, the better you will understand your market.

Start by evaluating the market at a relatively high level, answering some high-level questions about your market and your industry:

  • What is the size of the market? Is it growing, stable, or in decline?
  • Is the overall industry growing, stable, or in decline?
  • What segment of the market do I plan to target? What demographics and behaviors make up the market I plan to target?
  • Is demand for my specific products and services rising or falling?
  • Can I differentiate myself from the competition in a way customers will find meaningful? If so, can I differentiate myself in a cost-effective manner?
  • What do customers expect to pay for my products and services? Are they considered to be a commodity or to be custom and individualized?

Fortunately, you've already done some of the legwork. You've already defined and mapped out your products and services. The Market Opportunities section provides a sense-check of that analysis, which is particularly important since choosing the right products and services is such a critical factor in business success.

But your analysis should go farther: Great products are great... but there still must be a market for those products. (Ferraris are awesome but you're unlikely to sell many where I live.)

So let's dig deeper and quantify your market. Your goal is to thoroughly understand the characteristics and purchasing ability of potential customers in your market. A little Googling can yield a tremendous amount of data.

For the market you hope to serve, determine:

  • Your potential customers. In general terms, potential customers are the people in the market segment you plan to target. Say you sell jet skis; anyone under the age of 16 and over the age of 60 or so is unlikely to be a customer. Plus, again in general terms, women make up a relatively small percentage of jet ski purchasers. Determining the total population for the market is not particularly helpful if your product or service does not serve a need for the entire population. Most products and services do not.
  • Total households. In some cases determining the number of total households is important depending on your business. For example, if you sell heating and air conditioning systems, knowing the number of households is more important than simply knowing the total population in your area. While people purchase HVAC systems, "households" consume those systems.
  • Median income. Spending ability is important. Does your market area have sufficient spending power to purchase enough of your products and services to enable you to make a profit? Some areas are more affluent than others. Don't assume every city or locality is the same in terms of spending power. A service that is viable in New York City may not be viable in your town.
  • Income by demographics. You can also determine income levels by age group, by ethnic group, and by gender. (Again, potential spending power is an important number to quantify.) Senior citizens could very well have a lower income level than males or females age 45 to 55 in the prime of their careers. Or say you plan to sell services to local businesses; try to determine the amount they currently spend on similar services.

The key is to understand the market in general terms and then to dig deeper to understand whether there are specific segments within that market--the segments you plan to target--that can become customers and support the growth of your business.

Also keep in mind that if you plan to sell products online the global marketplace is incredibly crowded and competitive. Any business can sell a product online and ship that product around the world. Don't simply assume that just because "the bicycle industry is a $62 billion business" (a number I just made up) that you can capture a meaningful percentage of that market.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with 50,000 people and there's only one bicycle shop, you may be able to enter that market and attract a major portion of bicycle customers in your area.

Always remember it's much easier to serve a market you can define and quantify.

After you complete your research you may feel a little overwhelmed. While data is good, and more data is great, sifting through and making sense of too much data can be daunting.

For the purposes of your business plan, narrow your focus and focus on answering these main questions:

  • What is your market? Include geographic descriptions, target demographics, and company profiles (if you're B2B). In short: Who are your customers?
  • What segment of your market will you focus on? What niche will you attempt to carve out? What percentage of that market do you hope to penetrate and acquire?
  • What is the size of your intended market? What is the population and spending habits and levels?
  • Why do customers need and why will they be willing to purchase your products and services?
  • How will you price your products and services? Will you be the low cost provider or provide value-added services at higher prices?
  • Is your market likely to grow? How much? Why?
  • How can you increase your market share over time?

The Market Opportunities section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:

Market Summary

Consumer spending on cycling equipment reached $9,250,000 in the states of VA, WV, MD, and NC last year. While we expect sales to rise, for the purposes of performing a conservative analysis we have projected a zero growth rate for the next three years.

In those states 2,500,000 people visited a national forest last year. Our target market includes customers visiting the Shenandoah National Forest; last year 120,000 people visited the area during spring, summer, and fall months.

Over time, however, we do expect equipment rentals and sales to increase as the popularity of cycling continues to rise. In particular we forecast a spike in demand in 2015 since the national road racing championships will be held in Richmond, VA.

Market Trends

Participation and population trends favor our venture:

  • Recreational sports in general and both family-oriented and "extreme" sports continue to gain in exposure and popularity.
  • Western VA and eastern WV have experienced population growth rates nearly double that of the country as a whole.
  • Industry trends show cycling has risen at a more rapid rate than most other recreational activities.

Market Growth

According to the latest studies, recreation spending in our target market has grown by 14% per year for the past three years.

In addition, we anticipate greater than industry-norm growth rates for cycling in the area due to the increase in popularity of cycling events like the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.

Market Needs

Out target market has one basic need: The availability to source bicycle rentals at a competitive price. Our only other competition are the bike shops in Harrisonburg, VA, and our location will give us a competitive advantage over those and other companies who try to serve our market.

(And so on...)

You may want to add other categories to this section based on your particular industry.

For example, you might decide to provide information about Market Segments. In our case the cycling rental business does not require much segmentation. Rentals are typically not broken down into segments like "inexpensive," "mid-range," and "high-end." For the most part rental bikes are more of a commodity. (Although you'll notice in our Products and Services section we decided to provide "high-end" rentals.)

But say you decide to open a clothing store. You could focus on high fashion, or children's clothes, or outdoor wear, or casual... you could segment the market in a number of ways. If that's the case, provide detail on segmentation that supports your plan.

The key is to define your market -- and then show how you will serve your market.

Sales and Marketing

Providing great products and services is wonderful, but customers must actually know those products and services exist. That's why marketing plans and strategies are critical to business success. (Duh, right?)

But keep in mind marketing is not just advertising. Marketing--whether advertising, public relations, promotional literature, etc--is an investment in the growth of your business.

Like any other investment you would make, money spent on marketing must generate a return. (Otherwise why make the investment?) While that return could simply be greater cash flow, good marketing plans result in higher sales and profits.

So don't simply plan to spend money on a variety of advertising efforts. Do your homework and create a smart marketing program.

Here are some of the basic steps involved in creating your marketing plan:

  • Focus on your target market. Who are your customers? Who will you target? Who makes the decisions? Determine how you can best reach potential customers.
  • Evaluate your competition. Your marketing plan must set you apart from your competition, and you can't stand out unless you know your competition. (It's hard to stand out from a crowd if you don't know where the crowd stands.) Know your competitors by gathering information about their products, service, quality, pricing, and advertising campaigns. In marketing terms, what does your competition do that works well? What are their weaknesses? How can you create a marketing plan that highlights the advantages you offer to customers?
  • Consider your brand. How customers perceive your business makes a dramatic impact on sales. Your marketing program should consistently reinforce and extend your brand. Before you start to market your business, think about how you want your marketing to reflect on your business and your products and services. Marketing is the face of your to potential customers--make sure you put your best face forward.
  • Focus on benefits. What problems do you solve? What benefits do you deliver? Customers don't think in terms of products--they think in terms of benefits and solutions. Your marketing plan should clearly identify benefits customers will receive. Focus on what customers get instead of on what you provide. (Take Dominos; theoretically they're in the pizza business, but really they're a delivery business.)
  • Focus on differentiation. Your products and services have to stand out from the competition in some way. How will you compete in terms of price, product, or service?

Then focus on providing detail and backup for your marketing plan.

Key questions to answer:

  • What is your budget for sales and marketing efforts? 
  • How will you determine if your initial marketing efforts are successful? In what ways will you adapt if your initial efforts do not succeed?
  • Will you need sales representatives (inside or external) to promote your products?
  • Can you set up public relations activities to help market your business?

The Sales and Marketing section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:

Target Market

The target market for Blue Mountain Cycling Rentals is western VA, eastern WV, southwestern MD, and northern NC. While customers in the counties surrounding the George Washington National Forest make up 35% of our potential customer base, much of our market travels from outside that geographic area.

Marketing Strategy

Our marketing strategy will focus on three basic initiatives:

  • Road signage. Access to the forest is restricted to a few primary entrances, and visitors reach those entrances after traveling on one of several main roadways. Since customers currently rent bicycles in the local town of Harrisonburg, road signage will communicate our value proposition to all potential customers.
  • Web initiatives. Our website will attract potential visitors to the resort. We will partner with local businesses that serve our target market to provide discounts and incentives.
  • Promotional events. We will hold regular events with professional cyclists, like demonstrations and autograph signings, to bring more customers to the store as well as to extend the athletes' "brand" to our brand.

Pricing Strategy

We will not be the low-cost provider for our target market. Our goal is to provide mid- to high-end equipment. However, we will create web-based loyalty programs to incent customers to set up online profiles and reserve and renew equipment rentals online, and provide discounts for those who do. Over time we will be able to market specifically to those customers.

(And so on...)

Just like in the Market Opportunity section, you may want to include a few more categories. For example, if your business involves a commission-compensated sales force, describe your Sales Programs and incentives. If you distribute products to other companies or suppliers and those distribution efforts will impact your overall marketing plans, lay out your Distribution Strategy.

The key is to show you understand your market and you understand how you will reach your market. Marketing and promotions must result in customers--your goal is to thoroughly describe how you will acquire and keep your customers.

Also keep in mind you may want to include examples of marketing materials you have already prepared, like website descriptions, print ads, web-based advertising programs, etc. While you don't need to include samples, taking the time to create actual marketing materials might help you better understand and communicate your marketing plans and objectives.

Make sure your Sales & Marketing section answers the "How will I reach my customers?" question.

Competitive Advantage

The Competitive Analysis section of your business plan is devoted to analyzing your competition--both your current competition and potential competitors who might enter your market.

Every business has competition. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competition--or potential competition--is critical to making sure your business survives and grows. While you don't need to hire a private detective, you do need to thoroughly assess your competition on a regular basis even if you only plan to run a small business.

In fact, small businesses can be especially vulnerable to competition, especially when new companies enter a marketplace.

Competitive analysis can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming... but it doesn't have to be. Here is a simple process you can follow to identify, analyze, and determine the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.

Profile Current Competitors

First develop a basic profile of each of your current competition. For example, if you plan to open an office supply store you may have three competing stores in your market.

Online retailers will also provide competition, but thoroughly analyzing those companies will be less valuable unless you also decide you want to sell office supplies online. (Although it's also possible that they--or, say, Amazon--are your real competition. Only you can determine that.)

