6 Steps That Get Big Shots to Answer Your Email

image of beautiful celebrity

You need to get the attention of a powerful internet marketer, A-list blogger, or busy CEO.

Maybe you’ve got a brilliant idea for a joint venture that would make you both scads of money.

Or maybe you just wrote a brilliant guest post that a certain top blogger’s audience will love.

Whoever it is, you’re convinced you’ve got a win for this person.

Unfortunately, the big shot you’re pitching won’t answer your emails.

It’s not because she’s evil, honest. She’s just got a lot of other pitches in her mailbox, and there’s no way to give all of them her full attention.

Your mission is to get yours to the top of her list. Here’s how.

So how do you get prominent people to pay attention to you?

Obviously, the most sure-fire way is to know the hotshot personally. If you didn’t happen to go to grade school with your famous person of choice, you can still make a connection.

You can go a long way just by being consistently sincere and helpful to her and her friends. Social media tools come in handy here.

That takes time, though. When you don’t have time, follow these six steps instead.

1. Open with compelling subject line

Your reader likely gets hundreds of emails each day. Make yours stand out — not with all caps or lots of exclamation points, but by condensing the best points of your offer to create a sense of urgency.

WEAK:

An invitation for you

STRONG:

Paid speaking opportunity, no travel required (deadline approaching)

2. Introduce yourself in one sentence

Your reader doesn’t care about you (yet). Don’t blather on and on about your accomplishments or your history.

Introduce yourself in one sentence. Include a link to your site, so if your hotshot wants to know more, she can investigate.

3. Do your homework

What sorts of offers has this person accepted in the past? What kinds of propositions is she interested in, and what sorts of incentives does she need to say yes?

If you find that your big shot agreed to a $6000 fee for a three-day conference, offering $2000 for 90 minutes of her time on the phone makes for an irresistible offer.

4. Keep it short

State your offer clearly in one paragraph.

Not a long run-on paragraph either. Six sentences, tops.

5. Be bold, not precise

Your goal for this email is to get this person interested. Too much detail at this point wastes your reader’s time and attention. (But do include the one or two details that will capture that attention.)

You’ll get 51% of the registration fees from the people who click on your affiliate link, unless they click on someone else’s affiliate link after they click on yours, or unless they clear their cookies or buy from a different computer or switch browsers. Or unless the cookie volcano erupts.

Way too complicated. Instead, stick with:

You’ll get 51% of the profits from everyone you refer ($212 per sale).

Keep it bold and simple.

6. Don’t squee all over your shoes.

Acting like a rabid fan won’t win you any points; it will get your proposal taken a lot less seriously.

Don’t go on and on about how you’ve read all this person’s books and that you stood in line for hours at a convention once to meet her and does she by any chance remember the woman with the mauve hair carrying a bunch of asparagus because that was you.

Act like a peer with a good proposal, and you’ll find you’ll get replied to like one.

It’s fine to mention that you like the person’s work. But too much gushing and your email is going to wind up with all the other fan mail — not in the “A” folder of messages that need a quick response.

No one can guarantee you’ll capture that busy big shot’s attention. But follow these six steps and you’ll stack the odds in your favor.

About the Author: Pace Smith is the co-leader of the Freak Revolution, a bunch of weirdos who do awesome stuff. Her latest project is the World-Changing Writing Workshop, featuring six famous writers who replied to her email.

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  1. Pace, it’s all so true. And, sadly, I can’t count the number of times I’ve violated each of these. Oh well.

    I think the take-away from this, though, is “Act like a peer”. The mistake so many people make when they email Big Shots (the capitals mean it’s loving teasing ;) is to put them on a pedestal. When you write an email to someone – actually, when you write anything that other people are going to read – ask yourself, “What would my immediate, gut reaction be to receiving this email?” If you don’t have a time limit, have a friend rewrite the email, using the same concepts but tailoring it to you instead of the Big Shot you want to contact, and email it to you. See how it makes you feel.

    I guess the bottom line is to remember that everybody’s human (except for Johnny Truant, who may be an alien whose success is fueled by our planet’s yellow sun). The Big Shots aren’t angels with halos or perfectly-carved marble statues on pedestals; you don’t have to approach them like Donald Trump wants to be approached. Just be yourself and don’t freak out and treat them like they’re human beings, and you’ll be fine.

  2. Pace, your “about the author section” is squee-worthy!

    It’s an excellent example of bold and simple (and social proof of what your post advises). Very clever.

  3. @Chris: Well said, and good advice. The only catch is that if you’re not an extremely busy person, you might make the usual error. (For example, you’d have a positive reaction to reading a long, pleasant, friendly email.) And by the way, despite those rumors, Johnny B. Truant *is* human. I have poked him in the arm, and it was fleshy. (:

    @Shane: Thank you. (:

  4. Pace,

    Great article on the right way to approach people. This is especially useful for people who are looking to do Joint Venture deals with people who may bring more to the table than they do.

