2 March 2021|Latest Posts, Psychology, Resources
By Kim Arnold. Like our waistlines, inboxes all over the UK have been bulging during lockdown. Tsunamis of email drown us as soon as we open our laptops. And we check our inboxes morning, noon and night to keep up. Around 38% of people even check theirs on the toilet. (And the other 62% probably lie about it.)
We’re deluged by hundreds of work and personal emails every single day – even your local curry house is vying for your attention with its latest 3 for 2 offer on delivery poppadoms.
In fact, during the first lockdown, organisations sent out on average 20% more emails. And, nearly a year on, it doesn’t seem to have slowed down.
Now that face to face interactions are so limited, entrepreneurs and female founders find themselves relying on email to do more than ever – win new business, get in front of prospects, book in meetings, get invoices paid, persuade, influence – I could go on.
But there is good news.
There are simple habits you can put into practice to cut through the noise and get your emails read and replied to.
With a few tweaks to how you think about and write emails, you can turn dry, boring messages into productivity rocket fuel for your business.
You’ll be able to get more done, more quickly, and spend more time away from your laptop. Time to, er, walk around the block for the eighteenth time or look at one of your other 5 screens. (I mean do yoga, bake bread and update your gratitude journal, of course.)
Healthy Habit 1: Measure what matters
We’ve got it all wrong with email.
We think it’s a great morning if we’ve fired out 20 of the little suckers, without a second thought to what happens next.
We focus on the wrong criteria for success. We value quantity not quality. Process, not outcomes.
It doesn’t matter how many emails we’ve sent – if no-one replies with the information we need or does what we need them to do, we might as well have not bothered. In fact, we then have to spend MORE time chasing afterwards with a ‘Just checking in to see if you got my last email’ (of course they did) or a ‘friendly reminder’ (about as friendly as a dose of measles).
So, before you write, stop for a moment. Ask yourself these ‘3W’ questions to hone your email:
1. Who am I writing to? What are they interested in?
2. What do I want to happen after I send this email?
3. Why should they care? What’s in it for them?
By engaging your brain before your fingers on your keyboard, you’ll write emails that connect with your reader and are more likely to get a response.
Healthy Habit 2: Ditch the one-size-fits-all
‘I hope this email finds you safe and well’ is the email equivalent of a lockdown onesie – a one-size-fits-all that doesn’t really flatter anyone.
Whilst you might genuinely hope that your reader is in fact healthy, it comes across as clichéd instead of sincere because it’s so overused.
Try to make your email openers personal. Reference something you know about the recipient if possible – their work or hobbies for example. You can even fall back on good old weather chat if you need to.
Anything so they know your email isn’t a rushed cut-and-paste job that’s gone out to hundreds of others.
Healthy Habit 3: Step away from the keyboard. I repeat. Step away.
We tend to use email as the default for 80% of our business communication. But there are many times when it’s not the best tool to use. For example, when:
– Someone’s sent you an irritated or angry email (and you want to send a shirty one back)
– When you’ve already sent one follow up email to get a response (really, once is enough)
– When your email is turning into a 3 part mini-series because you have so much to say
– When you’ve messed up (apologies sound much more genuine via phone)
Sometimes a 5 minute phone call can save days or weeks of email back and forth. So before you hit send, ask yourself if email is really the right medium for what you have to say.
Healthy Habit 4: Chop, chop!
No-one has ever read a business email, stared wistfully out of the window and sighed ‘I wish it had been longer.’
We all love to receive short emails, but conversely, don’t always write them. It’s easy to download all your thoughts into 500 words, but harder to sum them up in just a few paragraphs. However, it’s always worth it.
Emails of 80 words or fewer (less than you think!) are more likely to get to the point faster and be clearer about what the recipient should do next.
So get chopping if you want your emails to get read and replied to straight away.
Healthy Habit 5: Get savvy with your subject lines
A common complaint I hear is vague subject lines. Now that few of us bother to organise our emails into folders (who has time for that?) we rely on the search function to find critical information.
If the email is titled ‘Update’ or ‘FYI’ it can get buried at the bottom of inboxes, never to see the light of day again. That’s particularly true during lockdown, when entrepreneurs receive so many emails and often open them whilst homeschooling/multi-tasking/doing the laundry.
So, if you’re sending information that your recipient might need to refer back to in the future, think of easily searchable terms to put in your subject line. For example:
– Minutes from Megacorp meeting 28.03.21
– Project Falcon launch plan
– Agenda – team meeting @ 0900
Whilst there might not be hope for our waistlines, we can easily streamline our emails and inboxes with these healthy habits, making for a fitter, more effective 2021.
About the Author:
Kim is a business communication consultant, speaker and author who shows professionals how to get noticed, make their messages stick and be remembered (in all the right ways). She helps the world’s leading organisations – including FTSE 250 businesses, international banks, global law firms, tech scale-ups and more – transform their communication, marketing and branding, connect with their audiences and get the results they need.
Kim is also a Panel Tutor at The University of Cambridge’s Institute for Continuing Education where she teaches marketing and branding. Her new book, Email Attraction – Get what you want every time you hit send publishes on 24th March. More information can be found at: https://www.kimarnold.co.uk/
The Financial Times featured Email Attraction in their February 2021 round-up of the best new business books. “Save time and get results […] completely rethink how you churn out emails…”