It is estimated that some 247 billion e-mails are sent every day, according to Radicati Group research. But out of that staggering number, how many are actually read and acted upon? Whatever that number is, it’s a lot fewer than 247 billion. Why? For one thing, e-mail is not like regular mail. Most of us (even when it comes to junk mail) have difficulty ignoring physical, stamped envelopes with our names on them. E-mail is much easier to dismiss and delete. That’s why special steps need to be taken to ensure your e-mail not only reaches, but gets read by the recipient.

Six of these tips are discussed below:

1. Specific, Attention-Grabbing Subject Lines

(DeclanTM)
Getting your e-mails read and acted upon all starts with the subject line. Very simply, if your subject line does not immediately leap off of the screen and arrest the recipient’s attention, you’ve lost her. This happens all too often with vague or uninteresting subject lines like:

  • No subject at all
  • How’s it going?
  • Status check
  • Check this out

Subjects like these fail to capture our attention because they do not seem interesting, urgent or specific. If your intended recipient does not get much e-mail, perhaps it won’t matter and it’ll get read anyway. But if that person is at all busy, these poorly titled e-mails stand little to no chance of being opened. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore a specific, hyper-focused subject line like “URGENT: Your Approval Required For Tomorrow’s Budget Proposal.”

2. Getting Straight To The Point

(James Cridland)

Unless you are writing leisurely notes to friends or loved ones, every e-mail you send should get straight to the point. Modern e-mail services (including Gmail) actually “preview” the first sentence or two of new e-mails in the recipient’s inbox before they are even opened. Therefore, if you begin an important e-mail with meandering text (like “How’s it going man? You know, it’s the funniest thing – I was walking through the office today, blah blah blah…”) your recipient could assume that the message can wait or not open it at all.

Conversely, they are unlikely to ignore an e-mail whose first sentence comes right out with “How’s it going, Jim? We need your signature on these financials by the close of business today.”

3. The Shorter, The Better

(Sterlic)

We’ve all gotten lengthy, overblown e-mails that look like the sender was more interested in sermonizing to us than getting a specific point across. This is another surefire way to be tuned out. The worst thing you can become known as around the office is “that guy” whose e-mails are all at least five paragraphs long. Busy people simply do not have time to read a condensed version of War & Peace each time you have something to say.

Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki wrote an article called The Effective Emailer in which he says:

“The ideal length for an email is five sentences. If you’re asking something reasonable of a reasonable recipient, simply explain who you are in one or two sentences and get to the ask. If it’s not reasonable, don’t ask at all. My theory is that people who tell their life story suspect that their request is on shaky ground so they try build up a case to soften up the recipient.”

4. One Topic Per E-Mail

(Horia Varlan)

Another widespread source of e-mail frustration is devoting one e-mail to multiple, wide-ranging topics. Instead of sending one e-mail about the budget proposal, a second about the company affiliate program and a third about training the new intern, some senders try to lump it all into a single message. Though you may look at this as being efficient (“why send three e-mails when I could send one?”) this is not what actually happens.

Instead, your recipient may respond only to the issue that most immediately affects him, ignoring the others. Even if all the topics do get addressed, good luck tracking it all down two or three months later. The correct approach here is limiting each e-mail to one topic, complete with its own specific subject line. This way, recipients are compelled to address each topic individually, and their responses are easy to retrieve.

5. Remembering To Hit “Reply All”

(_rockinfree)

Nothing is more frustrating during e-mail chats between more three or more people than one of them forgetting to hit “Reply All.” Suddenly, what began as a nice, fluid exchange between the group is cut off because you replied only to Frank (and left John and Steve out in the cold.) It’s an easy mistake to make, but one that you should constantly watch out for. Depending on how many threads the e-mail contained at the time, getting everyone back into the loop can be a painstaking chore and annoy the other recipients.

6. Using E-Mail Sparingly

(Robert Scoble)

E-mailing too often is perhaps the biggest e-mail communication “no-no” of all. Remember the story about the boy who cried wolf? He forced people to come running so many times for false alarms that by the time the wolf did come, no one came or cared. E-mail is a lot like that. If you routinely send four or five pointless e-mails for every meaningful one, it’s a lot easier for the meaningful ones to be overlooked.