To make the process easier, stick to analyzing companies you will directly compete with. If you plan to set up an accounting firm, you will compete with other accounting firms in your area. If you plan to open a clothing store, you will compete with other clothing retailers in your area.

Again, if you run a clothing store you also compete with online retailers, but there is relatively little you can do about that type of competition other than to work hard to compete in other ways: great service, friendly salespeople, convenient hours, truly understanding your customers, etc.

Once you identify your main competitors, answer these questions about each one. And be objective. It's easy to identify weaknesses in your competition, but less easy (and a lot less fun) to recognize where they may be able to outperform you:

  • What are their strengths? Price, service, convenience, extensive inventory are all areas where you may be vulnerable.
  • What are their weaknesses? Weaknesses are opportunities you should plan to take advantage of.
  • What are their basic objectives? Do they seek to gain market share? Do they attempt to capture premium clients? See your industry through their eyes. What are they trying to achieve?
  • What marketing strategies do they use? Look at their advertising, public relations, etc.
  • How can you take market share away from their business?
  • How will they respond when you enter the market?

While these questions may seem like a lot of work to answer, in reality the process should be fairly easy. You should already have a feel for the competition's strengths and weaknesses... if you know your market and your industry.

To gather information, you can also:

  • Check out their websites and marketing materials. Most of the information you need about products, services, prices, and company objectives should be readily available. If that information is not available, you may have identified a weakness.
  • Visit their locations. Take a look around. Check out sales materials and promotional literature. Have friends stop in or call to ask for information.
  • Evaluate their marketing and advertising campaigns. How a company advertises creates a great opportunity to uncover the objectives and strategies of that business. Advertising should help you quickly determine how a company positions itself, who it markets to, and what strategies it employs to reach potential customers.
  • Browse. Search the Internet for news, public relations, and other mentions of your competition. Search blogs and Twitter feeds as well as review and recommendation sites. While most of the information you find will be anecdotal and based on the opinion of just a few people, you may at least get a sense of how some consumers perceive your competition. Plus you may also get advance warning about expansion plans, new markets they intend to enter, or changes in management.

Keep in mind competitive analysis does more than help you understand your competition. Competitive analysis can also help you identify changes you should make to your business strategies. Learn from competitor strengths, take advantage of competitor's weaknesses, and apply the same analysis to your own business plan.

You might be surprised by what you can learn about your business by evaluating other businesses.

Identify Potential Competitors

It can be tough to predict when and where new competitors may pop up. For starters, regularly search for news on your industry, your products, your services, and your target market.

But there are other ways to predict when competition may follow you into a market. Other people may see the same opportunity you see. Think about your business and your industry, and if the following conditions exist, you may face competition does the road:

  • The industry enjoys relatively high profit margins
  • Entering the market is relatively easy and inexpensive
  • The market is growing--the more rapidly it is growing the greater the risk of competition
  • Supply and demand is off--supply is low and demand is high
  • Very little competition exists, so there is plenty of "room" for others to enter the market

In general terms, if serving your market seems easy you can safely assume competitors will enter your market. A good business plan anticipates and accounts for new competitors.

Now distill what you've learned by answering these questions in your business plan:

  • Who are my current competitors? What is their market share? How successful are they?
  • What market do current competitors target? Do they focus on a specific customer type, on serving the mass market, or on a particular niche?
  • Are competing businesses growing or scaling back their operations? Why? What does that mean for your business?
  • How will your company be different from the competition? What competitor weaknesses can you exploit? What competitor strengths will you need to overcome to be successful?
  • What will you do if competitors drop out of the marketplace? What will you do to take advantage of the opportunity?
  • What will you do if new competitors enter the marketplace? How will you react to and overcome new challenges?

The Competitive Analysis section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:

Primary Competitors

Our nearest and only competition is the bike shops in Harrisonburg, VA. Our next closest competitor is located over 100 miles away.

The in-town bike shops will be strong competitors. They are established businesses with excellent reputations. On the other hand, they offer inferior-quality equipment and their location is significantly less convenient.

Secondary Competitors

We do not plan to sell bicycles for at least the first two years of operation. However, sellers of new equipment do indirectly compete with our business since a customer who buys equipment no longer needs to rent equipment.

Later, when we add new equipment sales to our operation, we will face competition from online retailers. We will compete with new equipment retailers through personalized service and targeted marketing to our existing customer base, especially through online initiatives.

Opportunities

  • By offering mid- to high-end quality equipment, we provide customers the opportunity to "try out" bikes they may wish to purchase at a later date, providing additional incentive (besides cost savings) to use our service.
  • Offering drive-up, express rental return services will be seen as a much more attractive option compared to the hassle of renting bikes in Harrisonburg and transporting them to intended take-off points for rides.
  • Online initiatives like online renewals and online reservations enhances customer convenience and positions us as a cutting-edge supplier in a market largely populated, especially in the cycling segment, by customers who tend to be early technology adapters.

Risks

  • Renting bikes and cycling equipment may be perceived by some of our target market as a commodity transaction. If we do not differentiate ourselves in terms of quality, convenience, and service, we could face additional competition from other entrants to the market.
  • One of the bike shops in Harrisonburg is a subsidiary of a larger corporation with significant financial assets. If we, as hoped, carve out a significant market share, the corporation may use those assets to increase service, improve equipment quality, or cut prices.

(And so on...

While your business plan is primarily intended to convince you that your business makes sense, keep in mind most investors look closely at your competitive analysis. A common mistake made by entrepreneurs is assuming they will simply "do it better" than any competition.

Experienced businesspeople know you will face stiff competition: showing you understand your competition, understand your strengths and weaknesses relative to that competition, and that you understand you will have to adapt and change based on that competition, is critical.

And, even if you do not ever plan to seek financing or bring in investors, you absolutely must know your competition.

The Competitive Analysis section helps you answer the "Against whom?" question.

Operations

The next step in creating your business plan is to develop an Operations Plan that will serve your customers, keep your operating costs in line, and ensure profitability. Your ops plan should detail strategies for managing, staffing, manufacturing, fulfillment, inventory... all the stuff involved in operating your business on a day-to-day basis.

Fortunately, most entrepreneurs have a better handle on their operations plan than on any other aspect of their business. After all, while it may not seem natural to analyze your market or your competition, most budding entrepreneurs tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how they will run their businesses.

Your goal is to answer the following key questions:

  • What facilities, equipment, and supplies do you need?
  • What is your organizational structure? Who is responsible for which aspects of the business?
  • Is research and development required, either during start-up or as an ongoing operation? If so, how will you accomplish this task?
  • What are your initial staffing needs? When and how will you add staff?
  • How will you establish business relationships with vendors and suppliers? How will those relationships impact your day-to-day operations?
  • How will your operations change as the company grows? What steps will you take to cut costs if the company initially does not perform up to expectations?

Operations plans should be highly specific to your industry, your market sector, and your customers. Instead of providing an example like I've done with other sections, use the following to determine the key areas your plan should address:

Location and Facility Management

In terms of location, describe:

  • Zoning requirements
  • The type of building you need
  • The space you need
  • Power and utility requirements
  • Access: Customers, suppliers, shipping, etc.
  • Parking
  • Specialized construction or renovations
  • Interior and exterior remodeling and preparation

Daily Operations

  • Production methods
  • Service methods
  • Inventory control
  • Sales and customer service
  • Receiving and Delivery
  • Maintenance, cleaning, and re-stocking

Legal

  • Licenses and permits
  • Environmental or health regulations
  • Patents, trademarks, and copyrights
  • Insurance

Personnel Requirements

  • Typical staffing
  • Breakdown of skills required
  • Recruiting and retention
  • Training
  • Policies and procedures
  • Pay structures

Inventory

  • Anticipated inventory levels
  • Turnover rate
  • Lead times
  • Seasonal fluctuations in demand

Suppliers

  • Major suppliers
  • Back-up suppliers and contingency plans
  • Credit and payment policies

Sound like a lot? It can be... but not all of the above needs to be in your business plan.

You should think through and create a detailed plan for each category, but you won't need to share the results with the people who read your business plan

Working through each issue and developing concrete operations plans helps you in two major ways:

  1. If you don't plan to seek financing or outside capital, you can still take advantage of creating a comprehensive plan that addresses all of your operational needs.
  2. If you do seek financing or outside capital, you may not include all the detail in your business plan--but you will have answers to any operations questions at your fingertips.

Think of Operations as the "implementation" section of your business plan. What do you need to do? How will you get it done? Then create an overview of that plan to make sure your milestones and timeline make sense.

That way the operations section answers the "How?" question.

Management Team

Many investors and lenders feel the quality and experience of the management team is one of the most important factors used to evaluate the potential of a new business.

But putting work into the Management Team section will not only benefit people who may read your plan. It will also help you evaluate the skills, experiences, and resources your management team will need. Addressing your company's needs during implementation will make a major impact on your chances for success.

Key questions to answer:

  • Who are the key leaders? (If actual people have not been identified, describe the type of people needed.) What are their experiences, educational backgrounds, and skills?
  • Do your key leaders have industry experience? If not, what experience do they bring to the business that is applicable?
  • What duties will each position perform? (Creating an organization chart might be helpful.) What authority is granted to and what responsibilities are expected in each position?
  • What salary levels will be required to attract qualified candidates for each position? What is the salary structure for the company, by position?

The Management Team section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:

Jim Rouleur, Owner and Manager

Joe has over twenty years experience in the cycling business. He served for ten years as a product manager for ACME Bikes. After that he was the Operations Manager of Single Track Cycles, a full-service bike shop located in Bend, Oregon. He has an undergraduate degree in marketing from Duke University and an MBA from Virginia Commonwealth University. (A complete resume for Mr. Rouleur can be found in the Appendix.(

Mary Gearset, Assistant Manager

Mary was the 2009 U.S. Mountain Biking National Champion. She worked in product development for High Tec frames, creating custom frames and frame modifications for professional cyclists. She also has extensive customer service and sales experience, having worked for four years as the online manager of Pro Parts Unlimited, an online retailer of high-end cycling equipment and accessories.

(And so on...)

In some instances you may also wish to describe your staffing plans.

For example, if you manufacture a product or provide a service and will hire a key skilled employee, describe that employee's credentials. Otherwise, include staffing plans in the Operations section.

One key note: Don't be tempted to add a "name" to your management team in hopes of attracting investors. "Celebrity" management team members may attract the attention of your readers, but experienced lenders and investors will immediately ask what role that person will actually play in the running of the business--and in most cases those individuals won't play any meaningful role.

