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It's not you, really. Your colleagues are ignoring your emails. It's happening in organizations across the country as employees face inbox overload, and only have time to respond to about half. What can you do to ensure Bob in accounting responds to your one simple question or your event vendor answers the questions you need to send to your boss? Thankfully, the marketing industry has years' worth of research about how people respond to emails. Here's how to take a page from their playbook when crafting your next work email and write killer copy that gets your co-workers' attention.
Craft a Clear Subject Line
What is the focus of your email? Be clear. Don't write a subject line that says "Question about the Smith account." Instead, change it to, "What is the account balance of the Smith account?" See the difference? The recipient knows what's needed before they even open it — just like those emails that declare "Leftover cake in the kitchen!" And keep the word count concise. Six to 10 words are the sweet spot for an optimal open rate. Remember, if the majority of folks are reading emails on mobile devices, they'll only see the first 40 characters before it cuts off.
Keep the Body Short
This isn't the place to experiment with your novel writing skills. If you've gotten your co-worker to open the email, get to the point — quickly! One study found that emails between 50-125 words got the highest response rate. Of course, this formula won't work for every occasion. But think of it like this: If the goal of the email is to have someone answer a specific question, limit the note to that one subject. If you start penning an email that goes on for several pages, that's probably a clue that what you really need is a sit-down conversation to hammer out complex issues.
Be Specific With Your Ask
Going back to the email marketing playbook, think back to brand emails you opened and clicked. There was a specific call-to-action (CTA) included in the carefully crafted piece of prose created to get you to respond. They likely included something super specific along the lines of, "Do you want to take advantage of 48-hour free shipping?" While you aren't trying to sell your colleagues a product or service, you do want to adopt the practice of urgency and specificity in as few words as possible. If what you need can't be summed up in the subject line, be clear and use bullet points to outline precisely what you need in the form of a question or direct request, for example, "What is the estimated cost and delivery date of the new project?" Don't say, "We need to discuss the new project deadline and costs, can you send me all the information you have?" Being clear and concise makes it easier for the recipient to respond – they don't need to try to figure out what you mean. However, data suggests that asking for more than three requests in one email is likely to lower the chance of response.
State a Deadline
Other members of your team might not know the urgency of your request. Take the guesswork out of your email, and state the deadline of your request. If you can fit the deadline in the subject line go ahead an list it there. If not, use the opening sentence to sum up what you need and when. Then go on to list out your specific questions as noted above.
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.