The solution? Send only meaningful e-mails. A new message from you should never evoke that dreaded “oh great, here we go…” feeling in the recipient. If they do, it means you’re sending too many e-mails (or not getting to the point fast enough.) Fix this, and watch your e-mail communications improve!

About the Author: Irina Kabigting is Webs’ Social Media Marketing Manager. Get more from Irina on Webs’ Blog and Google+.

16 Responses

  1. Reply
    Francene
    May 16, 2011 - 01:08 PM

    Remember also to include physical location of a place in subject lines (if applicable). It will increase your open rate. Avoid words like “free” and use “complimentary” instead. Try not to send email back to back because people will unsubscribe. See my marketing blog for other tips: http://www.localmarketingguide.co.uk

  2. Reply
    MAKE Waves
    May 16, 2011 - 11:00 PM

    thanks webs! do you ever run out of good topics? we just sent out an e-mail wave with this info and actually got some site views and a new member from them. Keep up the good work http://www.computerzombies.webs.com

    -the MAKE Waves team

  3. Reply
    Dane
    May 16, 2011 - 11:21 PM

    I think its best to keep it simple and to the point…

    Dane

  4. Reply
    fernando
    May 17, 2011 - 06:10 AM

    to be honest i have no idea what to do with the 3400 members on my site, I go to send email blast and i draw a blank , just dont know what to tell them or how much to tell them, then when i hit submit i usually loose one or two members, this blog has been very useful.

  5. Reply
    Mark
    May 17, 2011 - 09:51 AM

    When this article mentioned – “don’t forget to reply all”, well as for me, I’m very careful when I do this…especially one time when I replied back to the sender but to talk about the other person that was copied in the group. I hit reply all instead of just “reply” – crap – I’ll never make that mistake again.

    I find myself out of habit anymore to be very careful with e-mails. I’ve seen people reply to department wide e-mail – meaning to hit “reply” but instead hit “reply all”…wow, the e-mail that comes back to that person with the sarcastic replies is rather humorous.

  6. Reply
    FriendUs
    May 17, 2011 - 01:07 PM

    Good article but mostly when i send blasts the members deactivate there account! :(

    • Reply
      the Webs Team
      May 17, 2011 - 02:29 PM

      @FriendUs: That’s a good indicator that the information you are sending your users isn’t something they value. Try to switch up the content you provide.

  7. Reply
    Alicia Smith
    May 17, 2011 - 01:39 PM

    One of the keys to success is creating an online experience. I recently read an interesting post by Codebaby about how to “Creating an Emotionally Engaging Online Experience” (http://codebaby.com/cbBlog/2011/04/28/creating-emotionally-engaging-online-experience/) that I thought you would find interesting.

  8. Reply
    FriendUs
    May 18, 2011 - 05:01 AM

    Thank you and i just sended them that whats new on site! anyway thank you for reply.Next time i will try to spice up the blast! :D

  9. Reply
    Ralph
    Jun 11, 2011 - 04:46 AM

    thanks for the ideas. it tested some of them and it works well. it was helpful and i hope you will very soon share other ideas with us in order for us to improve our business plans http//www.goodpricesforyou.webs.com

  10. Reply
    English-Proofreader
    Jun 21, 2011 - 09:01 AM

    Any idea as to how one can send an email blast to people whose email addresses we have but who have not signed in to become members of our website (http://www.english-proofreader.com)? Any suggestion is highly appreciated!

  11. Reply
    T.Mac
    Jul 31, 2011 - 07:55 AM

    I’m featuring this in the News section of my website. Great info! I learned something and I can think of several people I get emails from who could use it too.

  12. Reply
    T.Mac
    Jul 31, 2011 - 08:00 AM

    I’m sharing this in the News page of my website. I learned something. I know several people who could use this info too. Great stuff!

  13. Reply
    Simon Blackburn
    Aug 29, 2011 - 04:13 AM

    SPELLING has to be my big one, nothing puts me off someone I may have never met before if they can’t spell simple words !!

  14. Reply
    pleapociops
    Jan 24, 2012 - 11:05 PM

    Hello! Just want to say thank you for this interesting article! =) Peace, Joy.

  15. Reply
    verbamerciami
    Feb 01, 2012 - 06:24 AM

    very interesting subject , great post.

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