Cold emails have been very helpful for me. It's all about how you structure your message. If I remember correctly, it's still 40x more effective than the next best form of digital marketing. Instead of using LinkedIn to message people, find their personal email address with hunter.io or voilanorbert.com. Everyone checks their email everyday, and it's easier to ignore cold messages on LinkedIn. There are plenty of search results for how to structure an effective cold email, but here's what's been working for me (1-2 sentences for each step):
- Intro - how I stumbled across them / their company
- Why I'm reaching out (make clear you're not looking to sell, just finding out if you can add value)
- What we're working on
- Ask for a quick call to learn about them / their problem (20min)
- Offer something else of value regardless of whether they want to talk
For instance, right now I'm reaching out to people that run business plan competitions across the country. As a result of my search for competitions, I'm also compiling a detailed list, which is something that is surprisingly lacking on the interwebz. I reach out to let them know how I stumbled across their name (compiling the list), stipulate that I'd like to establish a rapport (not sell), let them know what we do (provide a solution that MIGHT be useful to them), ask for a quick call to see if we can solve any problems, then I offer them access to the list even if they don't want to talk to me (something their students / participants might find valuable).
Just this week a few of them mentioned they never respond cold emails, so I figure that's a pretty good sign. I've been doing this for the past few weeks, and I'm getting response rates around 10-15% so far, and I'm landing meetings with about 80% of those that get back to me. This isn't the most scalable approach, but I would certainly consider it effective.
Also, download boomerang (chrome extension). it'll tell you the "Respondable" rate of your message before you send it. Hope this helps.