If you don't have a lot of experience--but are willing to work hard to overcome that lack of experience--don't be tempted to include other people in your plan that will not actually work in the business.

If you can't survive without help, that's okay. In fact that's expected; no one does anything worthwhile on their own. Just make plans to get help from the right people.

Finally, when you create your Management section, focus on credentials but pay extra focus to what each person actually will do. Experience and reputation are great, but action is everything.

That way your Management section will answer the "Who is in charge?" question.

Financial Analysis

Numbers tell the story. Bottom line results indicate the success or failure of any business.

Financial projections and estimates help entrepreneurs, lenders, and investors or lenders objectively evaluate a company's potential for success. If a business seeks outside funding, providing comprehensive financial reports and analysis is critical.

But most importantly, financial projections tell you whether your business has a chance of being viable--and if not let you know you have more work to do.

Most business plans include at least five basic reports or projections:

  • Balance Sheet: Describes the company cash position including assets, liabilities, shareholders, and earnings retained to fund future operations or to serve as funding for expansion and growth. It indicates the financial health of a business.
  • Income Statement: Also called a Profit and Loss statement, this report lists projected revenue and expenses. It shows whether a company will be profitable during a given time period.
  • Cash Flow Statement: A projection of cash receipts and expense payments. It shows how and when cash will flow through the business; without cash, payments (including salaries) cannot be made.
  • Operating Budget: A detailed breakdown of income and expenses; provides a guide for how the company will operate from a "dollars" point of view.
  • Break-Even Analysis: A projection of the revenue required to cover all fixed and variable expenses. Shows when, under specific conditions, a business can expect to become profitable.

It's easy to find examples of all of the above. Even the most basic accounting software packages include templates and samples. You can also find templates in Excel and Google Docs. (A quick search like "google docs profit and loss statement" yields plenty of examples.)

Or you can work with an accountant to create the necessary financial projections and documents. Certainly feel free to do so... but first play around with the reports yourself. While you don't need to be an accountant to run a business, you do need to understand your numbers... and the best way to understand your numbers is usually to actually work with your numbers.

But ultimately the tools you use to develop your numbers are not as important as whether those numbers are as accurate as possible--and whether those numbers help you decide whether to take the next step and put your business plan into action.

Then Financial Analysis can help you answer the most important business question: "Can we make a profit?"

Appendices

Some business plans include less essential but potentially important information in an Appendix section. You may decide to include, as backup or additional information:

  • Resumes of key leaders
  • Additional descriptions of products and services
  • Legal agreements
  • Organizational charts
  • Examples of marketing and advertising collateral
  • Photographs of potential facilities, products, etc
  • Backup for market research or competitive analysis
  • Additional financial documents or projections

Keep in mind creating an Appendix is usually only necessary if you're seeking financing or hoping to bring in partners or investors. Initially the people reading your business plan don't wish to plow through reams and reams of charts, numbers, and backup information. If one does want to dig deeper, fine--he or she can check out the documents in the Appendix.

That way your business plan can share your story clearly and concisely.

Otherwise, since you created your business plan... you should already have the backup.

Tying It All Together

While you may use your business plan to attract investors, partners, suppliers, etc... Never forget that the goal of your business plan is to convince you that your idea makes sense. 

Because ultimately it's your time, your money, and your effort on the line.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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How To Write The Perfect Sales Email

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How to write introductory sales letters for sales enquiries, appointments, and submissions of inventions, patents and ideas

Here are samples and templates of sales introduction letters. These examples of sales letters help make a professional impression, and begin the sales cycle. Introductory letters certainly help to make appointments and the cold calling process. In many cases they are essential prior to attempting telephone contact with senior people. Introductory letters are particularly helpful for starting the sales cycle with large organisations.

Please note that the spellings used in this guide and the letters samples are based on UK English common form, for example, 'recognise', 'organise', 'specialise', whereas US English favours the 'ize' spelling. For these and any other spellings subject to regional variation, change the spelling to suit your situation. Address 'postcode', where referred to here is the UK term; it best equates to the US zipcode, or respective 'zip'-type postal codes used in other countries.

Effective Introductory Sales Letters

There are certain proven rules and techniques that improve the chances of:

a) Your letter getting past (or being being forwarded by) the secretary or p.a. to your intended contact, and

b) Your intended contact being interested in seeing you.

Think how you treat unsolicited letters that you receive. Most of these letters go in the bin, and many letters won't even be opened. A few seconds is all anyone takes to decide whether to read a letter or discard it. A secretary or p.a. will open your letter, and they too will decide in just a few seconds whether to read on, then whether to pass it to your intended contact, another person, or to file it or bin it.

Increasingly these days it's good to aim first for a telephone appointment - a qualifying discussion when you can ask helpful questions and seek to understand the client's situation - before expecting to agree a face-to-face meeting. You can do a lot on the phone. Having a telephone appointment in your mind as an initial aim often makes it easier to get the ball rolling. It also shows that you have a professional appreciation of the value of people's time.

Remember that your letter will be competing with perhaps ten, twenty, or even fifty sales letters received every day, sent by sales-people people hoping to gain your target's attention. To get through, your sales letter needs to be good, different, professional and relevant.

Use the five-second rule when designing direct sales letters opening statements and headlines. You must grab attention in five seconds; that's about ten words comfortably; fifteen to twenty words at most. This implies a headline, which is why headlines are often used. If you prefer not to use a headline, fine, but still you need to grab attention in your opening paragraph in five seconds.

The time available for grabbing attention and conveying meaning is shrinking all the time. People used to talk in terms of 4-8 seconds to grab attention. Now it's best to work on less than five seconds. This is because progressively we can all absorb information and ideas far more quickly than we used to. Our environments condition and 'train' our brains to do this. Think about TV adverts, video games, chatrooms, email and text messages, fast-moving media and entertainment generally - it's all getting quicker - we get bored sooner, and we need data quicker. Your contacts are just the same. Quick-thinking senior decision-makers especially: they need your letters to help them absorb and understand data as quickly as possible. If it takes too long they won't bother. Efficient and effective letters not only get read and get your points across, they also say something about you - that you are efficient and effective too.

So you need to be very efficient and thoughtful in your use of language and words. Every word must be working for you; if it's not, remove it or find another.

Think about the language that your intended contact uses - for example, what newspaper are they are likely to read - this is your vocabulary guide.

Think about the business vocabulary too; senior decision-makers and company directors are concerned mainly with making money and saving money. Read the financial pages of the broadsheets - look at the words that people use - and start using these words too.

A significant stage in succeeding with introductory sales letters is the one that is protected by the decision-maker's secretary or p.a. The secretary or p.a.'s responsibility is to protect the boss's time. For a letter to stand a chance of being passed on to your target by the secretary it needs to be:

  • Commercially/financially/operationally very serious and significant
  • Interesting and potentially beneficial
  • Of a nature that only your targeted person can deal with it
  • Relevant
  • Credible
  • Extremely professional
  • Grammatically perfect

The letter structure should also follow the AIDA format (it's as old as the hills but it's still crucial):

  • Attention (I want to read on)
  • Interest (this is relevant to me and my company)
  • Desire (this is potentially beneficial and I want to pursue this opportunity)
  • Action (when I'm called I'll talk/make an appointment/delegate action)

Obviously make sure you use the person's correct title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, etc) and properly spelled surname in the address (initials are considered by some to be more professional and polite than using first names). Include letters after their name if known, eg., OBE, or professional qualifications abbreviations; also ensure correct job title, company name, address, postcode and date. If you are laying out a letter or a mail-merge for window envelope remember that this requires precise address positioning.

Keep the sentences short.

Introductory letters must be able to be read and understood in under 30 seconds - less than 20 seconds even better - so your letter will never require more than one side of paper. The less words the better. Generally three short paragraphs of 'body-copy' suffice. It's doubtful you'd achieve what you need to in just two; four or five are okay if they're very brief; any more is much too much. Use bullet points if you have a number of short points to make.

Whilst you can vary and experiment, a good basic structure (obviously following correct name, address and date details) is:

  • Salutation (Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms surname, or Dear Sir/Madam for extra caution)
  • Headline or 'banner statement' (optional)
  • Credibility and relevance statement (mandatory) - you must establish your credentials and explain your relevant capability or proposition - clever wording here enables you to wrap the two - credibility and a relevant proposition - into a single statement or paragraph
  • How and why statement (optional) - what re the special characteristics of your capability or proposition
  • Suggestion of similar opportunity/application for target organisation (optional but useful normally)
  • Action/follow up statement (mandatory) - what happens next - explain
  • Sign-off
  • P.S. statement (optional - can work well in certain situations - generally avoid using it for senior approaches because it will be seen as gimmicky)

Introduction Letter Template

Salutation (Dear...)

The safest way to discover the correct contact details is to telephone the secretary or p.a. Say that you'll be writing, and ask to confirm precise address, name and title details etc. The old convention was to use Sir or Madam if you'd not spoken to the person before, but nowadays it's reasonably safe to use Mr/Mrs/Ms (surname).

Headline

If you use a headline or 'banner statement' it must be concise, relevant, impactful, professional, unique, new. Maximum 15-20 words. Generally avoid 'clever' glib ad-type slogans. Avoid upper case (capitals) lettering - word-shapes are lost when upper case is used. (People read by recognising word-shapes not individual letters, so don't use upper case anywhere, as it takes longer to read and reduces impact.) Avoid italics, coloured backgrounds and coloured text too - they all reduce readability and impact. Headline should be between two-thirds and three-quarters up the page - where the eye-line is naturally first attracted. Often it's easier to decide on your headline after you've written the rest of the letter. The headline is extremely important - take time to refine it into a really powerful and meaningful statement (or question).

Credibility and relevance statement

Refer to significant and beneficial activities of your company in areas/sectors/industries relevant to the target's business. Technical and complex words help, provided they are relevant and that your target recipient will understand them. Using technical words that are relevant and recognisable to your contact will help to convey that you understand the issues and details from their perspective. Use 'director-speak' - words and phrases that directors use and relate to. Given that most introductory letters avoid mentioning prices many decision-makers find it refreshingly 'up front' and honest - no nonsense - to see clear early indication of financials - if only as a guide. Logically it helps to relate prices or costs to expected returns. Remember that most decision-makers in organisations are fundamentally driven by return on investment. There can be risks in using direct references to the target's competitors, so be careful - it's more acceptable in aggressively competitive markets - less so in more conservative sectors. Use references that you believe are likely to be the most unique and beneficial and relevant, (which is why doing some initial research is useful). Focus on a single theme and result - do not try to list lots of benefits. As a general rule, be specific but not detailed, and be broad but not vague. Ensure your proposition has the WIIFM factor - 'What's in it for me?' - your contact must feel that it's worth his or her time in pursuing some interest or accepting your call.

