What makes an email worthy of your time? Have you ever received an email with a subject line that made you not even want to open the thing? If you have something important to share with someone via email, you have to increase the likelihood that people will see it, open it, and take the action you’re hoping for.
Many people use their email inbox as a to-do list and “reference bucket.” They’re reviewing their inboxes on mobile devices while waiting in line at coffee shops, or killing time between meetings. You probably do this yourself, so think about what that means; taking an extra minute or two to maximize your subject line, as well as create a meta-message that prompts the reader to take action, is imperative if you don’t want to waste your own time and efforts.
Here are some steps to ensure that your email will get the result that you want.
1. Stay Away From Symbols
Have you ever received an email with a just symbol in the subject line? Or, maybe the sender mentions a “% off” coupon? Email studies show that these are more likely to end up in a recipients spam folder than the inbox. In general, it’s best to avoid symbols in your subject line unless you’ve gone back and forth with someone several times, and your risk of being considered spam is low.
2. Tell Them What You Need
Any good email, whether it’s for your company or for personal use, has a CTA, or call to action. It’s important that you make that very clear in your email (yes, even in the subject line). If you need to schedule a marketing meeting for example, put that in the title along with the date and time.
3. Give Them a Deadline
Let the recipient know the date range they have to work with. If you need something by next Friday, or the end of the day, be specific. What’s the time zone? Do you mean end of business or the actual end of the day? Even if you’re using a coupon like we talked about above, you need to be clear about when it expires or if it applies to a specific period of time. The same goes for B2B offers, or even when you need a piece of data for a project.
4. Include Any Additional Info They’ll Need to Complete the Task
End your email by asking the recipient to confirm that they completed an action. For example, if you need them to review an attached document, you can write, ‘Please confirm that you are able open the attached PDF’, or something similar. If you need them to confirm a date for a phone call or meeting, you can give them options — something like, ‘Please choose one of these two dates’.
Making sure that the people you’re writing to know exactly what you need gives them the tools to get it done. It’s that simple!
Jason W. Womack is the author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012), and founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. You’re invited to enroll (for free until 10/14/2013) in his upcoming productivity course with creativeLIVE, “Think Bigger, Make More,” happening on October 15-16, 2013.