There are over 4.35 billion email accounts worldwide. This figure is predicted to reach 5.59 billion by 2019, a growth of more than 26%. There are 3.5 billion email users worldwide, including both business and consumer users.1 72% of US online adults send or receive personal emails via smartphone at least weekly.2 Email users send hundreds of billions of messages every single day. Conclusion: Email is a fundamental part of human interaction.
With all this email activity, what types of emails move people to action? How do you make sure your email not only gets read, but makes the recipient act on your words? When you send an email to friends, teammates or colleagues, and have regular correspondence, they will act because they know your name. When you send an email to someone who may not know your name, what must you do to get noticed and influence the recipient to take action?
Here are 5 keys to developing emails that move people to action:
- Power in Personalization
Relevancy is key. Be relevant or be deleted. Make the email about the recipient. Email’s efficacy lies in its ability to prove a sender knows and respects their audience. Recipients expect you to do your research. Know who they are and provide them content they care about. You have to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened.3 Also, indicate the social connection between sender and reader – Where did you meet? Who put you in contact? Understand the readers perspective – provide relevant context and background information that prompts the reader to act upon the email.
- Clarify Your Communication Objective
Most failure in email communication occurs because the requester has not clarified specifically what they want nor considered whether their request is realistic to expect. Simply asking for “help” is too vague. Always aim to finish this sentence: “When the reader has finished reading this email he/she will ___________.” The sentence must be completed with an active verb. i.e.: “meet on Thursday”, “phone me immediately”, “vote for me”, “visit my web site”; are all active. “Understand more about the situation” is not active. Most communication fails at this step, due to a lack of clarity. Make your request realistic, do-able and specific so that the recipients next action will move you closer to your overall objective.
The lesson here is – Be concise, not confusing. I once had a boss who would send me short, cryptic emails that provided no clear direction. For example, I’d get an email at 7 AM saying the following: “Handle Facebook first thing today. —MJ” What did he mean by handle? What about Facebook needed to be handled? His email made me ask several questions back, which he then had to take time to answer. Though his initial email was brief, we’d end up exchanging more emails and wasting more time than if he had just included a little more specific information in the first email. If he had added just a few more words, say, “Handle Facebook user responses first thing today because we had a lot of complaints overnight,” we could have avoided an unnecessary back and forth. Being smart with your words and brief in your execution doesn’t just mean being short. Make sure you’re still clear with your message and its intent.
- Stick to a Simple & Impactful Structure
Keep it Short
Simplicity is key. Many emails are much too long and lose their punch because of it. It’s noticeable when the sender has no edit process before sending the “draft” email. Sometimes people are afraid to be brief in emails because they don’t want to sound mean, or because they think they need to give a lot of information or directions to get the point across. In email, your job is not to craft the world’s most perfect letter, it’s to communicate quickly and easily. Use spaces and bullet points to organize the email when possible. Also, I challenge you to remove any words or phrases that aren’t absolutely necessary or don’t add to the main point. For example, I could have removed the word “absolutely” in the last sentence.
Use Strong Words that Show Credibility
If you want to stand out from the competition and influence people, you’ve got to pack a punch with your words. Trouble is, many people undermine their own credibility as an authority on their topic. Here’s the truth: the language you use creates the impression of credibility (or…not.) Are your words weak or power-packed?
Here’s a list of strong phrases to use:
“I know that together we can…”
“We can align to make a robust impact by…”
“My immediate goal is to…”
- Identify Short Term Actions
When explaining your request for short term actions, try using specific references or data. Incorporate statistics if applicable and reference policies, standards or rules. Always cite credible sources if your email does include facts and figures. Additionally, try to establish a sense of urgency and make your request time-based. Depending on the gravity of the email, demonstrate pain and gain. Frame your ideas or references to be tangible for your reader – i.e.: “the wall” vs immigration reform. The quicker they can understand the email and the request – the quicker they will be to act.
- Establish Long Term Commitment
If your end objective involves long-term commitment from the recipient, try identifying shared values and principles. This will help you build rapport and trust with the reader. Share your long-term goals and commitment to your partnership or relationship.
In this fast paced, digital world, phone calls or in person communication is not always an option. Learn to maximize your ability to send effective emails that move people to action. Use these 5 keys to improve your email productivity, influence and objectives – to get the results you are seeking.
About Kristen Kjellman Marshall
Kristen Kjellman Marshall is a Partner at velocityHUB and the Executive Director of the Victory Academy. The velocityHUB team serves as consultants, trainers and executive coaches to some of the world’s leading companies, universities and entrepreneurial, growth-oriented businesses. Kristen is the driving force behind velocityHUB’s Victory Academy, a series of leadership development programs specifically focused on maximizing the potential of the emerging generation for colleges, high schools and youth groups. Kristen and her diverse team of leadership coaches work with academic and athletic departments to instill leadership attributes, professional skills and bring real-world experience to some of the most prestigious campuses across the country.
velocityHUB’s vision is to build one million leaders by delivering results-oriented training programs, high-value consulting and targeted executive coaching. velocityHUB has developed 110,000 leaders in 14 diverse industries. The velocityHUB clients range in size from 350,000 employees to one-person sole proprietorships and are publically traded market leaders, private businesses, family-owned businesses, venture-backed startups, associations, nonprofits and academic institutions.
Learn more about velocityHUB at www.velocityhub.com
Contact: Kristen Kjellman Marshall | 603.402.1711 | firstname.lastname@example.org