As an entrepreneur, you'll often want to email someone influential in your industry. Maybe you're hoping for a link from their blog. Maybe you're proposing a joint venture. Maybe you have a burning question you know they could answer. The problem is, when you email these influencers, nothing happens. Why are they ignoring you, and what can you do about it?
Understanding the Problem
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your inbox? Influencers often get hundreds of emails a day -- and you may not get heard above the noise. If they have an assistant, you might get a speedier reply, but you've also got to get past an extra gatekeeper.
To stand out, your email needs to be quick to read, understand and answer. (And that doesn't just go for emails to influencers. You can use these tips for every email you send.)
Here are the seven things you need to do:
#1: Keep Your Message Short
A long email isn't likely to get read straight away -- instead, it's going to get flagged for "later". Once that happens, there's a good chance the influencer will never get around to replying.
Resist the temptation to give loads of background information about yourself and your business, and come straight to the point. You might want to draft your email first, then see whether you can cut it by at least 25 percent.
#2: Avoid Form Emails
If you're emailing a number of influencers -- perhaps to share a really good piece of content you created -- it's tempting to save time by using a form email or template.
While you'll obviously want some standardized content in each email, you're far more likely to get a reply if you write a fresh, personal message to each individual.
As Cameron Chapman writes in How to Ask Bloggers for Backlinks and Reviews (KISSmetrics):
"Take a few minutes and check out what your intended recipient is all about. Mention a recent article they've published, or something they've talked about on their blog. Address the person by name. If the name is ambiguous, and you're unsure of whether the person is a man or woman, look for a photo."
#3: Ask Specific Questions
Don't just say "Please advise me on my business" (or blog, Twitter presence, etc). Decide what exactly you want to know. Always ask specific questions, and try to keep them simple and straightforward. Questions with a "yes/no" or "either/or" answer are great for this. For instance, if you're emailing an expert marketer in your niche, you could ask "Could you let me know which headline you think will work best , (a) or (b)?" and then give them your two options.
#4: Break Up Your Paragraphs
If you do need to give a fair amount of information in your email, break it up into short paragraphs -- just like you would with a blog post. Where appropriate, use bullet points. Short paragraphs and bullet points create more white space on the screen, making your email look like a much more attractive read.
#5: Number Your Points or Questions
If you have to write a longer email with several points or questions, number each one. This makes it much easier for the influencer to reply, especially if some of these are yes/no questions -- they can just write "3 -- yes."
Only do this when you genuinely need to, though. If the information isn't essential, leave it out. You can always get into the details once they reply.
#6: Use Subheadings / Bold Text
If numbered points aren't quite appropriate for your email, you can break it up using subheadings (just as you would a blog post). Alternatively, if your email's a bit short for that, it can be helpful to put key information in bold e.g. "I'll need a reply by April 22nd".
#7: Include Key Information in Your Signature
This is good practice in general, but definitely worth doing when emailing influencers. You can use your signature to give links to your blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, new product, and so on -- links that might seem overwhelming or inappropriate in the main body of your email.
You may want to include your blog's tagline or a quick summary about some of these links. Iris Shoor writes, in The Arcane Art of Cold Emailing Bloggers (Startup Moon), "I like to elaborate a bit more about the links, there's a better chance people will click if they know what you blog or tweet about."
What you're aiming for is a short, to-the-point email that makes your request very clear. If you do need to ask several questions or give quite a bit of information, make sure your email is formatted to be as readable as possible. That way, you've got a much better chance of receiving a reply.
But what if you still don't hear anything back?
Change the (Communication) Channel
Email isn't always the best way to connect with busy influencers: With many people, you're much more likely to get a response to a tweet, or to a comment on their blog. Take a look at the different channels they use to communicate with their audience, and see where they're most active. Think about:
- Their blog comments section
- Their Twitter profile
- Their Facebook page
- Their G+ profile or page
If their website includes a phone number, you might even want to give them a call. Chances are, you'll get sent to voicemail, but you may find that this is a good way to get a reply from them.
It's fine to send a quick "did you get my email?" message but you need to go about this the right way, or you'll simply make a negative response more likely. Your tone and your timing are crucial here.
Tone: Don't write in an aggressive, nagging or bossy way. Saying "I'm surprised you've not replied yet" or "I expected you to reply by now" will come across as really pushy. Something friendly and professional in tone like "I'm just checking up on my email of (date)" is fine.
Timing: Always allow at least a week for the influencer to reply. Following up two or three days after your first email is much too soon. Ideally, wait two weeks. Don't let a month or two go by before you check, though -- your email may have gone astray or been accidentally filed without a reply.
Do you have any other tips to add (especially if you get a lot of email)? What makes you more likely to reply to a message? Drop a comment below to share your thoughts.
Follow Syed Balkhi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/syedbalkhi