9 Ways to Improve the Impact of Your Email – The Works

Want to know how to get your email answered? Need more impact in what you do? Want more time? I’ve got ideas.

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What Email Has Become

Depending on your work situation, email has become much more than its original intent. Email has become:

  • Your not-in-person meeting tool.
  • Your ass-covering tool.
  • Your chat window.
  • Your filing system.
  • Your database of information.
  • Your to-do list.
  • Your private social network.

None of these are especially “wrong” uses, but what happens is that by using this technology for all these purposes, it blunts our ability to be effective and to get quality responses from others. We’ve all had that situation arise where we try to get a response from someone and we either get a lame/vague response that requires another 8 messages to get everything nailed down, or the dreaded “no reply at all.”

Here are some thoughts on improving your email response and quality rates. Your mileage may vary, plus I’d love to hear YOUR tips in the comments below.

Make Subject Lines Actionable

One reason people don’t respond is that you don’t prompt them to do your bidding. Here are a few sample subject lines to help:

  • YES OR NO: _______
  • 2 MINUTES TO READ: __(and the subject, briefly)

See how in every case, the subject prompts the reader for a next action? Now run to your inbox, check your sent items, and look at YOUR titles. I’ll do it, too. Because I get behind on this, too. (Well, that backfired. Here are some of the “choice” subject lines I’ve used lately:)

“Happy Birthday” <-- well that's okay.
"Language for Mentoring" <-- pretty descriptive to the receiver
"You call me, right?" <-- winner!
"Is there a way to have ONE product page for all these offers?" <-- very accurate.

Now look at yours. I’ll wait.

Okay. Back?

Make the Ask At the BEGINNING, not the End

This is a super secret great tip. Make the MOST IMPORTANT request at the beginning of the email. Lots of people try to fill the message with backstory. If you want, here’s a format for this kind of thing:

Subject: Would You Speak at a Special Event?

Body: Hi ________ ,

I’m writing because I want you to speak at a conference on ____ 12th, 20___ in Chennai. I’m prepared to pay your speaking fee of $____, and provide you air, hotel, and ground transportation as part of the deal. If you’re interested, please reply with YES, and the contact for your event coordinator/assistant and I’ll get the project started. Backstory is below.


Backstory and Details:

…blah blah blah…

See how this works?

Reminding Someone To Reply

There are right ways and wrong ways to remind someone to reply. Here’s the least useful/good way: Email followed by immediate text/tweet.

Just don’t do that one, unless it was otherwise asked for in some way. Okay? Our inbox throws out a big red circle with a “1″ in it for a reason.

Now, what’s different than this is when you send an email and two or three days have passed (note that I said 2 or 3 days, and not 2 or 3 hours). Then, it’s perfectly reasonable to send a brief message via another channel to confirm whether that person got the message. Around that same time, you can always re-send the message, and tack on a “I’m not trying to be pushy, but just wanted to be sure you saw this” kind of message on top of the original.

Some people will be bothered/offended. Others will be okay with this. Related to that, don’t ever bother someone more than once for the same email. If they haven’t responded after the reminder, they’re either too busy, not interested, or whatever. You can’t guess on that, but you know the answer is “not going to respond.”

How To Get Some Attention

Here are some quick ways to get someone to respond to your email so that you won’t need reminders like the one above:

  • Give more than you ask. Thus, your name won’t be synonymous with “needs something from me” when it pops up in the inbox.
  • Write less-than-300 words when you send an email.
  • Be the person who brings people business. Not introductions. Deals.
  • Respond when others mail you. (This should make sense, but it’s where some people fall down – me, sometimes!)
  • Stay connected via the various social channels, as well. It’s more likely people will feel connected with you if you’re commenting on their photos, or their tweets, or whatever.

Those are some ways to get attention. We’re nearing the home stretch.

9 Ways to Improve the Impact Of Your Email

  1. 1 subject per email. Ask only 1 question.
  2. Brevity. Short sentences. Less than 300 words.
  3. Remove that bunch of “general’s ribbons” that makes up your signature. Pick 1, 2 tops ways for people to reach you.
  4. Use plain text, or the simplest possible HTML. Flashy and fancy or (shudder) stationary never help.
  5. Pick unique times of day to send, instead of during work hours. (My free newsletter goes out Sunday!)
  6. Use bullets or numbers to make your emails even faster to answer.
  7. Remove the “biography” or “liner notes” from your email and just ask what needs asking.
  8. Ask all the pertinent questions in the first email, instead of stringing them out. (Conflicts with #1, I know!)
  9. Make every reply either clear in the follow-up question or definitive in the ending of the correspondence. Work towards ONLY those two responses.

Those are the ways I know. I’m curious to know what works for YOU! Answer below in the comments section?

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  • Clause

    Amazing writing Chris I am also trying to write like this but I can’t well really appreciate your talent and good sense of writing, keep going. Thanks.

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  • http://www.njmortgagereports.com/ Tony Croft

    Great article! Thank you.

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  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Amber King

    Thank you for sharing these tips Chris. I like your suggestion to ask the question first. I usually only read the top part of the email and if I found it uninteresting, I skip it. By asking the question first, you make the reader curious thus making read the whole message.

  • Shanna

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. I’m a designer and your site design is amazing … Love it! Very Inspiring – great colors and textures!!

  • http://twitter.com/ShawnBesabella Shawn Besabella

    Bullet points!

    And if you have multiple people on one email, I like using the ‘@’ sign.

  • John Moore

    Some great thoughts and ideas. I like prompting the answer in subject line and BLUF technique. Sometimes emails I receive are too long with so much info I have to go back to actually decipher what it’s being requested.

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  • http://twitter.com/street_alex Alex Street

    CHOCOLATE is the answer. Basically unusual subject headings that spark curiosity. Recently I went to a dinner and wanted to follow-up with most of the delegates (about 20). Follow-up subject heading was “Chocolate dessert”. In the opening sentence of the email I then reminded them we met at the dinner where they served that terribly rich chocolate dessert. Got amazing response. People like chocolate.

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  • http://boxmonthly.com/ Lori Peters

    If I may say men skim e-mails. I never get more than one question answered.
    So do I write multiple e-mails instead? Women do read e-mails more thoroughly.

  • Ajit

    Hello Chris,
    Really email marketing has a lot of potential, but only if you know how to do.
    Email subject is also same like “writing headlines for your post”.

    Thanks for the info, truly helpful as i have already started collecting database for my site to work with email marketing.

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