• Alex’s book is The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers. (Buy it at Amazon,, IndieBound, or 8CR.)
  • The email template, which Alex drew from Tim Ferriss, is as follows:
    • 1st paragraph: “I know you are very busy and get a lot of email so this will only take 60 seconds.”
    • 2nd paragraph: 1 or 2 sentences about who you are and how that’s relevant to the person you’re contacting.
    • 3rd paragraph: 1 or 2 sentences with a specific question the recipient can answer quickly.
    • 4th paragraph: “I totally understand if you’re too busy to reply. Even a 1- to- 2-line response will make my day.”

29 Responses to “Pinkcast 2.20: This is how to write a cold email to a big kahuna”

  1. doug seaberg says:

    What subject line have you found that works?

    • Alex Banayan says:

      Hi all! Alex Banayan here — author of The Third Door.

      Love your questions about the subject lines. Here are 3 quick tips to make your subject lines the most effective:

      1) Keep it short. Two words are ideal. Five words maximum.
      2) Make it a question.
      3) Make it personal.

      For example, one that has worked well for me is: “Mr. XYZ — your advice?”

      Of course, each person is different and each situation is unique. A rule of thumb to ask yourself when crafting your subject line: “If I was that person, and I just opened my inbox and saw 100 new emails, would I be curious to click on that?”

      Important note to remember: you don’t want to be click-baity or disingenuous. If you write, “desperately need help!” and you’re asking a stranger for career advice, that’s a fast-track to getting your email deleted.

      Be honest and thoughtful. Make it easy for them. And above all else, keep trying.


  2. “Don’t send it to me.” <— Indeed. But it makes so much sense I think I’ll go try it on someone else. Not that there’s anyone else in the world I’d rather email, but I’m respecting your request, sir.

  3. Jay Drayer says:

    Alex, how would you recommend titling the email?

  4. Nandini says:

    Thanks! Enjoyed this Pinkcast! I’ve done this in my life and I’ve generally had success, but I think it takes more than these 4 steps for success! It’s all about confidence and content!

    To that point(s) I have a question for Dan and Alex. How gender specific is this approach? Do you think men are more confident (vs. women) to use this approach? And how do recipients receive these cold calls from confident men vs. confident women? As much as confidence and clear emails make a difference, I observe that what attracts someone to respond to a cold call/email is CONTENT: something that they have been working on or thinking about. Just my two bits to think about when touting this approach!

  5. Art says:

    What did you put in the subject line?

  6. Lisa Horwich says:

    What is a good subject line so it: a) gets noticed and b) doesn’t go into their Spam/Junk folder?

  7. David Antol says:

    I am broken hearted! Great video and tip (about the email). Thank you

  8. Excellent tip! Just one question – what did you use as a subject line to get them to open the email?

  9. Hys says:

    Okay for a kid or someone starting out, but any suggestions for someone two-thirds of the way up the ladder wanting to email someone at the top?

  10. Jacob Akerson says:

    But what about the subject line???

  11. Carolyn Stephens says:

    What do you write in the subject line?

    • Sanjay says:

      Hello Carolyn,
      Try these
      1.Will this do it ??
      2.Do you have it in you??
      3.The sixty second challenge!!
      Best regards

    • Mzonke says:

      Great question. What do we write as a catchy email?!

    • Celina says:

      Great pinkcast, as usual, and very interesting question Carolyn!
      What to write in the subject line to “hook” the other end..?
      Thanks! Celina.

  12. Doug Manchester says:

    Hi Big D,
    Fortunately we are both big kahunas, so I don’t expect a reply, though I know I’ll be heard. The 1-3-20 podcasts with Annie Duke and Michael Mauboussin seem to share a common theme. Would it be crass to host a 23 minute video where they discuss Expectations Investing and Thinking in Bets?
    Never miss a 1-3-20 podcast or newsletter. Great products Dan!!
    The Other Big D

  13. I also have the same question as Carolyn Stephens: what do you write in the subject line. This to me is more important than the body of the email. Also if you are writing to pitch yourself/get business from a cold call prospect, it seems this would require an entirely different email template. Do you (or Tim Ferris) have one for this situation?

  14. Gaurav Sarup says:

    Great advice about the email. Will surely try it.

  15. Jessica says:

    This is like the Ben Franklin effect. Aka… may I borrow a pen?

  16. Erin says:

    Alex, I know you’re busy and get a lot of questions…but, then what? How do you keep the conversation going/get the interview?

  17. Jennifer Iacino says:

    Yaaas, what she said ^^^ . What do you suggest for the dreaded subject line?

  18. Sarah says:

    Another great pinkcast – love it! And, while I didn’t follow this email format – I did reach out to Daniel to see if I could use some of his material on my website. I was super surprised (and very happy) when he replied and said yes (with some appropriate copyright conditions). This interaction made my day and turned me into an even bigger fan. 🙂
    Sorry, Daniel – I hope this doesn’t lead to a flood of emails. And thanks again for being so personable.

  19. Paul Shultz says:

    Love the PINK world. Odd – you put in the same newsletter how to screen out robocalls and how to get your “junk” email read.

  20. Fred Meyers says:

    As Carolyn mentions, and experienced email marketer knows the subject line is much more important that the actual email for response.

    Back from the good old days of print advertising, the rule of thumb was the headline drove 80% of the response to an ad. Based on my experience, the subject line is the headline of an email and the same rule applies.

    So Alex’s success was probably in spite of his email copy, not because of it.

  21. Stephen Paulin says:

    Agree about the subject line importance…it’s the key to dramatically increase the percentage of emails being OPENED. Once in, the recommended template would increase reader enagement. Enjoyed the tip . Thx.

  22. Traci Duez says:

    I agree with Carolyn. The copy may be good or even great, but it’s the subject line that gets them to open the cold email in the first place. What was the subject line for Alex’s emails?

  23. My American University Washington Semester student interns will appreciate this advice for sending cold emails with a warm touch.

  24. Andrew Clark says:

    As noted above, I too wondered about what subject line he used. We all know IF the subject line doesn’t catch your attention, the nicely crafted email described in this Pinkcast won’t even be opened.

  25. Bev Bachel says:

    My favorite part? Dan’s request that we not send him the email.

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