I recently tried a personal experiment to see if I could reduce my email usage to just twice daily "sprint sessions" during which I would strategically respond to and file away emails.
It worked great -- for a few days. The problem was that while I might have effectively created this new email habit, many of the emails I received were much more time sensitive. Moreover, the sheer volume of emails received in these short email hiatuses was overwhelming.
Am I exaggerating? Well, consider that according to Harvard Business Review, employees check email on average 74 times per day and receive over 150 emails -- which seems grossly underestimated, but then again, I receive more pitches and newsletters than I care to recall.
The reality is that as much time and energy as email consumes in our lives, it is actually one of the most productive tools we use every day. Moreover, it does not seem to be going anywhere, with research by Radicati finding that 3 billion people worldwide will send 246 billion emails by 2019.
And while we can debate the longevity and sustainability of email and the effectiveness of our time checking it, I think we can all agree that many of the emails we receive are downright terrible.
This is especially true for younger generations entering the workforce, who have and will continue to grow up in a world without the experience of writing professional memos (T.P.S. reports, anyone?). Instead, their communication skills have largely been defined by the medium of fast and short status updates and text messages.
Writing a decent email is not difficult, however, as long as we understand the elements required for delivering an effective message. With that, I offer the following, simple guidelines.
Crafting an effective subject line is a lost art, but it can be one of the most effective tools for getting your message noticed or filtered properly. In a few short words, tell the recipient why you are writing. Keep it personal, concise and to the point.
"Association Conference Follow Up: Request for a 10 Minute Phone Call."
I used to believe salutations were a waste of time. You are, after all, writing to someone specific, so why would you state the obvious right from the start?
With spam and email lists, however, having a name right from the start shows that the email was (or at least may have been) personalized. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to use a professional salutation, as first names set a friendly tone, which may be received awkwardly if the recipient does not feel the same.
Even if you believe the recipient knows you, it is still a good idea to include some background information about you and the nature of your message. Remember, we receive tens of emails daily, so it is very likely that the recipient will appreciate the refresher.
"When we met and talked at the Association Conference on August 23 in Atlanta, we discussed my background in graphic design, and you asked me to follow up with information about the services we provide."
Recommendation (or Request) and the "So What -- Who Cares"
Now you can make the request or present the recommendation you want to make. Remember -- and this is important -- that you should be writing to delivery value, not just to promote yourself. You need to tell the recipient WHY they should listen to you. To avoid going too long, stick with the five rules delivering value in a written communication.
"I have had time to review your company and understand your services, and feel that we have a tailored business plan that can help you grow your off-season business by 20%.
And, since we regularly work with businesses your size, I know our affordable plan can fit within your budget. Moreover, we are willing to give you the opportunity to try for a month with no obligation to continue."
Give the recipient options to act that are simple and clear.
"If you are available for a 10-minute call on September 23 at 9AM E.T., I will phone you at your office. If not, we can schedule a different appointment at that time that works better for you."
Sign off with an acknowledgment and appreciation for their time, and do not forget to leave them the most important information they need about you.
"Thank you for your time. I look forward to speaking with you.
Smith Digital Design
This may seem like a lot of work for an email, but the time and energy is worth it. Consumers still appreciate receiving emails, with a survey by MarketingSherpa.com finding that 72 percent of consumers prefer email as their source of business communication, and 61 percent of consumers enjoy receiving promotional emails weekly.
More important, whether your message is personal or part of a larger mass email campaign, it still needs to be effective and deliver value. Otherwise, it is destined for the deleted folder.
Your feedback is always appreciated. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.