The following is part of an email I received from Noah Kagan, entrepreneur and founder of Appsumo.  You can read the full email on his Okdork.com blog.  Personally I get plenty of requests for help/connections/ideas/reviews, and this particular process might help me say yes to a few more requests…

Over to Noah:

Question 5: How can I get an influencer to respond to my emails?

Make the email about them. We ALL know this but we don’t do it.

Here’s my sequence for emailing anyone.

1- Send an email NOT about you.

Subject: Huge fan of your work

Body:

Noah,
{flattery} Really love the email you sent last week.
{result} I bought that product and it made a huge impact in my life.
{thanks} Keep doing awesome stuff.
{your name} Noah

2- Send follow up a week later (this one is key and where you can ask for something)

Subject: Quick question Noah

{compliment} Hope you are doing amazing.
{ask} Had a 9-second question about marketing. Mind if I email it over?
{your name} Noah

Things to note:

1- Anyone worth reaching is getting TONS of random emails.
2- Keep emails brief and digestible in under 10 seconds.
3- FOLLOW UP is key. If they don’t respond, send a reply email saying BUMP. This has been crucial for me.

Pro tip: Before you send your email, post it in a google doc and have a couple friends review/edit/leave comments.

Thanks, Noah, for sharing.

 

“Inbox zero?”

I haven’t seen anything near zero for a decade.

I think email is a hugely useful tool, and also a massive black hole that can suck up my time and energy.  I haven’t tried to manage email for the last few years on the view that almost nothing of great value ever arrives or is achieved purely through email.  Anything important for me is achieved by getting face to face with the key person.

I have found a simple email idea that is working for me.  It is not complex – which was often the failure of the “Getting Things Done” type systems for me.  I think if I already had the systematic disciplines that you need to follow the process, then I wouldn’t need the getting things done system anyway.  I am not organised.  I never have been.  It takes enormous effort on my part to keep things tidy.

Ari Miesel shared this one simple idea for email management that I have been using successfully now for 2 weeks.

The Optional Folder

I have 1 new folder – called the “Optional” folder. I have some rules that automatically move new email to this folder if they contain anything similar to the word “unsubscribe”.

Here are the actual rules that my Apple Mail program uses to move email into the optional folder:

Basically anything that has the word “unsubscribe” anywhere in the email is probably a newsletter, an offer or something that is not urgent.  In my own case I have various versions of unsubscribe in spanish and english and have been tweaking these rules so that today the only emails that remain in my inbox are ones that are sent to me from a specific individual. It allows me to focus on the emails that do really need my attention.

I often do a scan through the optional folder, but with an open, curious mind that is not stressed by the thought that an email might be important and require my full attention.

Thanks to Ari!

https://instagram.com/p/3_w8G8wSBr/ Ari Miesel describes the plan here on his blog.  Ari is on a mission to be efficient with our time.  Check out Ari’s TEDx talk for more.  I met Ari when I was at the Growth Summit Europe for my annual dose of inspiration, wise ideas and reflection at IESE Business School a couple of weeks ago.

Do you have any email tips that are 1) extremely simple and b) help you focus on the important emails?  I would love your thoughts in the comments.

6 Keys to Get Email Read

Here are 6 keys to engage the reader when you ask for some help via email:

  1. Indicate the social connection between sender and reader – where did you meet?  who put you in contact?  “We met at the Foundum Unplugged conference 2 weeks ago”
  2. Understand the readers perspective – what context (background information) does the reader need to take a decision/act upon the email?  This is often best provided as a url link to supporting information so as to keep the email body short.
  3. Explain why the reader was specifically selected as a source of potential help.  “I am contacting you because you have over 8 years of experience in the industry”
  4. Show that you have already made some effort to understand the domain before asking for help.  “I have spoken to X and to Y, I have read Z book.”
  5. Keep it short.  Many emails are much too long – the sender has no edit process before sending the “draft” email.   (Here’s a nice email policy called three.sentenc.es)
  6. Clarify exactly what is wanted: No effort to clarify what you are asking for.  ”Help” is too vague. What do you want the reader to do when they finish reading?  “Meet next Monday”; “Call me to set up a site visit”; “Forward the email to John”.

What gets email read in your inbox?

What tips do you have?

Networking via email 101

Once in a while I get an email from someone asking to meet me.  The email subject is strong enough for me to open the email.  The sender uses the 6 ways to get action from your emails.  However, I get the feeling that this meeting is going to be a one way street.

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

Reading through Quora today, I came across this simple question to Jimmy Wales: “If I ask Jimmy Wales for a meeting, will he meet me?”  His answer is simple, but as I read it I stopped and thought “that’s it! that’s why some email requests for meetings seem ok but still get a no”.

Jimmy Wales is an American Internet entrepreneur best known as a co-founder of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.  Here is his answer as to whether he might meet you:

“Jimmy, will you meet with me?”

“Possibly, but you’ll have to make a good pitch as to why I should!

It’s actually surprising how many people don’t follow this simple guideline of courtesy.  I often get long tedious emails from people explaining to me in great detail how I can help them, how great it would be for them if I would work on their project with it, or endorse it, etc.  But they fail to consider my context – why should I care, and even if I do care, why should I act on this rather than any of a thousand other things.

One-on-one meetings are a huge time sink and generally unnecessary.  Email is almost always more effective.” Jimmy Wales

Consider Jimmy’s Context

When you are asking for time, why will it benefit both?  Even if it is my “job” to meet you, the courtesy of thinking through how I might gain from the meeting will make it more worthwhile for us both.

On September 7th, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo to all agency employees, titled “How to Write”:

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

David

Thanks to Brainpickingsfor publishing first.

This post extends the 6 Ways to Get Your Email Ignored where I talked about 6 ways to increase the possibility that the reader acts upon your email.

Content does not matter if the reader is not opening your emails.

Vickram Ahuja commented on that post “How do you ensure your email gets READ” , highlighting the importance of an appropriate “subject” for your email. Would be interested to hear your thoughts around do’s and don’ts of the “subject” in the context of email communication and how a strong subject can convey your intention before your intended receiver even opens the email.

I receive too much email to read it all.  So do you.  The average business user in a 1,000 user organisation receives 110 emails per day and sends 36 emails (source).  I scan and delete first before beginning to process my email inbox.  This is an effective inbox management process that more and more people are using.  You need to write emails that pass this first filter.

Shark
Gratuitous shark picture. Avoid your email ending up in this guy’s gut.

What am I looking for as I scan email in delete mode?  If I know your name, then you are safe.  If it looks like a newsletter and I am busy, delete.  If it appears vague and rambling, I delete.  If it appears clear and to be something I am interested in (great books, new business, thank you’s, expansion of ideas I have blogged) then you are safe.

What do you write in Good Email Subject lines?

A good email subject is a summary of the key message of the email that serves the reader.

Sorry if you were looking for magic or rocket science.  Nothing here.  Simple.  KISS.  But make sure it is a good summary for the reader, not for you the writer.


What is a Poor Email Subject line?

A poor email subject is pretty much anything else.  Some poor email subjects are:

  • “hey”
  • “open this”
  • “your file”
  • “message from Conor”
  • “coffee”
  • “meeting with Conor” [where I am Conor and I am the receiver…  this is clearly written by somebody not thinking from the reader’s point of view]
On specific email types:
  1. Don’t risk being Spam: There are a number of ways to guarantee that most spam filters move you to the spam folder.  Starting the subject with “Free!” is pretty much guaranteed to go spam. Don’t write your subject lines like advertisements.   Avoid words like “exclusive”, “free”, “opportunity”, “limited time”, “hurry” and “only”.  The word “you” is a spam-predictor in subject lines.  Nobody really uses the word “you” in e-mails to friends; lots of spammers use it.
  2. Invitations: If you invite me to a conference, use “Invitation: Persuasive Communication Conference, Barcelona Aug 14-16” instead of a plain “Persuasive Communication Conference”.
  3. Newsletters: Mailchimp has a good post on writing effective newsletter subject lines.
Any other thoughts on good email subject lines?  How do you process your inbox?  Do you delete emails before opening?  What criteria do you use?  I love comments here on the blog.

In 2010, 294 billion emails were sent per day for a total of 90 trillion in the full year. 1.9 billion users sent an email during 2010.  The average business user in a 1,000 user organisation receives 110 emails per day (of which 13 are spam) and sends 36 emails.  (source Radicati Group Email Statistics Report 2010)

Lush Jungles of Ozette
Lost in a forest of spam?
credit: satosphere

How do you ensure that your email gets acted upon?

When you send to friends and have regular correspondance they will act because they know your name.  When you send to someone who may not know your name what must you do to break out of the forest of spam?

6 ways to end up ignored in an inbox

I read a little section of Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book “Power: Why some people have it and Other’s don’t” where he talked about poorly thought through requests for his help via email.

He outline 4 ways to fail to engage the reader when you ask for some help via email:

  1. Fail to indicate the social connection between sender and reader – where did you meet?  who put you in contact?
  2. Fail to understand the readers perspective – what context (background information) does the reader need to take a decision/act upon the email?
  3. Fail to explain why the reader was specifically selected as a source of potential help.
  4. Fail to show that sender has already made some effort to understand the domain before asking for help.
I would add two further failures that I see in email requests
  1. Fail to keep it short.  Many emails are much too long – the sender has no edit process before sending the “draft” email.   I was referred to a nice email policy called three.sentenc.es by a recent blog post from Mark Suster.  The requirement to write your email in 3 sentences forces you to be concise.
  2. Fail to clarify exactly what is wanted: No effort to clarify what you are asking for.  “Help” is too vague.  I expand on this below.

How to clarify your communication objective:

In my classes on communication at IESE I start by making every student define their objective prior to starting to prepare any communication.  This might sound too basic to be important, but I can guarantee that more failure in communication occurs because the requester really has not clarified what they want and thought about whether it is realistic to expect.

Finish this sentence: “When the reader has finished reading this email he will _________________”

The sentence must be completed with an active verb.  “meet on thursday”, “phone me immediately”, “vote for me”, “visit my web site” are all active.  “understand more about the situation” is not active.  Most communication fails at this step – lack of clarity of the realistic, do-able, specific next action that will move you closer to your overall objective.

Over to you

I hope your emails don’t risk hanging out with the spams in the inboxes of the world.

Any other thoughts on getting your emails read and acted-upon?