Contact with E-mail

Contact With E-mail

How to develop non-abrasive, direct contact e-mails.

I Don't Mind
When I Delete

Making the Cut
When You're Unique

Not Worth It
Conversational Style
Subtle Value
The Hard Pitch

Additional Reading

My Attitude - I Don't Mind

Contrary to many people in the internet community, I don't mind receiving unsolicited e-mail advertising. Part of my attitude has to do with my image of the senders -- I see them as a small time operators, usually one person shows, doing their best to make it on their own.

These beginning entrepeneurs are not sending out requests to be annoying. Their motivations are down to earth. They may have a day job and hope to escape a difficult boss, or they may be trying to flee a shrinking industry. They may want a new car. I see their dreams as not that different than my own.

In my mind, advertising e-mailers are normal, hard working people.

With this view it's difficult to dislike the e-mail senders. Furthermore, I empathize with most of their situations. And I don't mind the extra messages -- it doesn't take me long to whip through my mail. Those messages that don't capture my interest get deleted in two seconds; those that do catch my interest get more attention. I find these unexpected messages useful. They stimulate ideas and often foreshadow market moods. My in-house correspondence is more of a headache, as each piece requires some thought and a reply.

While on one side I have a flexible view of incoming messages, on the receiving side I'm an even bigger pushover. In fact, I'm a sales person's dream. If a product sounds useful and is reasonably priced, I'll purchase it. No shopping around; no comparison shopping; no foot dragging until it goes on sale at the end of the season. Not me. Straight off -- I buy it. The thing that saves me from financial ruin is that many items seem overpriced. I much prefer a bargain. Even though my bargain hunter nature slows me down, I am easy pickings for a good internet marketeer.

When I Delete

This freewheeling acceptance and consumer mentality makes me somewhat of an expert on what doesn't work. If a sales pitch annoys me, you know it must be bad.

Most times the problem is not the product but the presentation. I can't count the times e-mailers have irritated me with their first sentence. And I'm the perfect audience -- I like to find out about new products, hear about bargains, and learn how to improve my skills. But their first sentence doesn't give me a chance. They start out with statements that I can't believe. These statements treat me like a fool.

When the message seems blatantly dishonest, my immediate urge is to delete it and move on.

By far, the most irritating pitch tells me I'll get rich problem. This stops me cold. I've tried a lot of ventures and enjoyed most of them, but I've never gotten rich quick. Probably won't ever. It doesn't matter whether or not the product truly has an ability to elevate me to riches in weeks; what matters is I don't believe it. Don't start out telling me something I don't believe -- you'll get deleted before the second line.


For me to consider a message seriously enough to loosen my wallet, you must connect with me in the first sentence. The concept of pacing is covered in detail in the booklet Messages That Work. If you know something about me, you could pace to that. The "How are you doing..." of tele-marketers is not going to induce a connection.

How can you make a connection in one or two lines? Knowing something about me is key. You may already have some information from a newsgroup or you can guess.

How much can you know about me? You can guess quite a bit:
1. I'm looking at a computer monitor.
2. I'm in a hurry to get through my e-mail.
3. I'm annoyed at the last three unsolicited messages that were stupid.
4. I have a mix of problems and dilemmas.
5. I don't want to read through a meandering message.
6. I have specific interests.

Several of these are easier to address than others to address in one or two sentences. For purposes of an example, let's try #2, 3, and 6: hurried, annoyed, and interests. Attempting to pace one of my moods is valid and often more possible than a specific interest.

For example:

#2. Addressing the "in a hurry": The first sentence might read, "You're busy, so I'll be brief." It doesn't take many words and has a good chance of hitting my mood.

#6. Assuming you sell Fish supplies and know I have an interest in Tropical Fish: "If tropical fish illnesses don't interest you..."

If tropical fish are within my interest area, I'm likely to continue reading. Also, the detail must be sufficient to convince me it's worth my effort to keep reading. General allusions to a better life, with no specifics, push me towards the delete key.

#3. Addressing my annoyance with the last three meandering messages: "If you aren't interested, please delete this message -- sorry for troubling you." The segment tells me you respects my time by suggesting that I delete. If I continue to read on, there is a reasonable chance I've dropped any irritation and will listen to what you have to say.

Put together:

"You're busy, so I'll be brief. If tropical fish illnesses don't interest you, please delete this message -- sorry for troubling you."

When You Make the Cut

Let's say your message struck a sensitive vein and made it past the initial delete period. You have gotten past the first two lines -- now is your chance. Clearly state what you are offering and how it relates to my needs. This is not the time to be coy or mysterious. There are too many other messages to read.

For example: Finding the unique in fish food.

"A new shipment of medicated food is just in. It means you no longer have to mix exact dosages for the tank. Simply feed the fish normally."

In a perfect world, your crisp, clear statement should be enough to entice me to keep reading. Unfortunately, others may have already dirtied the waters and set you up for failure. If dozens of similar product messages reached me earlier in the week, I don't care how good your product is. At that point, I probably have five. You're too late. You're deleted.

