Step-by-Step Guide: LinkedIn Cold Outreach (Message Templates Included)
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Thanks for all of the great response to the last article on cold emailing investors! One big question that keeps coming up is, “How do we connect with investors on LinkedIn?”
We’ll focus on cold outreach to people we don’t know.
First, it’s important to target the right investors for your startup’s size and industry. Next, here are three different approaches that work when connecting on LinkedIn (and remember that you’ll be limited to 300 characters if you don’t have InMail):
Compliment them in your intro
Hint at your pitch in your intro
Fully pitch them in your intro
I also include actual LinkedIn message templates in each section of this article. Here are a few things specific to LinkedIn:
Remember that you’ll only have 300 characters if you’re not using InMail on LinkedIn. Investors love brevity, so it’s actually a good thing.
Once you’re connected on LinkedIn, you can either send longer messages or grab the person’s email address and email them directly.
First, you’ll need to figure out who to target. Check out the “Find the Investor’s Contact Info” section of my previous article Step-by-Step Guide: How to Reach Out to Investors.
I recommend using my Reverse Investor List Strategy when you start reaching out, so you’re practicing your pitch on low-value targets.
As always, I encourage you to experiment to find what works best for you.
And if you can get an intro, that's the best way to connect with a potential investor. LinkedIn is valuable for this because you can see who you know who's connected to the person you're trying to reach. I ask for introductions all the time. Even people I don't really know are willing to help make connections.
But sometimes you just have to reach out cold. on LinkedIn.
Here’s the walkthrough:
1. Compliment them in your intro
In this approach, we’re not going to mention ourselves at all. Instead, we’re going to do our research on them and compliment them on a recent investment or something else that they’re excited about.
Scan the person’s Activity feed on LinkedIn to see what they’ve been posting about recently. Make that the focus of your message.
Let’s say I want to pitch Lightspeed Ventures. I went to their company page in LI, clicked on People, and saw that I’m a 2nd connection with Mercedes Bent. I went on her Activity Feed and saw that she recently wrote an article on finding advisors for your startup.
Now I’m going to Connect with her and add the following (short) message:
Hi Mercedes- I loved your article on finding startup advisors!
Mike Lingle // Rocket Pro Forma
I did actually send her this connection request, but she hasn't accepted yet. I'll update this when/if she does.
I intentionally didn’t say anything about myself or my startup, but I did make sure to include both my name and my startup’s name. They say that people need to see something seven times before they pay attention...
Please note that some LinkedIn users like Mercedes make it a bit harder to connect with them. You’ll have to click the More button to find the Connect button when it’s missing from someone’s profile.
Remember that once we’re connected I can either send her a longer message on LinkedIn or grab her email address and email her directly.
2. Hint at your pitch in your intro
The idea in this second option is to drop a bit of info about us and what we’re up to, without delivering a full pitch. Again, I’ll probably include a compliment about the person I’m reaching out to.
Most of us only have 300 characters to work with in our initial LinkedIn messages, so this takes some thinking.
I’m having fun with Lightspeed Ventures, so I’m going to reach out to another partner there:
In this case I went on her Activity Feed to find something she’s interested in. Perfect because I’m into crypto too, and I want to talk to her about a specific opportunity in the security token space. Questions are fun because they can generate conversation—or at least get someone to let their guard down and accept a connection request.
Here’s my message:
Hi Amy- Great insights on Axie w/ Paul V.
Are you looking at the security token space? (Infinite Fleet is the current gaming example)
Mike Lingle // Security Token Market
And this worked in real life. She accepted my connection request.
Now I can either continue the conversation in LinkedIn or switch us to email.
3. Fully pitch them in your intro
In this case we’re going to come right out and say we’re raising money and ask them to take a look.
I still start with something about them. People love that plus it creates the context for why I’m reaching out to them specifically.
Then I want to hook them on why this opportunity is exciting. Investors mostly care about team, traction, and customer acquisition—so here I’ve covered all three.
Notice that I’m not spending any of my limited words on what Rocket Pro Forma does. I know it seems weird, but investors care more about team, traction, and customer acquisition in the initial outreach. I’ll have all the time in the world to explain what we do once she accepts my connection request—plus that info is in the pitch deck.
Here’s a template you can use (and remember that you’re limited to 300 characters unless you’re using InMail):
Hi <NAME>- Congrats on investing in <Company>! It made me realize that I’d love to have you join our seed round for Rocket Pro Forma. We have happy customers, real revenue, and I have a previous exit.
Can I send you our pitch deck?
4. Now what?
Now that you’re connected on LinkedIn, you can use the email templates in my Step-by-Step Guide: How to Reach Out to Investors (Email Templates included).
Remember that you can usually grab their email address from your LinkedIn contacts by going to their profile page and clicking the “Contact Info” button:
I'm one for two connection requests in this article, which raises the issue that not everyone will accept your connection requests on LinkedIn. This is partially a numbers game. I can also use other methods to contact the people who don't accept. For example, I can connect to people's co-workers and then ask for an intro.
And read the Startup Pitch Deck Playbook for examples of how to improve your pitch deck.
Good luck—and please let me know how it goes!
Please join my free Q&A session if you have questions or want further guidance.
Mike Lingle is obsessed with helping founders grow their businesses. He's a serial entrepreneur, mentor, and executive in residence at Babson College and Founder Institute. Check out Rocket Pro Forma if you want to quickly create your financial projections.