In the previous installment of this series, we explored the reality that not all messages capture the recipient’s attention. Many messages go unnoticed, never even reaching the stage where they could be forgotten.
So, how can you avoid being part of the group whose messages go unnoticed? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of getting your message across. That’s what we’ll delve into in this article.
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Is Your Email Address Professional?
The first step in establishing a professional online presence is to have a professional-looking email address. This applies not only to email but also to social media profiles, forum accounts, and other online platforms.
For instance, email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter handles like @greatbro7654 don’t convey professionalism. They come across as unserious.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of a professional email or profile name, especially if you’ve been using a particular one for a long time. I’ve been there; my PayPal email is so casual that I hesitate to share it. Yet, I still haven’t changed it, even though I know I should.
- Avoid using email services like Hotmail or Yahoo!, or any other free email service that’s popular in your country.
- Gmail is generally acceptable, provided your username is professional.
- If possible, opt for an email with your own domain name. For example, my email is kk[at]newinternetorder.com.
- Keep it concise. A simple combination of your first and last name works well, like email@example.com.
- Don’t forget to include a signature in your emails and a brief bio in your social media profiles.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into more advanced topics.
What Should Be the Ideal Length of an Email?
Let’s face it: if your email is too lengthy, people won’t be inclined to read it, unless you’re already friends.
The general guideline is to limit your email to no more than 5 sentences. While this may seem restrictive, it’s for a good reason.
An email longer than that becomes a burden to read, rather than a quick 30-second task. Nobody enjoys receiving burdensome tasks from others.
The upside is that writing concise emails can actually improve your writing skills, which is always a valuable asset.
By aiming for fewer than 6 sentences, you’ll have just enough space for a brief introduction and the main point of your message. This structure makes your email easy to read and understand.
It’s harsh but true: people generally don’t care about your life story, problems, or background. What matters is what you bring to the table and what you’re seeking in return. Sometimes, not all these elements are even necessary.
If you find that you need more room to express your thoughts, email may not be the right medium for you. In today’s fast-paced world, emails are effective only when they’re concise. I can’t stress this enough, so I’ll stop here. I’m sure you get the point. :)
The Importance of Email Subject Lines
When emailing a friend, the subject line might not be crucial. However, for all other types of communication, the subject line is the most vital part of an email.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of a subject line. We often pour our energy into crafting the email body and then hastily add a subject line as an afterthought.
The result? Our emails either land in the spam folder or go unnoticed altogether. If you feel ignored, remember that the fault often lies with us for not giving the subject line the attention it deserves.
In a previous discussion, I outlined the key characteristics that make a subject line effective. To recap, they can be categorized as harmless, plain/ordinary, personal, outrageous, or non-promotional.
Let’s delve into each category:
1. Harmless Subject Lines
While I don’t have a formal definition, let’s look at some examples to understand what a “harmless” subject line is:
- “Just wanted to say hi”
- “You rock!”
- “Just wanted to say thanks”
Essentially, a harmless subject line gives the impression that there’s no hidden agenda behind the email. That’s why words like “congratulations” or “opportunity” are best avoided.
Additionally, steer clear of words commonly found in spam emails. A good way to identify these is by checking your own spam folder.
2. Plain or Ordinary Subject Lines
In this category, the subject line straightforwardly states the reason for reaching out. Examples include:
- The “Just wanted to …” examples from the previous section.
- “Are you interested in a guest post?”
- “Question about your post on _____”
- “Thanks for your input on _____”
This approach eliminates any confusion for the recipient. The purpose of your email is made crystal clear, which is essentially good copywriting.
3. Personal Subject Lines
Here, the subject line suggests a pre-existing personal relationship with the recipient. The key is to make it sound natural without trying too hard.
If you don’t have a basic personal relationship with the recipient, this approach is unlikely to be effective. Examples include:
- “Following up on our last talk” – applicable if you’ve had a previous conversation.
- “How’s the _____ project going?” – relevant if you know the recipient is working on a specific project.
- “I’d like to buy you lunch during your visit to _____” – useful if you know the recipient will be in your area.
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.
4. Outrageous Subject Lines
Using an outrageous subject line is a risky strategy. The goal is to create a subject line so surprising that the recipient can’t help but open the email.
It’s the kind of subject line that makes the recipient exclaim, “What?!” or “No way!” The aim is not to offend or make anyone uncomfortable, but rather to pique initial interest.
- “Bad news”
- “I’m with you!”
- “You’re wrong!”
Crafting an outrageous subject line can be challenging. You want to create a shock factor, but you also want the email to be opened, not deleted.
5. Non-Promotional Subject Lines
This isn’t so much a separate category as it is a common feature of all the previous types of subject lines.
Regardless of whether your subject line is outrageous, simple, or personal, it should never sound promotional.
A promotional tone is a surefire way to land your email in the spam folder. Absolutely nothing can save you if your subject line comes across as promotional.
Avoid using words like: free, congratulations, opportunity, business, extra, deal, proposition, and so on.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series, where we’ll dive into what to include in the body of your email. Don’t forget to subscribe to get future posts delivered directly to your inbox.
What are your thoughts on crafting effective subject lines? Do you find them as crucial as I do? And what’s your go-to type of subject line?
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