The Art & Power of a Meaningful Email

The thought of sending a good, thoughtful email probably doesn’t conjure up positive feelings. Powerful, moving email? Whatever. Who has time for that?

Email takes time. You have to consider tone and how people might interpret something you never intended to communicate. Email feels more like a necessary evil of the modern workplace. We declare inbox bankruptcy and celebrate inbox zero. It’s is something to conquer and the war is won with short, rapid responses.

But what if you didn’t see it like that…at least not all the time? What would it take for someone to be so impacted by an email you wrote that she would want to print it out and post it in her office?

Or consider this: is it possible to construct an email that you get what you want with no questions asked? It is. I’ve done it and you can too.

Case In Point: You Can’t Buy Their Hearts
I’ll never forget the time I sent an email to the PR team that was working with a client of mine. My client and I had just completed a day of planning with our new agency in San Francisco ahead of a product launch. The problem was that the PR firm was a big, national agency and my client was a small company with a small budget. My client and I were both concerned that the agency would be excited for the first few weeks but then move us to the back burner and proceed to bigger, more substantial clientele. We didn’t have the budget to buy their time so we needed to win their hearts. I sent them an email with that goal. Here’s what I wrote them:

Subject: Reflections on yesterday

PR Team:
The 1996 film, Jerry Maguire, added three statements to the American conversation. These are still around today and likely aren’t going anywhere soon:

1. Show me the money.
2. You complete me.
3. You had me at hello.

What you guys probably don’t realize is that you had us at hello. From the first time I spoke to James on the phone I was almost certain we would work with you. I hadn’t even completed all the initial agency interview calls yet, but I had this sense in my gut that you were the one. Then, after a follow up call when our team spoke with Vicky, we all said, “I really like them. They’re it.” I agreed, but the process was not over, so we continued. A few weeks ago our VP joined us as we spoke to your team along with two other agencies to make our final decision and it was immediately clear. You were the one. There wasn’t really much of a discussion. It was that clear of a choice. So while the process seemed all professional and stuff, I was thinking last night about how you guys had us at hello and you should know that.

Our expectations for you were high coming into the meeting yesterday. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), we felt like the meeting would be at least a 9 and likely a 10. Now, having completed our initial meeting together, I think it’s fair to say you guys were somewhere around 100 on that same scale of 1–10. So yes, our expectations were high and you greatly exceeded them. Your agency is not only the right fit for us, but this team of Vicky, Noah, Christy, Nicholas, Maddy and Paige is perfect for us too. So while it would be premature to say “you complete me” in this relationship, we like the direction it’s going.

Of course at the end of the day we want to take our little brand and show it the money. This time last year this company was a hope and a dream that was about to launch. Today we’re having conversations with major tech companies about mutually beneficial relationships and we stand on the edge of a product launch that we hope will propel our brand awareness and sales into the stratosphere. We want to be ridiculously and unapologetically successful but do so in such a way that we all keep our dignity. Obtaining success with honor is more rare than it should be but it’s possible. You guys share that philosophy which, again, is why you’re right for us.

So, while I could have just said, “Good meeting yesterday. We’re excited to be working with you,” it seems to me you guys deserve something with a little more thoughtfulness…hence this email.

Whether you’re a Jerry Maguire fan or not doesn’t really matter but I like what we have here and Jerry seemed to provide an appropriate backdrop to these thoughts. Thanks for being great hosts yesterday. Let’s roll.
-Bill

And that was it. We found out later that day that several people on the team printed the email and that one person started crying. James, the agency president, said it was one of the best emails he had ever received.

Here’s the thing, I meant everything in that email. I wasn’t trying to manipulate them but I did want to earn their hearts for the project and it worked.

Over the next several months we saw the PR team give our little brand their heart and soul. The vice president, Vicky, even admitted secretly that they spent more time on our project than the budget allowed but they were so committed to our success they just had to do it. We had their hearts on the project and that was all we could ask for.

5 Keys To A Meaningful Email
You can draft a meaningful email too. Start with these five elements:

1. Be Sincere: If you don’t mean what you say they’ll know it. Insincerity is hard to cover up. Sincerity is hard to fake.

2. Be Personable: Speak in first person and infuse the email with your own personality.

3. Be Vulnerable: Speak plainly and don’t hold back on your fears, concerns, excitement or any other feelings. You’re writing emotionally to connect emotionally.

4. Be Clear: Make sure your intentions are obvious and your reason for sending the email is abundantly clear to everyone who reads it.

5. Be Candid: Say it like you would if you were talking to them. Address the difficulty or admit that the email is unusual for you. Put your guard down if you want them to put theirs down.

Email is just another way to communicate the written word. Sure, it’s usually for information or data, but what if it actually moved someone. Put some heart into that next significant email and see what happens. You’ll probably find that if you attempt something more meaningful you get more meaningful results.