6 Ways to get your Email Ignored

In 2010, 294 billion emails were sent per day for a total of 90 trillion in the full year. 1.9 billion users sent an email during 2010.  The average business user in a 1,000 user organisation receives 110 emails per day (of which 13 are spam) and sends 36 emails.  (source Radicati Group Email Statistics Report 2010)

Lush Jungles of Ozette
Lost in a forest of spam?
credit: satosphere

How do you ensure that your email gets acted upon?

When you send to friends and have regular correspondance they will act because they know your name.  When you send to someone who may not know your name what must you do to break out of the forest of spam?

6 ways to end up ignored in an inbox

I read a little section of Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book “Power: Why some people have it and Other’s don’t” where he talked about poorly thought through requests for his help via email.

He outline 4 ways to fail to engage the reader when you ask for some help via email:

  1. Fail to indicate the social connection between sender and reader – where did you meet?  who put you in contact?
  2. Fail to understand the readers perspective – what context (background information) does the reader need to take a decision/act upon the email?
  3. Fail to explain why the reader was specifically selected as a source of potential help.
  4. Fail to show that sender has already made some effort to understand the domain before asking for help.
I would add two further failures that I see in email requests
  1. Fail to keep it short.  Many emails are much too long – the sender has no edit process before sending the “draft” email.   I was referred to a nice email policy called three.sentenc.es by a recent blog post from Mark Suster.  The requirement to write your email in 3 sentences forces you to be concise.
  2. Fail to clarify exactly what is wanted: No effort to clarify what you are asking for.  “Help” is too vague.  I expand on this below.

How to clarify your communication objective:

In my classes on communication at IESE I start by making every student define their objective prior to starting to prepare any communication.  This might sound too basic to be important, but I can guarantee that more failure in communication occurs because the requester really has not clarified what they want and thought about whether it is realistic to expect.

Finish this sentence: “When the reader has finished reading this email he will _________________”

The sentence must be completed with an active verb.  “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 – lack of clarity of the realistic, do-able, specific next action that will move you closer to your overall objective.

Over to you

I hope your emails don’t risk hanging out with the spams in the inboxes of the world.

Any other thoughts on getting your emails read and acted-upon?

12 responses to “6 Ways to get your Email Ignored”

  1. Is this email to you too long? Other problems?

    Dear Conor Neil:

    Thank you for all your videos, Connor.

    I’ve been digesting them one at a time and trying to see where I’m failing…or if the problem is something else.

    My fundamental question is when do you know if it’s a communication
    problem, or if the thing you are trying to sell is just too big and
    transformative that even the best presenter could not sell it? I have
    developed and modeled with an Engineer – over 3,000 hours (the “expert”
    part) – a new kind of building. The building would straddle a major
    river, the East River in NYC and house or provide workspaces for over
    20,000 people. Here is an article in The Broadsheet about it, with a
    link to a 3-minute Youtube video: http://bit.ly/BroadsheetRA1.

    My partners – 2 developers, 2 architects, a Broker, an engineer, a zoning

    lawyer – and I have been trying to sell the building to bigger developers, investors, and Electeds, for nearly 2 years now, but have not gotten beyond a couple of supportive letters and some “Let us knowhow it goes” neutral responses. My Developer partner with 35 years experience says I am presenting too much detail, but this is partly in
    response to previous presentations where questions have arisen that I then went back to answer in my, now, 67-slide presentation; it was only 29 slides when I presented it to AECOM at the beginning, and that actually got a more positive response.

    How do I know what I’m doing wrong, or if a $20.4b project (ROI $28.1b when
    all 7,630 condos are sold, $609m/year in commercial leases & common
    charges) is just too big a leap for the people I need to persuade to
    make? No one gives you feedback, you just don’t get your emails/calls

    I’ve presented to Goldman Sachs, Newmark Knight Frank, AECOM, WSP, Kuafu Properties, and about a dozen Electeds.

    Here is a presentation I made for my book, “America is Not Broke!”a few years ago:

    There are other videos too, if you’d like to view them, but my style hasn’t changed much.

    Is private consultation right for me?


    Scott Baker
    Originator & Designer of the RiverArch

    1. Laurence Garnett Avatar
      Laurence Garnett

      No Scott,

      Your email looks fine.

      Keep going.


  2. […] 110 e-mailt kap naponta. Ezzel egy régi bejegyzésemben idézett tanulmányra hivatkozom, ami Hat mód, hogy biztosan figyelmen kívül hagyják az e-mailjeidet címmel jelent meg. Megbeszéléseken […]

  3. Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great
    content on our website. Keep up the great writing.

  4. Hi there, always i used to check website posts here in the early hours in the morning, since i enjoy to gain knowledge of more
    and more.

  5. […] average corporate worker receives 110 emails per day.  I cite the study in an old post called 6 Ways to Ensure Your Email Gets Ignored.  Between meetings (here’s rules for running effective meetings) and exchanging emails you […]

  6. What you are doing is brilliant. The information you are sharing is very well presented and I don’t think its for a specific group of people. Everyone needs to hear you speak because one way or another situations arise, requiring this kind of skill.

    1. Thank you Juliana 😉

  7. My icontact account tracks who opens and what percentage of the recipients open.

    We have found next to a relevant subject line you greatly increase opens by adding a photo and greatly increase by adding a personal video relating to your business and topic. 30-90 seconds seems to be the attention span.

    1. great inputs… subject lines matter a lot!

  8. […] to meet me.  The email subject is strong enough for me to open the email.  The sender uses the 6 ways to get action from your emails.  However, I get the feeling that this meeting is going to be a one way […]

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: