In an article for The Atlantic, writer Joe Pinsker split email recipients into two categories: those who let emails pile up, unattended; and those who felt compelled to respond as quickly as possible. It’s certainly worth considering that some people, by habit, reply immediately and others do so in bulk several days later.
However, as the email sender, your primary concern is hearing back — regardless if it’s thirty minutes or three days later. After all, why would you bother sending an email unless you were hoping it’d be read? And, particularly if it includes a question or a matter for follow-up, you want to increase your chances of a response.
When the number of business messages received per day in 2015 averaged 76 “legitimate emails,” it’s no surprise that some get lost in the shuffle. To encourage others to reply, utilize the best practices below.
1. Dumb it down
In his Inc. article, “The Simple Secret to Get People to Respond to Your Emails,” writer John Brandon shares some insight on simplifying your outreach; including that more than half of people will respond to an email if you keep your language “third-grade simple.” Not just that, but the overall length with the highest response rate is 100 words, and the best subject lines are only three to four words long.
Cut to the chase of what you mean (or need).
You may wonder how you can get your point across in such few (and simple) words. I find it helpful to remember that this isn’t the only email you’ll ever get to send the other person. Cut to the chase of what you mean (or need) and you can always broach different topics at another time.
Covering something particularly nuanced? It’s okay to go into more depth when it’s called for. Just strive to keep your message short and clear whenever you can.
2. Make sure you’re adding value
Muse Author Lily Herman found that when she included a link the recipient might be interested in, 85 percent of people responded to her email (and more than half of the respondents got back to her within 24 hours.) Along with an increased rate of reply, another benefit of this approach is that it assuages a common fear many people have when reaching out to someone (particularly if it’s someone new, or if you’re asking for a favor). You don’t have to worry about coming off as self-serving if your initial note includes something the other person would find interesting or helpful.
Unsure what to share? Herman included an article link in each of her emails. Other options could be details on an upcoming event, links to TED talks or information on volunteering or networking opportunities.
3. Follow up the right way
These tips should help, but not every email you send (even the ones that clearly need an answer), will get a response. Sometimes you’ll catch someone at a bad time, and no matter how great your email is, he’ll forget he ever got it by the time he gets out of a day of meetings and its been pushed to the bottom of his inbox page.
Keep this email brief, but don’t leave it at “checking in that it was received.”
So, don’t be afraid to follow up. Wait at least 24 hours for anything non-urgent, and then send a note that includes a forward of your previous email (just be sure to remove “FWD” from the subject line).
Keep this email brief, but don’t leave it at “checking in that it was received.” If you need something, highlight that as well. For example, your next line could read: “Have you had a chance to review the changes I sent?” or “Were you able to open the attached invitation?” You’re more likely to get a response that meets your expectations if the other person knows just what they are.
It can be frustrating to send an email and not get a reply. But, if you’re willing to put in a bit more time when you’re composing it, you can increase the likelihood you’ll hear back.