Some thoughts on how to email busy people

by dylan on October 16, 2011

I find myself frequently feeling like Batman. Not because of my dark, brooding, cape-wearing habits (although I have my moments) but because of my double life. These days I am both pitcher (usually for investment or other deals) and pitchee (for advice or advisory/board positions). It’s taught me a few things about emailing busy people to maximise a response.


1. Keep it short
For some reason, when some people start writing introductory emails they seem to go into therapy mode. Don’t tell background stories about your childhood. Trust me, it’s not that interesting. Don’t be embarrassed to ask someone to edit your mail so it’s more concise.

2. Get to the point fast
For a cold email, you’ve got about 3-4 lines to get to the point. 1) Intro and who you are 2) what’s your context 3) your question/invitation/etc. Do not ask more than one question.

3. Make it easy for them to reply
If you’re trying to organise a coffee with someone, make it easy for them to say yes. Offer to meet them in their office or anywhere they want. And make sure you read Mark Suster‘s excellent post on the topic.

4. Keep attachments readable on a phone
In general attachments are a terrible idea for these kind of emails. If you really have to send one, keep it to a single page and in a format that can be opened on a smartphone (PDF is probably best).

5.  Make sure your phone number is in a dialable format
This is a European thing so apologies to American readers who won’t know what the hell I’m ranting about. Putting in the international dialling code AND the local zero in brackets means that when I tap the number to call it from my iPhone, it dials the entire thing. Which obviously doesn’t work. Just use the international format in your email signature. I promise it won’t frighten any local people. Plus I might call you directly (this has genuinely stopped me from calling a few out-of-the blue emailers in the past).


  • Robert Fenton

    Well put, I was just thinking about this when I cam across your post. One thing to maybe add in is to say that it’s OK if you don’t reply because you can’t help or are too busy with something else. In my experience it makes a response much more likely.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, good addition.

  • Mick

    Apparently best sent on a Tue, Wed or Thu, ideally either around 10 am or 1pm.

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