The Key to the Perfect Email

Published on 16 May 2019

Photo of Daniel Johnsen talking to Elize Hattin with the SmartHub banner behind them

Email is a necessary evil of our current world. To some it’s a cumbersome tool they’d prefer not to use, but email has an important role in how we currently do business. In a recent Hub Live, SmartHub Business Manager Elize Hattin sat down with Daniel Johnsen, an expert-in-residence at the SmartHub to discuss the best practice when writing an email as an entrepreneur.

Daniel works with the SmartHub in the Turbo-Traction Lab, an 80-day program where participants learn to build a modern business. Rather than a traditional education program where an expert talks for an hour and the participants take notes to act on later, the structure of the Turbo-Traction Lab allows participants to work directly with experts sourced from around the globe on their businesses, including Daniel, who moved from the United States recently. He’s worked in 23 countries and in hundreds of cities to learn everything he can about entrepreneurship.

With 4.3 billion email accounts across the internet, Daniel found that some people would ‘push back’ when he went to teach people about how to send an email in his courses. “I was encouraged to rephrase it, so we didn’t say, “Hey today we’re going to learn how to email,” and rephrase it to “Today we’re going to learn how to author a credible piece of electronic communication that gets you the results you want.” 

Targeting Tools

In order to send a good email, you need to know who you’re sending an email to. Daniel recommends using LinkedIn to search for people’s business emails, as well as a few extensions that help him find the information he needs. “I use a backend tool called LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It’s a Google Chrome extension where I can hover over somebody’s email address in my inbox and it’ll show me the LinkedIn profile associated with that email address,” Daniel said.

Another tool Daniel recommends is Email Hunter, which is available on the website hunter.io. This tool is used to figure out what format a company uses for their email addresses. “All you have to do is type in the web address, for example coles.com.au, click on find and then it says, “Based on all the email addresses we could find, we believe the email pattern is firstname.lastname@domain, or it’s firstinitial.lastname@domain. Whatever it is. But let’s say you don’t have the email address of the person you want to talk to, you can create a new email, use the email pattern you found in Email Hunter to put their name into the email address, then use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to hover over it. If they have a LinkedIn account associated with their business email, then their profile should pop up,” Daniel explained.

While these techniques work well if you already know who you’re trying to target, finding the target itself presents another issue. “People think they need to take out an advertisement in a newspaper so they hit millions of people, but that’s inappropriate. People self-identify in multiple ways to say, “Hey I’m the person you need to talk to,”” Daniel explained. “You need to find people based on their company, their industry, what tools they use. Say you use AutoCAD because you’re an engineer, and your product targets AutoCAD users. Search for the word AutoCAD in people’s descriptions on LinkedIn to find your audience, people who you can help or people who can help you. If people self-identify on a social network, that helps when reaching out to them.”

The Key to a Good Email

Writing a good, actionable email can be done in just three easy steps.

1. Find the right person you need to talk to.
Use tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Email Hunter and social media platforms to find the experts you need to talk to. People will often self-identify as experts on social media, so searching for terms related to your target industry on various platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can help in finding the right person to reach out to. 

2. Research your target person.
Getting plenty of background information can help greatly when reaching out to someone. Get a background on their work, what they do, where their office is and what they’ve been recognized for so you can acknowledge these things in the email.

3. Construction of the email.
A good email needs a good first impression, which is where the subject line comes in. According to Daniel, a good subject line needs to be short and actionable. “If you’re asking for somebody’s help and I need them to do something, my first word is, “Help,” and then something that’s specific and attention grabbing. Something like “Help me build a better business” isn’t useful because it’s vague, but, “Help me understand [area of expertise]” makes it much clearer,” Daniel explained. 

After the subject, Daniel recommends addressing the recipient personally and explaining how you came across them. Letting them know you already know who they are and placing them on the pedestal of “expert” can really get things off on the right foot. This can be as simple as, “Hey [name], I recently read this article and I really liked it and would like to discuss it further.” 

Next, let the subject know this isn’t a sales email. Even if you are planning on making a sale in the future, right now the objective is to learn more. This is as easy as just adding, “This is not a sales email,” after the last section. 

The next part of the email formula is the ask, where you ask the recipient for what you actually would like to do. This format is great for asking for further contact, such as a video conference or meeting face-to-face for a coffee. Daniel recommends offering set times and a place when you’re available to reduce the amount of work for the recipient. “If I just say, “Hey, Elize. Let’s meet next week,” What I’ve done is given her a heap of work. Now she has to go to her schedule, dictate it, email it back to me, then I check my schedule and get back to her and before you know the email chain is 16 emails long. By giving specific time windows and a location close to where they work it reduces the amount of work required to set up the meeting. Remember, your goal is to get them to agree to the meeting or video conference,” Daniel explained. 

