So far in the series (the previous episode, to be exact) we’ve talked about the fact that not every message gets opened and read. And a great deal of them don’t even get to a point where they can be forgotten, they simply never get noticed in the first place.
How not to be on the losing team? Well, there’s no one magic solution here, but there is a set of precautions you can take and a set of things you can do to improve your chances of success. And this is exactly what we’re going to discuss in this episode.
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Does your email address professional?
The first thing you have to do is get yourself a professionally looking email address, social media profile, forum account, or whatever else. But it has to look professional.
For example, email@example.com is not professional. Being @greatbro7654 on Twitter is not professional either. These are not addresses, these are jokes.
I know this is an obvious part of the advice, but we often overlook this if it just happens that we’ve been using a certain email or profile for ages, and we don’t feel like changing it. I’m guilty of this too. My PayPal email is so silly that every time I have to share it with someone I’m almost embarrassed. But I still can’t find the motivation to get rid of it even though I know I should.
- Avoid emails on Hotmail, Yahoo!, or any other popular free email service in your country.
- Gmail is somehow OK, as long as your username makes sense.
- Whenever possible, go with your own domain name. Like my email, for example is kk[at]newinternetorder.com.
- Make it short. I’m going a little overboard with this as you can see, but using your first name and last name is good enough (in a firstname.lastname@example.org manner).
- Make sure to have a signature in your email, and a short bio in your social media profiles.
OK, since we’ve got this covered let’s get to the interesting stuff.
How long an email should be?
The harsh truth is that if your message is too long no one will find the motivation to read it. That is, of course, only if you’re not a friend yet.
The rule of thumb is to keep it to 5 sentences max. I know that it sounds like a big restriction (and it is), but I mean it.
If your email is longer than that then reading it is a chore, not a quick 30-second task. And no one likes to get chores from other people.
Luckily, writing short emails isn’t as hard as it seems. It actually trains you to be a better writer (always a handy skill).
If you aim at keeping your message below 6 sentences you don’t have a place for much more than only a quick introduction, and the “get to business” part of the message. Such a construction makes every message extremely readable and easy to grasp.
I hate to say it again, but no one cares about you. No one cares about your life story, your problems, your background or whatever else you might want to share. It is simply not relevant. What is important is who you are, what you have to offer, and what you want in exchange. And often not every element is mandatory.
Keep in mind, if you need more space to convey your message then email is probably not the medium for that. Nowadays, emails are not the place to share essays on life’s matters. Emails work only when they’re short. I think I can’t emphasize it more without repeating myself, so let me stop here; I’m sure you get the point. :)
If you’re emailing a friend the subject line doesn’t matter at all – but – for all other communication subject line is the most important element of an email. Yes, it’s more important than what you actually want to write inside the email.
This seems counterintuitive because we naturally don’t focus that much on subject lines. Most of our work goes into the email itself, and once we’re done we just slap a half-baked subject because we don’t know any better.
What ends up happening is our email lands in the spam folder or simply goes unnoticed. And we feel bad and angry because we think we were ignored. No, this is not the case. This is on us.
In the previous part, I briefly explained what the characteristics of a subject line are. Just to recap: harmless, plain/ordinary, personal, outrageous, or non-promotional.
Let’s take it from the top:
I don’t have any clever definition, so let me just share some examples:
- “Just wanted to say hi”
- “You rock!”
- “Just wanted to say thanks”
Basically, it’s a subject line that feels like there can be absolutely no scam standing behind the email. That’s why words like “congratulations” or “opportunity” are not on the list.
Also, you absolutely have to avoid all spam-heavy words like: free, money, viagra, penis, sex, rolex, watch, currency, forex, and so on. Best way of finding those is to simply look at your own spam folder.
This is a case where you plainly say why you’re reaching out. Some examples:
- The “Just wanted to …” examples above.
- “Are you interested in a guest post?”
- “Question about your post on _____”
- “Thanks for your input on _____”
This approach leaves no place for wondering or any confusion on the recipient’s part. The reason why you’re writing needs to be absolutely clear in such a subject line. This is copywriting in its pure form, so it can take some time to get this done properly.
This is a situation in which you’re positioning yourself as someone who already has some kind of personal relationship with your recipient. The key here is to make it sound natural. You shouldn’t be “trying too hard.” If you can’t make it truly natural then go for a different approach.
The main problem here is that in order for you to craft a personal subject line you have to actually have some basic personal relation with the person in question. Shooting such an email out of the blue is not likely to work.
- “Following up on our last talk” – if there was a talk.
- “How’s the _____ project going?” – if you actually know that someone is working on a specific project.
- “I’d like to buy you a lunch during your visit to _____” – if you know that someone will be visiting your town.
This is somewhat risky. Being outrageous means just that – being outrageous. An outrageous subject line is one where the recipient can’t believe that someone has actually sent them such a thing.
It’s when the recipient says “what?!” or “no way!” or something similarly surprising. However, it’s not about making anyone uncomfortable or angry, it’s only about arousing some initial interest in the message.
- “Bad news”
- “I’m with you!”
- “You’re wrong!”
Something along these lines. Crafting an outrageous subject line is often the most difficult thing. The challenge is that you want to create a bit of a shock, but you still want to get your email opened, not deleted.
This isn’t actually a separate category of subject lines. This is a common characteristic of all the previous ones.
No matter if you’re creating an outrageous subject line, or a simple one, or a personal one, or whatever else, you need to make sure that it doesn’t sound promotional in any way.
Sounding promotional is a one-way ticket to the spam folder. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING can save you if your subject line sounds promotional.
Try avoiding words like: free, congratulations, opportunity, business, extra, deal, proposition, etc.
The next post in the series is all about the things you can write in the body of your message. Until then don’t forget to subscribe to get the posts delivered straight to your inbox.
What do you have to say on creating subject lines? Do you find it as important as I do? Finally, what’s your favorite type of a subject line?
Networking Guide for Bloggers: Messages That Get Noticed (Part 6)
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