Here’s a new article which I wrote as a special to Yahoo! Personals. I hope you enjoy.
Of all the things that clients (especially men) ask me to help them with, the most common query involves assistance with writing introductory emails. And while I never write emails for others, the request makes perfect sense. After all, most people’s profiles don’t exactly give you a ton of material to work with, do they? So how do you cobble together something from a pile of nothing? Well, you can start by remembering these three basic rules:
1. If someone else can say it, don’t say it. It’s not that “You’ve got a great smile, let’s go out sometime” is a bad opener. It’s just so … easy. And easy equals common. Ask yourself if what you’re writing sounds completely original. If not, the person you’re contacting probably has 10 emails just like yours sitting on the computer screen.
2. Cut to the chase. Don’t waste time with a whole bunch of text that doesn’t tell the recipient anything new. Consider a message like this:
I read your profile and thought it was really amazing. Plus, you’re really cute. So please look at my profile and if you like what I had to say, write back to me when you get a chance.
Every line of this message can be thrown out. Why? Because anyone whom you contact knows by virtue of you writing to them that a) you liked their profile, b) you liked their photo and c) you’d like a reply. So why say any of it? Better to come up with a fun, unique angle.
3. Be flirty. Be confident. Be different. Keep in mind that YOU are the commodity here. Even though you’re writing to someone out of the blue, do so with the belief that this person would be lucky to have you. If you’re too complimentary in that initial email, you can come off as desperate and needy. So don’t go overboard. Say a couple of funny, coy lines and get out. Your profile ultimately does the selling; your email just has to pique their interest.
Still, the question remains: how do you say something original and flirty? That, my friends, is what separates the most successful online daters from the rest of the pack.
Here are three steps to set you on the right path. In this case, I’ve written them for men replying to women, but the steps are applicable to everyone:
Step 1: Read her profile closely. Every word of it. Remember, that’s why she wrote it — because she wants you to get to know her, not because she wants to be told for the umpteenth time that she’s hot. Men who treat women as unique and interesting individuals stand a much greater shot of receiving a response.
The thing is, even if she’s interesting, she most likely wrote a whole bunch of clichés in her profile: “I’m nice, smart, kind, warm, funny, honest and family-oriented. I like hiking, biking, movies, music, travel. I’m looking for my best friend, lover and partner in crime for a lifetime of love and laughter.” (Scary how easy it is to approximate the typical online dating profile, isn’t it?) Obviously, there’s not much to respond to here. Even a specific response like “I noticed you enjoy biking. What trail do you ride on?” is kind of bland, although it is sincere. So let’s think outside the box, shall we?
Step 2: Find the most interesting tidbit in her entire profile. NOT the thing you like the most, NOT the thing you find most attractive, NOT the thing you have in common. The most interesting tidbit in her profile is the thing that sounds like it couldn’t have been written by anybody else in the world. It might be how she hates pigeons. It might be how she was once a foot model. It might be how she doesn’t know how to program her TiVo. Whatever it is, take her quirky tidbit and turn it into your pickup line.
Step 3: Write something that’s not true. Yes, you heard me correctly. The most effective way to catch someone’s attention in an initial email is with fiction. Why? Because the truth, as we’ve established, is boring.
Yes, you think she’s attractive.
Yes, you think her profile is entertaining.
Yes, you think it’s cool that she also likes Robert DeNiro movies and skiing in Vail.
But does any of that sound like a good pickup line to you? Not really. Dig deeper.
Step 4: Take her factoid and apply it to yourself in a fictional fashion. The sillier and more over-the-top your email, the funnier it’ll be. A good joke doesn’t require an explanation — it’s obviously a joke. For example, if you’re writing to the foot model, you might say:
Once upon a time, I was a knee model. Great money, tons of fame, you know the deal … Then I skinned my knee when rollerblading. I never modeled again.
Let’s drink to our fashion careers,
Sure, it’s a little goofy, but people actually respond to this stuff. Why? Because it’s different, it’s audacious and, in a strange way, it’s kind of smart. Most importantly, it’s confident. It’s not an idle compliment or a generic, “Ooh, look what we have in common” line. It’s a joke and, as we all know, people like people who make them laugh.
Wanna try again? Let’s take the TiVo woman.
Start your comment in the subject heading of the email, like this…
TiVo for Dummies
I can fix your computer, landscape your backyard and probably even hotwire your car, but, for some reason, TiVo programming seems to elude me as well. So if you’re interested in watching the entire season of “When Animals Attack”… in Spanish … with subtitles … I’m definitely your guy.
Talk to you soon,
If these kinds of emails don’t work for you, no problem. Humor is subjective. Just keep in mind that the confidence it takes to write an email like that is compelling. Playing it safe is fine, but if an attractive person has dozens, if not hundreds, of options, you need to shake things up a little bit to break through the clutter.
Now what are you gonna say to that pigeon-hater?