Are you tired of emailing people and not getting responses? You need to move forward with a decision or need critical feedback, you ask them to reply, but most of the time it seems like they just ignore you. Sometimes they haven’t even looked over the email. Yes, it is their fault for not responding, but there are some things you can adjust in your email writing style to elicit more responses from people.
First, let’s clear something up – everyone is guilty of this, yes, even you. We all send emails and get upset people don’t respond, yet we’ve all flaked on responding to other people’s emails. Let’s also state something else that’s obvious – everyone hates emails.
So getting a response on an email is both the fault of the recipient, and also the fault of the sender. Some people just write really long boring emails that no one wants to read. Or they send short one worded emails like “thanks” that benefits no one and wastes people’s time in opening them.
So if you’re sending an email in which you need a response from someone in order to move forward, here are a few tips on how to write your email so that it’s clear, concise, and easy to respond to. Before you continue, make sure you understand the basics of business email etiquette. Then continue on:
Write a Clear Email Subject Line
The subject line of the email is a huge factor in determining whether or not the person will even open it. Don’t write one worded subject lines – it’s really difficult to know what the email is about, and harder to reference back to later. On the other extreme, don’t write a long sentence, because chances are the whole thing won’t be seen.
Depending on where the recipient checks email, they’ll probably only see 4-6 words of the subject line. So make it count. Write a short phrase that’s to the point. Say what type of response you need, and what the contents of the email are about. Here are some examples:
- RESPOND: Need Input for Event
- APPROVE: Project Proposal
- FEEDBACK: Which Ad to Use?
- YES/NO: Purchase Supplies?
- TIME? Next Staff Meeting
As you notice, it’s helpful to put in all caps the type of response you want to get, along with 2-3 words on the subject. If someone knows clearly what they need to do with that email, they’re more inclined to just get it done. A lot of people also skim through emails to follow-up later, and an action-oriented subject line helps to ensure that follow-up actually happens.
Avoid Small Talk in Your Email
Chatter may be great for in-person conversations, but not for emails. It may be fine if you’re connecting with a long lost friend, but for people you communicate with on a regular basis, there’s no need for a “how are you” or “tell me how your weekend went, mine was…”
Get straight to point. First, because most email clients will only show the first few words of the message, make sure your first sentence is descriptive and action-oriented like your subject line.
It’s courteous to greet the person by name, such as a simple “Hi Steven” or just “Steven.” But avoid fluffing up your email with unnecessary greetings, jokes, sarcasm, or stories, whether at the beginning or the end. Again, if this is an email that you need a response from in order to move forward, focus on getting that response.
Say the Exact Response You Need
Just like in the subject line, be clear in the first sentence of your email what you’re asking for. This time, be more specific. Describe what the email is about, and ask for how you want them to respond to it. Here are some examples:
- This is a draft of our marketing strategy – please read through it and CONFIRM or SUGGEST CHANGES.
- Please RSVP with a YES or NO about the event described below.
- Here are all the ideas from our meeting, please VOTE for your TOP 3.
It’s a good idea to state the response needed in the first sentence, go on to give the info you need to provide, then restate the required response at the end of the email. Using all caps on the response options helps to highlight what they need to do. I’ll also bold the sentence asking for the response, to help it stand out more.
As much as you can, avoid asking someone to do too many things in an email. Talk about one thing, ask for one response. Don’t try to describe multiple events or projects, or ask for different types of responses on different items. It’ll only decrease the chances of you getting any type of response. Keep it singular, and put other items in other emails.
Give a Response Deadline
Tell people when they need to respond by. “As soon as possible” won’t do, because everybody has their own idea of what’s urgent. Give hard dates and times, such as “within one week” or “by noon on Wednesday.”
Obviously be reasonable, don’t say “in an hour” because chances are they may not even check their email within that time frame, much less respond to it. If it’s that urgent, call them.
State What a No Response Means
Sometimes you do as much as you can, and sometimes people just won’t respond to your emails. Don’t let that hold you back from moving forward on what you need to do. Here’s a tactic that empowers you to make decisions, but puts any miscommunication on the fault of the recipient if they didn’t respond.
State that a no response means they agree (or whatever outcome you want) and you’ll move ahead with that, unless they object to it. For example, you need someone to decide which of 3 poster designs to use. Say something like, “If you don’t respond with your preference, I will go forward with Poster B.” Or, if you need them to approve a budget for supplies, you can say, “Unless you respond to remove something from this budget list, I’ll assume it’s approved and go forward with the purchases.”
This allows you to make the decision you need (or want) to make, and leave it on them to decide otherwise. If they really want to disagree, they’ll respond. Of course, you do have to use your best judgement as to whether or not this would be appropriate in your environment. But in general, it gives you the ability to do what you need to do, and protects you in case it backfires – you have email proof that you asked for feedback and received none, so any error is on the fault of the recipient.
Sample Email to Get a Response
So let’s take what we’ve talked about and put it into an example:
Subject Line: CHOOSE: Which Slogan for Ad?
Please RESPOND with which slogan you want to use for our Facebook ad.
We had the meeting with the marketing team regarding creating a new set of Facebook ads. To review, we want something that relates to small business owners and communicates excitement for growth. We will use the photo of a woman on her cell phone. These are the slogans we came up with:
1. Take your creative outreach to the next level
2. You’ve got a business to run, let us handle your marketing
3. You’re doing something awesome, let’s tell the world about it
Please RESPOND by THURSDAY at 3:00PM with the slogan you want to go with. If I don’t hear from you by then I’ll move forward with my preferred choice of #3.
Now go out and write better emails! If you’re sending tons of emails a day, or there happens to be a lot of back and forth, try using a team chat service like Slack or a project management service like Asana to eliminate as much email as possible.
What do you think? Do you have any tips or tricks to get people to respond to your emails? Let me know in the comments.