What Daniel does next is a little controversial, but he withdraws the offer as if the recipient is sure to say no to his request. “It’s a bit of reverse psychology. I say something like, “I know there’s absolutely no way you could make time in your schedule for someone trying to learn more about the industry,” and they’ll react with, “This person doesn’t think I can offer them any value. You know what? I’m going to meet with them on Tuesday.” It’s a great way to get a meeting,” Daniel said. 

Before you sign off on the email and send it, consider the time of day you’re sending. Sending an email on a Friday afternoon, over the weekend or on a Monday may not yield the best results. Waiting until Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is generally ideal, as well as not asking for same-day appointments.  

The final email should look something like this: 

Subject: Help me understand this specific topic

“Hi Steve,

I saw you featured in this article, congratulations! I’m not trying to sell anything, but I’d really like to know more about the topic. Would you be available to video chat on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday between 8 AM and 10 AM? I realise you probably won’t be able to fit in someone trying to learn about your industry, but I appreciate your time.

Thanks,

Daniel.”

If you don’t receive an immediate response, don’t worry. Daniel recommends reaching out again after 48 hours have passed, reminding them you’d like to meet up and giving updated times to meet if your schedule has changed.

An email where you want to sell something is a little different. In this case, Daniel recommends emailing around and trying to find the right person. “I would say something like, “Elize, I know you’re probably not the right person, but we’ve helped out 17 other councils doing the same thing. Who do you believe would be the appropriate contact?” And then if you’re the right person that’s great, but it’s inappropriate to assume you have the right person off the bat. If you’re not sure if you have the right person, it’s appropriate for you to say, “Hey, if you’re not the right person, I’ve included a copy and paste email introduction below to send to the right person.” Your goal is to make it as easy as possible on the person who’s receiving your message to do the thing you need them to do.”

Other applications

Email is not the only platform this strategy can work with. There’s an incredible number of online platforms where businesses can connect, including Slack, Facebook Messenger, Messaging via LinkedIn, WeChat and WhatsApp.

Daniel has even used these techniques face-to-face recently. “I went down to Melbourne for an event. I’d been agonising over purchasing this push bike while I’m here because I’m challenging myself to see how long I can make it without a car. The sales guy told me I needed to place the order on Saturday or Sunday, and if I called them on Monday, they couldn’t sell me the bike.”

“So, I called up on Monday, when I wasn’t supposed to, and I said, “I realise there’s no way you can help me.” I removed his ability to do anything, and I admitted my fault. “I was supposed to call on the weekend, but I was struggling with the decision, but I’m ready to move forward. There’s no way you can help box this thing up today before I get on the plane, and I understand you can’t help me out, but I’d love to walk away with that bicycle.” And what does he do? He decides to prove me wrong. And now I have a bike here in Rockhampton. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

The Key to Success

Putting yourself out there is a scary concept for any business owner, but if you make yourself vulnerable and ask for the things you need, you may be surprised about what the world may deliver. While reaching out to someone out of the blue is intimidating, Daniel recommends doing it anyway. “Half of success in business is just showing up and doing the activity. If you’re not sure how to send a good email, copy somebody else’s email that did well before. Copy and paste it, change it up and press send. If you’re unable to send that email, pop down to the SmartHub and I will type out the email, I’ll take your mouse and I will press send.”

One thing that can hold us back from initiating communication is the fear someone might be upset that we would communicate with them and tell them that you have information that could help them run their business better. Daniel believes that information should be shared. “You wouldn’t keep that as a secret to yourself. You should be evangelising it, telling everybody. NO one else is going to do it on your behalf. If you reach out to a business person, a colleague or a future customer and tell them, “Here’s how I think I can be of value to you,” They’re not going to say, “Get out of my way, I don’t want my business to be better.” They’re never going to say that. It can go three ways, they give you a flat out no, they say they’re interested but it’s not a great time, which you can then flip and ask when a good time is, or it’ll be a yes and you can continue to the next step. If you don’t ask, you’ll get an automatic no, but 70% of the times you ask, you’ll get a yes.”

Part of the SmartHub

Daniel and the Turbo Traction Lab are helping to shape businesses in the Rockhampton Region through the SmartHub, and a second program is due to start this August. If you’re interested in learning more from Daniel and a host of other business greats, you can apply online at https://www.rockhamptonregion.qld.gov.au/ForBusiness/SmartHub-Rockhampton/Turbo-Traction-Lab-Program

The SmartHub can offer a wide variety of other services, such as an affordable workspace, internet connectivity, opportunities for mentoring and much more. If you’d like to learn more about what the SmartHub can offer you, message us on Facebook or head over to Customs House at 208 Quay St, Rockhampton for a tour.