Mail inboxes can be overwhelming, especially for busy managers and executives. Everyone wants an answer from them. But even normal employees are bombarded with dozens of emails every day – and can’t take more than a few seconds to scan each one. So if your goal is to get through to the decision makers, then you should focus on writing every email with a strategy.
A good email strategy is often the result of years of experience. To save you that time, below are our top five email strategies that you can adopt.
Finds the right balance between short and meaningful
Before we dive into the actual email storytelling, let’s dispel a common myth – that emails have to be super short to be answered. That is not true. When emails are too short, they are often ignored because they “get to the point” too quickly. They lack the context that gives recipients a deeper understanding of why you are calling and what you need from them.
Additional information can actually enable the reader to make a decision more quickly. If, on the other hand, they are confused by the email or find the query too complicated, they are more likely to postpone the desired response. Of course, too verbose wording is also not a good idea, because it is often overlooked.
Make sure you find the right balance between brevity and important details in your emails. The reader should always have a clear idea of what they need to know and do, and why. Data shows that the ideal length of an email is between 50 and 125 words. Emails of this length have an average response rate of over 50 percent.
Always uses a heading and inserts it directly as the subject line
Good email should tell a story. Good stories have a headline. Ergo, your email needs a headline! And where should this heading be? At the top, of course, in the subject line.
Unfortunately, it often happens that this opportunity is wasted on an attention-grabbing headline and boring subject lines such as “Meeting Follow-up” or “Project Update” are used instead. These generic keywords mean little to the recipient and are unlikely to get their attention.
Instead, maximize the subject line and introduce the great idea to your email story. Your main idea is the key information – the “what” of your story – that you want your recipients to remember most. Instead of “Follow-up to the meeting” you could write something like: “Discuss the next steps for the start of sales”. Instead of “project update” you could say: “Project X is on schedule, needs additional design resources”.
Focus on your greatest, most momentous, or most insightful piece of information. Put this heading in the subject line to give your email the best chance of being opened.
Your email opener needs to provide context
As mentioned earlier, if you jump into your query too early without providing context, your reader will be confused. The context is important so that the recipient can process your information (or your request).
In the sense of storytelling, context is the combination of setting, characters and conflict that form the arc of a story. For example, if the email is a continuation of last week’s budget meeting, the context needs to bring the reader back to the “scene” of last week’s financial meeting, to the key “characters” involved in budget decisions, and to the main conflicts that affect these characters.
This review is important to remember what is at stake and what decisions need to be made.
Repeating yourself over and over is a disaster for any email, but repetition of the main idea is the power move of any great storyteller. When you remind readers of your main message – the “what” of your email story – you anchor it in their brains.
The best way to get that double hit is to spell out your big idea in the headline (i.e., the subject line) first and then repeat it after you’ve established the context.
Your concern should come last
A hallmark of poorly structured email is when you start with recommendations or calls to action without any context. As mentioned earlier, many people believe that it is best to keep an email as short as possible. So just say in advance what you need from the recipient: “Please approve this budget,” or “What do you think of it?” Or “I need approval for a new hire.”
These are all possible solutions for a specific conflict or a problem to be solved. If you present the solution before the conflict, the recipient is less likely to respond to your request. So, at the very end, present the solution or the request in your email.
Janine Kurnoff and Lee Lazarus are the authors of the new book “Everyday Business Storytelling: Create, Simplify, and Adapt a Visual Narrative for Any Audience”. The Silicon Valley raised sisters founded The Presentation Company in 2001 and work with brands like Facebook, Nestle and Medtronic.
The article first appeared here and has been translated from English.