Saturday, August 3, 2013

Seven Tips for Effective Emails

Email is different from other forms of communication - more casual than letters, more personal than websites, more visual than phone calls, and more frequent and single-focused than all of the above. Here are some tips for using this medium wisely in order to maximize the impact of your emails:

  1. Use a catchy subject line: Think of your subject line as a newspaper headline - it should entice folks to read more while clearly conveying your main point. It's both your first impression and your elevator pitch. And it can mean the difference between an opened email and one that gets trashed. Notice and learn from subject lines that work for you (and those that don't). Here are two that grabbed my attention: "Giving back has never looked so good" and "Take two minutes to change the world."
  2. Go casual and person: Feel free to use everyday terms, casual sentences and sentence fragments, as well as slang words. Your email should feel relaxed and informal.
  3. Keep it short (and simple): Show your readers you appreciate their time by sending emails that are concise and easy to answer. Use as few words as possible, introduce who you are, provide quick context, and tell them why you are contacting them. Be creative, be true to your unique organizational culture, but be brief.
  4. Make it mobile-friendly: More and more people are accessing their email on mobile devices only, so test yours out to make sure they work. Short subject lines are absolutely essential, as mobile devices often will only read up to 30 characters (and note that subject lines of 28-39 characters have the highest click rate according to Mail Chimp).
  5. Mind your fonts and formatting: Be sure to use common, readable fonts in appropriate sizes - Arial (12 point) and Verdana (10 point) are good choices. Make emails easy to read and quick to scan by using bullets, numbered lists, short paragraphs, and  strategic use of bold and italic. 
  6. Use visuals: One great photo, video or infographic is worth a thousand words.
  7. Drive readers to your website: You want your readers to one-click to your website to sign up for your email list, donate, and learn more about your good work. So make sure to include the URL for your website and/or blog, and make sure the links are functional.

Email is such a quick and seemingly easy method of communication; we all have a human tendency to toss them off without much thought. But if you want the folks on your email list to actually read what you've written, you need to take the time to compose subject lines and emails that capture their attention and motivate them to take action.

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