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)
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:
- Fail to indicate the social connection between sender and reader – where did you meet? who put you in contact?
- Fail to understand the readers perspective – what context (background information) does the reader need to take a decision/act upon the email?
- Fail to explain why the reader was specifically selected as a source of potential help.
- Fail to show that sender has already made some effort to understand the domain before asking for help.
- 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.
- 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?