Most people aren’t very responsible with their e-mail. It can be especially difficult to get a response from really important people… who can easily get 200+ emails per day when they only have time to respond to a handful. But if you write e-mails using basic principles of psychology and direct response copywriting, you can greatly increase your chances of hearing back from a big shot.
Professionals open their inbox hoping to see messages bearing good news or leading towards money. But what they usually see is an avalanche of spam, unwanted social media updates and newsletters, and long-winded requests for people wanting something for free.
A hypothetical e-mail to a busy tech blogger, following the advice below.
Important people tend to delete or wait till later (meaning “never”) to handle almost all messages except 1.) very simple messages and 2. messages they are obligated to respond to. If you don’t know the person well, keep it as simple and scannable as possible!
Professional E-mail Writing Tips for a Better Response Rate
- Choose a headline that communicates either “painless” or “possible benefit.” If your e-mail has some angle that could genuinely benefit the recipient, allude to that in your headline. If not, I’ll frequently ask just one question and use the headline “Quick question”. This makes it seem painless enough to open or respond to.
- Keep the copy short and spaced out. Aim for 5 sentences or less. Seriously. Add a line of space between each sentence or main point: don’t smash it all into one intimidating block of text.
- Make a personal connection. If you can show that you know about the person and you’re up-to-date with what they are currently working on – it makes it harder to dismiss your e-mail as irrelevant. If you’re in the same business, you love their company or use their product, or if you admire a specific piece of work, or you’ve been to their town or country before… don’t be afraid to quickly mention that.
- Say what’s in it for them. Let them know how helping you can also help them – if possible – but don’t stretch the truth so far that it’s absurd.
- Use bolding, italics and underlining to make the main points “pop.” This makes an e-mail much easier to scan quickly and digest the main points. I like to save the bold for my main request or question… and use the italics and underlining to draw attention to the main supporting points.
- Ask only one question or favor per e-mail. The more questions you ask, the less chance any of them will be responded to. Try and slim down your requests to the most crucial one. If you get a response to the first question, then you can follow up with with a second.
- Specifically ask for a response. A call-to-action in the text that specifically asks for a response implants a psychic suggestion that makes it harder for them to ignore you. Something like “I’d really appreciate your reply, either way” at the end gives them wiggle room to say no, and it will greatly boost your response rate.
- Include your full name, website and phone number in the signature. Important people will often want to find out a little more about you before responding or saying “yes” to something. Having some information about yourself makes it easier for them to feel like they’re responding to a real person.
- If you don’t get a response, wait 7 to 14 days and keep trying again until you get one.You can send the message as is, again. Or quote the whole thing and ask a micro question like “Any thoughts?” or an ambiguous statement like “Thanks“. Thanks is a sneaky way of saying “Please respond now” while sounding grateful. Keep going every week or two until you get a response of some kind. You may have to try 4 to 8 times before they finally have a moment to get back to you.
That’s what has worked best for me!