Whether you dreamt up a new marketing strategy after-hours or thought of a timely story idea to a pitch to a press outlet, we’ve all had times when creativity strikes and the only way to communicate the brilliant idea is through email.
Just like selling your boss or clients on an idea in a meeting, pitching an idea via email requires a great deal of strategy. Trying to pitch someone your out-of-this-world idea through the web? Here are three important tips to keep in mind to give it the best chance of success.
1. Keep it Short
It’s time to follow the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid. A lot of times, when people are excited about an idea, they want to make sure they explain it correctly. And to do this, they go into way too much detail about how they came up with the idea, where it’s going, and so forth.
For example, one time a staffer at my company, The Prospect, sent me an idea for an article that was four rambling paragraphs long—he might as well have just sent the whole article! He spent the first two paragraphs laying out where he was and what he was eating when he came up with the idea (fun fact: it was a doughnut). By the time he got to his actual idea, my eyes had pretty much glazed over (pun definitely intended).
A general rule of thumb: When you’re pitching (or emailing anything, really), generally keep it to eight sentences, tops. Why avoid going into so much detail? Because what you really want is to…
2. Get the Conversation Offline ASAP
If you’d like to see your idea turn into something actionable, it’s crucial to get the conversation off email and into real-life discussion as quickly as possible. Emailing back and forth can only get you so far, and the sooner people actually talk to you and get to hear your enthusiasm about the idea, the easier it is to get them wrapped up in it and on board.
A simple way to do this? End your email with something like, “I’d love to chat with you about this idea during our weekly check-in” or “Would you be able to do a quick call next week to discuss?” It gives your reader a chance to absorb your information and prepare before actually talking about your idea.
3. Answer the “So What?” Question
It’s easy to get so enthusiastic about an idea that you forget that you still need to convince the person on the other end of the email. Regardless of what you’re pitching, always keep one question in mind: “So what?” In other words, why should the other person care, and what about your idea is going to change his or her life? At some point, your email should answer why the other person should get excited about what you have to say.
A Sample Template
Below is a sample template I used to send an idea to a boss several weeks back about social media strategy. I had to send an email since he was going to be out of a town for a while, but the idea had to be implemented sooner rather than later.
I know we were talking about how we could quickly engage our Twitter audience last week during our meeting, and I had an idea to run by you. I was thinking of us creating a Twitter chat to bring in not only other women-centric organizations but also readers of our site.
Since the chat would only last for an hour or so, it’s a lot less time than some of the other ideas we were considering, and I know you said we only have a short period of time to make this work!
I know you’re busy with traveling, so if you’d like to hop on a quick 15-minute call to discuss the idea more, let me know!
This email is great because it establishes context in the first sentence, gets right to the idea, mentions why the reader should care, opens up the idea to be talked about on the phone, and does all of this quickly (in just four sentences). The other party can quickly read it, digest it, and figure out the best next steps.
Now, go pitch that big, crazy idea! If you keep it simple, compelling, and get it offline ASAP, you’ve got a great shot.