Everyone knows that an email is the worst way to communicate anything, and yet we send tonnes of them on a daily basis. According to Radicati, we get or receive about 121 business-related emails per day, and this number will rise to 140 emails by 2018. Sennheisser calculated that an average office worker gets around 1,700 irrelevant emails per year – whether it’s spam or he isn’t appropriately cc-d.
A few days ago I received an autoresponse from a person I've sent an email to, which started with the letter F, followed by U, C, K, I, N and G and contained an extensive description of why he had set up that email account that he never checks, so that he can F, U, C and K anyone who tries spamming him. Whereas his wording choice is not obvious, his emotions are quite understandable.
Hopefully most of your recipients are not as emotional as the one I encountered, but you still need to implicitly convince them to read your email, as it is competing on their priority list with over a hundred other things. These five tips will help you get the attention of your email recipient if you still prefer to use it rather than the phone (you know it’s least efficient though, don’t you?)
1. Subject line
Before people open your email, they will decide if it’s worth bothering. Three ideas that come across their mind while looking at a new email are whether it is spam, what the person wants, and how long it will take them to deal with it. All this information should be in the subject line. Subject line is THE most important thing you want to spend time thinking about. It should be to the point, precise and engaging.
In my journalistic years, my editor used to say: The best title for your article is a phrase that you’ll tell an unknown person, whose flat you buzz at 3am. You’ve got about 2 seconds until he shuts it in front of you or throws something at you, so make sure you say something that will make him engaged. Here are some fantastic examples of super engaging subject lines.
• “So I’ll pick you up at 7?” (Influitive, marketing software company)
• “There are no deals in this email” (Groupon)
• “Hey” (Barack Obama’s famous email that allowed him to raise considerable funding for his Presidential campaign)
These lines work because of the combination of unexpected things (i.e. Obama + Hey), or Groupon + no deals.
A bad subject line is “I thought you’d like those…” A good subject line is “Snickers on discount – take a look”. Make sense?
2. Timing matters
Although most emails statistically get opened within 6 seconds of receiving them, you want to make sure your email doesn’t stay in the mailbox unread forever. According to Mailchimp, an email marketing automation company, the best time to send an email to ensure the highest open rate is between 2-4pm on Thursday. Tuesday isn’t bad either, whereas Monday and Friday are not recommended (and as you probably are aware, no one reads emails over the weekend).
3. Any email should have a call to action and a clear structure
Email structure consists of a greeting and personalisation, issue/description, call to action/what’s required. Most of the emails aren’t read or are left unreplied because they miss the call to action – the recipient simply doesn’t understand what’s required from him. A call to action means that you are telling the person what and by when is expected of them.
4. It needs to be personalized
Repeating the person’s name a couple of times throughout the email is the simplest thing you can do, but it works really well. “Hey, how are you?” and “Hey Anastasia, how are you?” makes a big difference, doesn’t it? Ensure you are using the correct name of the person – you have no idea how many times I was called in all possible ways apart from my real name, which is not so difficult by the way! When this happens in a work-related email, it undermines your credibility and creates an incredibly unprofessional impression.
If you don’t know how to talk to the person and what to say in an email, you can try CrystalKnows - this app analyses the type of character your recipient belongs to based on his Linkedin profile, and suggests the best words and phrase structure. It is pretty accurate and has a 1-month trial, so enjoy.
5. It has to be short
A dirty little secret – people don’t read emails or web pages, they scan them. So if you are putting a lot of effort into writing a long extensive email, you are wasting your time. Keep it short. It’s a good idea to add keywords and/or mark them somehow, so that it’s easier for the person to scan what you’ve sent.
Another great piece of advice from my journalistic years is to cut the text after you’ve written it. You can cut any texts to any length – just try to make each paragraph twice as short. The shorter it is, the easier it is for you.
Use the most efficient communication channel for your purpose. Is it more efficient to call. Call, don’t be lazy – you are eventually saving your own time that could be used elsewhere.
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Anastasia Dedyukhina is a professional coach and a pioneer of the Consciously Digital™ concept.