There’s an old fable about a farmer who sold his land to go and search for diamonds during the diamond rush.

As it turned out, the new owner of his farm ended up finding a massive diamond right there on the land the original owner abandoned.  

How does that relate to marketing? In two words: stale leads.

Put simply, finding, engaging and nurturing new leads takes a lot of effort. Obviously, that’s how you build new business and increase your revenue stream.

But sometimes the greatest value may lie in what we already have – the leads that we’ve lost or that have disengaged. All it takes to find out if they still hold potential is a simple email hack.

The 9-Word Email

The 9-word email was developed by Dean Jackson, a successful real estate entrepreneur and online marketer, in an effort to re-engage lost prospects. Jackson’s claim was that a subject line with just the recipient’s name and a body with a one-line (originally 9-word) question is all you need to engage. For example:


9 word email


That’s basically it. The entire purpose of the email is to ask a question that engages and gets a response. There’s an art to it though.

If you compare the example above to alternate phrasing (let’s say “are you house shopping in Ohio?”), the difference is clear. The original version sounds less pushy, more conversational and focuses on the recipient’s already existing need.

Here are some more examples:


  • “Are you still looking at growing your blog traffic?”
  • “Are you still looking for a new job opportunity in banking?”
  • “Are you still interested in improving home security?”
  • “Are you still looking to have your home painted?”
  • “Are you still considering buying a new car?”
  • “Have you made any progress with your kitchen renovation?”


How to Create a 9-Word Email

As you can see, it’s a pretty straightforward process. The formula is as follows:

Subject line: –First Name–

Body: Question that addresses customer pain point

However, there are several rules to be mindful of.

  1. Avoid adding any unnecessary fluff. The email should include the absolute minimum word count you can manage.
  2. Remember that the email’s purpose is to re-engage, not to make an outright sale. Don’t be pushy. Make the email conversational and engaging instead of explicit and intense.
  3. Address the recipient directly. To make your outreach marketing personal and casual, use the recipient’s first name only. Obviously, to keep the email concise, address the recipient only once (in the subject line).
  4. Make it about the recipient. The key factor in whether your email will work or not is the ‘need.’ The sentence must focus on a pre-existing pain point that you can help your prospect solve.

That’s it.

The best part about this marketing tactic? You have nothing to lose. You should be reaching out to disengaged leads anyway so whatever response you get is a win. Also…it’s free. You don’t need to shell out big bucks for paid campaigns or a fancy HTML email designer. A simple, plain-text email is the best way to execute this strategy.

If done right, the 9-word email works like magic. There are always potential customers among your stale leads. Once you gained someone’s interest, it’s easier to get it back than to build it all over again.