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*Read me now* – how to get your emails opened and read

What can we do to make sure people open our emails, read them and act upon them? Consultant Graham Jones has some suggestions

Every now and then people tell me that they did not receive an email from me. Of course, it is perfectly possible they did not get it. However, it is possible to track emails and see when they were opened and where. The other day someone told me they did not get an email from me. Using the software I use, I was able to tell them exactly where they were at the precise time they opened it.

The real issue is that people open emails and move on. They forget they have opened the email. So, what can we do to make sure they open the email, read it and act upon it?

Getting people to open the email in the first place is a struggle. Various studies have looked at the typical inbox and found that on average there are 79 emails waiting to be dealt with on any given day. If your email is one of them, you are fighting for attention. Many people will deal with the urgent and immediately obvious, leaving large numbers of emails “for later”. You don’t want your email to be one of those.

Start with the subject line

Crucial to getting your email opened is the subject line; that’s all people see when they look at their inbox. So your subject line has to stand out and cry out “read me now”….!

But even if people do open your email, they can forget they have done so, claiming later on that you never sent them the message, even when you can prove they opened it. That has more to do with the content and the clarity of what you are saying.

One of the most frequent causes of not recalling emails is that writers often do not make it obvious what the email is about. Often people write emails without any structure or formatting. There is no “Dear Graham” at the start, no signature at the end and no obvious structure in between. It is rather like scribbling a few words on a scrap of paper. Sometimes, people even email one or two words such as “agree” in reply to something. What do they agree with? What are you supposed to do with that agreement? It is just words with no apparent rhyme or reason. One of the most significant reasons we fail to “get” emails is because they are just perceived as random words.

Emails that get recalled are obvious; they have structure and clarity. That also means they need to be about one thing – the single element the subject line is about. Emails that truly connect are single-minded and obvious. If your email is about three, four or 17 different things, people glaze over. If you have three things to talk about, you need three emails, with obvious subject lines related to each of those individual points.

Who are you talking to?

Another reason that people fail to “get” emails and claim they haven’t received them, even though you can prove they have opened them, is that they don’t feel they are being spoken with. Email is personal, so you need to talk to people as an individual. When you are with people in the ‘real world’ you adjust your conversational style according to their personality and what you know about them. One of the failings of many emails is that people write them in the same style, failing to adjust the style and tone according to the recipient. That’s rather like speaking to everyone in the “real world” in exactly the same way.

There is software that says it can identify the personality characteristics of your recipient, suggesting ways in which you can rewrite your email to better connect with them. Frankly, that’s nonsense. You don’t need software do that. All you need to do is read your email out loud before you send it. Imagine you are in front of the person to whom you are sending the message. If what you are saying does not sound right, then you need to adjust your email.

You can dramatically increase the chances of people opening and reading your emails if you treat them like conversations with individuals. If you write emails as though they are messages on scraps of paper, you will get the same kind of response – they will be effectively screwed up and forgotten.

Visit Graham’s website

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