Email is a pain.
Whether you are a proponent of Inbox Zero, Inbox Infinity, or something in between, having to read and respond to email is one of the worst parts of the workday.
Many companies have tried to “fix” email. Google has created Smart Replies, meant to save time in the composition of replies–by reading your emails for you and giving you the most likely answer based on your previous responses (and, presumably, by what it has learned from other people’s replies to similar messages). Other companies have been built, like Unroll.me, Sanebox, and Adios, to help you create filters so that you don’t even see your email.
And yet, we still receive it–more even than in the past.
And not just email. Now we’re being barraged by notifications from Slack, Messenger, LinkedIn, and every possible form of communication. If you have it, someone will try to reach you there.
So as an entrepreneur, you’re faced with a problem: How can you reach through the noise and get noticed?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll skim through your emails rather than wasting time trying to read through each one to determine if there is anything relevant. To help me do this, I utilize my email program’s snippet view. This shows me the first one or two lines of a message, and who it is from. If I can’t determine what the message is about, what the action is, and I don’t recognize the sender, the email gets sent into a “later” folder. With the number of tasks and new items coming in, later could mean “never.”
Here’s how to make sure your message gets the right eyes on it the first time.
1. BE CONCISE.
Remember what I said about that snippet view? You get only a few characters to make a first impression–about the size of a tweet. If you waste the space on a long-form introduction like “Greetings and Salutations to my dear friend Heather,” you don’t have much room left to make me interested.
Instead, drop the formalities and simply use my name, or a “Hi,” and then get on with it.
2. BE PERSONAL.
If your email is not targeted specifically to your recipient, or if the message is not relevant to that person, he or she will ignore it or send it to junk.
If you’re sending a cold email, a quick explanation of why you’re writing to this person specifically will provide context for the conversation and a reason for her to read the rest of your email. A good example of this would be:
“Heather, I read your Inc.com article on composing good emails and it really struck a nerve.”
3. BE DIRECT.
It’s much easier to make a decision if you have a question that requires a yes or no answer. Similarly, if there is something in my inbox that doesn’t have a clear ask, or it is going to take up time I don’t have, then I’m going to say no by default. If you think you’re going to sell something to me, or get me to fund you simply because you got me to pick up the phone, you’re absolutely wrong.
Instead, be transparent with why you’re messaging someone–you’ll save much more time. Try:
“I’m looking for help writing emails. Can you help me?”
And lastly, if someone sends you an email with a request, it is perfectly acceptable to forward the request to someone who can help–however, my personal method is to do this “double-blind.” In other words, rather than simply CC’ing the original person on the forward, I will ask my colleague first if she has the time or is interested. If it’s a no, then I won’t tell the original person.
Most of all, if you’re not happy with your email opening rates or want to do better, you should consider building stronger connections so people will open your message, every time.