How and why statement

If you need to explain how the benefits are derived then do so. Keep it general, concise, significant, serious and brief. This is a good place to imply or suggest the uniqueness of your capability. It is useful to suggest or state that your company is 'the only' company able to do whatever you are claiming. Uniqueness is very helpful.

Suggestion of similar opportunity/application

Suggest that similar opportunities or possibilities might or may exist for the target organisation. Don't sell, claim or guarantee to be able to do anything. Understatement is a very useful style. How can you possibly know for sure until you've understood the client's situation?

Action/follow up statement

What you will do next - normally that you'll telephone soon/shortly/in due course. Avoid stating a date and time that you'll phone back - it's presumptuous - how do you know your target person will be available then? (In practice if your target is interested in pursuing the issue opportunity then he or she will normally ask the secretary to deal with the arrangements for the next action, and you may not actually need to speak to your target person on the telephone - secretaries and p.a.'s are powerful people.)

Sign-off

Stick to tradition to be safe: use Yours sincerely if you've started with a Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms (name), and Yours faithfully (if you've started with Dear Sir or Madam).

P.S.

If it fits with the tone and style of the communication, a good 'P.S.', used effectively and appropriately, can be a useful way to attract more attention and to add an additional point, especially one of special interest to the prospect, for instance that you will be in their area during a week or month, or a special offer, or the availability of extra pre-sales information at a website, etc. Avoid using this for senior contacts because it can be seen as gimmicky, and generally if in doubt don't use it. A good letter won't need it.

Example Sales Introduction Letters

This sample letter is very brief and concise. It begins with a credibility statement, which infers the method and basic proposition. It then presents a financial case - invest 'x' to get 'y'. Senior decision-makers are primarily concerned with return on investment and will need to see some data that helps them assess this. The letter then explains briefly in bullet points what the method comprises. And then there's the action point.

Many experts in advertising and communications believe that adding a 'P.S.' greatly increases success rates. Use the technique with care: ensure that you use a 'P.S.' statement that is appropriate to the context or it could appear irritating or insulting.

The sample sales introductory letter below features a real product called the Sales Activator®. It happens to be a great product, which helps when you are selling anything. If you are finding it difficult to put together a great sales introductory letter you might find that your product proposition needs revisiting first.

Sample sales introduction template


(Company name, address, date and your reference)

Dear Mr Smith

New Flash Bang Wallop (whatever) System/Solution/Concept

Flash Bang Wallop is according to (state quotable reputable endorsee) the best new (whatever) for the (state relevant application/territory/time).

(Or substitute some other bold statement of quality/effectiveness which can be supported with a reputable endorsee/user).

Leading companies such as (state quotable endorsees/users) now use Flash Bang Wallop, because they've achieved improvements of (state factual range) and/or savings of (state factual range).

For a cost equating to (show cost as per day, per user, and/or per team, etc) your staff/customers will (state key unique benefit).

The remarkable Flash Bang Wallop uses (briefly, method/difference/special quality) to:

  • significant specific relevant outcome - 1
  • significant specific relevant outcome - 2
  • significant specific relevant outcome - 3
  • significant specific relevant outcome - 4
  • significant specific relevant outcome - 5

To test Flash Bang Wallop's effectiveness in your organisation, you can arrange a free no-obligation trial now.

I'll call you soon, or please feel free to contact me to arrange it.

Yours sincerely,

(Signature, name, title.)

P.S. You can see more details about Flash Bang Wallop in the (case study example reference details - ideally a website link).


Other Tips for Writing Sales Letters

These are the important characteristics of good introductory sales letters:

  • 'Less is more' - the quicker you can get your point across the better - efficient writing suggests efficient service
  • A single specific impressive (ideally unique or very special) proposition works better than trying to offer many things
  • The visual presentation, font (typeface), and language must be very easy to read
  • Write in the 2nd person (use 'you', 'yours' etc)
  • New and unique are more eye-catching than something that is no different to what others offer
  • The proposition must be credible and believable
  • The style and tone of the letter must appeal to the style and tone of the reader (think whom you're writing for and write accordingly)

Avoid being clever or funny. Avoid posing puzzles - people cannot be bothered to waste their time and they'll feel insulted.

Headlines need to grab attention in a relevant and meaningful way.

The letter as a whole must aim make the reader think "Yes, that's of interest to me, and I like the style of the letter. I can imagine at least talking to this person without feeling I'm just another prospect..."

Avoid the use of 'I', 'we', 'us', 'ours', except for the obvious (eg 'I will telephone you…'). Talk about your intended customer and their market, not your own business.

Don't include leaflets or brochures to directors.

Try to engage the help and advice of the secretary or p.a. - get her on your side. Your chances of the contact seeing the letter increase significantly if you can engage with the intended contact's secretary or p.a. and explain in advance that you are writing.

Always remember that you are trying to sell the appointment not the product.

Try selling telephone appointments before you try to get a face-to-face meeting. You can achieve a lot on the phone - especially rapport-building, and understanding their issues and needs - people respond well because it shows you respect their time, and your own.

Above all, JFDI (see acronyms). Write some letters, follow them up, and you will get appointments.

Simple basic sales introduction letter

Here is a very simple general sales introduction letter - you can use this or adapt it for most situations as it is very general. This type of introductory letter is ideal for new sales situations when you need to generate some sales leads and enquiries before you know your products and markets in great detail, and need to get something moving. This type of letter must be followed up by a phone call - it will not generate a response on its own. Preferably research your prospects first to understand something about them, and especially to find the name and address details for the relevant decision-maker.

This type of letter is low-pressure - it seeks to establish a connection and offer discussion if timely and appropriate for the client.


Basic sample introduction letter


name and address

date

Dear (Mr/Mrs, etc, name)

attention grabbing heading (up to 10 words)

(the heading must grab attention - something your prospect will relate to that your proposition will produce - for example, Cost-Effective Sales Enquiry Generation, or Reduce Your Staffing Overheads, or Fast-Track Management Training)

When you next consider your arrangements for (product/service) I would welcome the opportunity to understand your requirements and situation.

(Optional) Our customers include (two or three examples, relevant and known to the prospect), who have found (state key benefit, % savings, strategic advantage) from working with us.

I will telephone you soon to agree a future contact time that suits you/your own review timescale.

Yours sincerely

(Name and signature)

(Optional 'P.S.' message)


It's very quick and easy to create a simple sales introduction letter like the example above.

Many sales people fail to send anything at all because they take too long creating the letter and organizing the mail-merge, etc. If you find yourself falling into this trap remember JFDI - get on and do it.

Then get on the phone and follow it up.

Sending a simple professional sales introduction letter overcomes the initial obstacle that most organizations use as a defence against sales introductions. A good simple introductory letter can also establish a level of credibility and professionalism in the mind of the contact and his or her p.a., who is likely to be the person who reads and deals with the letter first.

Tips for Submissions

Submitting inventions, patents and new product or service ideas, or new business propositions, to potential licensee companies or partners is a complex area as regards patents and intellectual property (if applicable), but in all other respects is quite simple. It's just a form of selling. You are selling your idea and yourself.

If your proposal or idea concerns a new invention, then your approach will be influenced by your country or regional laws as to how best to protect and register your intellectual property. In the case of inventions, do not leap in and apply for a patent without first reading and taking advice on the best approach for your own situation. Patents are expensive, and moreover they will reveal your ideas when published, which might not be desirable if your idea is still under development, or you are unsure of your aims and strategy.

It is important that you research the existing market for similar ideas. Many inventors assume they have come up with an original idea, spend lots of time and money on it, only to find that the idea isn't new or advantageous to the market.

Be careful whom you expose your ideas to. Telling people about your ideas without the protection of non-disclosure and secrecy agreements effectively puts your ideas into the public domain and will commonly make it impossible to successfully apply later for a patent. Telling people will also risk your idea coming into the hands of people who will use it as their own.

Be careful if you engage one of the many inventors 'agencies'. Some of these are parasitic organisations who will charge you a fee for basically doing what you could have done yourself if you just read and learn for yourself. Some are worse and exploit inventors for extortionate fees, irrespective of whether the inventions have a real chance in the market-place. So before engaging an agency of this type, clearly and firmly clarify what they will do for you, and check a few references from among their existing inventor customers.

Avoid incurring legal costs until you are sure that such services and costs are necessary, and assess this requirement for yourself. If you ask a patent lawyer you can predict what the answer will be... And they'll say you need a lawyer not because they are deliberately exploiting you, it will be because their approach is to err on the side of caution, in the face of everything and anything that could go wrong.

At some stage you may well need a lawyer to help with patents and intellectual property - certainly you will if your venture comes to life and offers a reasonable scale - but wait until you need one before incurring these costs.

At some stage as well you will need to consider product liability. It is likely that any licensee or partner will want to hold you responsible for ultimate liability for product safety, and although this is commonly negotiable, you need to be aware of the issue at the outset. At some point you must ensure suitable insurance is put in place for your own protection in this area.

As regards selling your idea, it is essential that you look at and judge your invention or proposal from a marketing and commercial standpoint. Your own subjective personal opinion, or your mum's or friends' views, are irrelevant. The questions are:

  1. Is the invention or new product idea significantly better than anything else currently available?
  2. Has anyone else thought of it yet?
  3. Is there a market for it?
  4. If so how big is the market and what is the customer profile?
  5. Can the invention or idea be distributed via existing or easily established channels?
  6. Can it be developed and manufactured for a cost that will allow a supplier to make a profit on it?
  7. Have you taken into account the costs of design development, production development, tooling, origination, packaging, advertising and promotion, sales and distribution, training, wastage, returns, servicing, replacement, environmental and health and safety implications, corporate social responsibility, and recovery of other business overheads?
  8. Does the profit per item, after all these costs, multiplied by the realistic volumes (bearing in mind usual market inertia and resistance to new ideas, and competition alternatives), equate to a financial gain that is big enough to make a significant difference to the profit of the sort of companies you are approaching?
  9. If so what is the pay-back timescale, and what is the return on investment for the licensee?
  10. Is the return on investment from your invention better than the ROI from other new product or market development options available to your potential licensees?
  11. Will the invention or new product idea fit with the style, quality, processes, aspirations, etc., of the sort of companies you are approaching?
  12. Can you demonstrate all of these factors to a potential licensee, in a clear, professional presentation lasting no longer than 30 minutes?