    ~Brian

  5. Josh Garcia :

    Hey Pace,

    This is an awesome list with instructions. I’m sure anyone that reads it and applies it will be able to get a hold of even Chuck Norris. Great thought you put into this.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  6. Pace, ps. I think doing #4,5 & 6 in the comments of the big fish’s blog PRIOR to that email would go a long way.

  7. This is really solid advice. I’ve actually starred this entry in my Google Reader so I can refer to it again. As a marketing director for a startup, it’s hard not to get “star-struck” when writing the big players in our industry, so I especially like the advice in your sixth point. My most successful connections have been developed when I remember to “act like a peer,” so it’s good advice to keep in the front of your mind when you’re working on a pitch or an approach.

  8. It seems to all boil down to putting ourselves in their shoes. If we had their email volume, schedule, and responsibilities, what would get our attention? You pretty much nailed it in terms of what would get me to respond.

  9. @Brian: Exactly.

    @Josh: Step 7: Prepare for a roundhouse kick to the face. Just in case.

    @Shane: Oh, definitely. Building relationships is by far the best way to go. And I’ll tell you a secret: Many of the guest speakers from the World-Changing Writing Workshop are people I’d already made friends with. But I still had plenty of opportunities to learn these six steps with some of the other speakers.

    @Cooley: It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Act like a fan, and you’ll be treated like a fan. Act like a peer, and you’ll be treated like a peer. Thanks for the star!

    @Jean: Spot on. “Put yourself in their shoes” makes for a very short blog post, though. (;

  10. Two other things you’ll want to consider incorporating into your message if they’re applicable to make it more persuasive:

    1. Social proof – what are others like your prospect doing. The power of the crowd is amazing.

    2. Scarcity – what does the prospect stand to lose by not doing what you ask or propose. Studies show this is far more powerful than talking about what they might gain.

    Brian

  11. Deadline Approaching.. ha ha ha

  12. “Big shot” or not, this is sound advice to consider when reaching out to anyone for the first time.

  13. Awesome! So informative and easy to read. I really appreciate this post. I would definitely respond to emails like these. – L

  14. Pace, I was all ready to squee on my shoes, but thanks to this post, disaster avoided.

    I really liked your post, and agree with your take…just had a similar conversation in another forum (gasp), and the takeaways were the same as you offer here. But we didn’t call it squeeing, which was our loss.

  15. Thanks, Lisa!

  16. @Martypants: Squee! (:

  17. Pace,

    Nice work. For the emails that potential customers have sent me, the ones that really et my attenttion are the ones that have compelling headlines (I mean subject lines).

    They are the same thing. What works well in one copywriting medium is bound to work well in another. The same techniques that we have to use to get our emails opened by our readers are the ones that work to get emails opened by the A-listers.

    One point that I would add, is to make sure there is a time deadline for the response, perhaps even a bonus for responding early.

    Oh, and your picante sauce is great, by the way.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  18. I agree with Chris – these are great tips and I recognize myself in all of them. In my desire to be precise, I can make things too complicated. In my desire to show respect and admiration, I gush. Your post provides great advice…and very timely too. Thanks!

  19. @Joshua: Thank you. I like to eat it while walking back and forth.

    p.s. Did you see that I put “(deadline approaching)” in my subject line?

  20. Exactly, your main goal is to stick out in the first place, I get TONS of offers and invites on a daily basis, I usually skim and delete, the more personal you make it the better chance of it getting noticed. Always remember people want to know WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) and let that person know up front as simple as possible.

  21. The big thing is just DO it. my clients intend to reach out to A-B-C listers. The thing I learned from Johnny B. Truant was that you can just DO it. Sending an email and getting started is the first step.

  22. Pace. pps. What’s your take on including the person’s name in the subject line? For me, it’s just a small indication that the person sending me the email knows a little bit about me somehow.

    Example subject line:
    Hey Brian. Depeche Mode Rules! Wanna start a JV?
    as opposed to:
    Dear webmaster, JV opportunity available

  23. @Shane: I think it’s a good idea if it reads like something you’d send to a friend or peer, and a bad idea if it feels cheesy or spammy.

    Good: Hey Shane, I have an idea that I think will make us both bags of money. Hear me out.

    Bad: Shane, make money now with this exciting opportunity!

    Spammers are getting more clever with building databases of names in addition to email addresses, so a name isn’t necessarily enough to signal “This isn’t spam”. Regardless, any unwanted email is going to get deleted just as quickly as spam, so avoiding the recipient’s mental spam filter is only the first step. Or I guess the zeroth step. (:

  24. @pace “Good: Hey Shane, I have an idea that I think will make us both bags of money. Hear me out.”

