How to Write an Email like a Pro

April 19, 2016 - 8 minutes read

The best written emails already know how the reader should respond.

No, really.

All right, everyone’s different, but we’ve all got human brains (I hope… 😅) and numerous studies have shown that there are common reactions to certain psychological triggers. If you know what these triggers are, you can craft emails scientifically designed to garner a response. Sounds cool, right?

Here are seven of these triggers.

1. Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is when individuals feel pressured to do or say the same things as the group they are in. It applies to every situation where there are groups of people, from families to huge multi-national companies. Check out this 1950s study which demonstrated how effective peer pressure can be.

To make use of peer pressure when you write an email campaign, try sending them to multiple people in the same company (do make sure they’re still relevant though…). Even better, mention any conversations you’ve had with someone in that office previously. Not only will this be the ultimate email personalisation which makes them feel important, it is highly likely to start them talking about your proposal. And collaborative  productive talking is much more likely to lead to decisions that one person staring at their screen.

Peer pressure is when everyone in the office convinces the lone outlier, but it’s also when that one confident person sways everyone to their view. Convince one person and you may have the rest of them.

There are four possible responses to peer pressure:

  •  Compliance – The receiver disagrees with your message but goes with you anyway. Why? Because you’re their only option. Now, you’re probably not, but if you can write an email that makes it sound like you are, your response numbers should increase massively.
  • Conversion – They’ve changed their mind to agree with you. It’s what we’re all aiming for! If you apply the peer pressure tactics above, the receivers might even have done all the discussion and “selling” for you and persuaded each other!
  • Congruence Agreeing from the start. The holy grail, right? You’ve found a target who was already considering exactly what you’re offering.
  • Non-Conformity – Not doing it. This can either be passive or active. We think you’d have to send a terrifyingly mis-judged email to end up with active non-compliance, since that implies they deleted your email then went with the next company’s offer out of sheer spite, but we all know that most of your emails hit the passive “ignoring it” barrier. Peer pressure makes it much less likely that your email will be ignored, because it will be an office talking point.

2. The Power of “Because”

In 1978, Professor Ellen Langer, a Havard social psychologist, found that people were more likely to agree to a request when a reason was given. Even when the reason was ridiculous, as in “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”, the response rate was 93%.

So it doesn’t matter what reason you can come up with for why your proposal is a great idea – whatever you can put down will be better than nothing at all! (Of course, the better reason you have, the better the response. But you knew that already.)

3. Write an email using GSOH

You’ve been involved in a good dialogue with someone for a while, but suddenly they’ve gone silent.

How to spark their interest?

Like when a date starts turning stale, throw in a joke. The punnier, the better! As in any joke-telling situation, even if your joke is rubbish, people will appreciate that you tried. This will disperse any tension in the atmosphere between the two of you, and make your target more likely to listen to you (and it’ll probably kickstart a round or two of puns in return).

It’s really been tested! O’Quinn and Aronoff found that “buyers” would pay far more if the “seller” added “and I’ll throw in a pet frog!” at the end of their pitch.

4. “Three – it’s the magic number!”

  • Don’t write “three”, write “3”. Numerals draw the reader’s eye, both because it suggests a concrete fact for their decision-making process, but because numerals appear very differently on a page than yet more letters. People like novelty.

5. Keep It Simple 

You don’t want to waste your time. Neither does anyone receiving your emails. So don’t send long, detailed missives on first contact, as it’s been proven that shorter emails have a higher response rate. If you have to send a longer message, make sure to break it up with short paragraphs, bullet points, and those nice attention-grabbing numerals we just talked about.

6. Names Have Power

Our names are special to us. We’ve all had that experience of turning to someone yelling your name, even though you didn’t recognise their voice, right? Even if there are five other Matts in the office, seeing an email that starts “Hi Matt” will activate a unique part of your brain and immediately make you pay more attention than you would otherwise. Sign off with their name too.

7. But What’s your POINT?

What’s your aim with that email? What’s the call to action you need? People respond much better to simple questions which are easy to answer, or to clear directions that they can easily follow.

Don’t end your email with waffle, “Let me know what’s best for you,” “I hope to hear from you soon,” but end it by stating exactly what you want from them. If someone can read an email and not know what you want from them, or how to give it to you, then your email campaign will likely be a failure.

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