Business Writing Essentials
Influence

Entice Response

When you write to someone and you want them to respond, there are three main rules to follow: Make it brief. Make it clear. Make it direct.

Make it brief.

Here is an email Amy received from Ben:

As you know, we have had limited success upgrading our navigation app. The last we talked, the coders had just finished regression testing. The version before that worked okay and sold well, but our recent experience has been challenging. Especially to sales people, who claim we are too little too late. I'm not sure I believe them. I know someone who works at Drakester, and he agrees with me that the latest upgrade should make it unlikely that existing customers will adopt a new app from a different company.
    We could use all the input we can get about the app's market. Obviously, it's a mainstay in rental car companies across the country, but we hear new competitors are popping up all the time. I look forward to hearing from you. Don't worry about formalities; candid counsel in an email will suffice. I hope to use your input in the next quarterly meeting, which is coming up soon. I know I don't need to remind you that executive row demands justifiable decisions when it comes to this product.
    If you have any questions, you may contact me at any time.

We can safely conclude that Ben did not put much effort into thinking about what Amy needs in the emails she receives, especially those for which a response is requested.

Here is what Amy says she needs in emails sent to her with a request for a response:

If you have a request, make it brief. There is nothing brief about an email with multiple, long paragraphs. Use at most three sentences in your email. Then I'm going to read it and probably respond right away.

Let's assume Ben threw out all the unnecessary stuff, and left only the few sentences about his request:

We could use all the input we can get about the navigation app's market. Don't worry about formalities; candid counsel in an email will suffice. I hope to use your input in the next quarterly meeting.

To which Amy couldn't help but respond:

Vague much? Dude, you have to be more specific. What do you really want?

(Note: Amy and Ben are good friends.)

This brings us to the next rule:

Make it clear.

Let's assume Ben tried again and sent the following email:

Please help us by preparing a marketing plan for our upgraded navigation app.

Make sure to explain to our executives how much new competitors are likely to threaten future sales.

If you have any questions, you may contact me at any time.

Now Amy has something she understands and can work with.

However, Ben's email still ends with a sentence that is more formal than it is enticing, which brings us to the third rule:

Make it direct.

The more direct you are, the more likely you are to get results, even if it's just the "feel free to contact me" language at the end of a message.

Here is Ben's second attempt:

Contact me if you have any questions.

For his final version, he got rid of if to write an unequivocal invitation in the form of an imperative:

Contact me with any questions.

Amy now knows that Ben is serious about being contacted if she has any questions.

Lesson: Entice Response
Module: Influence
Course: Business Writing Essentials