Selling advertising on your email newsletter means a lot of cold emailing to a lot of potential sponsors. Whether your newsletter is large or small, niche or general interest, new or long-established, you need to grab their interest quickly and set yourself up for a successful conversation.
While there are many different approaches one can take to advertising sales on newsletters, we want to give you some tips and techniques that have served us well on behalf of publishers large and small. We’ve sold well over $5 million in direct advertising deals on newsletters with email list sizes ranging from the low thousands to the millions.
We’ve spent a lot of time pitching the busy marketing pros who buy newsletter ad space. We know what works and what doesn’t.
Here are 5 tips that can help you craft cold emails that will get the conversation started with advertisers and set you up for success.
#1: Pitch your audience in your cold email’s subject line
If you’re in the email newsletter business, you know how important the subject line is. If the subject line fails to get your pitch opened, everything else inside the email will go to waste. So, as always, the subject line will be worth some serious thought.
We’ve found the key to be pitching your audience in the subject line. Think:
Reach 20K VC pros
Get [brand] in front of 100K pet parents
500K fitness enthusiasts who’d love [brand]
You’re in the business of connecting advertisers with audiences. The marketers on the other end of your pitch are on the hunt for untapped pockets of customers who can be turned into fans—and customers—of their brands.
If the fit is right, this is the key piece of information that should grab their attention.
#2: Keep the cold email body short & sweet
The people you’re pitching probably get a lot of pitches. That doesn’t mean your pitch is an inconvenience to them; this is what they do. And they’re eager to find new audiences to whom to market. (Trust us: Finding new newsletters on which to advertise is a problem sponsors are working on daily.)
So, if your audience is a potential fit for them, they’ll be eager to learn more. Don’t bury the information they’re after in a wall of text.
You could try something like this:
Hi [first name],
I hope you're having a great June! I'm reaching out from [newsletter name], a [one-line description of your newsletter].
We have a fast-growing daily newsletter that now reaches 100K+ [sports fans; affluent parents; personal finance obsessives]. We thought [brand] could be a great fit with our audience. We have a prominent native ad slot in the newsletter and would be happy to help you tailor a message and offer for our audience.
The rest of June is booked, but July and August still have openings.
Let me know if you'd like to find out more about how to partner.
So: a friendly opener; what your newsletter is about and who reads it; how big and awesome your audience is; social proof (June is already sold out!), and the ask (to reply if they want to learn more).
No huge dumps of demographic data and click counts. No unsolicited media kit. Just the basics.
Leave them wanting to know more.
#3: Be polite but persistent with your cold email follow-up
Again, these folks are busy. But you are not inconveniencing them by pitching your newsletter, podcast, or other platform. Sorting through pitches is a big part of what they do.
Things get lost in the shuffle. Polite persistence often pays off.
What does that look like?
Generally, we recommend a second and third email in your sales cadence. This process can be automated if you’re using a CRM (like HubSpot or Freshsales). Or it can be manual (perhaps best if you’re doing your first outreach and want to test what works).
This can be very simple. For example…
First follow-up (1 or 2 days after initial email):
Just following up on my last note. More than happy to jump on a call or answer any questions.
Second follow-up, perhaps dropping in one last nugget of audience information (1 day after first follow-up):
Hi- Just wanted to check in one last time. We think our audience could be a great fit for [brand]. Our readers [spend an average of $5K a year on their pets; include many of the top influencers in the artisanal cupcake space; own an average of 5 NFTs].
Always reply in-thread (as a reply to your initial email) to keep all of the information you’re sending along together. There will always be another time to test a new subject line… in your next cold outreach campaign.
#4: Enhance your cold email with a strong angle
To take your pitch to the next level with sponsors, you should always try to add in angles specific to the brands you’re pitching.
For instance, did an advertiser recently run a sponsorship in a publication similar to yours? Great, use that up top in your first cold email:
I saw your recent ad in Pocket Hits, targeting small business owners with your new B2B product. We’re a newsletter targeting…
Now it’s a little more personal—and a lot more effective.
When you have an angle, you can also try it in the subject line. (“Hey, saw your ad in Pocket Hits”) Now this email is conversational and responding to a specific thing relevant to the job of the person you’re reaching out to, and they’re more likely to open it.
Think like a director of marketing when crafting your angle. Ask yourself, “What is this brand trying to accomplish in the next quarter, and how can I help them do it?”
(One of the core features of Who Sponsors Stuff: Sales Pro is our creative archive for every sponsor in our database. We preserve screenshots, landing page URLs, and View in Browser links for all the ads we track, giving you the tools to understand sponsors’ advertising goals and craft personalized pitches.)
#5: Be ready for the next step after your cold email
They’re interested! Or, at least, they want to learn more…
If you’ve managed to pique their interest, your potential sponsor’s next questions will be pretty predictable:
Can you send over an example of your newsletter?
What’s the open rate?
What’s the ad click rate?
Do you have a media kit?
What’s the pricing?
You should have a concise email ready to go with all of this information to send back.
Ideally, you have a link to show them the newsletter (as opposed to having to forward it separately); they want to see the ad unit they’re considering. The open and ad-click data can be given as ranges; of course ad clickthrough will depend on the brand’s fit with your audience.
On pricing, simply state the pricing with confidence. (If you’re still wondering how to set your ad rates, you can always consult our Newsletter Ad Calculator.)
If you can make your inventory sound close to sold out, all the better.
Lastly, on media kits. They’re good for some things, but not strictly necessary for selling—especially for smaller or newer brands. It won’t raise any eyebrows if you don’t have one.
5 DON’Ts of cold email pitching
Here are some DON’Ts
• Don’t use gimmicks in your subject lines: It may be tempting to get the open, but it’s not a great way to start off a professional relationship.
• Don’t list pricing upfront: Never put pricing in a cold email. Those are details to get into once the conversation is warm.
• Don’t offer discounts upfront: It devalues your brand and can get in the way of discovering other objections the potential partner might have (objections you may be able to address without costing yourself money).
• Don’t send an unsolicited media kit: It’s just too much.
• Don’t overload potential sponsors with information: It may feel like more is more. You’ve got all these great stats! Granular data from a reader survey! But trust us: Less is usually more. You never know when a new piece of data is going to raise a doubt in a potential advertiser’s mind or send the conversation off in an unexpected direction.