Of late I seem to be getting lots of marketing emails from contacts that start with a detailed account of the weather – what it was like, what it is like, what it’s going to be like, and how the sender feels about it all.
I’m not just talking about a passing comment – “Nice weather” or “Can’t wait for the sunny weather this weekend” – I’m talking about 4-5 sentences akin to something from the Met Office.
But this shift from informal small-talk during conversations to the hook of an email is probably doing more damage than good.
And in my case it usually results in me hitting delete before I’ve even got past the first line.
I want to be clear here that I’m in favour of a short, gentle introduction on emails, especially if it’s a contact you’re familiar with. But it needs to be short.
And here’s why…
Writing content is always about overcoming the barrier of time.
The key to emails is to remember that your email is one of many emails sitting in the mailbox of your recipient. One of hundreds maybe that are waiting to be read every day.
Now imagine if you have 100 emails (for you, this might even be a conservative number) and every one has some sort of waffle at the beginning, say 10 seconds’ worth of reading. That’s nearly 17 minutes wasted every day reading parts of an email that have no real relevance whatsoever.
And even if you have a good relationship with your contact, it doesn’t automatically give you a licence to bother them with unnecessary small talk.
People in business are quick to lose patience because they don’t have the time to waste. And if they begin to associate your emails with fluff, you’ve got a job on your hands to get them to read the very best of them.
What to do instead…
Get to the point.
Pleasantries are a nice touch provided they are genuine, but you’ve got to get beyond that as soon as possible.
I’ll often say, “Hope you’re well…” or “I hope you’re keeping busy…”, not because it’s just a line I use, but because I genuinely hope everything’s going well.
It can be difficult to do this when you’re mailing 200 people in one go, especially if you make the mistake of not including their real name at the beginning. But what’s the harm in wishing everyone well?
Are those people all from an event, or part of a particular group? Did you have a fantastic time discussing x, y and z? Make it as personal as you can.
Keep the pleasantries to no more than 15 words, so it takes 1 second to read instead of 10 and breaks the ice to get to the good stuff.
But remember, under the ice it’s still pretty cold. Your audience aren’t captive, they aren’t having a coffee with you, they’re busy. So you can’t waste time with lots of fluff.
Get to the reason you’re emailing in the first place, sign off, and click send. (Maybe give it a quick proofread, too!)
In short, keep it short. People need to know the value of reading the email – how will it will be of benefit to them – without wading through the fluff at the beginning.
Better still, play around with how you start your emails and use analytical tools to review the most successful way.
But the weather is depressing enough in the UK without being reminded of it.
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