    I’m eagerly checking my inbox for this email from you. :)

  25. Nice article Pace with some really good points.

    The example I use to demonstrate this issue is the accountancy firm I use. When my accountant’s marketing department sends me their boring newsletter, I bin it (before it even leaves the envelope). Yet when my accountant sends me a letter, I read it. Both are letters from the same firm, except I only read the latter. Why? Because one is generic and bland and the other is simple, personal, timely and of value to me.

    Who’d have thought, a marketing lesson we can learn from an accountant!? ;-)

    A

  26. Great points Pace.

    I’ve always been surprised and delighted by personal responses and connections with Important People. What we all need to remember is that they’re people too, people who want others to like them, people who need help with things they’re trying to accomplish, people who might be funny, sad, silly, and goofy – just like us.

    When people who are just like us get email from someone who sympathizes with them and offers to help – or asks a really good question – they feel compelled to answer. So my advice for trying to connect with a Very Important Person is to think of them as a friend you really want to help. Then make an offer that makes their life easier (just like you would for a real friend). Most of the time, they’ll respond.

  27. Thanks for the great advice! I will definitely use the more personal subject line in my emails. I find that I will at least read those myself.

  28. Great tips. I get tons of emails and if the subject line doesn’t catch my attention and I don’t know who it is, I often do not open them because I want to spend my time doing other things. After a while, I just do a mass delete, figuring if it was important, they’ll email me back. The subject line, in my opinion, is the most important part of an email.

  29. Thanks for the tips, this makes me a better understanding about good answer emails and get a high response from readers.

  30. Great article!

    The only thing I would add is “Know your target.” Nothing irks me more than someone trying to pitch me on something that doesn’t interest or help me.

    With all the public information available online, it’s insane that someone would email me without learning a little bit about me first. This will help you weed out the people that can’t/won’t help and will dramatically increase your conversion rates.

  31. Really great piece – I was totally in awe of how you’d got all the “big shots” on board for the World Changing Writing Workshop (though in my world, Pace, you’re totally a big shot!)

    I don’t think I have anything to add, except that just sending the darn email is pretty important. It’s so easy to think “Oh, she’s way too busy” or “He’ll never answer me”. But there’s a 0% chance of a reply if you don’t hit “send” in the first place…

  32. This reminds me that I totally owe Ali an email. :)

  33. Great tips, Pace. Point # 6 really appealing to me. In order to get some respect from the other person you have to maintain your self respect. As you said “Act like a peer…you’ll get replied to like one.” is so right. Thank you for a great post.

  34. @Louis: Excellent point!

    @Ali: Thanks, and I agree! Fear of rejection can be really incapacitating.

    @Khush: Thanks, and it’s my pleasure!

  35. Yeah, fair enough…

    I agree with the basic idea of the points but it leads me immediately to the question, “How big a shot-hot you aiming at here?”

    I went in to this thinking you were calling on God or someone just a bit higher, like Clinton or Clooney…

    (Kidding! Put down your hammer and nails please.)

    Point is, I’ve dealt with, contacted, connected and best yet, befriended more higher profile people than I can even recall and not one on the A-list would have ever responded to a financial opportunity.

    Get paid well… make 51%… etc, would have sent them running to the spam assassin button.

    Now, I get you’re not “wrong”–we were just thinking different people. Clearly…

    What I’ve found most effective, not/never as a “strategy” but rather an authentic way to connect, is to help them. Pull the thorn out of their foot, help them with something they’re struggling with or desire.

    And if and when you ever get the chance to do something for someone famous or high-profile, if you will, do it because you want to–never because it serves you.

    When you do something to get something back, these people have a radar system built in and active… they will feel it and smell it. And you will never get the chance to do either.

    Help someone from your heart, not your wallet. If it works out that you get something in return, BONUS… but what you will get is satisfaction. And even on a personal level it’s sort of rewarding to know you are strong enough to be an asset to the very top… (top on some charts.)

    … and that is all I’ve got to say…

    To Yours…
    Shawn

  36. The MOST important thing – get to the point FAST – is implied but not explicitly stated in this post. A snappy subject line will help, but unless you tell them what you want in the first sentence you’re done for.

  37. Shawn;

    great point on the financial stuff. also, most bigwigs have people to handle requests for them. if you find the right person in the organization, you often get the bigwig. we often start with the executive secretary.

  38. @Shawn: I completely agree with you. This post was distilled from what we learned when approaching Big Shots to be part of our World-Changing Writing Workshop. So yeah, this advice is biased toward specific kinds of situations. For other situations, like life in general, your approach is better. (:

    @Bonnie: Isn’t that covered by #4?

