How often have you received e-mails that made no sense or asked you to scroll down the thread to get the information you need? Too many times!
One of my pet peeves is receiving e-mails that are poorly constructed with no call to action. Yet the sender expects a response to buy into their service or product. When I receive these e-mails – I automatically delete them. If the sender cannot compose a well-constructed e-mail, the question I have is what kind of service or product will I be receiving?
Look, we are all busy and we are all guilty of rushing through e-mails to get it out of our in box. This does not mean we are incompetent; we are simply not putting any care into drafting the e-mail.
I have learned through trial and error on how to draft e-mails that a) will get opened and not placed on the ‘Junk Mail’ list; b) Elicit a response from the recipient.
1. Slow Down
We live in an instant gratification world, where we are in a daily race to get through our inbox as fast as possible. In some cases, sending a quick e-mail makes sense especially if you are in the middle of a long e-mail thread with a colleague or boss. However, for the most part, effective communication takes time and good writing skills. It is prudent to remember that an e-mail is a form of communication with expediency.
What works best for me when writing an e-mail of importance; I draft it in Microsoft Word. This allows me to check for grammar, spelling errors and it allows me check the passivity of the e-mail, (which should be zero).
Good e-mails take time to draft and sometimes can take up to twenty minutes to draft. My rule of thumb is quality vs. quantity. The response rate to an e-mail is much higher when well written.
2. Subject Line
Having a well written subject line will greatly increase the chances of your e-mail being read.
- Always write a subject line: An e-mail without a subject line will get deleted.
- Keep it short: The maximum number of characters in an email’s subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters. Get right to the point in about six to eight words.
- Place the most important words at the beginning: A whopping 50% of emails are read on mobile phones. Since you don’t know how much of the subject line will be viewable from a smartphone, it’s important to put the most important information at the beginning. Otherwise, compelling details could get cut off.
- Personalize it with the recipient’s name or company name.
- If someone referred you, be sure to use their name.
3. Make Sure the E-Mail has a Beginning, Middle and an Ending
We live in a world of tweets and Facebook postings. This does not mean that our e-mails have to that way. As mentioned earlier, an e-mail is a form of communication that has to compel the recipient to respond accordingly. E-mails should have the following:
I cannot emphasize enough to begin the e-mail with a greeting. It really does make a difference. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the recipient, the opening paragraph is a great place for a friendly greeting, ‘I hope your day is going well’; a reminder of the context of your conversation, ‘it was a pleasure meeting you at the recent HSMAI LA event…or preface why you are reaching out, ‘I want to touch base regarding…’.
The body of the e-mail is the core of your e-mail. This is where you present your story to the recipient. Provide all the information they need to make a decisive outcome. This includes any contextual information, details, and data presented in a logical and cohesive manner. Include the call to action so the recipient is aware a response is requested.
A few key tips:
- KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid (it really does work!)
- Do not make the e-mail too long. It is a proven fact that e-mails be under 750 words total. That is still a great deal of text. However, as you determining the length of your email content, here are some content tips to make it more visually appealing and less likely to end up causing problems.
- Use Short Text Blocks: Use shorter text blocks of 100 to 200 words that have a strong call-to-action
- Format the Text: Make your content visually interesting by using an easy to read font such as Arial or Calibri in a standard font size of 10 or 11. The e-mail will more be read if it is easy to read.
- Break Text Up with Headlines or Images: Break up your larger blocks of text with headlines or images (though obviously limit the use of images).
4. Stick to Facts
It is so tempting to tell the entire story in one e-mail. We want to describe all the details and disclose as much information as possible, so the recipient can make an informed decision. Truth is they really don’t care.
Keep the e-mail short and factual, and keep the story telling for another time when you are either face to face with the recipient or on a conference call.
5. Be Personal and Personable
Personalize each e-mail with relevant remarks to the recipient. This can be a comment about their website, product or service. Always address the recipient by name, sign the e-mail with your own name and a friendly comment such as, ‘Have an enjoyable weekend!’
6. Make it easy to be found
In your signature line, include the URL for your website, blog, and social media. Make the links functional so they can read more about you and your products/services with one click.
7. Use Unpretentious Language
Always use language that is easy to read and follow. Write at a 10th grade level, which is average for most e-mails. You do not want to come off too formal or stuffy. The e-mail needs to be open, clear and easy to follow and to digest.
8. Proofread and Fact Check
Once you have drafted the e-mail, do not hit the send button right away. Always reread the e-mail at least once. Aside from checking the obvious which is checking for basis spelling and grammatical errors, you should also check the facts such as name spellings, dates of events etc. Addressing an e-mail, ‘Hello Sean’, when it should be, ‘Hello Shawn’, may seem like a small thing to you, but it is actually a huge thing. Your contact will notice. First impressions are so important. If you make an error like this, the contact will question everything else you do.
Consider the tone of the e-mail. Is it too formal or too casual? Are you too enthusiastic with all the exclamation points at the expense of professionalism?
Take a step back and consider how someone reading the e-mail for the first time will react to it. Adjust it accordingly.
9. Words to Avoid in Your Email
There are certain words that can get you into spam trouble with your email content. Here are few to avoid. That’s not to say that you can’t ever use these words, but it would be prudent to minimize their usage and definitely do not use in the subject line.
- Visit our website
- 50% Off
- Click here
- Call now
- Save up to
- Information you requested
- Important information regarding
- Guarantee, Guaranteed
- Special Promotion
- Great Offer/Deal
- All New
- One Time
- Order Now
10. How Would You Feel If the E-Mail Went Public
Finally, before you hit that send button, think how you would feel if the e-mail was read by someone else than the intended recipient. This is a good time to recheck the e-mail to make sure the e-mail is respectful, easy to read, is professional and represents both you and the company in a positive manner.
I know it seems like a great deal of work in drafting an e-mail, however, it is important to understand that well written e-mails get noticed in a sea of poorly written e-mails. This adds credibility to you as an individual and for your company. The key is to get your e-mail read by the recipient resulting in a call to action – which equates to getting what you want!Share this article: