I figured I would give this whole free online advice thing a try and articulate my thoughts on online networking.
In my experience, the success of a "cold call" is largely determined by the communication that precedes it. I've never actually had to "cold call" in the normative sense; every unsolicited phone call I have made has always been preceded by a respective "cold email". As such, this thread is dedicated towards the drafting and sending of those emails.
Keys to a Cold Email
1) Background info - Contact people with a similar background. Don't limit yourself to alumni- think deeper. Think about what defines you on a superificial level. If you go to UCLA and want to work on Wall street, email Cal alums in New York. Williams College? Why not email alums that went to Swarthmore, or any other liberal arts college alum that might have had to teach himself the technicals? Ivy kids- you know what to do. And if you're a non-target... email other non-targets. Simple. The sky is the limit.
Emailing someone with a similar background reminds them of themselves. They are therefore that much more happy to help you. Remember though, you are entitled to nothing, and even if the guy is a complete d-bag, thank them in a dignified manner anyways.
2) Content- Keep the email short and sweet. I usually send emails explaining who I am and what my intentions are, a sentence explaining my "story, and then a graceful thank you. For what it's worth, the whole 'copy and paste' thing has never been a big problem for me at the bulge brackets. For boutiques, target carefully based on the above advice and try not to email too many people. Again, if you target the right demographic, this shouldn't be a problem.
Again, keep in mind that what you're doing essentially amounts to begging. These people have no obligation to help you. As such, unless its a very specific job, I think it's more of a numbers game and wouldn't spend too much time individually tailoring these emails.
3) Timing - http://news.cnet.com/8301-13880_3-9929823-68.html
Here is a link explaining how to send an email at a certain time using Microsoft Outlook. I personally have not tried this yet, but its worth looking into. People might have differing opinions about when the best time to send an email is, but I try to send them 9-10ish in the morning.
Now, what you actually have to do:
1) Create a list of the banks you want to email- Methods include: Search function on this site, google "investment banks [enter city]", Linkedin, etc. Not hard.
2) Locate the email addresses - If they are regional boutiques, chances are the email addresses are on the websites. If not, use the tried and true method of piecing together the email address ([email protected]) through contact information found on Linkedin. Don't forget alumni databases as well.
4) Remember to follow up - Bankers are busy people. Sometimes they just forget to write back. There is nothing wrong with politely sending up a follow-up email to someone that just didn't get back to you. I usually wait a couple of days to send one, but make sure that when you send this you're actually read to get on the phone. And if they don't respond to that, pick up the phone
Hope this was helpful. Happy to edit this based on user feedback and questions people might have. Will write another section on the actual cold-call conversation part if there is interest. Feel free to PM me with any questions.