No. Not what you think.
This is about emails. Specifically emails where you ask someone for a favor, help or an investment.
Here’s the situation: I get a bunch of emails where people ask for any (or all) of the above. Some of these emails are essentially illegibly — they are weird tracts of blah (remember my email about “How not to ask”?). Some of them are actually decent but go on and on and on… Which is a problem in and of itself.
You can call me lazy. Or a jerk. Or whatever you want — but I don’t have the mental energy to read and digest a two page long email (unless it’s something I know I want or have to read).
Here’s how you write the perfect ask — at least for me (and I know that this is true for a lot of people who get way too many emails — such as every VC under the sun):
Keep it short. If you think it’s short enough, go through your email and cut out at least 30% of your sentences.
Start with a clear statement why I should care. This can be anything from: “We met at xyz” to “You worked at eBay and I have a marketplace idea”. Make it something I can relate to — not just: “Hey, I randomly googled the word ‘jerk’ and you came up so I decided to write to you.” On second thought — that’s a pretty awesome statement. So scrape that — use that one if you’re in doubt. You surely will get my attention. :)
Formulate clearly what you do. I need to understand what it is that you do. Two sentences max. If you can’t explain what you do in two sentences — go back to the drawing board. I don’t need all the gory details — just give me the idea.
Be utterly clear what you want. Asking me for a phone call without any specific ask or outcome doesn’t cut it. I unfortunately don’t have the time to hang out with strangers all day on the phone. If I would, I would have been on Chatroulette all day long.
Got it? Now comes the art. All this in half a screen page max.
Want me to put my money where my mouth is? Here we go (this is my actual email to Seth Godin):
SUBJECT: Mozilla / Lunch, Coffee, Dinner
I believe you have been in contact with my wife, Jane, who headed up European marketing at Mozilla in the past.
I recently took on a new role at Mozilla, building out and running Mozilla’s Office of the Chair working directly with our Chairwoman Mitchell Baker. I am essentially tasked with helping Mozilla become a 100 year organization. Which for me means: How do we touch the lives of millions of people (especially in the 2nd and 3rd world) in a meaningful way. Fun stuff.
If you ever find yourself in Silicon Valley I would love to invite you for lunch, coffee or dinner (I promise it will be good food) to exchange ideas, get advice and talk about how we can bring your ideas into Mozilla.