  39. So thaaaaat’s why they didn’t respond. Thanks for the heads up Pace. Now I know better. ;)

  40. Pace, appreciate the response. Know wasn’t criticizing at all… I agree with the facts. Just what I was thinking going in…

    Maybe I’ll do, “How to get an A-List celebrity and an NFL Hall of Famer to promote you and your product for FREE” post…

    Ha…

    You’re dead on for the audience…

    Thanks!

  41. Pace – It’s implied in #4 and I think most people would understand that to mean ONLY one paragraph – but you’d be surprised how many people think that they need a couple paragraphs to provide the background to their request, before they ever get to the request.
    So I was just pointing out that the “one” paragraph should be the FIRST paragraph. For people used to writing longer docs, it takes a while to get it.

  42. My favorite sub line (and it works) is: “20 Second Request”

    So much truth in this article, but one thing I’d like to add is to just go for it. Don’t be afraid of rejection. If they say no, it’s not personal and don’t be an ass in return.

  43. I like that one, Nathan! And I totally agree on just going for it.

  44. @Nathan – I love the “20 second request.” Now I just have to time them to be sure my content fulfills my headline promise.

  45. An irresistable offer?

    Or an irresistible offer?

  46. Ah, such good advice, and so many people out there are still using so many really really bad email subject lines!

  47. @Gordon: In my draft of this post, I wrote irresistible, but apparently Sonia’s editing powers are irresistable. *grin*

  48. Ha! Don’t ask me how that got there. Clearly the site was hacked. :) (fixed now, thanks Gordon.)

  49. Pace, I meant to thank you for helping me get ‘prominent people to pay attention’. I have in mind several prominent people to invite as guest writers on my forthcoming Web 2.0 website. You see, influencing my peers and other active people is more important to me than income, at least until the money runs out.

    As for Sonia’s editing powers, of course they’re irresistible, hackers – clearly – excepted. :)

    (You only have to read ‘Question the Rules to Create a More Remarkable Business . . .’ to realize that.)

    Sonia, I’m pleased to have helped you fix these impudent hackers. :)

  50. @Gordon: My pleasure. (: Though I’ll reiterate: If you have time, build relationships by helping people and being friendly. It’s an even better long-term strategy if you can do it authentically.

    Damn hackers. (;

  51. aditya joshi :

    same things were told by Dale Carnegie about 80-90 years ago.

  52. Pace, on point #2 you mention a one sentence intro. Could you give an example of a powerful one sentence intro?

  53. @Aditya: And if you can land a guest post from *him*, I’ll be very impressed. (;

  54. “I’m Pace Smith of the World-Changing Writing Workshop (http://worldchangingwriting.com), a project to help aspiring writers make a difference in the world.”

    Of course, it depends on who you’re emailing. If you’re emailing someone who doesn’t care about writing or about changing the world, then this intro wouldn’t be compelling.

  55. I have some great business ideas I would like to share with the big shots. I tried to communicate with one through Skype the other day. I got him talking but may of shared too many of my ideas damn it. Next time I will try email, implement your tips & hopefully get a better response.

  56. Why not do something unique and make it entertaining for the ‘big shot’ like linking to funny pictures or videos related to your proposal…

    Even if they don’t respond to the 1st email, they’ll most likely open the 2nd one

  57. @Jeff, Funny pictures like the http://www.friendsofirony.com photos I’ve just received from a UK friend? :)

  58. @Pace, Thanks, I’m on the right track it seems; I’ve given away loads of free info on my website and replied to a ton of questions.

    I’m now upgrading and monetizing the site, slowly.

  59. Great article! I just republished an article on my blog about something very similar – how I used unique trick to get a high powered exec to respond to my email. I’d love to hear what you think!

  60. Hi guys,

    Pace you shared some very good points in this blog. I’m going to try each one of them to see if they work. Thanks for sharing.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  61. Fantastic post for Copyblogger.

    On a related note, did you see the guy who got a job in the USA with his ideal marketing firm by taking out an advert on the names of all the CEOs so that when they Googled themselves his resume was the first thing that came up? Very clever and a great way to get attention!

    Great post.

    Ramsay

  62. @Keith: The custom-crafted video? That’s definitely remarkable. I bet you’ll need to use the tips in this post to get them to watch your video, though — even a short video takes longer to watch than a fairly lengthy email takes to read. Did it work?

    @Samantha: Thanks!

    @Ramsay: Ha! That’s clever. (:

  63. @Pace…Yes you’re tips are indeed very useful. The custom video worked really well – I even used bit.ly to track the real time status of the URL of the video link, and I saw she watched it soon after I sent it, and within 15 mins, 6 other people (apparently) watched it as well, because, I suspect, she passed on the video link. A few minutes after all that, she and I set an appointment and I got the business.

    Now, obviously, I can’t say it was all attributed to the video, but I’m sure it played a large part to get her to respond to me. After all, who gets a custom video sent to them? – nobody.