Ask SUCCESS: How Do I Write an Effective Email?

What are some simple ways to create effective emails to send to my prospects and customers?

Bob Serling: Today, my guest expert is Dean Jackson. I’ve asked him to join me in answering this question because I’ve personally benefited by following his advice on effective emails.

Dean Jackson: There’s sort of a magic trick that I’ve seen work again and again in all kinds of different businesses, and I call it “the amazing nine-word email that revives dead leads.” When we talk about email as a mass messaging service—and that’s the way people think about it—we think about our entire email list. The reality, though, is that email is one of the very few truly intimate communications we have because emails are only being read by one person at a time.

If you can make an email sound, appear and feel like your prospect is the only person getting it, that’s going to give back a pretty high engagement rate. I tested this with real estate agents who had been running ads and generating leads, but those same agents got so busy that they couldn’t follow up with everybody.

I asked those agents if any of their prospects had bought property yet and they said they didn’t know. So I said, “Let’s send them an email and find out.” We sent an email, put the person’s first name in the subject line, then, in the body of the email, we asked the prospect a simple question: “Hi Bob, are you still looking for a house in Winterhaven?” That’s it.

Bob: All right, let me see if I completely understand this. The subject line is just their name?

Dean: Yes. When you think about it, it’s a lot like what the great copywriter Gary Halbert used to say about how people sort their mail over the wastebasket, quickly deciding what to keep and what to throw out. And I think people sort their email with the delete key ready as well.

When you’re looking at your email, the subject line is the first thing that you see and it would be very difficult to bypass an email with just your first name as the subject line. Even just out of curiosity, you couldn’t just delete that arbitrarily. A lot of times, people try to do the selling in the subject line, when the only purpose of the subject line is to get a person to open the email.

Bob: Exactly. If you use bulk phony personalization and it were to say, “Bob, open inside for a 15% discount” or “Bob, open inside to see properties for sale in your neighborhood,” that’s trumpeting that this is probably a junk email that you don’t want to open and read. But who can resist something that has just their name in the subject line?

Dean: I always look at it as imagining being in a real conversation with somebody.

Bob: How then would you conclude that email? Once you’ve asked the question, you want to let the prospect know how to get in touch with you or find out more if they are looking for a house, right?

Dean: Because we’ve all been using email for so long now, we are conditioned to know what to do with it. I think that we overdo it on the instructions.

If I were to ask you, “Hey Bob, do you want to go to a movie on Friday night?” Let’s say I’m your friend and I’m sending you an email like that. Do I need to say, “If so, just reply to this email and let me know?” Of course not.

Bob: It’s very counterintuitive and very powerful.

Dean: Part of what makes this work is that you set up this unsolved mystery in people’s minds by not adding any more information. As soon as you say, “Because if you are looking for a house, I’ve got this, this and this,” you’ve solved the mystery, and now I can dismiss it. But if you were indeed looking for a house in Winterhaven at one point and I send you an email that says, “Hi Bob, are you still looking for a house in Winterhaven?” and nothing else, it’s got the three magic ingredients that I look for: short, personal and expecting the reply.

Bob: Right. It also goes back to what you’ve said before, Dean, that the mind cannot stand an open loop. It has to close that loop. So the person is almost forced to make a choice and respond.

Dean: The magic is in as few words as are required.


Bob Serling helps business owners and entrepreneurs generate more traffic, make more sales, and do both more often. Get his free ebook of interviews with 30 leading experts, including SUCCESS Publisher Darren Hardy, at

Dean Jackson helps entrepreneurs find and execute marketing breakthroughs in their business. He’s the co-founder of the I Love Marketing podcast with Joe Polish. Get a free copy of Dean’s newest book Email Mastery! at

Get more email tips, like dos and don'ts for email campaigns, on


Bob Serling is the founder of Profit Alchemy. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs increase their profits with no cost and no risk. Get his free eBook to discover 42 no-cost, no-risk ways to double your profits at

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