So I’m no mathematician but I estimate that I have written a million emails in my life and received a metric BUHjillion. From the personal to the professional, the automated to the highly focused, the job offer to the request for an interview, every email is a little different. Did you know the average worker gets over 125 email messages a day? And if you are dealing with an outward facing job (as marketers and recruiters tend to do) chances are your number is a lot higher than that. So how do you make your emails mean more than the next guy’s?
By making sure you focus on writing well-written emails that are impossible to ignore, even in a crowded inbox. Here’s how...
At the end of every email, just like at the end of every advertisement or commercial, always, ALWAYS, tell the reader what the next step is. Do you need a response? Do you need a response by noon? What happens if you don’t get one? Simply letting people know what you need and when you need it really helps you reader sort through their inbox. But remember to be nice!
Subject lines exist for a reason. When you simply add on to an old email subject line because you are too lazy to type out a new one, it confuses the intent of your email and forces your reader to wade through tons of threaded conversations, omitted text (especially in Gmail) and makes it difficult to find said email later without going through the same confusing thread all over again. At Red Branch Media, we insist on a new conversation when the subject matter changes, every time.
Do you just dive right in with a list of demands or get right to the point in your emails? It may be causing people to ignore you. Why? Because it is impolite. Remember when your parents taught you to use the phone? You say who you are, what you need and request the information. If you reach someone you don’t really want to speak to (say a gatekeeper) then you are polite to them and repeat your request. Do the same for email silly!
What you want should be easy to locate, and any parameters should be included up front. This doesn’t mean getting rid of your greeting but if the purpose of your email is to set up a demo on Thursday, then be clear about it. Tell your reader what you are requesting and what sort of answer you need. Should they call to confirm or send their response through email. Obviously, this will change from email to email but keep in mind you always need to be direct, clear and up-front with your email based requests.
No one has the time in the middle of the business day to read your Outlook version of War and Peace. This one is particularly hard for me, as I am always tempted to add parenthetical additions, many commas and lists for when I feel I need to supply reasons to support my point. Keep your messages between 125-500 words to get a 1 in 2 response rate. If they get even longer, expect fewer people to answer you.
Just kidding! I have a third grader! But if you write with simple words, simple phrasing and simple structure, you will reach more people. Write for elementary school kids and get responses, write for college kids and watch your response rate get carved in half. I have kids so it’s easy for me to pretend I am writing to them, but if you need help, tools like the website Readability-Score or the document editor Word can be used to determine if your writing is simple or complex.
As readers, we gravitate toward emotional language. Whether it’s positive emotion: love, thrilled, elated, awesome; or negative emotion: insane, hate, awful, overwhelmed -- emotion sells. However, going too far with emotion and peppering your email with ranty (and hurtful) words won’t do you any favors either.
Aside from the aforementioned lists, I am a big fan of making sure I use the rich text buttons at the bottom of any email editors. Things like italics, bolding and bullets, even the underline function can really help the reader focus in on what he or she CANNOT miss. If you write longer emails like I do, to very busy people (like I do), bolding, indenting, bulleting and using italics can draw attention to directions, deadlines and important information that just can’t be missed.
Sending email at 3pm might fit into your schedule but it does not fit into anyone else’s. People go through their email in the morning and then are whisked into a day of meetings, deadlines, other emails, phone calls and more….most of which will trump your email in terms of importance. There are lots of services that can pause your email until a more optimal time. Followup.cc and MixMax are my favorites. Gmail and Outlook have this functionality built in. According to a study of 500,000 emails by email tracking software provider Yesware, emails sent between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. get the highest rates, about 40%.
I write a lot of emails for clients and many, many, MANY email marketing emails that go out to thousands of people. So when I get to sit down and write an email that’s just from me, with just my requests, I like to add pieces of my personality in there. Whether it’s a hilarious (but appropriate GIF) or a signature with flair, keeping my personality front and center allows friends, clients and colleagues to know it’s really me and not marketing machine Maren.
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