Despite all of the hype and attention on social media, the majority of business communication is still done through email. From introductions to pitches and proposals, chances are that your initial impression with someone will often be through this medium. Despite the importance of this system, few really take the time to learn it well in order to get better results.
Here are seven ways on how you can not only improve open rates, but get a response as well:
1) State what you want, clearly and succinctly, in the first sentence, not the last. After you state your goal, request or question, explain further. You hardly ever need to begin with context or an introduction. In fact, the longer of an introduction that you have, the more likely the recipient will get frustrated first.
2) Have a specific call to action. It may seem obvious, but you should have a specific next step or goal that you are looking for. In one sentence, you should be able to answer the question, "What do you want?" Do you want them to click somewhere, book an appointment, call you, answer a question, etc.? Then say so, directly.
3) Write and re-write the subject. Websites like Upworthy write their headlines at least 25 times before publishing a story -- and it obviously works. Take time to keep subject lines interesting, short, and keep it free of spam triggering words such as "free" or "incredible offer."
4) Test it on a mobile device. The numbers say that more than ever before, we're reading messages on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. If you have an especially important email, then it's certainly worth your time testing the message on these devices first. This is another reason why the message should be as succinct as possible.
5) Check who the message is going to. This is another one that sounds obvious but is something that nearly everyone is guilty of. Email providers make things easy these days by having an auto-complete feature that will tag your frequent contacts. However, it's easy for things to be sent to the wrong recipient. Then, there's always the people who forget about the difference between "reply" and "reply all."
6) End with a question. I often like to end emails with a simple question, especially one that can be answered in just a few words. Psychologically, it prompts a response from the recipient. The easier it is for them to answer, take action or address your need, the better. Sometimes, it can just reiterate the opening sentence.
7) Read twice, send once. There's an old carpentry adage that says, "Measure twice, cut once." It was intended to prevent costly and unnecessary mistakes. In the world of business communication, it can cost you the chance to make a good impression or even have your email address flagged for spam. Use a spellcheck. Check your links. If it's an important email, surely it warrants a second read.
These tips aren't exactly groundbreaking, nor are they particular to email. As the world is becoming busier and more connected, we seem to have less and less time to be bothered with email messages that are long, boring, confusing or unclear with their intent. The easiest way to cut through the noise is to remove it from your own messaging. A little consideration in your email can go a long way -- certainly, much further than a long message can.
Follow Simon Tam on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SimonTheTam