A 6-yr-old’s guide to writing persuasive emails

Let me share a brief story.

This story is 100% true and illustrates a rule of good copy.  Fail to do this, and dollars will leak from your emails like sand from a bucket with a hole in the bottom.  Do this, and it will instantly make your emails more persuasive.

The other day, as we were headed to school, my 6-year old daughter Olivia was giving her old man all kinds of grief.  She didn’t want to wear tights under her jeans.  She didn’t want to put her winter boots on.

I tried gentle cajoling, “ok, please just put your boots on.”

I tried explaining it’s the coldest day of the year (-12) and she’ll freeze.

Finally, we were getting late.  So I said, “I don’t want to do this but you leave me no choice.  You have until the count of three to put those boots on or they’ll be no T.V. tonight.  One…two…”


Still no boots.  BOOM. Officially sanctioned.

Fast forward to pick up.  After some pleasant exchange she queries, “what are we gonna watch tonight?”

I reply, “nothing, remember?”

At home she asks for a sheet of paper.  She begins to write.  Every now and then she stops to ask me how to spell a word.  Here then, is her first plea bargain attempt:



And written just the way she talks, “like, c’mon Dad, ugh!!”

I tell her it’s cute and funny — great start.  But here’s the problem: it’s all about how SHE feels.

What about how I feel?

Try putting yourself in my position, I say.

Show me you understand and you’re sorry — but only if you mean it.

She watches and listens intently, eyes narrowed, then picks up her pen with a fresh piece of paper.  Again she goes to work.  She gets some spelling help on the big words but the sentiment is all hers.  Here’s attempt #2:


Much better.

(Notice the well-placed call-to-action of the yes and no boxes.)

Anyway, here’s the point…

Being cute, funny, or clever in your emails doesn’t hurt (indeed I’m using a smattering of all three right now).

But people are motivated by self-interest.

What are your market’s most fervent fears and desires?

Why should they care about what you have to say?

For more persuasive emails, then, speak to what matters to them.  And note that this has little to do the features of your service or product, and everything to do with the outcomes you create, or the problems you solve for your customers.  One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of effective people is seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Go back and reread my second paragraph.

You’ll see how I framed my story to appeal to the reader’s self-interest.

Unfortunately, many of the newsletters I get leave it up to their subscribers to bridge that gap.

Don’t let yours be one of them.

At bedtime, Olivia said: “I learned a valuable lesson today.”


Hope you did too…

Happy Persuading,

Conor Kelly

P.S. I’m looking for one more case study to add to the collection.  If you’d like me to do all this “marketing stuff” for you, just reply “Case Study” in the comments, and I’ll get you all the details. 🙂


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