Statistics say that the number of emails sent and received per day was over 205 billion in 2015 and that this number is expected to grow by 3% over the next four years, accordingly to a study released by The Radicati Group.
This way, it is believed that each user receives around 122 business emails per day. So you probably have started to understand how serious is the competition that you have to face for someone’s attention when you send an e-mail to them.
You should also add to it the fact that several pieces of advice are regularly spread by medical doctors to self-help gurus about the need of checking our email box less often so to avoid stress or distractions.
And yet, for some reason, you need to send an e-mail to someone and you need that it gets read and replied. This still is the best way to deliver a more complex information. If this is the case, you will have to get creative and try some surprising ways to get people to respond to your e-mail.
1. Use peer pressure in your favor
No matter how much we love to think that we are far away from the cave years, the truth is that a lot of our behavior is still decided based on what we used to do in order to survive. And one of the things we learned first was to live in groups, as we weren’t exactly the stronger species in the block. That is to say that we tend to follow the crowd and we are very likely to bend due to peer pressure even if it only on an unconscious level.
In Marketing, we can see this principle being applied in many situations. As an example, a study published in the Washington Post exposed guests in a hotel to placards asking them to reuse towels in the bathrooms. Two cards were displayed: one saying “Help The Environment”, and another one saying “Join Your Fellow Guests in Helping to Save the Environment”. The guests who were exposed to the second card were 25% more likely to reuse the towels.
The consequence of it is that we tend to respond faster to e-mails sent to multiple people, or those that mention someone in the message. It is like if it was putting us in a spotlight so we must say something or there will be trouble – just that there won’t be any. So, when possible, try to add more people to the conversation, or, at least, to put some extra names in the body text, and see how faster you will get replies.
2. Use their name as often as possible
There isn’t a word that we love more to hear than our own name. It is like music to our eyes. According to a study published by the researchers Dennis Carmody and Micheal Lewis, hearing our own name activated parts of the brain connected to self-awareness and self-judgement. In other words, it makes us feel special and alive, and it also can lead us to compromise with the result, because it is our name that is there. So it is no wonder why e-mail marketing dictates that messages should be personalized to the sender as much as possible.
But even if you aren’t preparing an e-mail marketing, you should always use their name on your text. That is to say that, if you don’t know the person’s name, you should do your best to find it out. Call their company if necessary, but always send your e-mail with a name on it.
And talking about e-mail marketing, you should have a look at a list of email marketing no-no’s as there are far too many mistakes easy to avoid if you just go through a checklist before tapping on the send button.
3. Use humor and compliments
Yes, it is understandable that it feels wrong to use humor or compliments in an e-mail sometimes, especially if it is a business e-mail or a person that with who you haven’t talked before. But, even in these cases, you can write your text in a much lighter way instead of making it purely formal.
If you manage to put a smile on that person’s face, they will be much more likely to answer your email faster and be happy to give priority to the next one you send (Treger and colleagues have conducted several studies regarding how humour and liking are connected, in case you want to know more about it).
Remember that we all live under a lot of pressure and that there are so many serious things to do that is always a relief to read a compliment or hear a light-hearted person talking to us.
4. Talk about them (not you)
OK, it is almost sure that if you are sending an e-mail to someone, it is because you need something from them, not the other way around. We like to hear and talk about ourselves because it feels good and rewarding, specialists have said.
But, on the other way around, more you talk about yourself and your problems, more boring and tiresome your message feels. If you are specifically talking to a very busy person is possible that your e-mail will be just one more thing on their plate. And all that you don’t want to be connected with is bad news.
So try to think in a way how you can make your need to sound like something interesting and useful to them. If you are trying to sell something, either a product or an idea, then you should always focus on their benefits to the person, emotional ones included. Try to engage them by putting their demands and expectations as a priority, not the other way around.
5. Say that it is important or urgent on the subject line
If you want that someone knows that your e-mail is important or urgent, you should them say that on the subject line. Simple like this. When you don’t make it clear, you should expect that your email will be just one more among many others, and you won’t be able to complain about it.
You can see Amazon, hotels, airlines doing it all the time. They will tell you that there is just one left, so you feel pressured to do it now or lose it forever.
Of course, you shouldn’t use it the wrong way and start lying about it. People will find out what you are doing sooner than you expect, and they will never take you seriously again. And it will irritate them that you made their email productivity slowdown or more complicated in that specific occasion. So use it in moderation and only when it is absolutely true.
Final thought: never forget the basics
If you want that someone reads and responds to your emails, you shouldn’t also forget the basics, such as:
- Keep it short, nobody has the time to read long texts, especially if they haven’t asked for it
- Keep it simple, nobody wants to spend time trying to dig what you need out of your sentences
- Keep it relevant, giving them the reason why you need that and why they should answer you
- Keep it correct, avoiding commonly misused words, grammar error, typos, etc.
- Keep it convenient, by delivering it on the right time of the day (people usually read e-mails first thing in the morning or at the end of the day)
- Keep it easy, offering a maximum of three choices per situation.
By following these tips, you should be able to increase the chances of getting people to reply you more often. They will understand that you aren’t an enemy filling their email box with more junk or demands, but someone with something valuable to say. And it will make of your e-mail a top priority.