Most of us will readily admit that we aren't the world's most perfect writers. However, that doesn't mean that we don't strive to get our point across articulately and comprehensively in written correspondence. This is especially true in professional communication, particularly business emails.
In recent history, communication skills seem to have fallen by the wayside in the business world, which is often attributed to the rise of texting and instant messaging. When people use shorthand, acronyms and slang so frequently, long-form written communication can easily become somewhat of a lost art.
If you're a busy business professional, you probably need to send multiple emails each day. That's not even counting the crafted emails you create as part of your online marketing efforts. To help you improve your communication with your clients and better represent your brand, keep reading this guide on how to craft a business email that achieves your goals.
Per the Harvard Business Review, it's never appropriate to use internet shorthand or text messaging-style speech in a professional email. This means that failing to capitalize "I" or neglecting to use proper punctuation is simply not appropriate in a business context. People will often make the argument that this casual style of speech is "simply how people talk these days," thereby making it fine to use in business communication as it's largely the norm. However, people still respect what they believe to be a certain level of professionalism and intellectualism. Instead of just doing as others do and taking the easiest route possible in crafting your business emails, opt to take that extra 10 minutes to proofread and double-check what you've written before hitting "send."
Wrong: i'm writing to let you now, we'll be holding our anunuall conference next week, and we would love to see u there, for sure!!!
Right: Good afternoon. This is currently an exciting time for Johnson Technology, as our annual conference will be occurring next week on the fourth. We're pleased to announce that tickets are still available and we'd love to see all of our clients and industry colleagues there.
As for emojis and similar staples of casual digital communication, there's a time and a place. In a mass email meant to alert clients of an upcoming promotion or new product, it's best to avoid them, as they can often project an aura of unprofessionalism and immaturity. In communication with a colleague or a follow-up communication with a client with whom you've established a friendly rapport, the occasional smiley face emoji is acceptable. In fact, a smiley face can sometimes be cleverly used to soften a statement that might otherwise read a bit harsher than intended in print.
Wrong: Good morning! We haven't met, but my name is Mark and I work for Smith Industries. :-D Brenda passed your information on and I wanted to reach out to you about an exciting opportunity. XD :-O
Right: Good morning Lisa. I've enjoyed working with your company over these past few weeks as we helped to update your infrastructure. Please note that the invoice for the final service fee is still outstanding, but Mitchell from accounting is happy to assist you with payment at your convenience. :-)
Much of the written communication you send and receive in the business world will be from people with whom you've developed a rapport, such as coworkers or repeat customers. However, a significant portion of professional communication comes in the form of mass emails meant to market to or inform potential or past clients of upcoming promotions, opportunities or products.
While drafting business emails to colleagues might not intimidate you, many people are downright frightened by the prospect of having to write these marketing emails. After all, you're not writing to someone you've established a relationship with, but rather soliciting a stranger.
A crucial part of crafting one of these emails is catching the reader's attention. People are bombarded with promotional mail these days, which means that they're discerning in what they'll choose to open and read versus what they delete without reading at all. Of course, crafting a smart subject line is essential in compelling the reader to click the email and read more, but equally important is using the right greeting and first paragraph to hold their attention.
When it comes to choosing a greeting, you don't need to overthink it. A simple "good morning" or "good afternoon" is absolutely fine. What's to be avoided are greetings that are cheesy or gimmicky, such as "hello friends!" or "rise and shine, future customer!" Remember, we exist in a digital age where we're bombarded with ads everywhere we look. Now more than ever do people value being spoken to like human beings, rather than targets in a company's ad campaign.
Even if you've used a smart and simple greeting, you haven't hooked the reader in quite yet. The first paragraph is known as "the hook" because it's where you're going to capture the reader's attention and inspire them to read until the end. For those struggling to craft effective marketing emails, this might be the part where you're thinking, "easier said than done." However, the first paragraph is actually quite simple to craft if you follow some basic guidelines.
First, let's look to a rule of journalism when it comes to creating the first sentence of our first paragraph. An old standard in the newspaper world is to begin your article by formulating a sentence that expresses the who, what and where. Keep in mind that the "where" can be a variable and will often be replaced with the "why." An example of this would be "President Roberts ordered a thousand troops to Capital City" or "President Roberts sends troops to Capital City to respond to the hurricane." The former emphasizes the where, the latter emphasizes the why.
