10 business lessons I learned in a 9-line email from my child’s nursery

Jo Watson


The best email in my inbox last week came from my one-year-old daughter’s new nursery. I received it whilst counting down the minutes for her two-hour ‘settle-in’ session to finish.

I’ve made no secret on social media this past month or so, that I’ve been delighted with our choice of education and care provider for Lily, despite the fact that she only officially started today.

I won’t bore you with the details of how we knew the place was right for us, or why I’m increasingly excited about the experiences Lily is going to have there. But I wanted to share some business lessons I learned from this very short email, as a bit of a heads up for anyone involved in writing marketing or communication materials for their organisation.

The email was just 9 lines long (when reading it on my phone, at least), but oh baby did it pack in a lot of impact! In particular, it clued me in to at least 10 business lessons that I think are key for any companies or individuals when communicating in writing with clients, potential customers and stakeholders.

Here’s the email:

The well-written email Jo Watson received from her daughter's nursery.


You’ll hopefully see what I mean, but here goes:

1. The timing. This email was sent to us during Lily’s first ‘stay’ at the nursery, even though it was only a two-hour visit some weeks before she actually started her term.

The staff had clearly taken into account that, whilst such a session was going to be a big deal for Lily as the ‘service user’ (I apologise – that’s a god-awful phrase), they also knew how we as her parents would be feeling as key ‘beneficiaries’ in this process.

I was indeed feeling many emotions as I counted down the minutes. But this email, sent one hour into the session, gave me some much-needed relief and contentment. The next hour was a lot more pleasant for me as a result.

2. The unexpected element. To say that this progress update was above and beyond what I expected of the settle-in session is a huge understatement.

Honestly, the best I had anticipated from such a session was that a) the small child hadn’t screamed (or burned) the place down, and b) she wasn’t put on probation, so this progress update was a lovely surprise, and who doesn’t love those?

3. The imagery. Admittedly, not every piece of correspondence sent in business requires a photograph or a picture, such as the ones here with my child stuffing her face with light snack (what else is new?), but it was an added bonus. So if an image can be included in some way – perhaps a photograph to highlight progress, or a diagram to illustrate a process – then it certainly can’t do anything but add to what is written.

4. The pride. In business, the sale shouldn’t stop when the client agrees to sign up to you, your product or your service. You’ve got the client’s money (ideally), but you’ve also got their attention and the opportunity to make sure that they remain a client for a very long time.

This email was never just about documenting Lily’s progress, or making her parents feel a host of warm and fuzzy feelings about their baby, but about the staff showing pride in what they do and how they do it.

It was about the nursery showing how damn good they are at what they offer, and from this alone they can count me in as a long-term fan.

5. The simplicity. This email wasn’t chapter and verse. It was 9 lines, but look at everything it’s said, done and achieved! (And I’m only halfway through my list of business lessons.)

6. The effect. One happy parent’s post of the event to social media = 100s of instant personal and professional platform likes, engagements and appreciation = 1000s of wider shares, support and recognition. That’s some great marketing right there, considering the only person whose inbox this email landed in was mine.

7. The position. Lily may be the one currently enjoying rice cakes and a spot of book reading with Miss Kim, but the staff at the nursery know we as her parents are the clients, because we’re the ones with the money (ha!) and the decision making power.

The staff also know that I’m Lily’s mum, first and foremost, and therefore, they have a responsibility to me just as I have one to her.

Their email to us kept me informed, eased my mind, and gave me something to be proud of. If that’s not showing how well you truly know, value and can engage with your client base, I don’t know what does.

8. The address. There’s no doubt whatsoever who this email was intended for. If anyone other than me or Lily’s dad would have received this, it would have been a tad confusing to say the least.

In no way was this a cut and paste job that went to every parent and carer on the nursery’s register and mailing list. Given the unexpected nature of the correspondence (see point two), I’d have been over the moon with “Dear Jo – Lily is having a great time…”

But this email took things even further with an actual account about what Lily was doing, when she was doing it, and who she was doing it all with. How many emails are you sending out with a generic “Dear valued client…” written at the top? Oh, the irony.

9. The warmth. There’s no getting around the fact that this email was just pure warmth and loveliness in all forms. Of course, you might argue that the subject matter (our baby daughter) and the context (settling in at nursery) all required such fuzziness, but this isn’t to say that this is the only place where warmth belongs in correspondence.

Regardless of the industry, purpose or topic, if you’re writing something for an audience, then human people with human eyes, hearts and minds will read it. When you’re using writing to address anybody, don’t mistake professional for stuffy. Open up, be human, and engage in a conversation. People are ok. Generally.

10. The literacy. My god, what kind of self-respecting copywriter and former teacher would I be if I didn’t hold my baby’s early years educators to account if they didn’t produce fantastically written copy?

Regardless of the industry which business operates in, there’s never an acceptable reason for overlooking the importance of a professionally written piece of correspondence or marketing. This has to be the mother of all business lessons.

But, if writing really isn’t your strength, then do what other smart businesses do – invest in a fantastic copywriter to lead you through some training for your marketing and communications in the written form.

My overall point is this. This is one email, from one business, about one event. It was filled with business lessons, and the messages it contained, despite its concise and compact form, are into double digits.

What are YOU doing in your business communications to achieve the same level of impact?

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