Wednesday, 30 September 2015

How To Craft Powerful Emails That Get You Noticed


   



Unless you are a celebrity, (Oprah Winfrey), a business mogul, (Richard Branson) or a universally recognised figure, (Barack Obama), six out of ten times, (and this is a conservative figure), your unsolicited email will be deleted. 


Worse yet, even when you do have legitimate reasons for sending emails - such as seeking clarification for a project; asking for feedback from your boss; or following up on a lead - your emails are either not acknowledged in a timely manner or are ignored altogether. 



When you do get a response, it is frustratingly vague or fails to address the issue at hand. This forces you to send additional emails, thus beginning the vicious cycle of 'email hide-and-seek'.



But before you write off that recipient as the devil's incarnate, understand that people at work are busy. And I mean really busy. They juggle stressful situations, deadlines, countless meetings, addictions to devices and short breaks...often not effectively. This means that emails deemed unimportant or irrelevant, are shelved to be answered when the recipient has a spare moment...which of course never happens. So even with the best of intentions, that email that you vaguely labelled "Next phase" will not be opened.
 


Why emails really matter 



Before you conclude that emails are so passé, the points below should convince you to take them very seriously:







1) Despite the popularity of social media, emails are still considered the preferred choice for business communication among the three generations, consisting of the Baby Boomers, (born 1940s/1950s); Generation X executives, (born 1960s/1970s); and Generation Y professionals, (born 1980s/1990s).



2) Business-to-business email marketing is considered a gold mine due to high conversion rates linked to email lists.



3) You will be perceived as an unreliable professional, a slacker, if you habitually don't respond to emails. In fact, responsiveness in this digital age is linked to perceptions of trustworthinesswhich of course is crucial to your career progression. Look at it from Management's viewpoint: How would you expect to be promoted to a position of high responsibility when you can't be counted upon to acknowledge issues and address them in a timely manner?



Therefore, learning how to write a winning email and responding appropriately will get you noticed and will set you apart from the pack.  




Writing that elusive, compelling email



So here's the dilemma: Presenting your thoughts in such a way that a response is almost always guaranteed.


I say almost  because despite your best efforts, some people who are just not 'email people' will not respond. In such cases, you will need to find the preferred method for communicating with such people: via telephone calls, in face-to-face meetings, through video-based communication tools, by using social media, etc. 



Drawing upon my experience writing numerous unsolicited emails, (in situations where I had no prior contacts), and other emails to persuade or trigger actions from businesses, CEOs, etc. this is what I learnt about emails that yields results: 








Highlight the value/benefit you will bring to the recipient. 



Whatever is contained in your email should make his role easier, (making him look good); his business more competitive/profitable; or his company's brand more recognised. Only when you can address the allure of value, even from the subject line, does your email get a chance of being opened. 



Below are tips that will help you with the process.



1) Writing a catchy subject line


This is actually the most important part of the email but is often not given much thought.


You could grab the attention of the recipient by writing a short, declarative phrase, which gets straight to the point.


 


For unsolicited emails, examples could be:



A) Most Admired Company X in Y Location Seeking Partnership In Z Venture.


B) Boosting Recipient Company's Profits Using X Initiative.



C) Increasing Recipient Company's Sales With Proven X Method.



D) Addressing X Problem To Preempt Y Crisis.  



For other emails which are expected, the rule of thumb is to jog the memory of the recipient to enable him respond quickly. Some examples could be:


I) Approval Required For Project A Before B Deadline.


II) Follow-up On C Issue For D Purpose.



III) Recommendations For Quick Resolution Of E Issue.




Remember that the aim is to get the recipient interested enough to click on the emails because of its relevance. The straightforward subject line allows him to 'tune in' on the issue; it also eliminates ambiguity if he is handling similar matters.  




2) Effectively constructing the body of the email








The body of the email should comprise the following elements:  



A) The salutation/greeting





It is important to ensure the correct spelling of the recipient's name and title.



Dear Mr./Mrs./Dr. X; Head of Sales/CEO,Y Company”.
 

Never address anyone thus:"To Whom It May Concern". It gives the impression that you couldn't be bothered to do basic research and may ruffle some feathers. Don't take that risk.  




B) The heading 



This should repeat the wording of the email subject, with a few extra words for clarity, if necessary.



C) The opening line 



Get straight to the point:


"Last year, your company recorded sales in excess of X million USD. We can increase your sales' volume by X% this year. By merging our company's software Y with your existing tool..." (For unsolicited emails for which you are adding value).



"Further to our discussion on Xdate about the proposed budget for Project Y..." (For a requested email to jog memory).





D) The call-to-action


This is the action you want your recipient to take and essentially the purpose for sending the email. It could be a date for a meeting you'd like scheduled; some urgent documentation you need sent; an idea/innovation you want considered; a complaint you demand handled; etc.


Simply state your request, using polite terms:



"I would appreciate it if you could kindly schedule a meeting to discuss the X solutions we offer that will reduce your operational costs by Y%". 


"In order to ensure the smooth delivery of Project X, please suggest which of the above-mentioned options will be most effective".



"To prevent the issue of X from escalating into a full-blown crisis, I would appreciate your speedy response". 




E) The closing remarks



End with flourish, always adhering to standard business language:


"Whilst awaiting your response on this sensitive matter, we wish to thank you for your kind consideration".


"Thank you for your time. I look forward to receiving feedback at your convenience".



Remember the parting words:



"With best regards";




"With revered regards", (for those really important recipients);


"With deep appreciation of your continued/anticipated support"; etc. 



If you are wary of rocking the boat, then the standard will suffice: 



"Yours sincerely", (for 'named' recipients, i.e. Professor X, Mrs. Smith);




"Yours faithfully", (for 'unnamed' recipients, i.e. "The Director, Corporate Communications"; "The Dean, X Business School"; etc.).  





Notes to remember






In general, your email should be short and not longer than four or five paragraphs, including the closing remarks.



When addressing a complex issue, you may need to write longer emails. Nevertheless, your writing should be crisper, so aim for shorter sentences of 10-15 words.  Use bullet points when communicating multiple ideas and strip away flowery language. Strong verbs such as 'provided', 'analysed', 'sold', 'built', 'supervised', 'led', etc. are effective for highlighting important information.



You should also prioritise the active voice: "We decided to discontinue the process" versus "A decision was made to discontinue the process". 



Above all: 


 


1) Proof-read thoroughly:  


"I cited Shakespeare in my literature class", versus "I sighted Shakespeare in my literature class". 



Use the second option and get a free pass to a psychiatric ward.  




2) Edit ruthlessly:


 
 

"Let's eat, grandma", versus "Let's eat grandma". 


You get the idea...  







Conclusion

So now I concede that you don't have to be a celebrity or a popular figure to write powerful emails that will resonate with your recipient.







It may seem that all the points mentioned in this post will make writing that winning email cumbersome, but the opposite is true: Your email will be clear, succinct and will prompt action.





Trust me on this.


So take the plunge. Use the tips provided and go craft that email!


What other tips have you used to write effective emails? Let me know by posting your comments below.



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Recommended reading



Need help in writing?

Hire me for a writing assignment or coaching sessions in communications. 



Contact me by:


A) Sending a direct email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com  

B) Calling for advice and a free consultation:
  

Nigeria:                0704 631 0592 
International:      +234 704 631 0592 


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N.B–  First, second,  third,  sixth  and seventh images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Fourth image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via freedigitakphotos.net. Fifth image courtesy of Sira Anamwong; via freedigitalphotos.net.