Sales, marketing and outreach emails are often met with disregard. This post addresses this problem and provides some hints as to how to increase engagement with one-to-one emails.
86% of organisations prefer to communicate over email. In 2018, there were 3.8 billion people using email and this number is only expected to grow, not decline as many have previously predicted. Between 2014 and 2018 the average number of emails received in one day was 90.
People are unlikely to reply to 90 emails a day. So how do you make sure you’re the one that gets the reply? Here are some hints for successful emails.
The introduction is arguably the most important element of the email. It can determine whether the email gets seen in the first place.
Compelling subject line
Grabbing the attention of your reader is the first and most important task. Always make sure your subject line is compelling - the first paragraph of the email. Avoid long subject lines and make it clear and concise, even snappy if you can. The recipient should know what the email is about from the subject line - vagueness in this respect will not get your email opened.
Introducing yourself is normally easy but sometimes using email to make that introduction can be a little tricky. If you are emailing someone you have never spoken to before you should find out a little bit about them and tailor your email to the recipient. Say how you know or have come across the person: If you have seen some of their published work then complement them, keeping in mind this should only be a brief section to build rapport.
The way you start the email will differ depending on the industry you work in. Relaxed industries can start the emails with a "Hi", "Hey" or "Hello." If I am contacting someone I haven’t spoken to before, I like to start the email with either "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon." If you are contacting people in other countries and you want to use "Good Morning/Afternoon" you need to make sure you are using the right term for their time zone.
Avoid using the first and last name of your contact when starting the email, even if you know both names. I would avoid using both because it can come across unprofessional, where a professional and generic greet is sometimes enough. Greeting by name, and adopting personalisation, can make the email more compelling but can also come across somewhat creepy to some audiences, especially if the recipient does not know you or has not provided the email address.
With all the spam emails existent today, people are more careful than they ever were about who they contact, the emails they open and what links they click on. If you make the email relevant, they are more likely to trust it.
Don’t tell the person you are contacting that you’ve never spoken to them before because this will make you an untrustworthy email sender. If you admit the person doesn’t know you then they might feel they have no obligation to read your email.
If you start the email discussing something they have achieved, maybe a blog you’ve read or a new product the company is launching then the recipient knows you are familiar with them and interested in what they do.
When I am talking to advertising representatives, I would use something like “We saw your magazine and think it could work for one of our clients. We would appreciate it if you could send more information over to us.”
Explain your reason for contacting
Try not to babble; no one wants to read an essay if they don’t have to. Make it clear why you are contacting that person. Make sure there is a reason behind your email and it is made clear why you are getting in touch soon after building rapport. Even more important, make sure they know what you are hoping to gain, making it clear what you want from them.
Sending a follow-up email
Follow-up emails can be tricky. How much time is enough time? Why haven’t they responded? How many follow-ups can you send before it’s too much? Let's look a little closer at the follow-up.
Did you send a close?
The first step is to go back to the original email and see what you requested. Did you make it clear to the recipient that you wanted something from them? Do they know you are expecting a response? If it wasn’t clear in your first email it’s likely the person doesn’t know they have been asked to get back to you.
Sometimes “I look forward to hearing from you” is a way people sign off emails on autopilot. If you are expecting something back and you just say you’re looking forward to hearing from them, you probably won't. This isn’t direct enough. Make it clear you want a response and when you need it by. “Please get back to me by end of business Thursday if possible” is an effective way to finish as you have given a deadline.
One of the best ways to ensure a response is to include a call to action; if there is a link in the body the email will certainly get more interaction with a call to action. Try setting up a call by being forward about it: “If you would like clarification, we can set up a call to discuss things further.”
Try a fresh approach
Don’t send the same email multiple times if you do not get a response after the first email. Try not to forward the same email multiple times and don’t copy and paste the same content multiple times. It may also look like you aren’t really interested in the recipient as you haven't invested the time to write another email.
If you send a long chain of emails without getting a response, email providers could consider your email spam which means they will be sent straight to the junk folder. Each follow-up email should contain new content, worded differently in a way so it doesn’t look like the same email. You could also try changing the subject line making it more interesting and compelling.
Give the recipient time
You must remember to give your recipient time to respond as there could be many reasons why they haven’t yet got back to you. For example, they may have been away, they could have lots of emails coming in at the same time or they might be looking for the information you have requested or your email might have fallen into the junk folder.
If the information is urgent you should state this in your original email along with a deadline for when you require a response. If you need an urgent response, I would suggest you send the email and call the person you are trying to get in contact with. Altering the channel in this way can prove hugely successful.
One or two days is not sufficient time to wait before sending a follow-up. After you have sent the original email you should wait at least a week before you send the follow-up, or if the matter is urgent, use another medium such as a call.
Don’t get Frustrated
We all know that waiting for a response can be agitating but it’s important not to let it get to you that could affect other or future approaches. Remember that there are many reasons as to why you may not have had a response and there could be a multitude of reasons as to why it is taking longer than expected.
Do not send a cut off email because you’ve got frustrated; similarly, never send an email saying you’ve waited too long and aren’t interested anymore. If deadlines have passed you could send another email informing them that the information or response is no longer required for that email, but you would like to talk them in the future.
Mistakes to avoid when sending emails
When sending out emails to your contacts, as well as those touched upon above, there as some key instances of what not to do.
Know when to use reply all
Sometimes it’s easy to hit reply all and get everything done all in one go but this isn’t always the best technique. If everyone in the email needs to see the response, then reply all is a brilliant function because it prevents people being left out the loop and means you don’t have to type in everyone’s email.
If the email is addressed only to you but sent to multiple people, your response only needs to go back to the person who sent you the email. Sometimes there will be a group email but your response will only be relevant to one or two people, in this case, you shouldn’t use reply all. Use the reply all scarcely.
Proofread your emails (twice)
This is so important; spell check is a thing and normally it picks everything up but sometimes things are missed. You must always proofread an email before you send it names and addresses aren’t checked by spell check, so you need to ensure these are correct.
Numbers and data must be checked by you. Everything should be read over before it is sent out otherwise you could end up making some big mistakes. You should check that the email is going to the right person, lots of people have the same first name and it is easy to click the wrong suggested name.
Do your research
Make sure you know as much about the person you are emailing as possible. At least try and find their name so you’re not contacting them with “to whom it may concern.” It looks better for the recipient if you know something about them or something personal to them. It is not always possible to find this information (as some people will like to remain anonymous) - if that’s the case then the receiver will know this and it shouldn’t offend them to receive a non-personal email.
Always put your signature on an email. Remember that you are not sending personal emails when you send these emails, you are the face of the company and must look professional at all times. Layout is important. If you open an email and it has large blocks of paragraphs, you are more than likely not going to read all of the content of the email. Putting information into bullet points or short sentences makes it easier for the recipient to read and digest your email, and therefore, responding to the email positively.