Inbox Hacks: Perfecting the Business Email

Inbox Hacks: Perfecting the Business Email

Inbox Hacks: Perfecting the Business Email

By Jillian Gordon, a contributor for the Underground Group

In short:

  • Business leaders send and receive an average of 140 emails per day. Thus, it’s worthwhile to learn tactics that increase your chances of getting a response.

  • Etiquette experts say that nearly every element of an email, from the subject line to your automatic email signature, can impact the response rate.

  • Overall, focus on making each part of your email concise and to the point for best results.

We all know that email comprises a sizeable part of a business leader’s life. Indeed, the majority of global email traffic comes from the business world, according to a study by The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm based in Silicon Valley. Business leaders will collectively send and receive more than 139.4 billion emails per day by the end of 2018, the study estimates.

We’re not necessarily talking about every type of email, like internal team performance messages or mass marketing emails, but instead email introductions asking for, say, funding, or approaching a potential new client or business partner and similar opportunities--emails for which a response could make a major difference. When this is the case, then, how do you structure an email that’s more likely to get that response?

Grow Wire asked etiquette experts for their ultimate list of email do’s and don’ts.

  • Use informative subject lines.

Email subject lines should never be an afterthought. You should think of the subject line as a first impression, especially if you’re emailing a relatively new contact.

“Your subject line is always a pitch,” said Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “… Short and to the point is exactly what the subject line should entail. If you're pitching a story or an idea, let [your recipient] know the topic. Choose informative over creative, so you don't come across as spammy." 

Matching the subject line to the email topic makes it easier for the recipient to search for it later. It also further protects your email from getting buried in an inbox.

  • Choose the correct email greeting for each recipient. 

Including a greeting is a must, at least in your initial email, according to a 2018 Quartz study of more than 300,000 emails. But as for casual versus formal, things are a little less clear. The study found emails that began with “Hey,” “Hello” and “Hi” received replies roughly 64 percent of the time, while more formal openings like “Greetings” and “Dear” garnered replies 57 percent of the time. However, the study concluded that the success of most greetings depends strictly on the receiver.

Not sure where to start? 

“When beginning, you always default to the most formal,” said Jodi R. R. Smith, president of etiquette consulting company Mannersmith. “So the first time you’re addressing someone via email, you should be as proper as possible: ‘Dear Ms. Jones, Good afternoon ... Sincerely, Joanna Doe.’

“Then, watch how they respond. If the response email is signed ‘Ruth,’ the next time you email her, you begin with ‘Ruth, Hello …’  If you are emailing a coworker 20 times a day, ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ is just fine.”

(Of course, these rules are subject to your discretion. A more casual business contact, like a young founder of an edgy company, might respond more favorably to “Hey” in a first email. Use your judgment.)

  • Send your email at the best time for your particular goal. 

Some studies claim the time of day or day of the week can affect your email’s open rate.

“There are studies that point to mid-morning on Tuesday as the ‘ideal’ time to send an email,” Smith said. “But that, again, is just a guideline since so many people work in different time zones, in the evening or even on weekends.” 

A good rule of thumb is to hold off on sending a more involved email on Monday morning or on Friday during the final two hours of the work week, said Smith … that is, unless the email is a minor ask.

“If your request is something very small/short/easy, [your recipient] may be enticed to reply, as your email constitutes a low-hanging fruit they can do and check off before leaving,” Smith added.

  • Make your email easy to read. 

When it comes to the actual meat of your email, keep things as clear and concise as possible. Consider that your recipient is more likely to scan the email for directives or pertinent information rather than commit to reading the great American novel. Instead of loading the email with copy, try adding attachments or breaking your message into bullets to make it as digestible as possible.

“Once your email is more than a paragraph long, consider an attachment with the relevant information. Lists or bullets are great, so long as the explanation of what is being listed/bulleted is explicitly clear,” Smith said.

“Bullets or lists are appropriate as long as they are formatted properly and checked for grammar issues,” Gottsman added.

  • Show gratitude in your closing. 

A proper email closing is just as important as a greeting. While “Best,” “Sincerely” or “Regards” are typical go-tos, a recent Boomerang study of more than 350,000 email threads found that closing an email with an expression of gratitude generated a whopping 36 percent increase in average response rate.

According to the study, “Thanks in advance,” “Thank you” and “Thanks” generated the highest response rate over any other sentiment, proving good manners are still very much in style.

  • Include an automatic email signature. 

“Your automatic signature serves as a business card,” Smith said. “It should clearly tell others who you are, your role in the organization, the name of the organization and how to best contact you.” 

Some companies provide signature templates. Here’s a quick cheat sheet if you need it: 

First & Last Name
Title (with specifics if necessary)
Phone (if you accept calls)

Customer relationship experts say a logo can add a positive dash of personalization to your signature, but be sure to include alt text behind the image, as some email providers block images.

With so many emails flooding our inboxes--Radicati’s study says business users send and receive an average of 140 a day--it’s easy to hit the “send” button and not think twice. But mastering the art of email can go a long way in getting your message front and center and delivering results. 

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