Email Etiquette: 3 Myths You Need To Stop Believing

Show of (virtual) hands please:

Have you ever found yourself spending hours crafting the perfect email to a potential client or member of the press, only to get…

NO reply?

Maybe your email went straight to the spam folder.

Maybe you made a typo and they’re sitting in their office right now, laughing at your mistake.

Maybe your email was so ridiculous that they’ll post it on Facebook as an example of what NOT to do when emailing…

Ok, maybe that’s just where my mind has gone.

But email etiquette is simply something no one really gets taught.

3 common myths about writing emails to hard-to-reach people >>

Sure, we might read an article about ‘How to reach busy people’ or ‘How to get your emails read’ and pick up a tip or two.

But how well do these principles; these ‘tip ‘n’ tricks, actually work?

Quitting my cosy agency job to go freelance was the first step I took into the Wild West of Email.

I’ve made MANY mistakes. Some which still make me cringe like a bulldog sucking a lemon.

But I’ve also had many wins.

Over the years, I’ve learned there is definitely an art to emailing strangers – and I’d love to shatter some of the ridiculous myths a lot of people still believe about email etiquette.

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Email Etiquette: 3 Myths You Need To Stop Believing

Myth #1: Keep it ‘Brief’

Ok, ok, no one wants an essay in their inbox. The average person gets around 121 emails a day according to this report – and that was in 2015.

Since ’email marketing’ is such a thing right now, I’ll bet that’s gone up.

We simply don’t have the time to read long-winded emails.

But we’re also quite unlikely to take kindly to someone who is so brief, that they come across as a spammer.

When we can inject a bit of our personality into our email, even if it’s just in the subject line and a one-sentence intro: we can change a ‘hell no’ into a ‘hmmm…’

That ‘hmmm’ is the difference between getting a reply and getting the trash.

3 common myths about writing emails to hard-to-reach people >>

Top tip:

Priority #1: Subject line

Many of use leave this to the last minute and don’t think too hard about it. I say: spend at least 25% of the time you spend writing the email on writing the subject line.

It doesn’t need to be super clever: clarity wins over all here. Don’t mislead them, just explain what you’re doing.

For example: “Guest post request from a fellow pug lover”

This also adds some evidence that you’ve actually taken the time to research the recipient. (Assuming they do own a pug…)

Priority #2: One sentence explaining either:

• How you know them

OR

• How they’ve helped you

OR

• Someone/something you have in common

This is more important than starting with some impressive introduction of your achievements and skill set. That can come later.

What the recipient wants to know is that you’re not someone who has just lazily found (or bought) their email address, and is emailing purely to get something. This is where you can form some kind of rapport – even if it’s a sentence or two.

Priority #3: Call to action

This is where we get brief:  rather than give your life story, simply explain what you’d like to do for them, and what you want them to do next.

For example:

• “I’d love to teach your audience about how to {insert your area of expertise}. If you’re interested, hit reply and let me know. I’ll get back to you with more info.”

OR

• “I’d love to visit your store and show you some samples of my work. If you’re interested, let me know what time is best for you this week.”

3 common myths about writing emails to hard-to-reach people >>

Myth #2: It’s better to call

Yes, we are more likely to ‘close a sale’ on the phone than via email, and we certainly get to know, like and trust someone quicker on the phone: but there are plenty of exceptions to the rule.

For one, most hard-to-get people are equally as averse to picking up unsolicited calls as they are emails. At least with emails: you can answer on your own time.

As a hardcore introvert, this came as a massive relief to me: knowing that I could do most of my marketing and networking simply through doing what I do best: writing.

Don’t just take my word for it. Janet Murray of Soulful PR, has over 15 years experience in PR and journalism, and states:

Most journalists I know are so inundated, they rarely answer their phones. So a well-crafted email pitch, with a compelling subject header can be just as effective – if not more so – than a phone call.

Introvert? Emails are your secret weapon. Use them wisely.

3 common myths about writing emails to hard-to-reach people >>

Myth #3: Follow up

Ahh the follow up.

It’s not that I’m against following up per se: in fact in most cases not following up is the email equivalent of playing knock-down ginger.

You have to give someone a chance to reply, especially the inboxes that get flooded every hour: so don’t just knock and run.

But the follow up that reads ‘Just checking you got this’ is annoying at best.

Yes, I saw your email. Now you’ve just made me read another pointless email. TRASH.

There are a couple of better alternatives to this Spammy McSpamster approach:

Approach 1: Use Boomerang

Boomerang (the free extension for Gmail) is a life saver. Well, the email saver.

It can tell you if someone has opened your email or not.

So, if a week goes by and your email is still unread: try sending the same body copy but with a different subject line.

If you’re new to Boomerang, all the info you need is here.

Approach 2: Add value

This is a slower burner, but if the person you’re trying to contact is worth it: it’s worth the time. It also works best if the recipient has opened your email, just not replied.

After a fortnight or a month, send a brand new email (the subject line could be the same, or “Re: {Old subject line}”) offering them some value.

As in: purely be of use in this email. No asks, just a genuine connection.

It could be a link to an article they might be interested in, or just some kind words about how they’ve helped you or inspired you, for example.

Again: it’s not an essay, nor is it an unhelpful prod to ‘LOOK AT MEEEE’; it’s simply showing you are genuinely interested in them.

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Do you have any email myths you’d like to debunk?
Let me know in the comments below!