It’s official. With the average British worker receiving upwards of 10,000 emails a year, and some 74 trillion emails being sent worldwide each year, bar instant messaging, the trusty electronic mail is still the number one means of communicating on this little rock of ours we call Earth. When there is such an eye-watering abundance of the inbox pingers coming through (2.4m a SECOND globally) it is no easy feat to stand out from the crowd, especially when you’re trying to sell a service or product. The need to diversify and adapt has never been greater but there are things you can do to ensure you’re giving you and your business the best chance.
Over three, weekly blogs, we will explore the main contexts in which business emails are sent and how best to maximise efficiency, response and click-through with each. We will consider:
With 68% of all business emails being sent and received internally, they have become an integral part of corporate life. For some, worryingly so. In fact, research company Atos Origin found that the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business. In other words, employees only begin performing their actual duties on the Wednesday of each week. With this in mind, it is prudent to investigate ways in which internal email can be streamlined and restructured.
To the point – We know you’re proud of your dissertation you did at Uni about trade structures in the early Byzantine Empire, and you’re right, it probably did deserve a 2:1, but try not to re-live your student days when emailing colleagues. Think brevity. People are busy (hopefully) so not only will an overly long email frustrate them, their frustration is likely to make them skim read, potentially over important details. Every now and again though, it will be necessary to pack a lot of information into a message. When this is the case, break up the text with paragraphs and bullet points so the key points are obvious and easily digestible. Otherwise, do what you can to keep internal messages concise with requests and invitations located within the first couple of lines, never at the end. Most people at best scan the last few lines of an email, assuming they’re of least importance.
Respect the English language – Admittedly, this is less important if you’re emailing the crook that stole your stapler and you’re demanding it back. But formal internal mail, especially when it is to multiple recipients, and especially if senior management are included should display your mastery of the Queen’s. This doesn’t mean using a thesaurus for every other word, it just means making sure your spelling and punctuation are on point, that your sentences actually make sense, and that you are using precisely zero text speech. As well making the message easier to read, it reflects better on you if top brass is reading. You don’t want your Head of Department reading your emails and thinking WTF?
Noisy neighbours – It’s the gripe of many an office-worker but the problem continues to persist. You’re busily working away at your desk when your inbox pings with a note from Dean from accounts asking you if you’ve updated your time sheet yet. As a request, it’s fair enough, it’s just that Dean sits opposite you, and to make matters worse, he then stands up to ask if you’ve received his email. Though well-intentioned, the Deans of this world contribute heavily to that 40% of useless emails referred to earlier. In isolation, the act of accessing your account, opening an email, reading it and formulating a response is usually not a lengthy one, but when it’s replicated dozens of times a day, it becomes a problem. All that’s required here is a bit of thought. Ask yourself; does this need to go in an email? Can this wait till I see the intended recipient later? If the answer to these kind of questions is in the affirmative, then stop typing.
Fear Factor – Part and parcel of being involved in business, is the need to have difficult conversations from time to time. Whether on the giving or receiving end, they’re not nice but they are necessary. There is the temptation for some to dodge these conversations by instead opting for an email exchange. Bad idea. Not only will this add to the plethora of emails that already reside in someone’s inbox but, and more importantly, an inability to initiate a proper conversation in person or on the phone, can lose an individual respect. That alone can create more problems than a brimming inbox ever could.
Acknowledge – Assuming 40% of internal emails are useless, that still leaves 60% that are not. Important emails need to be responded to but a busy day often dictates that they can’t be responded to straight away, at least not in depth. The senders of such emails will appreciate this but a little common courtesy goes a long way here. A quick, one line message letting the sender know you’ve seen their email, and will respond properly once you have a moment takes less than a minute, and will mean a lot to them.
Reply all – Useful at times for keeping all parties in the loop but fraught with potential issues. It’s not the function that’s to blame here, more the lack of basic emotional intelligence that’s often evident in its deployment. For example, an email sent to many parties may cover various points, only one of which is pertinent to a recipient. That recipient may reply requesting further clarification but instead of removing all those CC-ed, lazily hits ‘reply all’. Now everyone has yet another email in their inbox that is irrelevant to them. Worse still, an email sent to many, may include plans going forward that involve certain individuals or departments. This time, a recipient, rather than seeking further clarification, has concerns about the involvement of the outlined individuals or departments. Thoughtlessness now replaces laziness and the recipient expresses their concerns and again hits ‘reply all’. Well done recipient - you’ve just thrown a rock at a beehive. Reply all is a powerful function, and with great power comes great responsibility.
Attachments – Take a moment; is that attachment a bit large to be sending over email? Yes? Thought so. Take a couple of minutes to crop and compress the image and conserve some valuable electrons. And in the interests of not having to send another email, if you are attaching something…make sure it’s attached.
Next week, we’ll take a look at some best practice when it comes to B2C emails. Until then…