Follow this rule to craft the first sentence of your marketing email. Remember, people these days are dubious of advertising and actually appreciate being told upfront what exactly it is that they're being sold or pitched. So let's say you're a tech company that's selling your business software at a special rate to local clients. The first sentence could read, "we at Smart Guy Software are excited to offer our Premium Pro software to residents of Smartville for 50% off this weekend." If you're having a promotion in honor of a holiday, your first sentence might read, "Smart Guy Software will be offering our Premium Pro software at a special 50% off price to celebrate Memorial Day weekend."
A good hook paragraph should be three to five sentences long; indeed, that ought to be the length of just about all paragraphs in a marketing email, as readers lose interest in blocks of text that feel like they go on endlessly. After your first sentence explaining what's being sold, you want to express why the sale is beneficial to the consumer and why they'd be smart to pursue more information. Essentially, you should provide the customer with information and then use subsequent sentences to actually market the product or promotion in question.
Example: "Bob's Furniture will be holding our annual Thanksgiving sale this weekend in Bob City. Our sale will cover all items in our warehouse, with discounts up to 75% off for our valued Bob City clients. We have the newest items from the brands you love for prices you won't find elsewhere."
This is an area where business owners and marketers often become stressed when it comes to crafting these emails. If your email is too short, you might feel like you're not conveying all the information you want to get across to your reader. If it's too long, you risk losing the reader's attention altogether.
When it comes down to it, there's no right or wrong answer on how long a promotional email ought to be. The best rule to follow is that the email should convey what you wish to convey in however many words or paragraphs that takes. As you proofread, you should eliminate any sentences or blocks of text that fail to inform or excite. Never write words for the sake of writing words in a marketing email.
Many business owners struggle with exactly what to put between their opening paragraph and their closing paragraph. Remember, readers don't like to stare at long chunks of text. The body of your email is a great place for bullet lists that briefly and succinctly list product attributes in a manner that's easy to digest and pleasing to the eyes.
The body of the email is also a great place to feature customer testimonials. If a client has given you positive feedback recently or left a glowing review, you can insert it here. Use italics to differentiate it from the rest of the email.
Example: "I love the ice cream at Carl's Cones. It's refreshing and delicious. Plus, their prices can't be beat!" - Carol, Cream City
You'll notice the emphasis on "breaking up" long walls of text with clever formatting. This is a common trick to keep readers reading. You can also make use of a bold font to emphasize points that you think are of particular importance, while simultaneously keeping your reader's attention.
Example: Our company's annual conference is an opportunity for local businesses to showcase their products in a manner that reaches thousands of potential clients. Businesses that have worked with us in the past have reported an increase in sales of as much as 600%. We're pleased to offer space at our conference at a rate that even small businesses can afford.
If the first paragraph is meant to grab the reader's attention, the closing paragraph is designed to take that attention and convert it into an actual action, hence the name "call to action." By the final paragraph, your readers understand what it is you're selling and why it would be beneficial to them. The final paragraph is the part where you inspire them to act. Begin the paragraph by reiterating the main point of what it is that you're selling and why the reader needs it. Close the paragraph by instructing them on exactly what it is they ought to do to bring your product or service into their lives. For many marketing emails, this involves either replying to the email or clicking a link to obtain further information. The objective here should be to be as clear and concise as possible and to avoid coming across like you're begging.
Wrong: As you can see, our customers love our award-winning skincare products and have experienced life-changing results. We hope that perhaps we can do the same for you. Won't you please reply to this email to get more information about how Beth's Skincare can help you?
Right: Beth's Skincare has helped thousands of customers just like you to achieve the complexion of their dreams and feel and look their very best. Click this link today to get more information about how our award-winning products can help you to put your best face forward.
When it comes to the closing sentence, it's best to give an instruction, not a request. Don't be afraid to be direct, as this is your last chance to convert the reader from a potential customer to an actual sale.
Clearly, a lot goes into crafting a great marketing email, but it's not as complicated as you might think. If you follow these simple guidelines and take the time to proofread and perfect your writing, you can craft business emails that hook your reader and inspire them to pursue your product or service. As a call to action of our own, keep reading our series of articles about writing business emails that work to help you perfect this invaluable business skill.
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