The study that led to "opening words" conclusion, conducted by the folks at Boomerang, involved examining a trove of 300,000 publicly shared emails (most of them found on threads on various online forums over the years).
Besides identifying the most effective opening phrase, it turns out the study also examined the closing phrases people often use, and came up with a best practice there, too: a simple three-word phrase that prompted a much higher response rate than other, more common closings.
Moreover, simple variations of this closing also performed much better than a baseline of all 300,000 email threads.
Here are the results. (The campaign examined only closing phrases or words that appeared more than 1,000 times among the 300,000 emails they looked at.)
The most-common phrases, along with their reply yield rates, were as follows:
- "thanks in advance," with a 65.7 percent reply rate
- "thanks," at 63.0 percent
- "thank you," 57.9 percent
- "cheers," 54.4 percent
- "kind regards," 53.9 percent
- "regards," 53.5 percent
- "best regards," 52.9 percent
- "best," 51.2 percent
Compare these to the baseline response rate for all emails, which was 47.5 percent. The difference is pretty remarkable.
It makes me wonder how many thousands of replies I haven't gotten over the years, due to my penchant for ending emails with "best" (as if I'd wanted to write, "best regards," but just couldn't find the time.)
Of course, it's also tough to know exactly what makes "thanks in advance" such a magic phrase. A few potential explanations pop out.
First, of course, is that it's an expression of gratitude. Studies show sharing that sentiment has the effect of making people see you more positively in any context.
Second, there's the "in advance" part, suggesting that not only is the thanks for something you're going to do in the future, but also that it's a foregone conclusion that your next act will be to earn the gratitude of the email's sender.
Sneaky. I like it.
Much like the conclusions on the best opening line to put in an email, it's clear you could take this too far. Send every email with a "thanks in advance" closing, and you're likely to get a lot fewer replies.
But if you'd like to get replies to your emails a little more often--whether they're one-on-one messages to colleagues or marketing messages that you're sending to thousands of people--you might give this little trick a try.
I hope you'll let us know how it turns out.
Thanks in advance.