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How to Use Cold Outreach to Build Your Personal Brand

Jayson DeMers
Jayson DeMers

When it comes to building a strong personal brand, cold email can be one of your greatest assets.

Interest in the topic of "personal branding" has grown steadily in recent years and shows no signs of slowing. Why? Because it's a natural extension of one of the oldest sales rules of all: people buy from people.

It explains why consumers trust influencers' thoughts on brands more than what brands say about themselves.

We understand people (or at least, we like to think we do). So if a friend, or a colleague, or even just someone we bump into on the train, tells us that a certain movie or book or product is amazing, there’s a good chance we'll take them at face value and listen to their recommendation.

If a faceless brand tells us the same thing, there's a good chance we won't.

So it makes sense that as a salesperson, you have a greater chance of success if you make yourself seem human. If people know what you stand for, what you're interested in, and what you’re good at.

That’s personal branding. And when it comes to building a strong personal brand, cold email can be one of your greatest assets.

Here's how to build a stronger personal brand using cold email:

1. Specify your target audience

Personal branding is a form of marketing. And the starting point of any marketing campaign is to define the people you’re trying to reach:

  • What are they interested in?
  • What content are they most likely to enjoy or find valuable?
  • How can you demonstrate that you know what challenges they’re facing, or understand their career goals?

It's worth noting at this point that the audience for your personal branding efforts doesn’t necessarily have to match the audience for your products and services.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of this. He's amassed a huge LinkedIn following, largely made up of freelancers and entrepreneurs, whereas the audience for his business, VaynerMedia, is predominantly multinational enterprises. Even if you don't follow him, you've likely heard of him, and that gives him a ton of credibility that helps him win business.

That said, in an ideal world, the people you're reaching via cold email will be at least somewhat interested in your product.

The more effective your sales prospecting, the better you'll be at identifying people to whom your product offers a solution, and the easier it'll be for you to convert them – first into followers who are interested in what you have to say, and second into paying customers.

2. Make a schedule

Consistency plays a big part in personal branding.

You need to maintain a consistent voice – it’ll throw people off if you're super casual one moment, totally formal the next.

You need to speak about common subjects, rather than just the first thing that pops into your head.

And you need a consistent schedule. If you’re not consistently emailing content, you'll make it much harder for yourself to build a following. It'd be difficult for a TV show to grow a loyal audience if it aired at different times and on different days every week.

Pick a time and day to send your outreach, and stick to it. Write your cold emails now to be sent out later with help of email scheduling. That way, you're establishing a routine to which your audience can adapt. And don't overdo it – you don't want a bunch of unsubscribes because you've been spamming people.

3. Deliver a wide range of content

Okay, so consistency isn't always the best approach.

While it's definitely important to adopt a regular schedule, you don't want to become predictable with the type of content you’re sending out to your audience.

If you just give the exact same opinion or share insights on exactly the same piece of research, week after week, then expect people to get bored of your messages pretty fast.

In the same way, don’t be scared to play around with different content types. As the proverb goes, "Familiarity breeds contempt," so you don't want to find yourself typecast.

Fortunately, there's a whole world of content for you to try out, such as:

  • Writing tutorial-style posts talking your audience through a specific action or challenge
  • Creating quizzes that engage your followers and teach them something new
  • Interviewing experts in other industries or from different backgrounds
  • Sharing videos of you speaking directly to your audience

4. Disclose your experiences

Because you're predominantly building a personal brand for business reasons, it will often feel most natural to discuss solely business-related subjects.

But if you do that, you're forgetting about the word "personal."

People are following you because they buy into you as a person. They want to hear about your personal experiences and the lessons you've learned from them.

So don't just give generic advice or report what’s going on in your industry – put your slant on it.

  • Did a memorably bad meeting teach you new sales skills that you've carried with you ever since?
  • Did a particular job interview force you to change how you thought about your career path?
  • Did a big life event, like a wedding or the birth of a child, cause you to change your priorities?

Tell people about it! That's the best way for you to create something truly unique – after all, no one else has had exactly the same life as you.

5. Provide value

No matter what else you do, it’s absolutely vital that each and every email you send adds genuine value.

People are busy, and your audience is no different. On average, we receive more than 120 emails every single day, so if yours cease to be useful, you can bet that a lot of people will hit that dreaded unsubscribe button.

But what does "valuable" actually look like? Well, unfortunately, there's no easy answer, because it means different things to different people.

However, broadly speaking, it’s anything that helps get your foot in the door, keeps the conversation flowing, and moves people through the sales cycle.

To do that, it’s got to be truly engaging. Here are a few tried-and-trusted ways to achieve that:

  • Offer a free tip related to their business or industry
  • Share a free tool that you know will save them time and/or money
  • Recommend a relevant article or explainer video that will help them resolve a specific pain point
  • Provide a cheat sheet that helps them troubleshoot a challenge they’re facing
  • Create a free template that they’ll be able to use right away

Whatever you choose, make sure it has a practical use. Never let your audience come away from one of your emails thinking, "So what?" The value should be clear and actionable.

And don't ask for anything in return. This isn't about demanding a commitment upfront; it's about fostering a meaningful relationship with your audience that strengthens your bond, builds your brand, and increases your chances of landing a sale down the line.

Building a personal brand doesn't have to be complex.

To some extent, every one of us already has a personal brand. We've shared stuff online before – maybe we’ve done a bit of public speaking, or appeared on a podcast, or given an interview to a publication or website.

However, a lot of people aren't proactive about their personal brand. They don't do anything to influence how people think and feel about them.

By leveraging cold email, you can gain some control of the narrative by highlighting your skillset, sharing personal experiences, and demonstrating your expertise.

Do it effectively and you have the opportunity to build a strong, loyal audience who is genuinely bought into the value that you provide. And there's a good chance some of those people will end up becoming your customers, too.

Image Credit: Rawf8/Getty Images
Jayson DeMers
Jayson DeMers Member
I'm a former long-time columnist for Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc, and various other major media publications, where I authored over 1,000 articles over the course of 5 years, covering marketing & entrepreneurship. In 2010, I founded a marketing agency that made the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and am now the founder & CEO of EmailAnalytics.