How To Write Effective Email That Cuts Through The Clutter & Gets Results

Despite hype over every new social media channel, I’m more convinced than ever that email is the mother of all digital communications channels, especially when it comes to interpersonal exchange. It is reliable for mission-critical communications, while also acceptable for casual and marketing purposes. Still, growing competition for attention requires that everyone think and act like a savvy email marketer, no matter what their email’s purpose is. Being effective matters.

12322 Unread Emails

In business and marketing, I take my own persuasive email messages seriously. While different situations call for different techniques, following are 11 core guidelines I always try to consider:

1.  Define Goal & Strategy: Define the specific goal of your email so you can optimize toward it. Know your recipient and ensure that your email corresponds seamlessly with all your other touches. Remember that email is best used for nurturing and prompting a next-step action with deeper engagement.

2.  Electrify Your Subject Line: If the subject line doesn’t captivate, the body copy doesn’t matter. Therefore, the goal of the subject is to get your recipients to open the email. Ensure your subject is relevant, specific, urgent, succinct and compelling. Personalizing it with a first name and including a call-to-action can also be effective.

3.  Avoid Spammy Language: Everyone seems to agree it’s best to avoid spammy language (like “free” and “viagra”) in order to avoid email spam filters. The problem is, there are differing opinions over what constitutes spammy language. A good way to test is to send email from your business email domain to a few other email accounts including Gmail, which has very good spam filtering. If you’re not getting through, something’s wrong. For high-volume email marketing, there are services that help you optimize and ensure deliverability.

4.  Personalize & Forge Connection: If you are emailing someone, it’s probably because you have genuine interest in connecting — so don’t be shy in showing it. I make a conscious decision between first name or formal salutation, depending on the situation. I also try to use a lot of “you”  and not “I.” In this age of email automation, it is critical to avoid the slightest appearance of robotic mail merge.

5.  Hook The Reader: Always actively persuade — isn’t that the point of reaching out?  Prompt engagement with something relevant and valuable. Make the investment in reading your email worth the time.

6.  Introduce A Solution & Build Credibility: Identify problems or opportunities, and then answer them with solutions and benefits. Injecting stories and specifics make your email even more compelling.

7.  Spoon-Feed A Clear Path & Take Responsibility: State the desired action and make it simple and specific. In addition, state exactly what action you plan to take and be sure to follow through.

8.  Keep It Simple & Beautiful: Keep your email simple and professional, consistent with professional one-to-one correspondence. Use simple language that people can understand, and keep sentences succinct. Include only information and words that are needed. Use breaks and subheads to break up text. Avoid using exclamation points and ALL CAPS because they’re rude and difficult to read.

9.  Restate Your Point At The End: People often scroll to the end, so restate your core hook and action at the end.

10.  Send At The Right Time: Prioritize delivery times when the email is most likely to result in a live, standalone impression — and even gratify if your recipient is an email addict. Tuesdays and Wednesday are ideal days, and mornings and early-to-mid afternoon are good times. Avoid sending important business email on late Fridays, weekends or nights, because your message may get lost in the weekend or overnight accumulation, and deleted in the recipient’s morning inbox cleansing ritual.

11.  Test & Iterate: Keep tabs on variations and what works in specific circumstances.

What email best practices do you use?

This also was my latest column in MediaPost.

(Photo: Frank Gruber)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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