Client Relations

Writing Emails – You’re Doing it Right!

Writing Business Emails - Hand WritingAre you writing your business emails in a way that will get positive reception every time?

Through my years in business, I’ve learned a few relatively simple tricks that I’d like to share with you to improve your customer response! Are you ready?

1. Subject Line.

Let’s not be inappropriate! I think it’s important to note something in the subject line that indicates what the email is about. Instead of jotting “Hello there” or something equally vague, put a phrase or a couple of words that will help your recipient know what it’s about before they open it; an example might be “Logo Design – First Draft” or “Our Meeting Yesterday”. This is especially helpful down the road if one needs to go back and look for some information. Please see point #6 below about changing subject lines!

2. Salutation.

Formal or informal? How you address your client at the opening of your note depends on a few different factors. How well do you know the individual you’re addressing? Is this addressed to one person or multiple players? What is the purpose of the email? Is it on a very serious subject or a simple communication on every day matters? I err on the side of informal for the most part — I’ve found that the majority of people like to feel that they are being addressed by a friendly associate, not a “suit”; I like to put things like “Hi there!” or “Good afternoon, ––––”.

3. Opening Line.

Let’s get personal. Unless this is an email to someone with whom the relationship has gone really sour, I always start off with a friendly and personal note. It sets the tone for the correspondence and can do wonders in making a client positive and responsive to what I’ve got to say. This is often a note about the weather for me; for example: “How are you on this grey chilly day! I hope you’re keeping warm.” or “Is your baby over her cold? I hope so”. In my experience, an email that opens with this kind of friendly tone is much more likely to get a positive response. It shows you are thinking about your recipient and what they might be experiencing on this particular day!

4. The Topic.

Getting to the point. If your email is about a complicated topic, it’s a good idea to start off with a paragraph that outlines in general what you are communicating about. You can get to the nitty gritty in the next part of your note.

5. Break it up/keep it simple.

Easy on the eyes. Separate your content into short paragraphs of a few lines, and try to keep your email nice and concise in general. I recommend combing through the email several times and reducing the content down as much as you can while still conveying all the information you need. Dense long emails tend to be difficult to read and you risk having your recipient skim through and potentially miss something critical. Make sure important questions or requests for information stand alone as much as possible so that your recipient can’t miss them!

6. Be kind, don’t change the subject line!

Keeping things in threads. Most email programs and apps sort emails by thread. This means that as long as a subject line remains intact, you and your clients will easily be able to run through the thread at any time and find whatever information you need. If you change the subject line, this becomes more difficult as you need to search through more than one thread.

7. Be kind, change the subject line!

Keeping threads pertinent. If you are responding to an email thread, but you realize that the meat of your note is opening a completely new subject, and one that requires more correspondence, start a new subject line. Particularly if the previous thread is getting kind of long. It makes things much easier to find as you work through your project.

8. Positive language.

Let’s keep things positive. This is important: while it can be quite challenging to accomplish, I try to use only positive language in my emails. This means using zero negative words! Avoid words like “no” and “can’t” and “don’t”, even if those are the words that make the most sense in the context. Since I have started using this rule, the positive response to even the most difficult emails has been quite overwhelming.

Here are some examples. Instead of “it’s not a good idea to have excess detail in a logo design”, I might write “it’s a great idea to keep a logo design simple”. Or instead of “please don’t show the logo to too many people”, I might write “it’s wise to show the logo design to only a very select number of people”. You get the idea. Be creative! Once you get the hang of it, it starts to come a little easier.

9. Signing off.

Ensuring suitable follow-up. I find it sensible to finish up the email with a gentle reminder about what you are expecting from your recipient, if anything. This can be a simple “I look forward to hearing back” or “Looking forward to your feedback”; or it can be a prompt for information, such as “I can’t wait to hear what you think about ––––” or “please do let me know how many –––– you think you require”, etc.

10. Take your time.

A good email can be a great thing. Sometimes an email can be about an unpalatable subject. Let’s say you realize that the project scope has changed — the dreaded scope creep! — and you need to let your client know that they need to increase their budget. Or some other topic that you’re nervous about addressing. Unless you think a phone call is in order, take the time to write a really well thought out, careful email. It can feel like a time sink and it’s tempting to think that there are better ways of spending your time, but let’s look at it this way: if by taking an hour to write this difficult note you end up with a happy, pliable client, isn’t that a worthwhile thing! Take my word for it. It works!

I hope you found this blog post useful. Do you have any comments? Please let me know if you have any other tips you’d like to share. I’m all ears!

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