If you’ve read Email Infinity, you’ll already have dozens – maybe hundreds – of new ideas for emails. But an idea is one thing. Writing it is another. So how do you go from “Let’s write about this” to finally hitting SEND?
The “Thought For The Day” Method that works again and again
Here in the UK, there’s a daily radio feature called Pause For Thought, where a religious leader or figure of note gets to take over the airwaves for a few minutes. They’ll share a simple thought for the day ahead – usually a story followed by a moment of reflection.
It’s a simple formula that gets repeated every morning. Because it’s a highly effective way to focus the listener’s mind.
That’s why it’s loved by preachers – and anyone else who gives a daily dose of inspiration:
- The Sales Manager who wants to get reps fired up for the day.
- The Personal Trainer who wants a client to set a new personal best.
- The Football Manager who wants an extra push in the second half.
It’s a bankable formula with a simple beginning, middle and end. And that makes it a perfect way for you to structure an email:
PART 1 – Hook
Grab the reader with a story or titbit – anything that’s likely to hold their interest.
PART 2 – Reflect
Draw a lesson from your story – use it to highlight a problem or reveal an opportunity.
PART 3 – Resolve
Tell them how to solve the problem or pursue the opportunity – and how you can help.
For example, imagine you run an event planning service…
Hook: Tell a cautionary tale, about an important conference that turned into a farce. Where organisers were left embarrassed by a catalogue or errors.
Reflect: Why did it happen? Because the organisers did it themselves, instead of calling in professionals. So they were guessing their way through it, and missing the finer details.
Resolve: A quick tip on how to plan more effectively – with an offer of help for those who realise it’s a job for an expert.
Of course, in that example, the story relates directly to the sender’s line of business. So the whole email fits together naturally.
But you can’t do that every time. Whatever you sell, there are only so many stories and debates from inside your own industry. So if you want to email forever, you’ll have to step outside your industry too – and find ways to tie it back to your product.
Staying with the event planners, here’s a less obvious example:
Hook: A personal story of dealing with someone who crossed the line between “friendly” and “unprofessional”. (A taxi driver, waiter, cinema attendant, shop assistant… anyone.)
Reflect: When you select staff to work at your event, this is one of the biggest challenges. You have to recruit wisely, and role-play different scenarios so they always stay on the right side of the line.
Resolve: Offer 3 basic rules for event staff to follow – with the usual offer of help for those who need it.
See? The thing that happens in your personal life relates back to the business. With the added advantage, they get to know you as a human being!
Still with events – other examples from your personal life could be:
Hook: the pizza delivery guy was late, and our whole night in was ruined.
Reflect: the risk of unreliable caterers.
Resolve: offer a vetting checklist.
Hook: we upgraded our flight, and it was amazing.
Reflect: sometimes, it’s worth paying extra for luxuries.
Resolve: pitch the VIP experience.
Hook: the sales rep talked at us for two hours.
Reflect: everyone hates dull presentations.
Resolve: how to put some zing into your talk or pitch.
Hook: we got snowed in with no food in the house.
Reflect: do you prepare for the unexpected?
Resolve: advice on contingency planning.
And beyond your personal life, there’s the world at large:
Hook: an A-List celebrity makes the news for behaving like a prima donna.
Reflect: when you book a high profile speaker, should you expect a bit of attitude?
Resolve: how to deal with their more excessive demands.
You get the idea – you’ll always find a HOOK from your life and the world around you. And you can always tie it back to business, when you move on to REFLECT and RESOLVE.
So where does YOUR IDEA fit in?
The ideas you generate through Email Infinity will come in all shapes and sizes. Some will give you a juicy HOOK, as in the examples above. But others will be useless as hooks – they’ll serve you better in the REFLECT part, or the RESOLVE part.
As a rule of thumb:
- A “Hook” idea is a story… a fun fact… a statistic… a piece of news… anything that grabs attention and draws the reader in.
- A “Reflect” idea is an observation… a prediction… words of inspiration… a moral or principle… anything that showcases your character or expertise.
- A “Resolve” idea is a conclusion… a tip… a how-to lesson… a warning… an opportunity… an offer… any kind of practical takeaway.
When you go back through your ideas, try labelling them as either HOOK, REFLECT or RESOLVE. You should find that each one has its natural fit.
Next… flesh out each idea. Turn it into a short summary in the HOOK-REFLECT-RESOLVE format.
If it’s a HOOK idea, you know what to do. Segue it into REFLECT and RESOLVE, with a bit of lateral thinking – just as we’ve covered above.
