In today’s world of social media, some might think email is disappearing or losing relevance.
But the data states the opposite: Business is built on email.
Yes, social media is trumpeting high growth numbers — Facebook has over 2.2 billion users worldwide. But Facebook loses to email every day. There are over 3.8 billion email users worldwide. That’s almost double Facebook’s users.
500 million tweets are sent per day.
Seems like a lot, right?
Not when you put it next to the number of emails sent every day: 281 billion emails are sent each day.
Why does this matter? Because if you want to succeed in business, you must be exceedingly proficient in writing effective emails. But just because anybody can write an email doesn’t mean everyone writes strategic emails.
One study called “The Cost of Poor Communications” found that email blunders can cost smaller companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year. Writing a strategic email is an often overlooked, high-value skill.
Below, you’ll learn three strategies and five tactics that will help you write strategic emails and help you get more meetings (i.e., job interviews), close more deals, and move you closer to your professional goals.
3 Crucial Email Writing Strategies
Strategy #1: Self-awareness
Self-awareness can mean a lot of different things. Everyone says something different. In the context of writing strategic emails, remember this crucial sentence from Dr. Frank Luntz, author of “Words That Work” and messaging strategist who directed the campaigns of several United States presidents and numerous Fortune 100 corporations:
“It’s not what you say it’s what they hear.”
In other words, people will receive your words differently. Have you ever sent a text message that gets misconstrued? What you intended to say doesn’t always come across the same way. This discrepancy can be a major liability. To control for this, we practice self-awareness in our emails.
Self-awareness in an email is the ability to imagine how your recipient will receive the email. This will influence how you write your email. It’s length. It’s timing. It’s tone. Even it’s opening and closing. Is the person opening your email on their phone on their way into work? On lunch break? In a meeting? At home? What mood will they be in? What season is it for their business? How will they communicate your message to their superior or team? The list of potential, situational questions is almost endless. But it’s critical to get in the shoes of the person you’re emailing and understand how they will receive your email. This is the act of self-awareness. Take the time to adequately research (social networks, meet them at events, study their work) to increase your understanding and empathy of how they work.
Action step: Before sending an email, ask yourself, “How will this person receive this?”
Strategy #2: Brevity
If the famous American author Mark Twain were to write an email today, it would be a short one. In a snail mail exchange with his nephew, he wrote, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so here’s a long one instead.”
Twain saw the value of thinking through what he wanted to say in order to make his communication short. Brevity is the gift of efficiency. Brevity, especially in emails, creates less work for other people. And people tend to appreciate less work.
Hubspot wrote in its 2018 Sales Statistics report an interesting observation about how long your emails should be:
“The more you write, the less likely you are to get a response. Only one in three messages that are longer than 2500 words receive a reply. However, you shouldn’t be too brief: A 25-word email is roughly as effective as a 2000-word one. What’s the sweet spot? Between 50 and 125 words — or around the length of this paragraph.”
People are busy. Always, always, always. So keep your emails brief and you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting a response.
Action step: Ask yourself, when crafting an email, “Is there anything I can cut out or remove from this email?”
Strategy #3: Clarity
This one is subtle and easily overlooked, but will have a huge impact on how your intelligence as the person sending the email will be perceived.
One of Inc. Magazine’s top 5 email tips is to skip the niceties and be direct in your emails. Formality, especially the kind that comes across as stodgy academic writing, can actually hurt your odds of getting a response. Academic writing can make things harder to understand.
A company that makes a popular Gmail add-on called Boomerang performed a study of 40 million emails and found that messages written at a third-grade reading level are 36% more likely to get a reply than those written at the college reading level.
In other words, if you care about getting results (i.e., a meeting), don’t try to sound smarter than you need to. You probably won’t impress anyone with your formality, complex sentences, and long-winded articulate walls of paragraphs.
Action step: Before hitting send, ask yourself: Is anything unclear about this message? Can it be simpler?
Let’s get to some examples. Below is a list of practical tips that will improve the results of your emails.
5 Email Writing Tactics That Will Help You Get the Meeting
1. Always read your email (aloud) before you send it.
You’ll catch typos, unnatural language, and unnecessary verbiage that could kill your credibility. Re-read your emails and ask yourself the three questions from the strategies mentioned above.
2. Always end the email with a question.
Emails that contain 1 to 3 questions are 50% likelier to get replies than emails without any questions. A question brings your email to a pointed call-to-action. It’s specific and makes it clear you are requesting a response.
3. Avoid ugly walls of text. Strengthen your writing with lots of periods.
This is a secret trick copywriters (clever folks who write advertisements) use to get people to read longer pieces of writing. Instead of putting up a thick, daunting paragraph, they’ll write short, one-sentence paragraphs.
It creates lots of white space.
It’s easier on the eyes.
It’s more inviting to begin reading.
It’s happening right now.
One copywriter named Josh Fetcher uses this tactic to get millions of views on his LinkedIn updates (here’s his exact formula if you’re curious).
4. Use softer language for harder asks.
It can be off-putting to receive a direct question that comes across as too forward. You don’t want to overstep your bounds, especially in a cold email, and alienate the person before you even get to build a relationship. To palliate the likelihood of sounding too on-the-nose, use friendlier, more suggestive language.
For example, instead of saying, “I want to get coffee with you tomorrow at 1:00pm,” write with softer, more approachable language, like this: “I’m curious if you’d be free for a coffee chat tomorrow. How’s 1:00pm?”
5. Use the “2:1:1 Rule” for following up.
As you know, decision-makers have a lot on their plates. They can’t always get back to you right away. It often requires a handful of follow up emails to get them to take action. Statistics show that 80% of sales require five follow-ups after the initial contact, and yet a surprising 44% of salespeople give up after just one follow-up.
I use the 2:1:1 Rule for following up by email without being annoying. It works like this: After you send an initial email, wait two days and send a quick follow-up (they might’ve just missed it, or it was a busy day). If no response, wait one week and send a check-in (they might’ve been at a conference, on vacation, an offsite, or something that lasted a few days). If still nothing, wait one month and circle back (a month allows all-consuming projects to end and space to clear for new initiatives).
Why this works: If you’re truly offering something of value, a busy decision-maker will not only be fine, but they’ll be profusely glad you followed up.
In the end, your success as a business student relies heavily upon how you write your emails — a communication tool you will probably use every workday for the rest of your career. Don’t risk sending emails without first applying the proven principles discussed in this article. While business is built on email, success is built on strategic emails.
Photo Credit Marius Masalar