Cold Email Etiquette for General Contractors

Cold Email Etiquette for General Contractors

Tips to be effective when it comes to pressing send on that cold email as a GC

October 26, 2022

7 min read


Caleb Taylor

Caleb Taylor

Founder at Buildr

As annoying as full inboxes may be, cold email is far from dead. It’s cheap, easy, and tends to deliver a solid ROI no matter your industry—as long as it’s done right. Sadly, most cold emails are either too boring or obvious to warrant a click or trigger spam filters so they'll never even see the light of day.

For these reasons, your cold email strategies need to be savvier than ever, while anticipating that your target doesn't have a stringent day-to-day inbox zero process. From an attention-grabbing subject line and balanced tone to keeping your copy personable, there are a handful of best practices that’ll garner more clicks and higher open rates. Align yourself with the modern cold email etiquette for general contractors and watch your sales network soar.

Craft a killer subject line

Every individual step of a cold email (and cold call) is to buy a little bit more time. Each micro-goal is to keep your target's attention just long enough to make it to the next step. The journey begins at the subject line and the goal is boiled down to one thing only: the receiver wants to open the email.

Nowadays, emails are seemingly never-ending. Our inboxes fill up with newsletters, op-eds, and DailyMail articles we couldn’t care less about. And your clients wade through the same sea of useless information. So, your subject line is the hook that cuts through all that noise. It’s the difference between a click and potential future business relationship or a trashed email. 

Here’s how you can write a subject line that prompts a click:

Mention their first name & company 

Mass-sent emails with obvious templates are a great way to send your email straight to your prospect’s trash folder. Nobody wants to feel like one-of-one-million. Rather, if you’d like to reduce unsubscribes and spam reports while boosting your open rate, try addressing your target directly. Everyone wants to feel special and recognized. 

For off-the-bat personalization, you could include your recipient’s first name and company in the subject line. But since your competitors may be using a similar tactic, it’s important to dig deep with the personalization. We suggest researching your prospect, gathering some information, and plugging it into your subject line. This of course takes time, which is why so many companies opt for non-personalized mass outreach, playing a numbers game. But those same companies also have an exceedingly low success rate.

Maybe your target is a fellow alum, knows a former colleague, or likes similar LinkedIn content. Maybe you attended the same conference. Even better if you happened to exchange a few words at that conference. These are all in's to make the email feel a little less "cold." You're microwaving the email, so to speak. Use these details to hook your prospects into the real subject matter, whether it be your services or a recent company-wide accomplishment.

Ask your prospect a question

Questions are powerful. When you see a question mark, you immediately answer it in your head out of reflex—and your prospects do the same. So, why not give them that satisfaction?

Too many cold emails are stuffed with industry slang and service offerings. Instead, try asking a clear, concise question that indirectly offers value. Here’s an example:

“Mark, does [company name] need a hand with [pain point]?”

It’s concise, to the point, and addressed directly to your recipient - making your email already that much more impactful than the inbox-bloating fluff your contact couldn’t care less about.

One incorrect tactic, especially morally, is to put more weight on getting your audience to open the email at the cost of being relevant to what you want. For example:

"Where were you?? Please get back to me."

This subject line makes it seem like there's some sort of emergency or they missed an appointment they completely forgot about. They might even skip past looking at sender just to hurry up and get into the email. And then the content of the email is like "Where were you in 2020 during the pandemic, that is. The rest of us were..." before getting to your point. This is simply bad form; the subject line shouldn't be misleading just to get your audience to open it.

Keep it concise

Most importantly, keep the subject line short. Nowadays, attention spans are akin to goldfish. This means you have mere seconds to hook your prospect. 

To cater to 21st century attention spans, it’s important to find a balance. You want a subject line that’s short enough to fit in your subject line, but long enough to compel your prospect to click. It’s a balancing act that’s tough to nail. The first couple words are everything. Think of them like the prologue of your subject line, if we're thinking about each step's micro-goal being to get to the next step: the first few words of your subject line should get them to read the entire subject line.

However, there’s a way to calibrate this balancing act so that you don’t fall over: A/B testing. With this practice, you can try out a range of subject lines to see which one strikes the deepest chord with your prospects. Test out a few email subject lines with different segments of your email list to see which one works best. After a few runs, you’ll know what works.

Perfect your personability

Cold emails are “cold” for a reason: you typically don’t know your recipient (or at least, they don't know you). Maybe it’s a decision-maker on the owner's side for a project you’re hunting, or someone who’d ladder your request up to the higher-ups. Either way, getting personal is crucial to heating up your cold approach.

Cold-calling is much easier in this regard. You can alter your tone of voice, establish some comfortable rapport, and joke around when given the chance. But this isn’t the case with cold emails.

All you have is your written word in a one-way conversation. It’s not an ongoing conversation on the phone; you have to wait for a response. So, there are a few tactics to consider so that your cold email comes off warmer than ever:

Simplify your copy

Long, verbose messages rarely reach readers. Nobody has time to read a novella, especially from a complete stranger. By keeping your email copy short and to the point, your recipient will easily absorb your message. In your first cold email, exhaustively listing your personal accomplishments and services will do no good. Rather, you need to decide why you’re reaching out to your prospect and how you can ease their pain points.

Do this in short sentences, concise paragraphs, and without any keyword stuffing or industry jargon. You’re a person, not a robot. Your prospects want to know that. Make your copy easily scannable so that your contacts are more likely to actually read your words. Bolding or italicizing a few key words or phrases can sometimes help the scanning process, assuming they don't read the full email.

Make it about them

Another stellar cold email strategy is to focus on the recipient rather than what you’re offering. A conversation with someone who only talks about themself is exhausting, as we all know. Rather than writing about what you do, explain how what they do can be improved or made easier with your service or expertise.

Of course, your cold email is to push your services—but avoid the “I” language. Instead, talk about how your recipient will benefit from your offerings and what pain points you quell. Whether it’s a deeply experienced team, cost-effective services, or industry-wide authority, tell your prospects what they’d gain from your expertise. Blankly stating your services simply won’t do—after all, how many general contractors offer the same services as you in your market?

Nail the right tone

Cold emails are tricky. You want to hook your target in a creative way, while maintaining a professional demeanor. Similarly to your subject line, this is a balancing act of Cirque du Soleil caliber. 

Your email copy should be equally professional as it is personable. Mentions of your services, benefits, and features should be contrasted by a healthy amount of rapport. From jokes and asking about their weekend plans to connecting based on common ground, it’s crucial to inject your personality into your copy and subject line. Establish comfort before making your ask.

This won’t just set the stage for a smoother sale. It’ll show your prospects that you’re human, rather than a cold email robot, and clear the way for a comfortable professional relationship moving forward. 

With skill, luck, and tact, you'll hopefully advance beyond the cold email stage to a phone call. We'll get into strategies on cold calling so that you can build rapport and hopefully expand your client base.

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