If it’s a REFLECT idea…
… Finding the RESOLVE part is easy. Just ask yourself, what’s the logical next step for the reader? For example, if REFLECT warns them about something, then RESOLVE tells them how to avoid it.
… Finding the HOOK can be harder though, as it could be literally anything!
- You might find you can merge your reflection with an unrelated hook, like a story from the morning’s news – or one of the many stories from your life that you’ve set aside. (Yes, happy accidents can happen!)
- But it’s much easier to find a hook that ties in directly – e.g. if the reflection is “why it’s getting harder to start a new business”, find a story about someone who tried and failed. That’s your hook.
It’s a similar process if you start out with a RESOLVE idea.
First, link it back to REFLECT. You’ve got the practical takeaway, so what can you say beforehand that will make your takeaway relevant?
Example: if RESOLVE is a how-to tip, then foreshadow it in REFLECT by looking at the common mistake you’re correcting.
And finally, once you’ve nailed down REFLECT, wind it back to a HOOK – just as outlined above.
See how that works?
Whether your starting idea fits HOOK, REFLECT or RESOLVE, you can build an email around it.
How about an example?
Here’s an email I sent to my list. The original idea came from the hook, and it was fleshed out as follows:
Hook: my LinkedIn account was suddenly cancelled.
Reflect: the danger of relying too much on one thing.
Resolve: a word of warning – spread the risk!
SUBJECT LINE: 7 days when I didn’t exist
I was a non-entity.
A lost spirit, wandering the earth, in search of a soul.
It’s true. I passed a mirror – no reflection. Cats would hiss at me. Dogs, whimper and flee. Because for a whole week, I formally ceased to exist.
…Or so they said at LinkedIn.
Yep. After 10 years and 700 contacts, they decided “this bloke isn’t real”. And like a Roman Emperor turning his thumb, they took me offline.
…Leaving the world to think, “James Daniel never happened”.
I’ve got to tell you, it was a blow. I was out in the wilderness, condemned to start over. As in, Ouch!
But hey, I figured – there’s an upside. (Actually, two…)
FIRST – it was a great excuse to reconnect with folks I’ve ignored for a while (you’ve got to take those chances when they come along). And…
SECOND – it raises a point I’ve been meaning to touch on:
The Perils of “All Eggs, One Basket”.
See, LinkedIn is only a small part of my business. But what if it happened to you? What if LinkedIn…or some other platform…suddenly dropped you?
Would it wreck your business?
I know many a business owner who’d go into meltdown. All their leads come via LinkedIn, or Adwords, or SEO, or Facebook. So they’re one ban… or one new algorithm… from disaster.
You know it’s true. We’ve all heard horror stories from people who went broke in a heartbeat.
I have to say though…harsh as it sounds…if a lost lead source takes anyone out of the game, they’re the architect of their own doom. Because they’ve placed their whole destiny in the hands of another business.
> It’s like only serving one customer, then panicking when they leave.
> Or relying on one employee, and hoping they don’t get hit by a bus.
> Or selling one product, and going broke when something new pops up.
It’s over-reliance. And it causes a mess that can drag you under.
For me, there’s a happy ending…
(Not that kind – behave!)
…Because last night, LinkedIn relented and switched me back on.
But the risk remains for all of us. We can get canned in an instant.
SO… if your lead funnel leans too heavily on any given source –
– SPREAD THE RISK!
Then if one channel lets you down, no problem – the others will pick up the slack.
P.S. I really hope you’ll take this to heart. I’d hate to see you go under.
If you like, give me a shout – we’ll sort this out together.
Get the idea?
A story from my life tied in to a lesson, giving me something to write about – and it became a fully functional email through the three-part “Thought For The Day Method:
PART 1 – HOOK: getting mightily peeved with LinkedIn after suddenly getting cancelled.
PART 2 – REFLECT: the risk of over-reliance.
PART 3 – RESOLVE: spread the risk with multiple marketing channels – with my help if you need it.
What is Email Infinity?
If you send regular emails, and you know the agony of staring at a blinking cursor, waiting for inspiration to strike…stare at this instead!
Email Infinity comes from years of geekery, of late night sessions analysing email after email.
Stuff I’d mailed to my own list. Stuff I’d written for clients. Stuff from pros and gurus. Stuff from regular SMEs.
It all went under the microscope, in a furious bid to reverse-engineer whatever “it” was that was working.
The result is 100+ proven ways to generate ideas – enough to keep anyone in emails till the end of their days.