Jon Buchan on B2B Cold Email Outreach

Jon Buchan is the founder of Charm Offensive and helps entrepreneurs generate tons of leads for their business with B2B cold email outreach tactics and strategies. Jon's approach is slightly unconventional as he uses humour to cut through the noise and grab the reader's attention. On August 29th, 2017 we had an exclusive #ama session with Jon in our Slack community.

Jon Buchan on B2B Cold Email Outreach

Here's the transcript:

Could you give us a quick intro how you started, Jon?

Sure. Back in 2012, my word of mouth leads dried up. Desperate and drunk, I wrote a completely absurd cold email. In the morning, I still think it was a good idea to send it on. To my amazement, it worked. I booked meetings with some of the world's largest brands such as HP, RedBull, Symantec and many more. This is now what I do for a living. I help people stand out and get responses. I get their foot in the door.

Do your methods apply to social media influencers as well?

I've used the same principles to get the attention of journalists, bloggers and podcasts. If you need to get the attention of busy people, these principles will work for sure.

How far do you go with your humour/jokes?

I try to make people laugh - it's not about going too far. If you use self-depreciation and absurdity, you will be okay. Don't try to reference celebrities, or be offensive. Aim humour at yourself, be silly, or joke about something where you know the prospect will agree with you. And make sure what you are referencing is something they will 'get'...

The biggest mistakes I find are:

  • Referencing something only a few people know...some ‘cult’ thing
  • Referencing celebrities, e.g. mocking Trump or a movie star. You don't know the prospect will agree with you!
  • Coming off cocky...this isn’t good for cold approaches. You need to be meek.


  • Be alarmingly honest
  • State your intentions.

This will make your approach different to the awful, ego-filled approached they get from others.

For example, I used to start my emails with:

"Greetings {name}, you've never heard of me. Hi, I'm Jon. I got your details from a list! *Gasp* But hey, at least you're list-worthy, that's gotta be worth something right?"

Is there one secret sauce element that every cold email must include or does it depend? How do you deal with serious media brands and companies like law firms?

Law firms - I'd use their language. I'd play with using their formal legalese way of writing and interject humour into it. It's all about balance. The humour is there to make your pitch more palatable. To make them smile when you make your ask or are being 'salesy'.

My rule is: Be funny. If I can't be funny, be clever. If I can't be clever, keep that piece of shit short. Most folks skip to the last bit. For me, I re-read what I've written and cut anything that I think could be interpreted wrong or doesn't add anything.

Be funny. If I can't be funny, be clever. If I can't be clever, keep it shortClick To Tweet

So basically, screw etiquette?

F&*k etiquette. If I'd have followed the rules, I'd have achieved nothing. Question why the rules exist. People parrot rules because that’s 'how things are'. F&*k that. It's nonsense.

How many follow-up emails do you typically send, before you give up?

8 emails in total. One a week. Or a Direct Mail piece, and then an email, and follow-ups.

What is your strategy for choosing influencers? What is the sweet spot in terms of size? I've heard it's difficult to get a response from certain influencers.

Make the effort. Influencers, find out something they love.... Get an illustration made that includes them - and something they love. Have it made into a poster? Send it to their offices. Or at least tag them in it somehow. Get it to people close to them.

You don't need the email to be direct and to the point, if you're being entertaining and captivating. The 'keep it short' rule is for people who can't write. They don't like me saying that, but it's true.

Do you have any other tactics than humour that you use?

Creativity - For a designer, we worked on a campaign where we created a comic strip. The comic strip is about this designer wanting to meet new clients but didn't want to be 'salesy'... and her brainstorming what she should do. She then created the very comic strip she is featuring in, very meta. Not funny, but clever.

When I needed the attention of PR directors, I wrote them a press release, that announced I was sending them an unsolicited email and wanted their attention.

For dentists, I've used 'before and after' pictures that show their waiting rooms before and after engaging with (not me, but a client).

Think of the language and format your prospect knows and use that form in a clever way

For every good advertisement or message there are 3 elements:

Attention. Communication. Persuasion.

Everyone does the last two, e.g.

