I recently wrote an article for the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) that is featured in this years Songwriters Magazine. This article and many more can be found in the magazine here: www.songwriters.ca
The following is my contribution:
A great business lesson my mentor taught me is the value of transactional e-mail communication and how to move the ball forward.
There are many types of e-mail communication, I am going to focus on how to e-mail industry folk, get a response and successfully advance your career.
Be Personal. Always write personal e-mails. If I see an e-mail has been sent to somebody’s entire mailing list I delete it immediately, even if it says “Hi Aaron,” I want to know you have written to me specifically. I am not competing with others to respond.
Do your research. Know who you are contacting, what they do (and have done) and why. Authentically compliment the person you are writing to. If there is nothing you can truly compliment them on then there is probably no reason to work with them in the first place.
Be direct. Get to the point. Don’t write a novel. Most people don’t have time for long emails; they’ll usually read them last or not at all. If somebody wants more information they’ll ask for it.
Be interesting. Unless the person you are writing to has heard you on the radio, live or on TV, their first impression of you is not your music, its your writing. Get their attention in the first sentence, give them a reason to keep reading. Your email needs to be clear in what sets you apart and why the reader should take interest. Leave the reader wanting more, that way they'll check out your website and links. If you engage the reader with your writing, you build an emotional connection to your music before they even hear it.
The Golden Rule. I regularly receive e-mails that are asking for help. I get roughly 50 of these type of e-mails a day. The rule of reciprocity is the idea of a kind action being returned with another kind action. It’s a big part of social psychology. We are likely to help out somebody who has already done something for us in the past. It’s a form of social obligation. A favour feels like it should be returned. For this reason, no matter who you are writing to, consider what you can do for them before you ask them to do something for you. The first move in the rule of reciprocity comes from you! You should always create a win-win scenario.
No attachments. Do not attach files unless you have been asked to. Always provide a link. Nothing annoys me more than a ton of Mp3’s blocking my inbox.
Ball in play. It’s a tennis match, the ball needs to be put in the others persons court. If you don’t leave the reader with an action point then there is no reason for them to get back to you. End your e-mail with a question.
Follow up. Ask if you can follow up. Take note of when they want you to follow up and follow through. If a busy person hasn’t responded to your initial e-mail, give them a week before you follow up. Don’t give up, the squeaky wheel does get the grease.
Timing. If someone asks if you would like a coffee and you say no, it doesn’t mean you don’t like coffee, it means you don’t want one right now. There have been times I have written to somebody, not heard back and months later followed up and got an immediate response. I recommend that if you approach somebody with a project and they don’t take interest immediately, follow up time to time and give them an update with what you are doing. It took three years of somebody keeping me in the loop before we finally worked together and I involved some heavy cats.
Confident. Avoid words such as: think, maybe, perhaps, might, hopefully and so on. Be strong in your statements (as long as you can back them up).
Spelling. Bad grammar is to be avoided at all costs. Get somebody else to look your e-mail over. If you want people to care about what you are writing make sure you come across as caring about it yourself. Careless grammar does not make a person get taken seriously.
Fonts. Do not use hard to read font types and font sizes, do not use bold unless a specific point needs highlighting and DON’T USE ALL CAPS!
Respect. Don’t be demanding and certainly don’t be rude if you don’t get the response you hoped for. Word travels fast and everyone has a black list.
Everyday people. At the end of the day we’re all people. Don’t let someone’s title belittle your own position. Write like you’re equal.
Headline. Create a subject line that is personal, invites the reader to open it, tells them about the content and is clearly not spam. If you are writing to somebody who receives a ton of e-mails then your chances of them reading yours is greatly improved by a great subject line.
Audience. Your writing represents you, if the e-mail went public how would you feel?
Signature. Make sure all the relevant contact info including website and pertinent links are in your signature at the end of the e-mail.
Next step. Face to face is still the best way to build an authentic relationship. If you are doing business with somebody and communicating via e-mail, try to make a trip to meet in person.