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Use the 3-B Plan when Emailing Busy People

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If you want to get in touch with influential people (aka: BUSY people), you need to know how to contact them. Despite the buzz around social media, far more people use email to communicate than any other online medium, and business today still gets done over email, not through tweets. 

Why it's Important to Know

Knowing how to write outreach emails might seem like a no-brainer or maybe even an unnecessary skill to have, but I can assure you the opposite, on both accounts. If you're serious about networking and building your platform/personal brand, you MUST know how to email important people. Important people are busy people. You can't rely on random encounters to get in touch with people who can help you flourish; while it may happen once in a while, the rest of the time it's up to you.

Due to the fact that tweeting is so impersonal and a cold phone call is so annoying, email is the ideal platform for reaching out. For busy people, even their inbox is something that is viewed as a "task," meaning they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Understanding how to properly email people is a skill that sets you apart from others (trust me, I've received some truly awful emails) and is essential for making things happen with influencers.

The 3-B Plan

When deciding whether to read or delete an email, our brains go through this common evaluation process:

  1. Who is emailing me (and is this spam)?
  2. What do they want?
  3. How long will this take?

Getting a "pass" on all 3 of these can be tougher than it looks, especially for busy people. Here's my 3-step technique to avoid the trash bin.

I call it the 3-B plan. I always double-check my emails to make sure they follow the guidelines below, and I've been able to get some fantastic response rates.


If there is one thing that busy people value above all else, it's brevity. If you were receiving upwards of 50-100 emails per day, or had so many obligations that you were only left with a short amount of time to check email, it'd be easy to see why. In order to get your messages read ASAP, it's best to make sure your opening email follows the ASAP rule: as short as possible.

I wouldn't put a set limit on email length, because it's a case by case basis. The important thing to remember is to always edit your emails at least once to trim unnecessary information. People don't need your enthralling life story over email, they just need "who, what, why" so they can get back to business.


Being blunt doesn't mean not being persuasive, it simply means getting to the point without trying to be clever. Stories and jokes are essential for other forms of writing, but NOT for emails. Get to the incentive on why the other person should respond right away.

If possible, list a number in the title to signal commitment time (Ex: "3 quick questions") and state exactly what the email is about in the subject line.


I sometimes am in disbelief that this one needs to be said, but it's so true. I've had emails where people send what looks like a newsletter, emails with tons of images in them (so I have to click "display images" to even read it), and emails with a DOZEN attachments. When it's your first time emailing someone...

Keep it simple, stupid.

Read Greg's complete guide to emailing busy people here.

Follow Excellence in Government on Twitter | Facebook | Google + | LinkedIn

Gregory Ciotti is the founder of Sparring Mind and the marketing guy at Help Scout.

(Image via Sergign/

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