When and if you are able to answer these questions positively, then you can feel justified in approaching potential licensees or distribution partners. The fewer of these questions that you can answer positively, then the less likely you will be to succeed.

Your plans are likely to encounter some chicken-and-egg dilemmas, for example - how do you gauge market reaction if you cannot expose the concept?; and how do you calculate return on investment if you don't know the details of the potential licensee's costs of manufacturing and overheads?

In short you need to be pragmatic and adaptable, develop rough estimates to more precise data as and when you are able. Your entire proposition is a rough concept to begin with, in all respects. You must mould it into shape over time. Tighten up the facts and figures as you go along. That's why even very big corporations use the expressions 'cigarette packet' or 'table napkin' when describing early stage new concepts and ideas. Not much is known, but critically the rough estimates stack up into a good-looking business case. You must be sure your idea does too.

When you are ready to approach potential licensees make sure you research the organisations and their markets first. It's easy to do this on the web. Phone the companies also for their brochures, and annual reports if available. This will help you to build a picture of how they operate and what they need.

Understand the market, the suppliers, the distribution, the market leaders, and their competitive strengths. Select your potential partners carefully. Perhaps complete a SWOT analysis for each. Importantly, understand the basic financials - their turnover, volumes, market shares, typical profit margins - especially gross margins (before operating overheads) - as this helps you compare and assess the gross margins offered by your invention or idea.

And then aim to get meeting with them.

Definitely resist explaining your ideas by post or email. You should ideally seek an opportunity to present your invention or idea in person, together with all the supporting business case justification that surrounds it - this is what sells the idea. An idea with a strong business case is far more likely to be considered.

When you try to arrange your meeting I would not recommend that you write first. Phone first. Phone each company (somebody at head office in the commercial or marketing department is a reasonable start point - if in doubt start with the p.a. to the divisional CEO or general manager) and find out reliably and exactly each of their preferred processes for the submission of outside inventions or new business ideas. Who are their people who are responsible for assessing new ideas from outside partners? And then follow their process. It will be different for each company, and will therefore require a different letter for each.

I'd add the following points:

Expect to be asked or better still offer to sign/provide a mutual non-disclosure agreement. You need this for your own protection, especially if you have not yet applied for a patent. Also, potential licensees - especially big corporations - are commonly concerned that outside inventors' ideas could coincide with their own NPD (new product development), which would create a potential vulnerability for the corporation if the outside inventor is able to claim after a disclosure that they (the inventor) own the idea. For this reason big corporations have rigorous submission processes which can be off-putting. It's a matter of working with their processes and policies.

To approach smaller companies - say below £200m/$300m size - I suggest you phone the p.a. to the CEO and ask her/his advice how to submit or make your approach.

If they don't have a non-disclosure agreement then you should provide one.

When you know what sort of letter to write, keep the letter short, and generally try to follow the principles outlined in the guidelines above for other introductory sales letters. The same principles apply - you are selling yourself and your idea - but first you need to sell the appointment.

Letters of this sort really need simply to say that your invention is in the area of (product/service sector), and the market advantages and financial returns will accrue to the licensee. Do not explain what the invention is in writing until you have exchanged NDA's (non-disclosure agreements), and ideally you should wait to explain/present your invention, and the make-up of your team, in person at a meeting. I say 'your team' because the potential licensee will be interested in the people who constitute your company or group (and they will certainly need at some stage to satisfy themselves that you have suitable integrity, reliability, back-up, etc). The potential licensee will be as concerned about you as they are concerned about the idea.

Many corporations already have an established inventor community - these will be trusted people and companies - your challenge is to become one of these, or at least to meet the qualifying criteria (which will certainly require you to possess some commercial and market awareness, integrity, as well as technical and creative capability - so work on attaining these attributes).

Below is a basic template and sample letter for submitting a new idea, invention, or business proposition. Adapt it according to the process that potential licensee or partner company tells you to follow, (in other words the information they need, in order to meet with you).

As a final point - resist being bullied by potential licensee companies or potential partners. Do not provide details of your idea until and unless you are happy with the intentions, integrity, and authority of the other party. There will be some corporate marketing executives, product managers, and technical managers who will want to discover your ideas, but will have no intention (or authority) to do anything with them. This is another reason for starting at the top - with the CEO's p.a. - to learn and make use of the organisation's official procedure for the submission of outside ideas and inventions.


Letters template and sample - for inventions and ideas submissions

Adapt this sample letter - use it as a template guide - to suit your own situation.


(Company name, address, date and your reference)

Dear Mr Smith

Project Heading

(use a title that will mean something to the reader, for example: 'unique new product for child education market', or exciting new business proposition for sales training sector', or 'innovative new product for the automotive security sector')

Further to out telephone conversation on (date) here is an outline of our proposal.

I am (brief credibility statement - for example: 'I am an expert in the field of [discipline/technology/market, etc], qualified to [qualifications], with [experience]' or 'I own and run the [name] product development company, which specialises in [market/technology] and is (accreditations/quality standards/previous achievements]')

We have developed a highly innovative product/solution for the (describe market) sector. Our research indicates that our formula/invention/technology is unique and will offer significant advantage over all available similar and competing products/services. We can prove/show/demonstrate design, development, production, and distribution viability, a likely unit cost of £/$(cost)/gross margin in excess of X%, and realisable sales volumes of Y,000/million units over N years. We estimate that the investment required for design and development necessary for launch would be in the region of £/$(cost).

Our idea will deliver the following customer benefits: (list 3-5 points - do not give away invention or idea secrets - focus on what it does that other products cannot, not how it does it) for example -

  • can be used under water
  • meets safety standards for pre-school market
  • battery life of five years

We believe that this new product could fit well within the (prospect organisation name) portfolio, given your market strengths, values and customer base, and so we would like to present our ideas to you and your appropriate team.

If you'd like to proceed to the next stage we would expect to sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement, and await your advice on this.

I'll call you soon to see if you wish to progress matters. Or please contact me.

Yours sincerely, etc.

(Signature and name)

P.S. You can see more details about us/our company at our website www.your_own_website_name.com.



Related Materials


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Here's some proven email templates that have brought in B2B Sales. I recently used this idea to help our client [SaaS Company/Competitor] almost triple I thought it did a good job of capturing the dynamics of [THE SITUATION]: [LINK].

26 Cold Email Examples Broken Down To Help You Write Your Own

b2b sales situation business letter examples

Getting someone to respond to an ice cold email can be tough.

In fact, maybe you’ve heard, or thought:

“Cold email is dead. It’s SPAM! Stick a fork in it. Within five years, something new is going to replace email.”

I’ve heard these complaints a lot. But I disagree.

What makes me so sure?

Everything I’ve achieved in my career, I’ve achieved … through cold email.

If you don’t have time to read the entire article you can listen to the audio version of it right here below:

I took a startup from 0 to 40M page views and sold it to Google … through cold email.

I’ve published 1400+ guest posts and articles in most well known publications … through cold email.

I’ve built relationships with Gary Vaynerchuck, Tim Ferriss, Matt Mullenweg founder of WordPress, the Winklevoss Twins, on and on and on … through cold email.

I grew this very blog from 0 to 20,000+ subscribers in two years allowing me to earn my first $100K from my PRThatConverts program … through cold email.

Just imagine:

You can finally build a business, land sales, and reach your goals … by mastering cold email.

I’ll teach you how with specific examples of cold emails, how they work and why.

Ready?

Strap in. This is going be a long–and fun–ride.

Defining cold email

Cold email is any email sent to a potential client that doesn’t have an existing connection to you.

Here’s a simple way to think about it:

If you send someone you’ve never met an email you found through a publicly available email address, it’s cold email. Or …

If you email an influencer you’ve never met asking for feedback on an article, it’s cold.

Cold emails should include:

  • Your real name.
  • Your contact information: job title, website, social media profiles, phone number, etc.
  • Customized content for the recipient.
  • A specific request.
  • A conversation starter rather than a request to take quick action.

Cold emails are also:

  • Usually sent from one business to another, or from one individual to a public figure, such as a journalist, influencer, or editor.
  • And they don’t always have a commercial motive.

Cold email is a one-on-one, personal conversation.

It’s like a cold call, but less intrusive and annoying.

A cold email is like sending an email to a business acquaintance, except the recipient doesn’t necessarily know you that well, if at all.

You’d send cold emails to get guest posting guidelines from editors, to get feedback from an influencer, or to start a conversation with a potential client.

Is Cold Email Spam?

Here’s one of the most common questions I get from students:

“How is cold email different from spam?”

Cold email and spam are polar opposites.

Here’s why…

Spam:

  • Uses a fake name
  • Doesn’t include contact information
  • Isn’t personalized (the same email is sent to several people)
  • Isn’t meant to start a conversation; rather, it’s usually targeting a direct purchase.
  • Has a commercial motive.

Spam is an example of a one-to-many email.

For example, a few days ago I received this email:

Can you see all the tell-tale signs of spam?

This email doesn’t address me by name, and it’s not customized.

Did you notice that it doesn’t have a specific request?

It’s just a generic, “Let me know if you’re interested.”

But also:

There’s no contact information. I have no idea who the senders are, or what they represent …

Compare that example with another email:

Can you see the difference?

This cold email does three things:

  • It addresses the recipient directly.
  • It has a highly specific and relevant request.
  • And it mentions a common contact.

I’m not trying to push a product, or get anyone on the phone for a long conversation.

The real world equivalent of this email would be like saying, “Hi,” to a friend of a friend you bumped into at a conference.

It’s not pushy.

It’s not annoying.

And it’s perfectly reasonable, as long as your call to action isn’t overly aggressive.

For example: “Buy my product!”

Sounds pushy, right?

But if you say: “Let’s get coffee sometime!”

That sounds a lot better.

Want a ‘sniff test’ for spam vs. cold email?

Before you send out a cold email, ask yourself:

Would I be comfortable saying this to someone I met at a conference for the first time?

If the answer is no, then it’s likely spam. If the answer is yes, then it’s a cold email.

Keep in mind that spam is illegal. Send too much spam and you will run afoul of CAN SPAM laws.

 

Cold Email vs. Unsolicited Email

It’s important to understand:

Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) is the official term for spam used by FTC.

