Emails. Gotta write them. Gotta send them. But the person who gets them doesn’t have to do a single thing. They can ignore, delete, or just let them linger in inbox purgatory.
Which isn’t that encouraging, because after you spend all that time writing just the right message to a prospect, the last place you want it to go is in the trash.
So how do you write emails that get read—and even better, get a response? Today we’re sharing our top tips for writing must-read emails.
1. Make your subject line a slippery slope
Think of your subject line as a “slippery slope”—a phrase that makes your prospect want to click and read more. If you can’t pique their interest with this short sentence, then forget about the email itself. It’s not going to get read.
Here are three tips for a great subject line:
- Put the important words up front. If people are reading your email on a smartphone, the subject line will get cut off at some point. Space is precious here—don't waste it. Your subject line should be 6-10 words long.
- Keep it simple and clear. What will the person get from reading this email? Say it up front. Don’t write something vague like, “Do you have a moment?” or “Good time to talk?"
- Use the person’s first name. Research suggests that people are more likely to click on emails that use their first name in the subject line.
2. Don’t do what everybody else does
Everybody else fills their emails with reasons prospects should work with them. And all of their emails sound the same: I’ve done this, I’ve done that, I’ve been in this industry for 20 years, I’d like to talk.
Don’t do this. Instead, make your email about your prospect and their challenges or opportunities. For a refresher on how to do this, check out our related post on how to turn “me”-centered language into “you”-centered phrases people are more likely to respond to.
3. Only ask for one thing
Ever get an email and think, “Huh? What does this person want me to do?” That’s probably because the sender was so eager to tell you about everything that they forgot one very important thing: never ask for more than one thing in an email!
Decide what you want your email to do. Do you want people to check out a listing? To look out for your phone call? To set up a meeting? Then, ask clearly for just that one thing. It makes it simple for people to respond with, “Yeah, sure, let’s do this!” instead of wondering how to respond at all, and then letting your email languish in their inbox unanswered.
4. Put a timeframe on it.
Whatever your ask is, put a timeframe around it. For example, “Let’s connect this week—I can give you a call on Friday.” Or, “Send me a quick ‘yes’ now if you’re interested, and we can figure out the details this week.”
People appreciate when you let them know how much time they have to take you up on an offer, get a special perk, or simply respond to say they’re interested. It transforms your email from an ambiguous ask to a concrete action item, making it more likely that people will respond.
5. Give the freedom of choice
Now that you’ve made it clear what you want your prospect to do, give them the freedom to do it. Collectively, studies done on over 22,000 people show that they’re way more likely to take you up on your offer if you tell them, “But you are free to [insert action here].”
So tell them: “You are free to choose” or “I’d love to meet, but the choice is totally up to you” or “I think this would be extremely useful, but of course you are free to decide what’s best for you.” The exact wording doesn’t matter; it’s the spirit that those words convey that matters most. Even saying something like “don’t feel obliged” will work.
6. Slash it in half
To quote the late great American novelist Elmore Leonard, “I leave out the parts that people skip."
Once you’ve written your email, go back over it and start hitting “delete.” Omit every word that isn’t pulling its weight by either specifically helping your prospect or persuading them to do the thing you’re asking (see tip #3). Cut out the fluff, the cliches, and the filler. You’ve got 30 seconds to inspire action. Don’t waste them.