How effective is your email if no one is actually reading it?
Without realizing it, many people send out emails every day that are actually ‘turning off’
their intended audience. The ugly truth is that many people waste a lot of time sending
messages that are ineffective at generating a desirable response from the recipient, and
that often never get read.
There are a few simple things that you can and should do if you want to maximize the
likelihood of your messages being opened and read.
Below is a list of 10 essential “Do’s” that will help increase the number of people that will
actually open, read, and react favorably to your email messages.
10 Ways to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Emails:
1) Always use a strong subject line: A good subject line is short, and clearly identifies
the purpose of the email. You may wish to consider that many of your customers
receive well over 100 email messages a day. And when they are sifting through their
mountain of electronic messages trying to separate the useful ones from the
garbage, the first thing they look at is the subject line. If your subject line is not
clearly relevant to them (as in “clearly not spam”) there is about a 50% chance that
your message is just going to get deleted. By giving your message a good subject
line you are giving your recipient a good reason to actually open your message.
2) Include an email signature: Would you hand a customer a blank business card?
Probably not. Would you do a mail out without your phone number on each piece?
Unlikely. And yet in my experience, more than 50% of all people never include an
email signature with their contact information.
What is an email signature? Below is a copy of the one that we use for email at the
Sutton Group Realty Services Ltd.
Phone: 604 691-1655
Fax: 604 691-1605
An email signature is your name, title, and an inclusion of the ways that people can
easily get a hold of you. We all know that the telephone is a better tool to conduct a
sales call with than an email. So include your phone number with your email
message and make it easy for your customers to give you a call.
And speaking of easy, HomeBase, Outlook and Outlook Express all have signature
features that allow you to automatically add your signature to any messages you
reply to or create. Now how easy is that?
3) Be concise and keep it relevant: Always lead with the most relevant content. Think
like your intended audience and ask yourself “What is most important to my reader?
What do I have to say that is relevant and interesting to them that will motivate them
to read further?” Lead with the facts, then follow with the details.
Shorter is usually better. Don’t scrimp on the details, but don’t write a book either. If
you find that you need to cover multiple topics, then it is usually a good idea to make
each topic its own email.
Try to use short paragraphs or keep your ideas in point form. People are busy and
when they see long winding paragraphs with no immediate relevance, they tend to
click off of your message and move on to someone else’s.
4) Use plain text formatting: Outlook and many other email programs will often have
all sorts of nifty “rich text” features where you can use lots of great looking fonts,
insert backgrounds, and do all sorts of other stylish edits to your message. “What
could be better?” you may ask. Well, “having an email that was actually readable”
would have to be my answer.
It is crucial to remember that email looks like “print media” (that’s newspapers and
magazines for those of us who aren’t into design lingo) but they have one very
important difference – it is the viewer’s computer (and not you) that will ultimately
determine what your message looks like. If your recipients have disabled HTML or
“rich text” formatting, your beautifully laid out message may wind up looking badly
skewed. Generally, you are better off avoiding the fancy options and just going with
good old fashioned plain text formatting which shows up well no matter how it is
5) Ask for the reader to take a course of action: With any message you send out, if
you would like the reader to take a particular course of action, politely state it in your
message. People often need you to tell them how they should proceed based upon
the information you have given them.
6) Consider your tone of voice: The big difference between an email conversation and
one that takes place over the telephone or face-to-face is that with email there is no
voice inflection, body language or facial expressions to provide a greater context to
your words. Considering that more than 50% of all meaning in a conversation is
derived from nonverbal cues, this can present a bit of a problem, and is often why
email messages can seem so ‘abrupt.’
When sending someone an email, try to err on the friendly side. If your statements
are interpreted as stark or abrupt, they may evoke in the reader feelings of hostility
or defensiveness. Much of what a reader finds in the tone of an email may actually
be imposed on the message by the reader’s own mindset, especially if they are
having a bad day. So remove any ambiguity and ‘speak with a warm voice.’
7) Respond promptly: If you want someone to read what you have to say in your reply
to them, respond quickly to their initial message. You wouldn’t wait a week to return
someone’s phone call, so you shouldn’t wait several days to respond to their email
either. A good rule of thumb is to respond whenever possible on the same day that
their message was sent, or failing that, then by the next business day.
8) Keep attachments under 5 MB: We often forget that not all of our customers and
colleagues have high speed internet connections and we send them files as
attachments that may be inappropriate due to the large size of the file.
Remember that just because you have a fast internet connection, your message still
travels through several third party internet carriers and some of them may not handle
that 10 MB file very well, which could result in your message “timing out” during
delivery and a delivery failure occurs as a result.
And always be specific in your email about what the attachment is that you are
sending. Attachments are the main way that computer viruses are spread, and
people have become necessarily wary of opening them, especially if they were not
requested or properly identified. For example, sending a message with an
attachment and nothing but a subject line that says “Check this out” is one of the
best ways I can think of for getting your message deleted instead of read.
9) Keep your mail groups to 20 people or less: Sometimes you will want to send out
your message to many people at the same time. Maybe you have a new listing and
you want to send out some information to suitable customers. But what happens
when you send out one message with 50 or 100 recipients at the same time? Well,
depending on who their internet service provider is, your email may or may not get
The reason is that spammers (people who send out junk emails) generally send to
larger groups of people at a time. The spam blocking software that your recipient’s
internet service provider is using may see the 100 email addresses attached to your
message and decide that it is probably spam, and kill your message. To avoid
getting zapped by this, instead of having one massive group of email contacts,
create several smaller groups of 20 addresses or less. This will stop your messages
from getting filtered as “bulk spam” and has the added benefit of making your email
groups more focused, allowing you to target your emails to more precise groups of
10) Read it before you send it: I will be the first to admit that I have a love affair with
“spell check” – but relying on it without manually proofing your messages at least
once can be a costly mistake. Spell check can catch misspelled words, but it cannot
catch misused words, tricky grammar, or unintended meanings.
Take for example the cover letter I received from a person who was looking for a job
with Sutton. It seems that spell check does not recognize my last name ‘Cunliffe’ as
a real word, and suggests that it should be changed to ‘Conifer’ instead. So while
this person meant to refer to me by name throughout the letter, they wound up
repeatedly addressing “Mr. Conifer” instead.
While it is fortunate for them that I have a sense of humor and did not take offense at
being repeatedly referred to as “Mr. Pine Tree,” the net effect of their email still made
them look careless and unprofessional, which did nothing to help them sell
themselves for the job they were after. So after you are finished writing and spell
checking your messages, take the extra few seconds and give them the old visual