October 02, 2014

How to Get Away With Email

The thing about murder is that it's hard to get away with it. You have to discredit witnesses, provide reasonable doubt, and make evidence disappear. It's messy. Kind of like email. But email doesn't have to be messy. It doesn't have to be a black hole where sales leads and marketing promotions go to die. It's much easier to get away with email than with murder, you just have to understand the basics.

Remember when you used to dial into your AOL or Earthlink account and your email inbox was empty? The only thing waiting for you each day was a personal email from your internet pen-pal or maybe your best friend.

No? You don't? Yea. Neither do I. Because that time never existed.

Since the dawn of email, inboxes have been cluttered. Obnoxious companies (and scammers) jumped right on the email bandwagon at the start of Al Gore's internet and were ready to bombard unsuspecting users with ads, completely real girls just looking for a friend, and erectile dysfunction pills. With that kind of spam from day one, it's a wonder anyone stuck with email to the robust tool it is today. But here we are, email aficionados. Any company worth it's weight in gold understands the importance of email, and how integral it is to success and growth.

Understanding the importance of email and understanding how to get those emails read, however, are two completely different ideas. Just because you know you should be sending emails doesn't mean you know how to send them in way that encourages recipient reading and responses. While it may sounds as easy as "just send an email" when you think your product speaks for yourself, it isn't and it doesn't. Let's break it down into a couple of tips across three key components.

Get your email opened

Write a better subject line. Listen, I probably don't know you but chances are that you aren't writing catchy enough subject lines. It's not easy and if you're not good at Twitter it's especially not easy for you, but it's also not impossible. When writing the subject line keep a couple of tips in mind:

Be specific. "Hey friend, look at this" sounds like spam (and probably is spam) but "This CRM Contactually looks perfect for you Maria" gets closer to the mark. Is there a deadline? Leave it here. Is it urgent? Make that known. Use the subject line to say as much as possible while saying as little as possible.

Be brief. I know you get about 60 characters in a subject line but you really shouldn't use every last one. With most readers checking email on mobile, that number is even smaller. And in today's fast-paced, tech-centered world, you need to make your point and make it fast. People are busy and they don't have time to read a lengthy subject line. If you can't pull them in using a brief subject line the email probably isn't worth reading either.

Get your email read

Skip the sarcasm. I know, that sounds a little strange coming from She of the Sarcastic Seas but if you're cold emailing or emailing anyone you don't know well, sarcasm should be avoided. There's no globally accepted sarcasm font or emoticon so it's impossible to indicate when you're being facetious. Don't assume the reader will pick up on sarcasm. You know what grandpa said about assuming.

Keep it simple stupid. Do you want to read an email that's 3,000 words long? I'm sure you don't. If an email needs to be that long then it shouldn't an email; it should be a phone call. If you can't keep it short and sweet reconsider the purpose of your email. Try to break up the information as much as possible and pare down unnecessary language. Your reader doesn't want to have to wade through your flowery language to figure out the purpose of the email. You are not George R.R. Martin. Get to the point.

Encourage a response

Proofread the email. Maybe you think that tip should go under get the email read. You're wrong. Proofreading is important once the person is already reading. If you have typos, grammatical or spelling errors, or can't string a full sentence together, your reader isn't going to think much of you. If your reader doesn't think highly of you, they aren't going to be too inspired to respond to your email or to trust what you're selling them. And if you're the guy that emailed our director of digital marketing and misspelled not only her name but our company's name, you can bet your ass you're not getting a response.

Ask for a response. If you've been in marketing for at least 30 seconds, you've heard the term Call to Action (aka a CTA for those hip with acronyms). Embrace a CTA in your email. If you're going to spend all day writing an email that you would like a reply to, you're going to get a much better response rate if you actually ask for a reply. That can be an email reply, a phone call, a button click, anything.

When it comes to writing emails that you want open you need to remember two important facts: everyone is important and everyone is busy. If you write your emails (and subject lines) with this in mind it will be easier to capture a reader's attention to get the responses you want.

Oh, and it never hurts to include cat pictures. Cat pictures are always a hit.