Winning the Inbox Wars – Writing Emails That People Will Actually Read

In the workplace, email has become our most important and most common form of communication. It’s convenient, inexpensive and allows us to send detailed information to large numbers of people in the same amount of time that it takes to send to one. It’s no wonder that email as a communication tool has been embraced by individuals and corporations alike.

However, the flip side of the convenience of email is that it allows businesses and organizations to inundate us with news, offers, product updates and more, flooding our inboxes with more information than we have time to consume. According to business statistics site DMR, the average office worker receives 121 emails PER DAY*. Many if not most of those messages will get barely a glance or will be outright ignored.

If you are an organization trying to reach your customers or constituents via email, you need to think about how to cut through all that noise and increase the likelihood that your email won’t end up in the trash bin like so many of the others.

Tips for Writing Emails That Get Read

  • Know your audience. What is important to your readers? What are they looking for that you can provide? What kind of language do they use? Always keep the average target recipient of your email in mind when crafting your message. If you’ve ever done any surveys of your customers, clients or donors, it’s a great idea to review your findings and keep those results in mind when communicating with them.
  • Write a strong subject line. Use action words and get specific but keep it concise. “XYZ Org Chapter Updates” isn’t very attention-grabbing. “XYZ Benefit Proceeds Exceed Expectations” is more intriguing. Try to keep your subject line to 41 characters or less, because on cell phones, anything longer than that will get cut off.
  • Get to the point. Most of your readers don’t have time to read a 2,000-word email. If you’re promoting an event, asking for donations or advertising a product for sale, don’t put that at the bottom of the email after a rambling feel-good story or paragraphs of background information about your company. State the offer or request upfront with only the most relevant information they need to know, then underneath that the recipient can read on for more background if they choose.
  • Dress it up with visuals. Never underestimate the impact of using graphics in your emails. Unless you are targeting seniors at home who may still be using very old browsers and email clients, most people now have an email service that can read emails with images. Marketing products like Mailchimp and Constant Contact make it easy to incorporate photos and graphics into your mass mailings that will really punch up the impact of your emails.
  • Check it on a mobile phone. Increasingly, more and more people surf the internet and read emails exclusively on their cell phone. Send a draft of your email to yourself or a friend and see how it looks on a smartphone. Without scrolling, there will only be a few lines visible. Are they compelling enough to get your readers’ attention so they will read on? If not, rethink your introduction.
  • Have it proofread. Before hitting send, have your email double-checked by someone else in your office, or even better, several people. One bad grammatical error can ruin the professional impression of your message and even the most meticulous writers make mistakes.
  • Choose your battles. Don’t email your readers about every little thing. If you do, they are more likely to start ignoring your emails or unsubscribe from your mailing list altogether. You don’t want to be seen as a spammer. Save mass mailing for your most important offers and messages that will be of the greatest relevance to your audience.
  • Choose your send times wisely. Without knowing your audience, it’s hard to say exactly when is the best day of the week to send your organization’s messages but there are definitely some days to avoid if you want anyone to actually open your emails. Worst days to send emails include late on a Friday afternoon, weekends or right before a holiday. As far as what time of day to send emails, according to OptinMonster, the best time of day to send an email is around 10 am.** But again, this is just on average. Your audience may not behave like the average email consumer. If you use a mass mailing service, you may be able to track when your emails are being opened and narrow down which send times work best for your organization.
  • Include a Call-to-Action. Besides getting someone to read your email, you often want them to take action. After you have made your request, described your event or shared your new product, create a sense of urgency that the reader should take the next step, and make it as easy as possible. Your email can include a button or link to “Buy Tickets Before the Deadline,” “Receive a Discount if You Buy Now,” or “Please Donate Urgently Needed Funds Today.” At the very least, be sure to include links to your website and contact information.