What I Learned About Increasing Cold Email Response Rates From Basecamp

You need to send at least 8 cold emails to get a meeting right? Well, sorta. The typical cold email looks like this:

Hey [first name],

I hope this email finds you well! I wanted to reach out because [explain how we got their contact information and how we relate to them: talked to a colleague, saw your company online, etc.].

[Name of company] has a new platform that will help (your team at) [organization name]. [One sentence pitch of benefits]. We do this by:

  • Benefit/feature 1
  • Benefit/feature 2
  • Benefit/feature 3

Let’s explore how [name of your software] can specifically help your business. Are you available for a quick call [time and date]?



There’s only one problem. Most of the time these 8 touch automated cold email sequences get deleted.

Here’s why. Your cold emails center around the seller’s message, not the buyer’s point of view.

Jobs-To-Be Done

I learned how to get a deep understanding of the buyer’s point of view when I interviewed 30 Basecamp customers using something called the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework (JTBD). And it forever changed my approach to how I teach companies to do cold outreach.

The JTBD framework is an interview technique that lets you travel back in time and understand the struggles people had that caused them to buy.

For example, here’s the timeline of struggles that caused a CEO of a digital agency to buy Basecamp:

  • January 15 — Used a whiteboard to manage projects
  • Feb 5- Brought on 4 more clients. Managing projects on the whiteboard started to suck so they switched to Excel.
  • March 5 -Got their 8th customer and 2 more remote employees. Things started slipping through the cracks. They couldn’t see what needed to be done and when.
  • March 10 — They had to sift through emails to find what was going on.
  • March 15 — They tried Basecamp
  • March 30- Loved Basecamp! Instead of drowning in an endless chain of emails, there was a clear, and easy way to manage work and get things done.

How Basecamp Uses JTBD To Drive Sales

Basecamp sells project management software. If you Google “project management software” you’ll find websites that talk about things like timestamps, gantt charts and real time visualization.

But if you look at Basecamp’s site you’ll see this:

And this:

Basecamp is constantly testing emotional messaging. They always speak to their customer’s jobs-to-be-done — small businesses that are starting to grow and feeling the struggle associated with growth — and as they grow all their systems to get work done start breaking down.

Small business owners need something to manage all their projects as they grow. A “growing business” is what they want. The “hair on fire”, “buried under email”, “stuff everywhere” and all the other junk in the above graphic is what they don’t want.

This is perfect example of speaking to a customer’s job to be done in a marketing message.

Applying Jobs-to-Be-Done to a Cold Email

If you were a typical project management software company your cold email might look like this:

Subject: 10 minutes to improve productivity by 20%?

Hi John,

My name is Rob and I’m with Project X. We work with organizations like Blue Star to help them better manage projects.

We recently helped Blue Star increase productivity by 20% in just 30 days.

Could you direct me to the right person to talk to about this at ACME so we can explore if this would be something valuable to incorporate into your events?

If that’s you can we carve out 10 minutes to chat?

But if you’re Basecamp you’ve uncovered your buyer’s secret language. So your cold email might look like this:

Subject: Is your hair on fire John?

Happy Friday John,

As the CEO of a growing small business you might be bumping into one or more of these challenges:

  • You don’t know the status of projects when you’re out of the office
  • You’re buried under email
  • Stuff is everywhere
  • Balls are dropping and rolling under the coach
  • Your hair’s on fire (if that’s the case, please stop, drop and roll)

If any of these things resonate with you, we might be able to help.

Interested in learning more?


The Headline

Speaking to the struggles or jobs your prospects want to get done is a sure fire way to increase your cold email response rates because your prospects will get the feeling you have the answer to what they are looking for.