Do you suspect your emails are often met with yawns or, worse yet, rapid-fire deletion? To help you attain must-read status in your business associates' inboxes, Caroline James compiled these hot tips.
Keep it punchy
You get one shot to catch your reader and a persuasive subject line is the prize hook. Steer clear of hard sells or writing essays. Think short, active and slightly elusive.
Social media and online content expert Steven Lewis has written more than 2000 subject lines for businesses.
He says there is an argument for spending as much time on a subject line as the rest of the email.
"I write them for internal and external use and recent examples (that have achieved strong open rates) include turning 'December office move details' into 'You're getting some special boxes this Christmas' and 'Is it time to apply for a promotion' into 'Are you too good for your job?' "
OK, your email is open. So how do you get it read?
With concise content containing new ideas or solutions, says Natalie McKenna, managing director of business consultancy Regeneration Unlimited.
Answer all initial questions - who, what, where, when, how and why. "What you say in the email body needs to be targeted to its audience," McKenna says.
"For example, before the federal election there were a few gaffes by politicians, so my emails included a link to a clip of a political gaffe and an article about how to prepare for on-camera media interviews; practical advice, not too long and easy to read.
"It was topical and relevant and this email gained many inquiries and new clients for a one-day media training program we offer."
It seems obvious, but if you want your emails read, make sure they can be read on a smartphone.
"If your emails can't [be read] or are hard to read on today's phones, you're burning leads with every email campaign you send," says Shayne Tilley of the Avalanche Technology Group.
Good use of space, dot points and topic headings also boost readability.
Timing is everything
Boost your email strike rate by hitting the send button when your reader is most likely to have the time and motivation to read them.
Find out when they take their lunch break and their open hours.
Internet marketing company Swift Digital says research shows effective email publishing times are from 1pm to 2pm or during rush hour between 5pm and 6pm.
Ask yourself questions including: When do I check my emails? Do I expect certain types of emails at different times of day? And do I have a pattern of checking certain types of emails (reminders, updates and promotions)?
Something unique to the reader in an email's opening lines almost always keeps them reading.
Wedding planner Melissa Bowman of MB Weddings and Events discovered this while following up brides-to-be she met at a trade fair last month.
She attended a similar event last year, but only received a 5 per cent reply rate to her follow-up emails.
"This year I sent 450 emails to women I had met, each email referencing something unique to that woman I had noted during the fair and, to help them remember me, at the fair I offered savouries and homemade lemonade, which I also referenced in my emails.
"I have ended up with a 40 per cent response rate from those emails. Starting a personal conversation has worked a treat."
Pete Williams from Simply Headsets agrees. One technique to have a high impact is to "make our emails look like personal emails" with normal text style and informal language.
"We started using emails where the subject line is not overly sales-y, like 'how's the headset going?'
"The email is 'from' a person on our sales team, not the brand itself, and the language is designed to appear personally written ... you get a higher open rate and evoke personal replies, instantly increasing engagement."
Never bait your reader with an irrelevant subject line.
"You will only build a reputation and no one will respond to your emails," warns strategic consultant Amanda Rose.
Avoid the spam blacklist and tell it straight.
"If you are thanking them, say 'thank you'; if you have an idea, again say so; and when you say urgent, you must mean it. Give a deadline."