In an era of tweets, status updates and Vines, emails don't seem all that glamorous. But there's still a vital place in business communications for well-crafted, effective and creative emails.
Serving as the business letter of the 21st century, the email's long form gives it more weight—and potentially more power—than even the most intriguing social media post. However composing a successful email that stands out and gets read takes a little time, effort and thought.
1. Be (Somewhat) Formal
It's all too easy to think that since they're electronic, email messages can be informal. Please avoid that temptation. Starting a business email with "Hey, how are you doing?" is a quick way to put people off. While they expect that level of casualness from friends, they don't appreciate a familiar tone from business associates, marketers, customers or vendors. This doesn't mean you need to start all your emails with "Dear Mr. Smith," but it does mean you'll want to take your audience into account and err on the side of slightly formal.
You'll also want to include a signature on all your business emails, even those sent from your phone or other mobile device. You can create a standard, automatic signature that will pop up at the end of your email messages that includes such information as your name, company, address, email address, website and phone number. It's the equivalent of business stationery in the digital world, and it will make your emails stand out.
2. Polish Your Prose
We've all had the experience of not noticing spelling, grammatical or other errors in an email until after we've hit "Send." To avoid that common problem, try saving a draft of an important email, waiting a few minutes, then returning to read it through again. It might seem like a waste of time, but it's worth it when you catch an embarrassing error before it's too late and that client you're trying to impress thinks you're either a bad speller or just plain sloppy.
3. Be Concise
Just because you can write long emails doesn't mean you should. The more concise and to-the-point you can be, the more likely it is your recipients will read your emails and respond to them. They're just as busy as you are, after all, and they'll appreciate your respect for them and their time. So stop blathering on and get to the point—your email recipients will appreciate it.
4. Don't Be Spammy
There's nothing worse than sending spam emails, and you already know exactly where they'll end up: If the spam filters don't catch them and direct them to the junk pile, your discerning recipients will. To avoid having your messages deleted, make sure all your emails are targeted, preferably to specific people. If you're sending out an email to a list of subscribers, make sure you've crafted a message to give recipients the feeling that you're writing directly to them. Otherwise, they're likely to hit "Delete" without thinking twice.
5. Offer Useful Content
When you're sending emails to clients, customers or subscribers, it's particularly important to make sure the information you're sending is interesting, unique and actionable. People don't want to read vague or self-congratulatory letters—they want details, instructions, recipes, tips, lists, advice or other valuable content. If you send links, explain what's on the other side of the link and exactly why your readers should click on it. If you don't, they won't bother.
Writing effective emails isn't all that different from composing any other type of correspondence. You need to take into account your purpose, audience and context, and you need to craft your emails accordingly.
If you take your emails seriously, the people who are getting them are likely to do the same. And in this age of quick, disposable, deletable content, that's saying something.
Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.
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