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5 Tips to Maximize Your Email Impact

Many times email feels like a nuisance, but it is a necessary part of life. How can we cut through the noise and increase our chances of someone reading or replying to our email?

1. Know the reader’s preference. People prefer to read in a style that resonates with them rather than a manner that resonates with you. Consider making small adjustments to your emails that will make a big difference to your reader. Here are some reader preferences to consider:

a. Does the reader prefer brevity or detail? If you don't know, then follow their lead. Meaning, if they send a short email, then respond with a short email. If you still don't know, consider asking the reader. Pick the style that fits the reader's preference.

b. Does the reader prefer friendly or direct language? Friendly language starts with "I hope all is well" or "Good Afternoon." On the other hand, when people use direct language, they may only fill out the subject line stating, "Get this done by EOD."

Some people may read the friendly version and find it warm and considerate, but others may see it pointless. On the other hand, some people read the direct emails and find them refreshing, while others find them rude.

Neither approach is right or wrong unless we compare it against what we prefer. Everybody has a different preference, and it may be helpful to use your reader's preference rather than yours as long as you are responding authentically.

Side note, when I first started dating my wife, she would text me, "how is your day?" I would respond with a warm one-word answer. FINE.

At the end of the day, she would ask me what was wrong and why I was so upset. I was confused because I didn't realize, but to her, my text messages came across cold and angry. Now I send text messages with emojis, hearts, and I give more detail than a one-word answer. Is this my style? Absolutely not, but my wife prefers, and it doesn't feel disingenuous, so why wouldn't I make this adjustment if it will improve my relationship. The same goes for the workplace. If it will improve a work relationship then consider making authentic adjustments.

c. Does the reader care about accuracy? Some people see one typo and your dooomed (<---- catch that?}. They will think you're lazy, incompetent, or worse. Then some people have thirteen typos, and at the end of the email, it says, "please excuse the typos." Some people could care less if they see a typo, depending on the circumstances. I believe you should fix typos, but that's just me. Some people care about grammar and accuracy, and some don’t. What matters is what your reader prefers.

2. You need a great subject. People are so busy that there are only two things you guarantee they will read: who sent the email and the subject line. The subject better be good. It's like a bookstore - what are most of us drawn to? The cover and title. If it has a great cover and title, then there is a higher chance of us buying the book. Keep your subject line as short as possible, and use keywords that will grab the reader's attention. Examples of words that may get people's attention include revenue, cost, your input, deadline, numbers, please read, critical, or anything else your reader will care about. If you are in doubt, brainstorm a subject line that would encourage you to open the email you are about to send.

3. Structure makes it easy to read. Add some structure to your email by using bold, italics, and underline so the reader’s eyes can easily gravitate towards what is most important. Here are two examples.

A) Hi Mike - It has been a long time since we caught up. What have you been up to? Anyhow, I am writing because I have an event coming up that is pretty cool. I think you would like it and it's a pretty popular thing to do. If you are busy, that is cool but check it out. It is happening this coming week, and here is a website where you can get more info, but it would be great to see you. P.S. I only wrote a few sentences, but emails like this can go on and on. I hate to admit it, but I am guilty of sending these and have to catch myself.

B) Hi Mike - I am going to a concert on March 21 and I would love for you to join us. Details below.

Event: Music Concert in Maggie Daly Park

When: Thursday, March 21

Cost: $21.50 plus service fee

Who's Coming: John, Mary, Michael, Sonny

4. Be concise.

Don’t ramble; no one has time for that. Blaise Pascal, a mathematician from the 1600s, said, “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” The key to being concise is to take more time, and with that extra time, you should remove unnecessary words that are wasteful such as just, that, very, or really. These words are like the additional decoration on a car that makes the car look ridiculous. Do you want your emails to look like this?

5. Make your request clear.

At work, we are too busy to decode an email request. A request in email should be clear so the person knows how to act upon your email. When someone is unclear, it’s frustrating! It’s like not being clear on whether you're on a date or just hanging out. Are we hanging out as friends or are we on a date? What’s going on here? Do not confuse your reader! Below is the same example as above, except underline will make the request more clear.

B) Hi Mike - I am going to a concert on March 21, 2019. Details below.

Event: Music Concert in Maggie Daly Park

When: Thursday March 21, 2019

Cost: $21.50 plus service fee

Who's Coming: John, Mary, Michael, Sonny

Request: I would love for you to join us. Let me know if you buy a ticket and will be joining.

Bonus tip: Do not send another email if you sent a colleague two or three in a row. Another email is not going to help matters. It is only going to make you, the sender, more annoyed because they are not likely to respond. If you work with this person, stop yourself from sending another email and pick up the phone. They are likely overwhelmed with email, and speaking to them is a great alternative. Millennials and Zillennials are typically less comfortable on the phone, so make sure to get out of your comfort zone and pick up that phone!

Bonus tip: Use humor appropriately. Memes are a safe way to be funny as long as you select the right meme. I had a person send me the meme below in a sales follow up email. I loved the meme! However, be careful with sarcasm in the written form because it can be unclear and go over people’s heads.

This week make an effort to pick one of these strategies, such as knowing your reader’s preferences and make that your focus for the next week. Improve your email by selecting one thing to focus on per week.

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