And UCE can range from a sales email (like the example above) to a newsletter from a company you’ve never heard of before.

If you don’t want to break the law, you should know:

If you didn’t explicitly give permission with an opt-in form, and it meets the spam criteria above, you can classify that email as UCE or unsolicited email.

Technically, cold email is unsolicited as well.

However, if an email has…

  • appropriate header information
  • is personalized
  • and offers value

… then, it likely won’t be considered UCE or Spam.

 

Don’t Break the Law

Are you clear about whether an email falls under the CAN SPAM laws?

It can be tricky. So let me break it down:

As per FTC, all emails can contain three types of information:

  • Commercial content, such as selling a product, promoting a sale, etc.
  • Relationship or transactional content, such as a bank sending its customer a bank statement, an e-commerce store sharing transaction details, or a blogger sending a message to his list of subscribers.
  • Other content, which can range from personal content to mixed (relationship + commercial) content.

According to FTC’s regulations, the purpose of an email decides whether it needs to comply with spam laws. If the email is primarily commercial – or is deemed to be so by the recipient – it has to comply with spam laws.

A well-crafted cold email might have a commercial tilt, but it also offers significant value.

Now, let’s get into how you can write amazing cold emails that convert!

Don’t Send Spam

The more of these best practices you follow, the less likely your email will be seen as spam:

1. Use correct headers

The “email header” tells the recipient where the email is coming from.

This is bad:

Always use your own name and personal email address. This shows that you are a real person, not a random business sending unsolicited spam.

2. Use the recipient’s first name

This is the easiest way to show that you didn’t just find a list of emails and spam them – use their first name.

A Hi {First Name} goes a long way towards making you sound more authentic.

3. Make it relevant to the recipient

What’s one of the biggest indicators of a spam email?

It’s irrelevant.

Spam emails seldom address the specific needs of the recipient. They just send out the same message to everyone, regardless of their requirements.

Always ensure that your email offers at least one thing that’s relevant or valuable.

4. Don’t talk about yourself too much

Know how to write a great intro?

Keep it short.

A long intro makes your email harder to read and it makes it sound like spam.

You don’t have to tell them that you are “John Doe from Acme Industries, the leading manufacturer of comically oversized gadgets for wily coyotes.”

Remember:

The only time you should even use an introduction is if you’re mentioning a common contact!

5. Match the subject line with the email body

Have you seen these subject lines in your spam folder:

“Heard rumors about you”
“Dear friend”
“Urgent! Please read!”

You should avoid these at all costs.

Writing a great subject line is simple, just keep in mind:

Subject lines are meant to tell recipients exactly what they’re going to get in the email body.

6. Don’t use obviously copy-pasted text

Want to get sent straight to the spam folder?

Modern email clients preserve formatting when you copy-paste from one document to another.

See for yourself:

Try copy-pasting the last sentence to a new Gmail message.

If you have obviously copy-pasted text because of formatting, the recipients will be able to spot it from a mile away.

Dmitry’s take

“Remember: Personalization is key for any cold email! Address the recipient by name, and use your real name with your picture in the signature. Or, better yet, create a custom video to make it even more unique!”

Implement this tactic right now with our software.

Give It a Try Now!

7. Add your contact info to the signature

Name, website, social media profiles, position in the company, phone numbers – these are the bare minimum you should have in your signature. If you can add a photograph, that’s great too.

Basically?

Show the recipient that you are a real person!

8. Track your emails

Are too many of your emails getting left unopened?

It’s a sign that your copy or your value proposition isn’t any good.

Track your email performance, then:

Fine tune to improve delivery.

The email examples below will help you understand and master these best practices:

Score a $3K contract

My old coach and current friend Bryan Harris is a cold email beast! Why?

His emails get incredible response rates!

Want to know the best part?

He shares how you can get the same response rate!

That’s how we have gems like this email:

Do you see what makes Bryan’s email great?

  1. Bryan clearly states that not only is he familiar with the product, but he’s also a customer.
  2. He drops a big name right in the second line. By telling the reader that an industry leader, KISSmetrics, trusts his work, he is establishing respect.
  3. He links to an actual example of his work on the KISSmetrics blog.
  4. Offer value: This is where his email stands out. Bryan offers incredible value by showing what the final product might look like. Sure, it took an extra couple of hours, but by doing this, he ensures that he’ll at least get noticed.
  5. He closes with a question. This increases his chances of getting a response.

What can you learn from this?

If you give away tons of value …

It means more work upfront, but you’ll really stand out in the inbox.

But I know what you’re thinking:

How can I apply Bryan’s techniques to my own emails?

Try this template

I love (recipient’s company). I’m also a big fan of (compliment about a specific part of the recipient’s work).

I (what kind of work you do). I work with (mention a big-name client, if you can).

Here’s an example of my work: (link to the best example of your work or favorite part of your portfolio).

I just wanted to email you to see if (recipient’s company) might be interested in something similar.

I made a demo to show you what it might look like here: (link to custom sample of work that you created upfront for the recipient).

Is this something you’d be interested in?

(Signature)

Land a whale

Close.io shared this example on how to start a conversation with a prospective lead:

Here’s why this email converts:

  1. It clearly identifies the sender, his current role, and what he’s trying to sell. I don’t know about you, but I sure like to know who’s pitching me a product.
  2. “Stab in the dark” is an informal and fun expression. Plus, it shows that the sender has done the research and just needs a final nudge in the right direction. (Pro tip: If you don’t know who to send an email to, just ask!)
  3. The invitation to discuss the product defines an exact time and date. It also mentions the call will be 15 minutes long to respect everyone’s time in scheduling the meeting.

Write an email that works the same way

Want to score a huge meeting?

It’s not that hard:

  • Identify yourself clearly upfront
  • Verify whether you’re talking to the right person
  • Mention exactly how much of their time you want and when you want it.

Template

Hi (recipient’s first name),

My name is (your first name), and I’m (title) at (company name). We are currently offering (describe product/service).

This is just an educated stab in the dark, but based on your online profile, you seem to be the right person to connect with. Or, if not, maybe you can point me in the right direction?

I’d like to speak with someone from (company name) who’s responsible for (position relevant to your product/service).

If that’s you, are you open to a 15-minute call on (specific time/date) to discuss ways (service/product) can more specifically help your business?

Or, if not you, can you please put me in touch with the right person?

I’d appreciate the help!

(Signature)

How to blow minds

If you’re familiar with modern marketing, you probably know Noah Kagan, formerly of Mint and Facebook, founder of AppSumo, SumoMe and OkDork. Noah knows his stuff.

He also gets hundreds of emails every month from people asking for his help.

The following email, however, blew Noah’s mind.

Noah has already done a pretty thorough breakdown of the email, so I won’t go into this in-depth. But there are a couple of things I wanted to point out:

  1. Successful people like to deal with other successful people. The sender, Dave Daily of Grav Labs, points out upfront that he knows his stuff really, really well. It might sound arrogant, but when you’re competing for the attention of busy people, you need to be upfront.
  2. Dave wanted to ask Noah about an app. So instead of fumbling around with an “idea,” he sketched out an entire wireframe. At a time when everyone and his grandma has an idea for an app, a wireframe alone means that you’re already way ahead of the pack.

It’s important to note:

The email is clearly about Noah – what he can get out of meeting Dave – not about Dave. This is a good practice to adopt in all your emails.

Also note the list format. There’s a reason why BuzzFeed works so well – people love to read lists, whether online or in emails.

What you can learn from it

Show that you mean business – a busy person’s inbox is no place to be shy.

You can also get away with writing long emails if you structure it well. For example, use lots of lists and have a clear focus on how it benefits the receiver.

Follow these guidelines to write one yourself

  • 1. Flatter the recipient
  • 2. Establish why your product/service will benefit them.
  • 3. Describe what makes you credible/successful.
  • 4. Suggest a specific and brief time frame for a meeting.

The best pitch ever

Didn’t I tell you that Bryan Harris is an absolute beast when it comes to cold email?

Here’s one of Bryan’s emails, but from the perspective of the receiver (HubSpot).

You’ll notice it’s the exact same email I discussed above, except this time …

It’s customized for HubSpot.

Here’s the best part:

  1. By referring to Ginny’s latest post on the HubSpot blog, Bryan is telling her that he’s not just a random spammer. He’s actually taken the time to read the blog.
  2. One of HubSpot’s closest competitors is KISSmetrics. So, of course, mentioning them in the email would catch Ginny’s attention.
  3. He doesn’t just share an idea – he makes an entire demo video. This isn’t a tweet or a 200-word blog post. Making a video takes time. The free demo not only grabs attention, but also gives HubSpot an idea of what the final product would look like.

What’s the result?

HubSpot was totally sold on the idea.

And Ginny Soskey, who manages content strategy for HubSpot, announced it was the “best cold email pitch” she’s ever received in a blog post that has been shared nearly 2,000 times.

What you can learn from it

Personalize your pitch!

How do you grab attention?

Mention something the receiver did recently (check their blog or Twitter) in the first line.

Land meetings

Takipi is a tool that helps developers understand when their code breaks in production. Since it requires an installation on a live server, selling it to developers can be tough.

Yet, Iris Shoor, the co-founder of Takipi, managed to get five installations from cold emails alone – 1.5x more than what she got through introductions.

This is an example of an email she sent out to a company that used Scala:

Lots of great stuff here:

  1. A nice, succinct intro. Iris gets right into what Takipi does and how it’s relevant to the company.
  2. Iris knows that the company runs Scala, so instead of sending them to the homepage, she linked to Takipi’s Scala-focused landing page.
  3. She mentions the recipient’s Github page and recent projects to show she’s done her homework.

What you can learn from it

Craft an email for one single person.

Don’t tell them anything they don’t need to hear …

Don’t mention anything that might be boring.

Instead:

Personalize your email for a particular person and explain how your product/service/company can solve that person’s problem.

Dmitry’s take

“Attracting attention through a cold email is kind of like trying to get a hot date in high school. If you’re trying to land a dinner date with one of the most popular people in school, you better prove you have something unique and valuable to offer that person.”

Implement this tactic right now with our software.

Give It a Try Now!

Grab attention

You seriously can’t miss this email if it lands in your inbox thanks to a great visual message!

Scott from Life-Long-Learner.com shared an email that uses an interesting tool to create a powerful visual message.

