Over the last decade, our ways of communication have changed more drastically than in the preceding two hundred years, which means the best strategies for contacting successful people have changed as well.
Today, the best way to contact successful people is by email.
Here is why.
Networking in person has become more difficult
Only twenty-five years ago, people who put in a bit of effort were able to personally meet influencers at conferences or social gatherings.
Today, such events are much more structured.
Rarely do attendees get the opportunity to speak to a real influencer in person.
Though networking events are popular, most people who attend such events want to network for themselves.
To get the undivided attention of a power player, you may have to attend a paid networking event, which might cost you upwards of five figures but still does not guarantee that you can sell your idea or product.
Also, today, all phones have caller ID, which makes it pretty unlikely that a successful person will pick up the phone if he or she doesn’t expect the call.
People want to “scan” information
While all of the above seems to indicate that people don’t want to be bothered, it’s really quite the opposite.
More than ever, we want to hear from others, but we want to control the way we learn about new information.
Since today, “everybody” seems to be pitching something, we want to scan and evaluate information and get back only to people who offer real value.
Email, which we can read at our convenience and when we have time to focus, is the perfect means to receive input, new information, and even offers.
Today, many famous influencers read their emails personally.
They want to know what “the real issues” are, “how their brand is rated,” and what they could do to engage in more successful business endeavors.
(Even proverbial genius Steve Jobs used to read and reply to many emails sent to Apple Inc.; his email address was listed on the web.)
Already in 2008, a survey by Pew Research Center showed that 50% of employed email users said that they checked their work-related email on the weekends.
Since then, we experienced a shift toward people working at all times of the day, especially Millennials who enjoy working flexible hours.
A 2014 poll by Workplace Options revealed that 59% of employed Americans work via mobile devices after regular business hours.
How to get others to open and read your email
The fact that people read emails at all times of the day suggests that to reach an influencer, you might want to send an email “before 8” or “after 5.”
If sleuthing does not help with finding a certain influencer’s email address, the social media platform LinkedIn offers the option to buy and send an InMail.
The most obvious hurdle to getting your email read and replied to is to create an outstanding subject line.
Having analyzed 100,000+ emails for effectiveness and personal appeal, I have found that the easiest way to write an attention-getting subject line is to incorporate a number, e.g., “Meeting at XYZ-conference 1/16/2015?” or “Delivering 30% faster or 20% cheaper.”
Numbers are attention-getters.
From early childhood on, humans are conditioned to pay attention to numbers, e.g., “You can play five more minutes” or “You can take two cookies.”).
There are prices, percentages, quantities, dates/times, street numbers, and even temperatures.
“We are expecting temperatures in the low 20s. Want to meet at the XYZ cafe? It has a fireplace.”
What and how to write
Naturally, if you raise expectations with a clever subject line, the content of your email needs to be equally to the point.
The most common mistake in emails is that their senders write about themselves or how great their product or service is.
Recipients don’t necessarily want to know this information.
The International Space Station is awesome, too, but does any of us want to buy it or live in it?
The real purpose of an email is to help the recipients, to give them information, or to make them happy.
An email that
- addresses a recipient’s real needs,
- volunteers valuable information the recipient did not know, or
- thanks the recipient for a contribution while also pointing out precisely what impact the recipient’s contribution made
is almost always a homerun.
Everybody, from the janitor to the president, wants to know what he/she can do better, cheaper, or faster, or how something they did in the past changed others’ lives.
Even an email that asks for a six-figure donation to save an endangered habitat can be a homerun IF the recipient wants to save natural habitats but does not know which ones need to be protected most urgently.
The key to writing an email that appeals to the recipient is to avoid writing the words “I,” “my,” and “me.”
Such emails aren’t emails; they are really me-mails.
Nobody cares to read “I want to sell you this or that” or “I can do this or that for you.”
In today’s worldwide economy, there are literally thousands of people who can claim the same thing.
“I” vs. “You”
One trick to steer clear of using the above-dreaded words is to focus on the word “you,” meaning the recipient.
- What are the recipient’s needs?
- How would the recipient’s work get easier or more effective if he/she became your customer?
- How would working with you, the sender, influence his/her, the recipient’s, work?
In the event that you are seeking exposure for your work on TV or in a magazine, you should email the host or anchor what you can offer to his/her viewers or readers.
If your content is important to this audience, media people will be happy to give you a slot, whereas they won’t give you a free commercial.
Understand that connecting may take time
Of course, when trying to market any product or service, we need to keep in mind that even if our email is successful, most often, success does not come immediately.
A business contact may be interested in doing business with us, but his/her company may be tied down by already existing contracts.
An influencer might be interested in speaking at an event but may have scheduling conflicts.
Anybody might delete our emails because he/she has just heard that a relative was diagnosed with cancer and, therefore, was not in the mood to explore even the best new endeavors.
While in these situations, any efforts at a face-to-face meeting would be lost, they aren’t lost when we send emails.
Besides that, the process of sending an email is cheaper.
Recipients store emails in files, which allows them to get back to the recipients when they are ready.
A few more tips for writing successful emails
Here is a little-known truth: When you attempt to replace all “I”s in your emails with “you”s, you’ll be able to define much better how your offering will help the recipient, which should be any email’s purpose.
Other success tips to use when contacting successful people include:
- Never write more than a “screenful”
- End on a call-to-action
- Don’t be afraid to follow up if the recipient does not reply
Lastly, enforce a strict email policy at your company!
Personally, I believe that human resources departments should test prospective employees for their email writing skills.
Every email needs to be considered as a marketing tool, especially emails from service-industry providers.
Whether it is secretaries or virtual assistants who write emails on your behalf, each email has to radiate, “Welcome. We’ll fulfill your needs in the best possible manner.”
Emails have no limitations except the ones you don’t write. – Gisela Hausmann
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