Chris Osborne

A beginner’s guide to acquiring new customers with email outreach

Here’s how I use email outreach to onboard new paying customers, and how you can too.

For the last three years, I’ve been updating a newsletter curating the best business, tech and design news. Since its launch, it’s grown from a tiny audience into an informational staple that reaches 10,000+ people every week.

And like most startup founders, I started my product (newsletter) on the assumption that customers (sponsors) would come to me in droves and I’d never need to think about sales.

But sadly, they never came.

In the first 6 months after starting the newsletter, I received a grand total of zero emails from potential sponsors.

Does this sound familiar?

Realizing that results wouldn’t come without work, I quickly began reaching out to the companies that I thought were a good match for my audience. And having done this daily since then, I’ve sold out almost every weekly sponsorship opening for 2+ years.


By being proactive with reaching out to companies that are a great match for my product (in this case, my audience).

I introduce myself, explain how my product (newsletter) can help them and let them know that I’m free to answer any questions they might have.

That’s it. There’s no trickery or anything misleading going on. It’s direct, honest and effective (just like cold email outreach should be). I share how sponsoring my newsletter can help them acquire more customers, and let them know that I’m free to provide more information.

Here’s how you too can acquire new customers with email outreach

After sending tens of thousands of outreach emails, and receiving even more from other companies interested in working with me (an inevitability with having a large audience), I have a good grasp of what makes a great outbound email, how to prompt responses and more importantly, what not to do when reaching out to your ideal customer base.

I’ve also discovered that many of the “rules” of cold email you see mentioned online aren’t as set in stone as you’d think, and that many of the techniques you’ll see mentioned for capturing attention and gaining interest can be highly ineffective if used improperly.

Below, I’ve broken down my email outreach process into six tips. If you have a product or service to sell and an audience you’d like to reach, I’m sure you’ll find them valuable.

1. Make sure the companies you’re targeting are a great fit

The most common email outreach mistake isn’t writing a bad subject line or writing your email poorly — it’s reaching out to the wrong person or the wrong company.

The great myth of email outreach is that you need a perfectly crafted email to get in touch with potential customers. Not so. If you target the right audience, even an incredibly simple email is usually enough to get a response.

Before you even start writing your email, make sure the companies you’re targeting are a good match for your product or service.

Spend a few minutes browsing their website and ask yourself: “If I ran this company using my own money, would I have a need for my product?”

If the answer is “no,” no amount of writing or sales skills are likely to help. If the answer is “yes,” there’s a good chance you’ll receive an enthusiastic response if you reach out with the right type of message.

Shameless plug: The goal of GrowthList is to help you save months of research in finding the right companies to target. This is why all of our leads are grouped into targeted lists. Instead of spending your time and energy on research, you can work your way through a targeted, highly specific list of leads instead.

If you decide to research companies on your own, make sure they’re a great fit, as few things are as irritating than receiving a cold email match from a business that just isn’t a good match for your objectives.

2. Make sure the email addresses are valid

Bounced emails are troublesome in that no matter what tool you use for sending the outreach emails, you’ll eventually start to experience deliverability issues.

Email software is designed to send real emails to real email addresses. If you try to send your outreach emails to too many inactive addresses, you run a high risk being flagged as a spammer and having your delivery rate cut down by a significant margin.

As a cold emailer, that’s definitely not something you want.

With GrowthList, we validate every email address to make sure you aren’t reaching out to old, inactive or bad email addresses and risking your account.

If you’re reaching out to email addresses you’ve found on your own, make sure you check that they’re correct using email validation before you send anything to avoid bounces and limits on your ability to effectively reach out to customers.

3. Keep the initial outreach email short and simple

The best initial outreach emails are short and get straight to the point. They should be understood in seconds and should engage enough interest and curiosity to warrant a response.

Having received thousands of cold emails myself, I really wish everyone followed what I call the “3 sentence rule”:

  1. Use the first sentence to briefly introduce yourself, what you do and if possible, add validation (impressive numbers, clients etc.) and/or customization (Hey Bob, I saw you were in Mexico last week…)
  2. Use the second sentence to explain how you can help. This is basically your elevator pitch on the email waves in a few words. Be as precise and clear as possible.
  3. End the email by being clear on what action you would like the reciprocant to take (i.e, agreement to take demo call or additional info to be sent via email).

Here’s the exact email I send at FoundersGrid that follows the above principles:

Hi Bob,

My name is Chris and I’m the founder of FoundersGrid – a weekly newsletter that is read by over 10,000 founders, product managers, designers and VC’s in tech.

Would you be interested in getting [company name] in front of our readership? If so, we have a couple of sponsorship openings coming up next month and as I’m sure you’ll agree, I think your product and our audience is a perfect fit.

Who is the best person at [company name] I can discuss this further with?



Short emails work.

The vast majority of people don’t have the time or desire to read a long, detailed outreach email. Keep your email short and simple and they’ll be able to get straight to the point without seeing an intimidating wall of text in their inbox.

4. Use a tool to speed up the process and help you stay on top of things

Email outreach is a time consuming process, especially if you’re reaching out to completely cold leads. It’s also a process that becomes more challenging as your list grows and you form more relationships with prospects and customers.

Although it isn’t essential, I highly recommend using a cold email outreach tool to help you stay on top of your campaign.

If you are just starting out, Mailshake, which integrates with your GMail account and includes a huge range of automation features including templates, bulk sending and response management, is a great tool that will make email outreach much easier for you.

5. Follow up!

Most people won’t respond to your first email. Even highly interested customers will ignore your email simply due to reading it at the wrong time. By following up, you give people that are interested an opportunity to connect with you when they do have the time to engage with you.

If you contact someone and don’t receive an outright “no” as a response, follow up. Even if your follow up email is just a quick “Did you have time to read this?” message, there’s a good chance you’ll catch them at a good time and earn a response.

6. Respect those who aren’t interested

There’s nothing more annoying than a persistent salesperson. If you follow up with a prospect and they are not interested, it’s much better to respect their decision and move on than to try and change their mind.

Persistence has a place in sales. However, your time is valuable. Move on to a stronger lead and you’ll get much better results than you would by trying to turn a “no” into a “maybe.”

In closing

When done right, email outreach is an amazing strategy for acquiring new customers. One of the best qualities of email outreach is that it’s something anyone, from any company, in any location can do.

However, most startup founders approach it the wrong way. Apply the tactics above and you’ll get far better results from your email outreach campaigns.

If you have any questions on the above, feel free to send me an email and you’ll receive a response from me personally.