At a client session this spring I spoke about email marketing. Not the kind where you buy a list and use Constant Contact or some other service to send out your own version of spam to a qualified list, I'm talking about the ways to use email as an interpersonal communication tool to build your business. You know, as in you send an email, someone reads it, maybe sends you one back. Sounds simple enough, but many people still get it wrong. Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks so. The big brains at Harvard Business School agree with me, hence their recent management tip: 4 Tips for Writing Emails That People Will Read. My two favorites:
- Use specifics. "I need this tomorrow at noon," instead of "I need this ASAP." The more specific you are, the easier it is for people to focus on what you need them to do. If you don't give them an exact idea, you run the risk of being put in the "To Do Later" folder and we all know what happens to those.
- Stay on topic. Make it easy for the recipient to understand the point of your email, to respond to it and to file it for future reference. If you're all over the place, I guarantee you'll be put in a pile to deal with later, which usually has the same sad ending as the "To Do Later" folder.
Yes, these seem simple, but we all need reminders.
HBS has an expanded article on the same topic, also worth reading, which stresses the importance of revising your email copy until you get it right. Check it out at David Silverman's Harvard Business blog, Words at Work.