Here’s the example from his blog:

Scott has a breakdown on his own blog, but here are his most important points:

  1. Scott jumps right in without an intro. This works when you already know the recipient. It can also serve to grab attention. Say, for exmaple, “Your site doesn’t work!”
  2. Scott doesn’t send a long email with a list of everything wrong with the mobile version of the blog. Instead? He creates a visual presentation that depicts what’s wrong (again: show, don’t tell). Also note the little sound warning – a nice touch.
  3. Scott gives value by offering to take care of this problem for Dan. This could turn into a paid contract and a fruitful, long-term relationship.

By the way:

BContext is the tool Scott uses to create these visual presentations.

And it’s free for casual users.

What you can learn from it

Remember: Show, don’t tell.

Instead of writing a 500-word email filled with abstract ideas, create a video or presentation that shows your ideas in action.

Win over a founder

This is a great email from Sam Parr, founder of HustleCon, a startup event for non-tech people.

It’s incredibly well crafted with extensive personalization. Why?

Hours of work went into each email, but when you consider the rewards …

It was time well spent!

Here’s the email:

This email is different right from the very first word. It eschews all conventions and is just…fun.

It’s a hustler’s email, which is exactly what HustleCon is all about.

Here’s the best part:

  1. Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore that first line (reminder for marketers: what doesn’t stand out gets forgotten). Sam mentions Rick Marini’s (founder of BranchOut) barely known past and the $200k job he turned down. So he comes across as authentic, and not all bluster.
  2. A quick intro to what the email is all about, all bundled up in one sentence. Sam plays to Rick’s ego by telling him that he can come over and spread the “Marini gospel.” He knows that entrepreneurs who’ve reached Rick’s level of success care more about influence and spreading their ideas than making money.
  3. He doesn’t write a 500-word explanation. Instead? He links to a page that tells Rick more about the conference.

Sam also made these fun GIFs for all the recipients.

GIFs are a great way to personalize your message without being stuffy and corporate-y.

What you can learn from it

Have fun!

And mirror your brand’s image in your language.

If you’re branding yourself as a fun, youthful alternative to stuffy conventional conferences, don’t use the same stuffy, conventional language in your emails.

Score an Interview

John Corcoran was a writer for the Clinton White House, so you bet he knows a thing or two about writing amazing copy.

John wrote a piece in the Art of Manliness where he mentioned Noah Kagan.

For a follow-up, he wanted to interview Noah about the importance of failure.

How’d he do it?

With this email:

Now there’s a whole process before this email (covered here), but the email itself has lots of gems:

  1. John mentions the recent interaction he had with Noah on another platform. That’s a great way to remind the recipient that you aren’t total strangers.
  2. It’s important to reassure busy people that you won’t take up half their day with a request. John clears this upfront by mentioning the interview will take 5-7 minutes.
  3. John mentions Andrew Warner, of Mixergy, and his recent Forbes post. How does this help? It establishes that John and Noah have a common contact. And it proves John’s work has appeared in reputed publications like Forbes.
  4. More namedropping.
  5. John knows how much Noah loves tacos.

What you can learn from it

You can use this example, too, if you can mention a common connection.

Remember: Even a distant connection is better than no connection.

Dmitry’s take

“Would you have the nerve to walk up to a total stranger and ask them for a date? What if you two had a friend in common? Mentioning your common connection would likely help your chances of landing that date. The same goes for cold emails!”

Implement this tactic right now with our software.

Give It a Try Now!

Kickstart a relationship

This email from Sidekick is simple, clear and well-thought out. It isn’t designed to do anything fancy or win over celebrities to speak at your gig. Instead, it focuses on driving leads and relationships further down the sales pipeline.

Take a look:

There’s nothing fancy going on here, but you’d be surprised by how many B2B salespeople get it wrong.

This example is short, crisp and clear – exactly what you’d want in a B2B email.

  1. A clear, simple introduction. Use a familiar example: People might not understand what “logistics accountability” is, but they definitely understand FedEx and Target.
  2. The email focuses on benefits, not features. There’s no mention of any fancy tracking algorithm or smart platform. It’s all about how they can save the recipient time and money!
  3. The email ends by asking for 15 minutes, a reassurance to busy people.

What you can learn from it

Focus on benefits instead of features.

This rule applies to everything – landing pages, sales letters, emails.

Land a $15K project

Lots of cold emails are all about writing the perfect pitch or personalizing the email to the extent that the prospect just can’t ignore it.

This one from Messwerks, however, focuses on what you can achieve if you target exactly the right audience.

Take a look:

Looks like nothing special, right?

It has three lines, a simple subject, and no fancy gimmicks.

Yet, it got Messwerks a $15K consulting gig. Why?

Because they focused obsessively on targeting the perfect client.

You can read about it on the blog post linked above, but here are the most important takeaways:

  1. Messwerks targeted growing companies that had already raised some funding. These businesses have their hands full and usually need help with UX and design work. Since these businesses are already looking for help, the opening line works like a charm.
  2. A brief overview of what Messwerks can do – increase sales (super nice), engagements (who wouldn’t want that?), and conversions (every startup’s dream).

What you can learn from it

Choose your targets wisely.

You can do a lot with a simple email, if you send it to the right group of people.

Don’t skimp on your homework …

Research your ideal customer thoroughly before you even send an email.

Grab customers early

This one-paragraph message from Ash Maurya is chock full of wins.

It ticks all the right boxes:

It’s succinct, it’s targeted, it’s personalized, and it has a clear objective.

Everything I love about it:

  1. Ash mentions that he saw the recipient at an event. This establishes a connection and proves you probably share the same interests and passions.
  2. Further establishing shared passions: Someone who breeds horses would love to talk about how they select bloodlines.
  3. Flattery works, and there’s lots of it here. It tells the recipient(s) that they are among the most “exceptional” breeders in Texas and states they’re “impressive.”
  4. Closes with a specific request for a phone call, plus a mention of the recipient’s future activities. This again hammers in the fact that you aren’t a creepy sales guy who’s just out there to land a deal. Instead, it establishes the fact that you’re a business owner who has a common interest.

What you can learn from it

Don’t be a slimy sales guy! How?

Be human.

Show you care about the people you email …

Tell them about your shared passions and interests.

Remember:

Your objective is to build relationships, not just close deals.

Connect with a pain point

Yep, this is the third reference to Bryan Harris in this article.

I said he is an absolute beast, right?

In this blog post on his site, Bryan shows how to use data to create a targeted list of prospects. Then?

He sends them a clear, straightforward email about how they can make their business better.

Here Bryan Harris receives an email from the highly esteemed Nathan Barry, founder of ConvertKit:

The hard part is creating the list of prospects, but Bryan’s blog post goes pretty deep into that so I won’t cover it here.

Rather, I’ll focus on the best parts of the email:

  1. The subject line is a single word: InfusionSoft. Since Nathan’s list of contacts is targeted (bloggers who are sick of InfusionSoft’s complexity) this one word subject will stand out in the inbox.
  2. “How are you liking it?” If you’re a blogger who uses InfusionSoft, you probably aren’t overjoyed about using it. This single line is a great way to bring the reader’s attention to the issue, without stating it outright.
  3. The actual subject of the email: The alternative to InfusionSoft that’s designed only for bloggers.
  4. A specific date and time for a call. Saves several back-and-forth emails to decide a meeting time.

What you can learn from it

Once again, it’s simple:

Address the customer’s primary pain point.

Tell them how you can solve it.

Then, pin point a time for a short meeting.

Dmitry’s take

For example: “How does 9 a.m. Tuesday sound?” Don’t worry, if they’re busy, but interested, they’ll just ask to meet another time.

Implement this tactic right now with our software.

Give It a Try Now!

Start a relationship

Before I share this PR outreach cold email example, if you need to find a PR outreach tool head over to this article rating every PR tool with pros, cons, and prices.

The cold email below is a great way to kickstart a relationship with a blogger or journalist.

It references their past work, directs them to something that might interest them (based on their past work), and opens the possibilities for a longer conversation.

Here’s what I love about it:

  1. The first paragraph references their recent work, then directs them to a story from a trusted website (here: Gizmodo) that talks about the same thing.
  2. The second paragraph brings attention to a related topic and plugs your own blog post. (It can be somebody else’s blog post, too, since your only objective is to start a relationship.)
  3. The email ends with a question, which opens up the chance for a longer conversation.

What you can learn from it

Journalists and bloggers care about their work.

By referencing their recent work and directing them to something similar, you show that you care about them, and that you have similar interests.

Over time, this can help you develop a relationship.

Help someone out

Have an excuse.

What’s a better excuse than to point out typos and grammatical errors?

You’ll be surprised how effective this can be, especially with writers who take their work seriously.

  1. Warning!People can be touchy about their grammar. Instead of saying “your grammar is wrong,” be friendly and polite.
  2. Asking what the journalist is working on next is a great way to continue the conversation.

What you can learn from it

Show a genuine interest!

Ask what they’re working on next to start a conversation.

Use a hook

There’s nothing influencers love more than knowing how their strategies and tactics have helped others.

Share your results with them, and they’ll be happy to spread it to their fans and followers.

It establishes a great connection, and it gets them great press!

Here’s a simple template on how to do this:

  1. Mentions the recent post, states how you’ve been following it, and how it has affected your life.
  2. A link to the post, along with a subtle suggestion that the influencer can share it with his audience.

What you can learn from it

If you’ve ever followed any influencer’s advice, share your results with them.

It’s one of the best hooks for building a relationship with them.

Get published

For this example to work, you need two things:

  • An interesting story
  • And a person willing to tell it.

The former is something I can’t help you with.

For the latter, monitor your Twitter feed, or start conversations using some of the templates above to see if there are any writers, bloggers and journalists looking to cover stories similar to yours.

Then, send them this email:

  1. Mention how you found the story idea – on their blog, via email, or on their public Twitter feed.
  2. Your story – in as few words as possible.
  3. Tell them how this ties into the topic they wanted to write about, plus the results from your story.

What you can learn from it

Writers and journalists love it when they can get a personal, human angle on a story.

If you know journalists who are writing about a topic that you have relevant experience with, it’s a great idea to pitch them stories.

Win a backlink

This is one email every marketer has to send sooner or later: a backlink request.

Here’s how to do it right:

The first step, of course, is to ensure that you have top-notch content.

Then, find a list of people who link to resources similar to yours, and send this email.

Here’s why this email works:

  1. Clearly mentions the specific post and how you found it, social media, search, etc.
  2. Links to the reference post that you improved on (aka the ‘Skyscraper method’).
  3. Asks for feedback, then puts a subtle plug for a backlink.