Playing around with which word is best.... "Should I say today's world?" or "Tomorrow's world?" ... useless tinkering!

The biggest gains are in the attention element. if you can't get attention, all that other stuff is useless.

Any tips for someone who doesn't think they're authentic or someone who is not quite opened up?

What do you mean, sorry?

Not everyone will be open enough or think they can't be funny. Do you recommend they should just try it and basically screw it?

Everyone can be honest.

How long does it take for you to come up with the ideas?

Not long. I just try stuff, and then keep what works. Keep taking action. If it doesn't work, I try something else. Imperfect action always. There are so many people that are far more talented than me, but I win deals because I make moves and they stand still or play by the rules.

If you're lucky enough to intrigue an influencer, they are bound to check you out and vet you, what components are most important for that online vetting process?For example, is a website absolutely necessary, or do social media accounts suffice?

I've got quite a few LinkedIn Recommendations - which always helped. I've got a Facebook group with a good amount of members. These factors do help, but if your approach is interesting... not really... I met with the marketing director of RedBull - and we didn't have a website.

If you can make someone smile, or laugh in your approach, that is often enough. But of course, having LI recommendations and other social proof doesn’t hurt.

What do you do when you are stuck for ideas or having a creative block? Or maybe, what advice would you give to someone who is struggling to come up with ideas for content?

I go a big walk or get intoxicated somehow or weirdly, meditate. And then stuff will come to me. Big walks help me the most, with loud music on. And watching lots of stand-up, sitcoms, reading fiction.

I once tried to record a video and send it attached in a cold email to a prospect. It worked well. What ideas do you have for video intros?

Yep, video is super effective and something I want to do more of. Same principles for video: Just be honest and meek. Talk like you would to a friend.

How much of your work is creative vs. metrics? A/B testing and such?

I don't do any A/B testing really. Full creative. And I’m approaching a lot of people. I see what works, I keep what works. I do what's fun to me, and that means I do it a lot because it’s not like work. I make everything as simple and easy as possible. Being knee deep in analytics and spreadsheets sounds like hell to me. I'd rather go to the dentist

Do you keep with humour even if the other e-mails are not working?

I always find I see failure the most when I am tempted to tone stuff down. Then, it becomes less effective. Humour has never failed me.

You mentioned earlier you do 8 weeks of follow-up, once a week - do you ever follow up by phone at all with influencers or brands?

Nah, I wait for them to reply to me. I've never had to call. I hate the idea of any kind of cold calling. But I do tell people, if your approach is interesting, it will help with following up on the phone too. As you can say 'its X who sent you X". I don’t hate the idea, I'm just not good at cold calling and have a thin skin. Haha.

How do you work with founders that want to get more B2B leads or reach out to influencers?

You tell me your goals, and I will develop a plan that will force them to at least have a conversation about you. And some of those will reply.

So, is this like a coaching program? What do you charge?

Varies per project - I don't do hourly rates or anything like this. No coaching program. I have a course that will be available again tomorrow, and I have private consultancy clients. I find coaching was too much of a hog on my time. Granted, this may have been my fault for not charging for said time. Email me your goals and I'll come back pretty quick with some ballpark costs. Sorry, not trying to be 'salesy' here!

Do you mind if people contacted you here via Slack if they have any questions regarding this ama? Will you remain a member of Founders & Creators?

I will but I can't say I use slack often - email or FB messenger is best. Maybe I should use Slack more.

Okay, perfect - great that you could join us for half an hour. What’s the one last thing every founder should remember from this?

Stand out. Stop caring what people think. Be daring. Take action. Have fun. Make things easy. Fuck the rules. Go make some noise.Click To Tweet

Resources mentioned:

Want to learn more?

Want to see more like this?

Subscribe for Actionable Growth Marketing Tips & Roundups Curated From Our Community.

2 thoughts on “Jon Buchan on B2B Cold Email Outreach”

    1. Hi Jon,

      Apologies. We didn’t mean to link to a rock band. Although, you have gained similar popularity of the last few months. 😉

      We have now changed the link so that people can find out more and join the awesome “Charm Offensive” group.

      Take care.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *