April 16, 2013

How to Write an Outreach Email That Works For You

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The Battle for Attention


We live in a world where we constantly battle for attention. Attention is at a premium. Why? While our parents and grandparents were only exposed to about 300 to 400 marketing messages in a day, in today's world we face over 3,000 - 4,000. This doesn't even include the somewhat new phenomenon of social media.

This means that the instant you plan on reaching out to somebody, you will have to fight for their attention. Their attention comes at a premium especially if they are powerful people that have a lot of inbound requests or are simply very busy. At the end of the day, it's a game of odds. We want to ensure that the email we send has a good chance of actually getting this person's attention.

Of course, many factors are out of our control. We might be sending emails at the wrong time, or reaching out to our contacts at a time during which the topic at hand may not be the most relevant. In those cases, it's less likely that we'll successfully grab their attention. On the other hand, there are many things that are in our control when writing emails that really work for getting a response. Let's take a look at some of the things we can do.

Understanding the Importance of the Subject Line

Think of your subject line as a sales pitch that will get that person to read the rest of your email. Therefore, writing a good subject line is incredibly critical. Write it in a way that people get interested to read the whole thing.

There are two types of subject lines that help you achieve this:

1.) 'Drive curiosity' Subject lines

2.) 'Why Relevant' Subject lines


Some examples of 'Drive curiosity' subject lines that may work for you include:

'I thought this would be of interest to you'

"This might be something you can help with?"

'Something you may have not thought about yet'

'Is this of interest to you?'


These types of subject lines leave a bit of mystery that makes it very appealing for people to read on. Although they may not be great indicators of what's coming next, they'll cause the recipient to keep reading because they won't want to risk missing out on good information it may contain.

The challenge is that the content then has to deliver on the expectation that you set in the subject line. It has to be something that they'll perceive as valuable. In cases where you are not so sure, feel free to use words like 'might' or 'could' or 'would' to lower the bar of expectations you set.

'Why Relevant' Subject lines

If you simply do not have something along those lines, the next best alternative when writing a subject line is to express clearly and directly what it is that you want. Present it in such a way that the reader will feel that the content of the email is relevant to him or her.

For example, consider subject lines like these:

'One quick request: Do you need great...'

'Offer to introduce you to xyz, who is in need of your expertise'

'I loved your article about xyz, have you seen Contactually?'


Ultimately, it is important that you deliver a subject line that really makes it clear what the email is about and that seems relevant for him. In many situations, you may be able to combine both types of subject lines.

Some other considerations about the subject line:

Do not add the name to the subject line

While a lot of studies say that our brain fires up when we read our name, marketers tend to overuse this tactic. This gives a mass marketing feel that rarely helps you in getting someone's attention. So, avoid subject lines like this "Patrick, we just launched a new version of bugmenot and want you to test it".

Keep it short!

Finally, never make it too long where the recipient isn't able to read what it all says, in any setting (i.e. desktop, mobile, tablet, etc.). Since many people may be reading their emails from a smaller screen, it's important to keep this in mind when composing your subject line.

The Body of the Email

Keep it concise

Like your subject line, make your email short. Many of my clients get an excess of 200 emails per day, so they actually appreciate very short emails. While you can never specify the exact length of an email, always check to see if there is a way to make it more concise. Trust me, they will thank you for it.

Got something in common?

If you can find a way to create common ground with that person, use it! This is the primary methodology in how our brain relates to other people. In fact, scientists out there believe that, we start liking people through finding common ground. And likability is always an ally in the battle for attention. There are two ways to find commonality:

1. Find a mutual acquaintance

See if you have common friends or acquaintances and try to reference them in any way that doesn't come across as tacky. If you're not quite sure about the connection, just say 'I noticed that we're both connected to John Smith. How well do you know him?' or better yet, you can say 'I have noticed that you have worked with John Smith. I did as well, and always enjoyed working with him quite a bit.'

2. Common interest and passions

See if you can find any interests or hobbies that you share. Look into whether they have any passions that you find intriguing as well. If you identify some common ground, bring it up in your conversation.

Is it relevant and clear?

Make it clear why you are writing them and what the goal of the email is. Aim to do it in a way that meshes well with the perspective of your recipient. Basically, don't describe why it would be relevant to you. Rather, make sure everything is written in a way that makes it valuable to the reader.

Know what you want. What is your 'call to action'?

Always know what you want and deliver a clear request through your call to action. Make sure you have determined what you want this person to do and try to make that as simple as possible.

Make it easy to say yes

The best thing you can do is write in a way where the person can simply reply with a 'yes'. Try to formulate the questions into ones that only require a yes or no answer so they can respond in a very quick (and often mobile) way. For example, you can write, 'I would love to have a quick conversation on the phone with you about the topic. If you are willing to do this, would the 23rd of April work well for you?' This type of clear question will often be the big differentiator between you getting what you want or not.

What If You Do Not Get a Response?

In today's world, it is OK (and almost required) to be "friendly aggressive." Many of the technology companies get the best pick up not on the first email they send, but the second or third. I remember the early days of LinkedIn when we got great results from the second reminder to connect with someone. It's absolutely okay to follow up a few times via email on a certain request.

Very often, people set aside your email with the intentions of responding to it later. They may not have the time to get to it at that moment, and then, of course, their mind moved on to something else which leads them to forgetting about it completely. However, when you follow up with them, it comes back to the forefront of their mind and therefore, may respond right away to it. Be careful not to come across as too pushy, but rather that you're simply trying to achieve an objective. That objective is a simple 'yes' or 'no' and the moment you get either one, you will also stop following up.

If you're ready to start crafting outreach emails that work for you and your business, click here to sign up for a 30 day trial of Contactually.