On a recent call with members of the #TLH community, the subject of how to secure your next programme came up. It was quite a heated debate that revolved around the need to clearly differentiate what you do, who you ideally want to work with and to understand your ‘why’ as well as the value that you are able to deliver to an organisation.
Once you are clear about this and we have some great resources within #TLH to help you, the next item on the action list is how to make the approach – that’s the subject of this post.
We will cover off in other posts how to select the people that you wish to approach and how to access their email address etc.
We all get many emails every day and the one thing to remember in any email approach is that the first thing you have to do is to get the email to stand out (i.e. attract their ATTENTION) so that the person that you’re sending it to, stops and opens it.
Once you’ve got them to this stage, you need to include a brief paragraph that piques their INTEREST so that they continue to read.
By focusing the email on them and their issues/ challenges/ opportunities and a desired outcome that they are looking to achieve, you’ll build up their DESIRE before asking them to take ACTION by maybe answering a question, responding to the email, clicking through to your website etc.
So that is A.I.D.A. (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) in practice but how do you go about building this into your emails and what else do you need to consider.
7 Steps to Success in email outreach
- Think AIDA from the moment you start to consider the content of your email – Consider how you can grab their attention (a great headline, potentially including their name is always effective), consider how you are going to pique their interest (naming a person that suggested you contact them always works here or referring to a subject that you know they are interested in is another option). Once you have their interest, building their desire to engage with you is the next step and this is achieved, not by telling them how great you are, but by continuing to focus on them and the issues/ challenges/ opportunities that you know that they are facing – the fact that you highlight these demonstrates your expertise/ authority in a much more subtle way. Three down and one to go – encouraging them to take action – this is the real purpose of the email and you need to be clear up front what you want this action to be. If your email is completely cold, the action could be as simple as ‘engaging’ and an effective way of doing this is to ask a question and asking them to drop you a quick reply with their thoughts. Be careful though – you need to structure the question in a way that continues to retain their interest/ build desire in engaging with you.
- Talk to them as a person – use their name, make your emails individual by highlighting something that has happened in their company or industry or a recent news story and reference people that you both know – it all adds up to helping the person to feel an affinity with you. Talk to them in the first person, use conversational language and where appropriate inject a little humour. The purpose of your email is to open up a future conversation and the more human you appear, the more likely the recipient will be to engage with you. Once engaged, you can control the conversation – we will cover this off in future posts
- It’s all about them, not you – remember people like to talk and hear about themselves far more than they like to hear about other people. You may be the best Transformation Director the world as ever seen, but in reality if that’s the focus of your email, the person that you’re looking to attract will quickly point their mouse to the delete button! Craft your email in such a way that you demonstrate your experience through the observations that you make on their situation (if known) or the more general issues/ opportunities within their industry. Engage them throughout by asking questions about these points rather than by stating your view. For instance, rather than saying something like “the impact of xyz on your industry is abc” (i.e. giving your perspective) change the emphasis to something like “how has abc affected your business?”. Do you see the difference – in both you are highlighting your knowledge but in the second option, you are bringing the other person into the conversation.
- Keep things to the point and simple – remember that these days the vast majority of emails are read via a mobile device and I’m sure that you’ve received emails that just seem to go on and on. One way to overcome this is to use short paragraphs and break up the text but also to remove the fluff and get to the point really quickly. Also, don’t use complex word structures when a simpler alternative is available – remember you are talking to a person and as such, craft you email as if you were speaking to them on the phone or in a face to face situation.
- Use three bullet points – one effective way to break up text is to use bullet points, but don’t go overboard with this – I suggest a limit of three. People are naturally attracted to bullet points and they are a great way to build desire into your content. Use the bullets to tell their own story and where possible, use the opening words to highlight the key aspects
- Ask questions as part of your CTA – one of the most effective ways to take control of a conversation is to ask questions. Most people will look to provide an answer when a question is posed – it’s the natural response. By weaving in questions throughout your email, you’ll keep their attention and when you ask them to take action (your Call to Action – CTA), they will be naturally compelled to respond. Remember the purpose of this email is to start an engagement so make your CTA easy, make it a simple question, one that doesn’t take too much thought. One effective way is to ask a question and provide three options and ask the recipient to choose one of the options.
- Always follow up – as we said earlier, most people receive too many emails every day so don’t get too despondent if you don’t hear back immediately. It may be as a result of them not having the time to open up and read, it may be that they have filed it for reading later. You never know and as such, always have a follow up sequence established. Research is showing that the typical number of contacts required before a positive response is received is somewhere between 6 to 7 touch points. So be persistent, remain professional and structure your follow up across multiple media – a separate post will be published on this soon.
Overall, email is a really effective way for change and transformation professionals to reach out to potential clients and employers. By being proactive in this way, you’ll stand out from the crowd, you can control the dialogue and you will build engagement with the very people that will need your skills and experience in the future.