This is not a trivial problem, for the competition can be massive, and there aren't that many completely new ideas. In light of this, it's essential that you present your product as unique. If you can't find a twist that lifts you above the crowd, find another product to market.

You're Unique

If your product is unique and that fact comes across in the message, your next job is to push me into action. Since I've still got 125 e-mails to look at, less is more. A long description at this point stands a good chance of losing me. Give me an concise description of your offering -- this is not the time for the long read.

For example:

To help you try the product, we're offering a half-size sampler of the medicated fish food for $3.75 postpaid. As an e-mail promotion, we're including the booklet "Keeping a Virus Free Tank" at no charge.

Simply reply to this message with your full mailing address. We'll bill you.

Nice and clean. The message didn't insult my intelligence, and it didn't ramble on. The action is something I can do right now.

Putting it all together:

Subject: Tropical Fish Illnesses

"You're busy, so I'll be brief. If tropical fish don't interest you, please delete this message -- sorry for troubling you."

A new shipment of medicated food is just in. It means you no longer have to mix exact dosages for the tank. Just feed the fish normally.

To help you try the product, we're offering a half-size sampler of the medicated fish food for $3.75 postpaid. As an e-mail promotion, we're including the booklet "Keeping a Virus Free Tank" at no charge.

Simply reply to this message with your full mailing address. We'll bill you.

Not Worth the Effort

Sometimes the product/service you offer can't be sold in a couple of sentences. You know that an e-mail message is not going to complete the sale. To describe your product properly, you must entice me to visit a page with a more in-depth presentation.

The need for me to take additional action introduces several difficulties. First, it prevents me from impulsively saying yes and buying your product right then. Next, it confronts me with an entire list of new actions I must take: stop reading e-mail's, establish a link to the reference, wait for the page to load, read a sales pitch, and wander around the site looking for the item that originally interested me.

In addition, I'm already tainted with dozens of bad experiences following promising links -- the chance of your link being any better is slim in my mind. I don't want to make the effort.

These obstacles are so severe that different tactics must be considered. The direct e-mail pitch to visit another site has such a low probability that it's hardly worth considering.

It's interesting to note that many new sellers will resist this advice. They believe their product is so catchy, so unique, that the mere mention of it in an e-mail will attract people to their site. In a way, that attitude illustrates the determination and vision of new entrepreneurs -- it's a bit blind, but it's refreshing. It's full of energy. Don't let me or anyone else discourage you from trying.

With that said, it's also worth playing the percentages and using the following conversational approach to promotion.

Conversational Style

When I have on on-going relationship with someone on the internet, I'm likely to visit their Web page out of curiosity. It's not all that different from asking, "What do you do?" at a social gathering. It's a conversational way of presenting your business. Once the topic of your site is introducted under the umbrella of curiosity, I'm likely to visit. And when I do it will be with an open and receptive mind.

Personally, I don't have a problem buying from my friends. I expect them to do the same. In fact, many of my friendships developed as a result of our common interest in the services I offer and vice versa.

Becoming active on-line in the newsgroups is a good way to develop internet relationships. Be yourself. Dive in. Answer questions and offer suggestions. Become a good network neighbor.

Most e-mail packages make is easy to offer a link to your presentation as part of your signature and return address. A simple mouse click allows the reader to stop by and check out your work. A soft sell and subtlety are the keys -- hard pitches will terminate most of these relationship.

Subtle With Added Value

In a fashion similar to the conversational style, add the link to all your correspondence. It offers others an insight into who you are, as well as giving a low key suggestion that they could support you. I support my friends. They should also.

Keeping your services a secret and expecting others to seek you out will not help your business, nor does it give your contacts the opportunity to rise to the occasion and support you. Insert the link everywhere. People get the message.

The Hard Pitch

The direct e-mail pitch requesting that someone visit a remote location has obstacles, but what the hey, it's worth a try. If you want to try the direct pitch, structure your e-mail like the product oriented version described earlier. Keep the message short and make sure the reference link displays without the reader having to page down. If you get lucky and stir an impulse action, the action should be obvious and simple.

For example:

Check out our "Weekly Tank Tips" and "Accidental Breeder" columns at

I seldom respond to these. They seem abrasive, and there's no sense of connection. However, if it makes a direct hit on my interest, I might check it out.

When a visitor takes you up on your offer, it's essential your site is snappy. Visiting while reading e-mail is not as leisurely as when surfing during spare time. Any delay in loading and potential customers will move on. The booklet Invisible or Annoying covers Web page content and structure in greater depth.

As hinted at in the example, it's nice to offer information of value at your site. It's the internet spirit and sets the tone for the entire page.


Can e-mail effectively promote your product? Absolutely. And with a bit of shaping, it can be more effective than you ever thought possible. The fact that I have four of everything is a testimonial to its power.

Additional Reading

Cybermarketing: Internet E-Mail by Len Keeler. Amacon Book Division, 1995.

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