How To: Write a Business Email That Elicits a Positive Response

Here’s an inside look at five email techniques I have personally used to yield instant results.

Many entrepreneurs reach out to connect and build relationships with the right people. Those of us that do are curious and we love learning from others. But we essentially become notorious “outreachers” – those who reach out to all the right people, but don’t necessarily get the response we had hoped for.

Photo: Victoria Reese, Founder of the Victor Group; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Victoria Reese, Founder of the Victor Group; Source: Courtesy Photo

For example, I used to send cold-emails to powerful people (e.g., magazine editor in chief’s, CEOs, Oprah … essentially anybody I admired). I was bold, “salty”, and extremely unrealistic.

I would literally copy and paste general messages without focusing on standing out. In retrospect, I really wasn’t asking for anything specific; I just felt like I should introduce myself because they needed to know me. But after many failed attempts my eyes were opened to a better strategy behind it all.

I learned and implemented new, and better, techniques on a few contacts and started receiving responses. I was shocked! I scored a meeting with Motown legend, Suzanne de Passé, and received responses from Jay Brown (R&B singer, Rihanna’s manager) and Troy Carter, the owner of the Atom Factory and former manager of singer/songwriter, Lady Gaga.

Here’s an inside look at five email techniques I have personally used to yield instant results.


  • Be Humble, Honest and Appreciative

    If you are an entrepreneur, the people you admire are most likely, extremely, busy. They don’t have time to read an entire email full of brown-nosing. Express your admiration for their work and move on to the point. Don’t be fake. They will see right through it.

  • Keep it Simple

    Be very specific with your request. As interesting as your life story probably is — they don’t care. Refrain from writing an email that rivals a novel in length. Precisely state why you are reaching out and ask a thought-provoking question that is easy to answer. If you need something, make sure your request is minimal (not unrealistic or personal). Most successful people will understand your need because they were once in your shoes. People are busy and need clear direction so, should they choose, they can check your ask off of their to-do list.

  • Reveal Commonalities

    Find common ground. If you both managed to move away from a very small town, that’s a unique commonality! If you both have an uncommon hobby, apply the “it takes one to know one” approach and point it out.

  • Show Familiarity with Their Work

    This is my favorite tactic because it sparked my initial dialogue with Lady Gaga’s former manager, Troy Carter. After reading tons of articles on him, I learned that his very first business venture (one he started in a windowless basement) had a unique name: Erving Wonder Entertainment.

    At a certain point in a well-developed career people probably don’t reach that far back to spark conversation. So, I took him down memory lane by entitling the subject line of my email: “Getting past the Erving Wonder Entertainment phase”. I nailed it! Essentially, I let him know that I wanted to know how he escalated his career from one point to the next. Since that initial correspondence he has responded to every email (and I keep him updated on my company, Victor Group).

  • Master the Subject Line

    Every entrepreneur should own a book about copy editing. It will help you with business communications … including how to write better emails. People are more likely to read emails with subject lines that create curiosity or provide utility.

    Email marketing service provider, Mailchimp explains: “the best email subject lines are short, descriptive and provide the reader with a reason to explore your message further. Trying to stand out in the inbox, by using splashy or cheesy phrases, will invariably result in your email being ignored.” When people have down time to reply to emails, they’re drawn to subject lines that intrigue them. Something like “Applying Your ‘Insert Concept Here’ Theory to Millennial Entrepreneurs” would be a great option for providing utility.

    More importantly, “Write subject lines that show readers how they’ll benefit from opening the email. We are all busy and all get bombarded with hundreds of emails and notifications wanting our attention, so it’s common to wonder “What’s in it for me?” when you get an email. Readers want to know upfront what they get out of opening and reading your email.” (Source: BusinessBee)

This article has been edited and condensed.

Victoria Reese is founder of Victor Group, a Los Angeles-based brand and creative development company. Victoria is no stranger to entrepreneurship, as her previous endeavors include Millennial Effect, a boutique marketing agency based in NYC in which she co-founded in 2010. In addition to working for herself, she has been employed at top agencies such as Universal McCann, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC, Walton Isaacson and MediaVest; garnering experience from industry giants. Connect with @vmarie on Twitter.


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