How to write an introductory email

Writing an email introducing your company to someone who has not connected with you yet can seem a most difficult task.  These ‘tricks of the trade’ will make this task easier and give you confidence with all of your writing projects.

I learned to write by taking a lot of journalism courses. Even recently, I attended a Guardian masterclass on writing and learned a helpful rule that 1/3 of your time should be spent on preparation, 1/3 on writing and 1/3 on editing. So, my first suggestion is to budget your writing time accordingly.

First: preparation. Your research should focus on your target reader. Who will be reading your introductory email? Get to know your audience. Research your target by finding out what they care about, what else they are reading and what brands they like. You may need to generalise, for example, find out the values of their industry, concerns, challenges, things they’re proud of and type of corporate language they use. This is important because you will seem more credible if the reader knows you understand her situation. And your message will resonate more if it is more meaningful to her exact circumstances.

Then the actual writing. First, think about what you are selling. What product or service are you introducing to the reader?  You may think this is the easiest bit because you know all about your company. But try positioning your company in terms of features and benefits. This is a different way to think about what you are selling from the point of view of your reader.  Take a few minutes and list some of the technical features your product or service offers as well as the emotional benefits it offers the reader. This list may look different depending on what particular service you are focusing on in your introductory email.  My suggestion is that you limit the number of products or services you try to sell in each piece of writing. This gives you future opportunities to go back to this target audience with information about other things your company offers. Also, the list should look different depending on your target reader. Individuals and companies in different industries will have different challenges that your company needs to address.

Crucial to include in your introductory email is a call to action. It’s ok to be explicit about what you want the reader to do. Giving a suggestion saves them having to make a decision. ‘Please donate £10’ works better than ‘please donate.’ Encourage engagement by putting the reader in the process of taking action already.

When you’re choosing words for your introductory email, these language tips may be helpful.

-          Think about the style and tone your reader is used to. You could write in a chummy, formal, fast-paced or academic way. Be yourself but show that you know your reader’s world.  This should come across right away in your greeting and first sentence.

-          Get right into the meat of what you’re asking for. Readers don’t have time for a lot of background information.  You can include this but perhaps place it lower down in the email and in bullet-point format to keep it short.

-          Use repetition. Try to return to your primary sell at least three times.

-          Use shorter sentences for impact and longer sentences to deliver facts. Vary the length of your sentences. Try writing long sentences for features and short sentences for benefits.

-          For your sign off at the end of your email, tell your reader you will follow up with a phone call and thank her for her time and consideration.

Finally: the editing phase. Leave time over night or at least walk away from your draft for a bit before making it final and sending. Edit scrupulously. You can read your email aloud to make sure it has a sense of rhythm. Check your grammar and spelling twice. Delete any jargon, slang or clichés. Show authority by getting rid of ‘I think,’ ‘some might say’ and ‘general opinion is.’

Use plain language. It’s how you arrange words that interests people. A study called ‘Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly’ showed that readers perceived pretentious language as a sign of poor intelligence and low credibility.

Then hit send! Don’t be paralyzed. You can send your draft to a friend for feedback first.

A last word on follow up to your introductory email: make sure you place that follow-up phone call a day or two later. Don’t be surprised if your target says she didn’t receive or read your email. Have a chat, then tailor the email based on the discussion and re-send.  You’ve moved the relationship forward and that’s the goal.

Good luck and let me know how I can help!

Five tips for effective business communication

Some of us may be working on end-of-year marketing efforts to reach just one more client. Take the time to make sure you are targeting your ideal client with language that will resonate and prompt action.

  1. Know your audience – interview existing and potential customers, find out what they want to know about your product or service, learn what sources of information they trust
  2. Focus on your business objectives – examine how you want your business to change or grow and aim your business communication toward making that change
  3. Develop a set of core messages – don’t deviate or add to these, be consistent and use these messages in all of your communication
  4. Choose the most effective communications activities – no one has unlimited budget so prioritise the most helpful tactics that will achieve your business objectives
  5. Measure success and continuously adjust – ask for feedback, amplify what is working and make changes to fix what’s not

And here is a quick video with business communication tips:

Good luck with your final marketing outreach for 2014. Now it’s time to plan your 2015 communications!

Book group – Bonfire of the Vanities

What a spot-on title! This story of high-powered Sherman McCoy brought to his knees by greed and arrogance is one of Tom Wolfe’s classics. Some in book group felt it was too long and I’d have to agree that it takes a while to read. But it’s worth your time for the incisive and vivid writing.

  1. Was this story of vanity and greed timeless or does it only work in the 1980’s?
  2. Similarly, did the story need to be set in New York or could it have worked anywhere else?
  3. How does Bonfire of the Vanities compare to other Tom Wolfe novels?
  4. How does the author paint a picture of particular scenes to elevate the dialogue and action?
  5. What were your favourite scenes where the story was brought to life? Mine involved Styrofoam peanuts, the pronunciation of ‘Shuhman,’ the shoe shine man, guests laughing at the dinner party and Sherman’s father as the lion of Wall Street.
  6. How did the depiction of the Bronx judicial system add to the complexity of the story? Did the hierarchy of the characters there reflect the class structure in Sherman’s world?
  7. What role did politics play in Sherman’s undoing?
  8. At the beginning of the story, Sherman’s identity is constructed from his wealth, reputation, power and class. Is he the same person at the end of the story? How does he define himself differently?
  9. The journalist Peter Fallow is portrayed as a feckless drunk. Is this deserved? What stereotypes are played upon within Peter’s story line? Do other characters fit neatly into stereotypical categories?
  10. Is there such a thing as an accidental crime?
  11. Is Bonfire of the Vanities a story of good vs evil? Is Sherman evil or a good person?
  12. How would you have responded in a similar situation?

Bonfire of the Vanities

The joy of reading

Reading is a treat for me. I’ve always been a bookworm ever since I was small and my mother worked in a bookstore. She brought home treasures full of daring characters and exotic worlds that encouraged my imagination to escape from the everyday.

I still love the comfort of a good book and now I can dive even deeper into stories by discussing them with my book group. Someone suggested that I come up with a few questions for our get togethers, so I’m sharing our guides here.

Caitlin Moran wrote a column describing reading as an act of co-creation with authors. I loved her description of reading as the ‘firing of your neurones that makes every book come alive.’ I agree that reading is not just a passive hobby and hope my suggestions help you become an active participant in your books!

Heart shaped Book