Email. It’s something we use every day. Yet it’s something that we rarely spend time thinking about.
That’s a shame, because with so many overflowing inboxes, putting effort into an ill-thought out email can be a huge waste of time.
What’s the point of hitting “send” on an email that will never get a response?
Next time you go to write an important email, think less about what you want and more about how you’re going to make this email count.
Think about how you’re going to make someone want to respond.
You might ask, How do I do that?
Easy. There are literally hundreds of studies on what works and what doesn’t. Improving your hit rate is just a matter of listening to the experts.
Here are five research-backed tips that will help you write (and send) better emails.
1. Be Grateful
Gratitude isn’t just some feel-good new agey stuff. It gets results.
One study found that including a grateful message at the conclusion of your email can increase response rates by 66%. Specifically, the authors of the study recommend using these eight words:
“Thank you so much. I am very grateful.”
It works because appreciation is a powerful motivator that spurs people to action. Sentences like, “Thanks in advance” can also work to boost response rates.
You can work more gratitude into the body of the email if you like, but be careful not to go overboard as you might come across as submissive or insincere.
2. Send It At the Right Time
Nobody’s going to reply to your email if they don’t see it. Getting a response is not just a matter of messaging, it’s also a matter of timing.
Email has been around for a while now, as has email tracking software.
What does that mean?
Well, we know statistically what time of day someone is more likely to open an email. According to most studies, the best time to send an email is usually in the middle of the week (Tuesday through Thursday) between 10am and 2pm.
While these are good general guidelines, you can also use this handy tool that calculates the best time to send an email based on you and your recipient’s time zone.
3. Use Social Proof
As humans, we have a natural fear of missing out. If we see our friends or colleagues are involved in something, then we want to be involved too.
It follows that emails that mention other stakeholders or cc multiple people have higher response rates. For example, cc’ing a high level manager or influential person within an organization can increase your chances of getting a response from their colleagues.
You can also include other forms of social proof in your email like statistics, testimonials/celebrity endorsements, certifications, or media mentions. Just make sure you don’t clutter up your email and lose the main message, which brings us to the next point:
4. Keep it Short and Sweet
When you’re busy, the last thing you want to see when you open up an email is a wall of text.
Not only will you be less likely to read the email, but when there’s a ton of information, it can be difficult to know how to respond.
It’s common sense that shorter emails should have a better response rate, but it’s also backed up by the data. According to a Hubspot survey of 40 million emails, the ideal length for getting response is 50-125 words.
If you can, keep your message to a couple of sentences at most.
5. Tell Them What to Do
Have you ever been sent an email that was so vague you weren’t sure what to do with it? Most likely you simply ignored it and moved on.
As psychologist Robert Sutton has noted, people like being given clear instructions on what you want them to do.
When writing your email, try to avoid passive statements and tell the recipient exactly what action you want them to take.
For example, avoid saying things like, “Let me know if you need anything else,” or “What do you think?” If you want something from them, ask directly but politely, while also offering something of value.
You also want to avoid giving the recipient an “easy out”. Never say things like, “I know you are busy, so no problem if you don’t have time to respond.” If you don’t care about a response, why send the email in the first place?
Of course all these methods are only tools to increase your chances of a response—they won’t guarantee one. While it’s worthwhile to get into the habit of using all of them regularly, you should also pay close attention to what works best for you, and continually refine your approach.
For more excellent tips on communication, listen to my interview with Cameron Herold on the Marketing Speak podcast.