What you can learn from it

The best way to get a backlink is to improve an existing resource.

Then, ask all those who’ve linked to it to take a look at your improved resource – and perhaps give a backlink in return.

Nail a sales call!

If you’re in B2B sales, or are a sales manager you’ll have to make dozens of calls every day.

This example ensures that you’ll get more yays than nays:

  1. It asks for just 10 minutes. That’s good enough for most busy people. And what company wouldn’t want 100 more great customers?
  2. It name drops a close competitor or industry leader, and shows the results they got from this idea.
  3. A very simple three-line email, but if someone promised to get you 100 more customers and asked for just 10 minutes of your time, wouldn’t you be interested too?

What you can learn from it

Tell prospects exactly what kind of results they can expect. Then…

Tell them how long you’ll take to achieve it!

Dmitry’s take

“Here’s a recap of some of the most important aspects of cold email: do your research; make it personal; offer value; sound credible; close with a question; suggest specific meeting times; focus on benefits versus features; track your performance; and do what you can to build a long lasting relationship!”

Implement this tactic right now with our software.

Give It a Try Now!

More Cold Email Resources

I promised you tons of email resources…

And I’m not going to back out of that promise!

I’ve covered tons of examples with templates here.

These will help you craft stellar cold emails of your own.

And don’t forget you can get 15 more templates here, too!

But, if you want even more help writing an amazing email?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

Here are more go-to resources for writing cold emails:

1. How to get early customers to respond to your emails

Feedback from your early customers is vital to your product’s success.

However, not all early customers are that eager to respond to emails. This link to LeanStack will help you with that.

 

2. How to write a great email to a cold lead 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freelancer, a marketer, or a founder, you’ll have to send out emails to cold leads if you want to grow your business.

This link gives a great overview of how to write an effective email that can win you deals.

3. How to automate prospecting to land clients fast

This is something every freelancer has been guilty of:

You spend far too much time dealing with existing clients instead of looking for new ones.

That’s bad for the long-term health of your business. Use the advice from this email to automate your prospecting with cold email.

4. How to write an email that doesn’t suck

93.9% of cold emails suck.

This is what Anand Sanwal of CBInsights discovered after analyzing 147 cold emails. Read this post to figure out what makes a bad cold email, and how to write a good one.

5. Seven sanity checks for sending emails out

You’ll want to read this post before you hit send!

6. Quick tips on how to write a subject line for sales emails

The subject line is the single most important part of any cold email. Read this post to get it right the first time!

7. 15 commandments for every email sequence

Read this to learn the 15 rules you must follow before sending out a cold email. I love the advice about mentioning competitors and mirroring your target’s tone.

8. How I Wrote an Email that Got A 50% Reply Rate

This links to a full case study of my very carefully targeted cold email campaign aimed at experts — the aim was to set up an interview.

It talks all about where I found my prospects, how I personalized each email, and more.

9. Email Signature Perfection: Should I Buy One or Create One?

This link shows you why email signatures are the most neglected tool in daily communications and how to ensure yours is effective.

So there you go – lots more resources to help you master cold emails.

 

Cold Calls Don’t Work!

According to PFL, a maker of marketing solutions, cold calling campaigns have a measly 1% success rate.

Given how labor intensive it is, and how many rejections you have to endure to get one “yes,” it’s not a surprise fewer and fewer salespeople are making calls.

Cold emailing is much more effective at putting yourself in front of prospects and nurturing them into customers. Here’s why it’s a whole new ballgame.

Cold emailing is scaleable

You can only call one person at one time. With email, you can use outreach automation tools to create automated cold email sequences and nurture hundreds of prospects at once.

The other limit of cold calling is that you have to catch a decision-maker at the right time. They rarely return voicemails. With email, you can stay on the first page of your prospect’s inbox for at least three to five hours, increasing your chance of getting noticed and opened.

How to send an automated cold email sequence to convert the maximum number of prospects into customers

In a cold email drip sequence, you write four to six emails ahead of time, leaving a few words and phrases to be personalized for each prospect, such as their name, where you found them, and what industry they work in.

Remember to write each email based on the customer perspective!

Be specific about how you can help your prospect solve a big problem for them.

You may already know this, but it’s easy to get stuck inside your own perspective as soon as you start typing.

For example, if you say, “My tool can help you rapidly build a targeted leads list.”

Then, you’re describing a feature instead of a benefit, and it’s from your perspective.

But, if you say, for example:

“Never worry about running out of new sales opportunities …”

Then, you’re describing specific benefits and how it can solve problems from your customer’s perspective.

Dmitry’s take

Another way of thinking about benefits versus features is looking at the difference between your product, or service, versus the results your prospect will get from it. For example: Your product might be SaaS, but the result will be time saved!

Implement this tactic right now with our software.

Give It a Try Now!

Using an outreach automation tool like Prospect or Outreach, you can add the emails in your sequence, upload your leads list and set up a send schedule for it.

Your email sequence and schedule can go something like:

1st day: Introduction email

There are many approaches you can use for the initial introduction email including:

1. Ask for a connection to the right person in the company

Source: Breakthrough Email

2. Ask the prospect for honest feedback on your product

Source: Datanyze

3. Ask if you can share a valuable idea to grow their business

Source: Sales Hacker

4. How your company can help with a recent industry/competitor event

Source: Andrew’s Musings

3rd day: Provide value or offer to provide help in a follow up email

Source: Blogarama

5th day: Invite them to a relevant high value webinar where you can demonstrate your expertise and skills

Source: SumoMe

8th day: You’re welcome to pick my brain email

Source: Datanyze

Why send a sequence instead of just a single email?

Many prospects require a few touches before you a) catch them at the right time when they can type out a reply or b) can get them to understand why it’s worth their while for them to reply.

When Heather Morgan of Salesfolk ran a cold email campaign for Ambition, they received responses as far along as the eighth, and last, email in the sequence!

You can easily track your open and response rates

With cold calling, unless you call using special software, you have to manually input most of the data including how many callbacks you received and how many calls you had to make before you connected with your prospect.

With email, tools can automatically track sends, opens, link clicks and responses so you know exactly how well each sequence is performing.

This also helps you analyze patterns that most often lead to closed deals:

What send times got the most opens?
How many touch points does it take on average to get your prospect to respond?
Does it make a difference what sender name you use?

You can also tweak certain elements of your emails like the subject or the calls to action to see what improves your response rates.

It’s much more difficult to A/B test cold call approaches since many non-trackable variables can impact the success rate from your tone of voice to your choice of words (unless you read verbatim from a script every time).

Screenshot taken from Prospect.io

It’s much easier to find and guess emails than phone numbers

Many companies do not publicly list the direct phone numbers of their employees. So it’s an uphill battle to convince gatekeepers to connect you.

With email, since most companies use predictable naming format like [email protected] or [email protected], there are many tools that can ‘automagically’ provide you a list of email addresses based on first and last names and the company they work for including:

I love to use
Voilanorbert/ for this.

 

Additionally, prospecting tools like Skrapp lets you add relevant people you find on LinkedIn to your leads list and finds their emails for you:

If email-searching software is giving you trouble, you can also try Googling

“@company.com email”

This sometimes turns up the email addresses of company employees published on a page and shows how their emails are formatted, so you can reliably guess the email of the person you want to reach at that company, if you know their name.

Example:

Based on that result, we can see that Salesforce formats their employee emails as:

[email protected]

Subject Lines that Work

Subject lines should entice your prospects to open your email. The holy trinity of good subject lines:

1) short (8-10 words max)

2) use a casual tone (prospects do not want to read an email that sounds like it came from their lawyer)

3) not deceptive (if they feel you tricked them into opening, they won’t respond, and it sullies your company’s reputation)

Here are a few high performing subject line formulas to use as a reference

For initial introduction emails

  1. [Colleague] recommended I get in touch

If you use the appropriate person email template shown above, you can mention the name of the colleague who referred you in your subject line.

  1. A few ideas [to resolve their biggest pain point related to your product]
  1. 10x [prospect company]’s [area they would want to grow – example: sales, user retention]
  1. I found you through [Name]

To be able to use this subject line, see what mutual connections you share with this prospect on LinkedIn and mention one of them in the title.

  1. Congratulations on [recent good event that happened to their company]
  1. Been following you on [site where they publish content] and wanted to reach out
  1. Are you the right person to speak with?
  1. Saw you use [complimentary product] – you may find this interesting
  1. A new [area that your product is in] strategy for [Company]

For follow up emails

  1. My brain is an open book for you
  1. Should I stay or should I go?
  1. Can you blame me for swinging for the fences 🙂
  1. Re: subject line of your first email

Only do this for one of your followups.

  1. Saw that [event relevant to their industry/company or something the prospect recently did]

Bonus: Cold email pro tips!

1. Create a separate email address from which to send your cold email campaigns.

In case you get any spam complaints or servers flag you for sending a lot of similar emails at the same time, this protects the sender reputation of your primary email.

2. If you can find this data point on your prospects easily, separate your prospects into different lists based on their time zones.

This way, for example, you can time your emails to go out exactly at 10AM their time.

Without accounting for timezone, they may get your cold email at lunch time and miss it entirely.

3. Make it easy for anyone to schedule a call with you in one click.

For example, Calendly lets you set what times you’re available and your prospect can instantly book a free time with you, eliminating the need for any back and forth.

4. When setting up your first cold email campaign, it helps to write unique emails to your first 10 or so prospects.

Try to use a slightly different approach, timing and copy for each prospect.

Based on the open and response rates of your different approaches, you will see which subject lines work, what calls to action get the most clicks, and when it’s the best time to send the emails.

For one-on-one cold emails, you can use Mixmax to track the emails.

5. In the last 2-3 emails of your sequence, you can offer a way for prospects to opt out of your emails to avoid annoying those who aren’t interested.

Many outreach automation tools let you insert an unsubscribe link into your emails. Clicking on it removes the contact from your list (similar to email marketing).

You can use a line like:

No longer interested in hearing from me? Click here.

All right, that’s a wrap! These are all the cold email templates and tactics I’ve used for over eight years, and now I want you to do the same!

As always, give me a shout if you have any questions or comments!

Written by Dmitry Dragilev

I'm the founder of JustReachOut.io which helps 4,000+ small businesses and entrepreneurs pitch press and get exposure daily without any help of PR firms. See more here.

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: B2B Marketing Strategy: How To Get More Leads For B2B Businesses

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