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How to use the ‘wrinkle method’ to get people to respond to your emails

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Communications is a game of managing expectations.

Strangers who receive our messages often assume an email will appear a certain way. We know, for instance, what a standard "cold call" email or thank-you note is supposed to look like. But when the message goes above and beyond what we expect, it can leave a lasting impression.

The tactic is what I call a "wrinkle" — a move that catches people by surprise and makes us memorable.

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To drive home what I mean, here are two examples from my new book, "Wait, How Do I Promote My Business?"

"Cold call" email

Readers assume the message will be impersonal and a typical pitch about a product/service. The expectation is "I have seen this email 1,000 times. I know what I have received."

That's when you apply the "wrinkle" method. Let's use a common business writing scenario: "How to introduce yourself to a company for the first time." After you introduce yourself and your business, you do something different.

"I'm writing you because I think [person's company; for instance, "the Acme Pet Supply team"] would like to learn more about [name of company; for instance, "Acme Pet Treats"]. [Why should the person care? Why does your business matter? For instance, "The product is healthy, safe and selling out routinely on our website."]

[Then, one sentence to show you studied the company's website. It's a powerful way to prove you didn't send the same email to 100 business owners. Be as specific as possible. For instance, "Also, I enjoyed the photos from the recent Bark Bark 5K race you sponsored. The chihuahua with the running shoes? Too good!"]

The reader expected my email to be a cookie-cutter, impersonal message. Not so fast. I included research on their business and even linked to a project I found notable.

Suddenly, the mood changed. The reader wanted to click "delete" and be done with me. But since I made the email customized and authentic, the hope is the person thinks harder about a response and perhaps starts a dialogue.

Thank-you note

Want to write a thank-you note the person never forgets? Again, it comes down to managing expectations.

Let's say you held a grand opening event and want to send handwritten notes to guests who attended. The typical route is to write something like: "Thanks so much for attending our grand opening. You helped to make the day a success. We hope to see you again soon!"

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RJ Sangosti | Getty Images

Look, there's nothing wrong with the typical approach. But it's also forgettable because it's clear you sent the same message to everyone.

Where's the personalization? Where's the "wrinkle?"

Example: "Thanks again for coming to the [name of event; for instance, "Hill Valley grand opening] this past week. I'm glad you were able to attend and [the reason you're glad; for instance, see our new store firsthand"].

[Then, the special reference; for instance, "Plus, wasn't the catered food delicious? It was so funny how we 'fought' over the mini grilled cheese sandwich. Next time, it's mine!"]

[If you don't have a moment the two of you shared, be specific about another topic; for instance, "I know you're not the biggest fan of country, but I hoped you still enjoyed the twangy country singer who performed!"]

The person expected a quick, generic thank you. Instead, you reference a specific moment from the night that you both shared. It takes the message from "that's nice" to "wow, what a special note."

In every writing scenario, the goal is to be unforgettable. The "wrinkle" method will make it happen.

Danny Rubin is the author of "Wait, How Do I Write This Email?"

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