When it comes to business communication, most of us use email more than any other forum. I don't know about your mother, but mine never sent me to email finishing school, so I had to learn to write effective emails the hard way. As with any trial and error process, I lost time and business opportunities along the way. So, to save you from making some of my mistakes, here are three guidelines to improve the chances that your emails get opened (and responded to):
- Use a provocative subject line. For instance, "3 Reasons Why You'll Read This" gives a sense of the value this blog promises. It also piques the recipient's curiosity.
- Keep the subject line shorter than 50 characters. Many PDA devices will not show longer subject lines, and your recipient may feel overwhelmed if they're being presented with a novella before they even open the email. Overwhelm = procrastination, which means you'll be waiting for a while before you receive the response you want.
- Stay away from overused subject lines. "Checking in" or "Following up" or "Touching base" all imply that your message isn't particularly important, which drops its prioritization in the recipient's inbox and reduces the likelihood that it will get opened quickly. So, instead of defaulting to a cliché, review the content and rewrite your subject line to be fresh and compelling.
And here's a bonus tip: Pose your message as a question. Instead of entitling your subject line as "lunch," try "When can you meet for lunch?" The recipient will instinctively start to think of an answer to the question when they see it, which will increase the likelihood that they shoot back a quick response (assuming that the idea of lunch with you appeals to them).
Of course, the more you improve your response rates, the more likely you'll find yourself in email overwhelm, but that's a subject for another blog.