Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to Make Your Email More Approachable, Part 1

1. Mix the medium. If the subject matter of your email is urgent, instead of emailing the person back, just pick up the phone and call. This is unexpected and usually appreciated.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: Would this message be better communicated over the phone?

2. Use enticing subject lines. If you want people to open your emails FIRST, consider titling your messages with phrases like, “I saw something that made me think of you…” and “Someone paid you a compliment yesterday.” You could also use thought-provoking questions like, “Have you seen this article?” or “How many customers have you WOW’ed this week?

ASK YOURSELF THIS: 500 emails a day - why would someone open YOURS?

3. Email signature. You don’t need an entire novel at the bottom of every message. However, including (some) information and maybe a teaser to encourage a visit to your website is a great way to add a sense of accessibility AND personality to your emails. Just have SOMETHING. An email without a signature is a like phone call without a message or a letter without a return address.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: Does your recipient even KNOW who sent the email?

4. But, remember the Cavemen. Prehistoric hunters learned to respond to ANY movement out in the prairie because it represented a threat – either from a giant, hungry animal or from other hunters. Eons later, the human brain has now evolved to filter out unchanging backgrounds.

See, familiar structures lead to mental laziness; which means there’s no need to pay attention. So, this relates to email in an interesting way: How often are you changing YOUR signature? Because after a while, people are just going to start ignoring it. Remember, the most effective way to attract people’s attention is to BR – EAK their patterns.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: How often do you change your signature?

5. Use mass emails sparingly. With the exception of major events like babies, job changes or health issues; or information updates like new phone numbers, locations or urgent memos, AVOID MASS ANYTHINGS (thanks, Harry Beckwith.) They annoy people. They get ignored. They get deleted.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: When was the last time you opened (or read with interest) a letter that was CLEARLY a mass email?

6. Keep it real. Email will never beat face-to-face interaction. Still, you DO enhance the level of friendliness when you write in a conversational tone. Use simple words. Write short sentences. And don’t be afraid to punctuate! Remember, if you write like you talk, people will listen. A good test is to read your emails aloud before sending. If it sounds like a training manual for a power plant, rewrite it.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: Is your writing friendly enough?

7. Keep it H-U-M-A-N. Don’t try to impress someone by thesaurusizing your email with terms you wouldn’t use in person. It sounds diaphanous, limpid, and transpicuous.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: Is that big word REALLY necessary?

8. Use Italics, Boldface and Punctuation! One of the pitfalls of emailing the inability to convey emotion. Often your correspondent won’t understand if you are serious or kidding, happy or sad, frustrated or euphoric … unless you are EXPRESSIVE! So, use italics bold, underline and the like to highlight key words that show the person exactly what you want to say. Otherwise, your opinions, statements and stories will be misinterpreted.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: Is the architecture of your writing digestable?

9. Exclamation points. When used effectively and sparingly, exclamation points are awesome! They completely alter the emotion of the sentence. So, don’t be afraid to use them. On the other hand, you don’t need one in every sentence! People will think you’re on drugs! And they will freak out! Ahhh!!!!

ASK YOURSELF THIS: Are you scaring your email recipients?

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By the way, this article was longer than I expected, so part 2 is coming soon!

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How approachable is your email?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For a copy of my list called, 65 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me When I First Started My Company, send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

How many unsolicited referrals did YOU get this week?

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