Here are some easy to follow tips that will help you avoid being seen as a spammer, or having your emails trashed or ignored. The thing is this: email reduces friction. Greedy, lazy organizations have embraced this and tried to figure out how to blast as many emails as they can as cheaply as they can, relying on the law of large numbers. The real law of large numbers is, "using large numbers is against the law."
I want you to add friction back in. If you want to be seen as being personal, the best strategy is to be personal, which is slow and expensive.
- Don't send the same email to large numbers of people.
- If you have more than a few people to contact, you'll be tempted to copy and paste or mail merge. Don't. You'll get caught. It shows. If it's important enough for someone to read, it's important enough for you to rewrite.
- Careful with the salutation. Don't write, "Dear Claudia," if you don't usually write "Dear" at the beginning of all your emails.
- Don't mush the salutation together with the rest of the note. If I had a dollar for every email that started, "Joe, When experts come together…" That's not personal. That's lazy merging. See rule 1.
- Don't send HTML or pictures. Personal email doesn't, why are you?
- Don't talk like a press release. Talk like a person. A person is reading this, so why are you talking like that?
- Be short. The purpose of an email is not to sell the person on anything other than writing back. If you don't have a personal, interesting way to start a conversation, don't write.
- Don't send an email only when you really need something. That's not personal, that's selfish.
- Do you have a sig with a phone number in it? Your phone number? If you don't trust me enough to give me your real phone number, I don't trust you enough to read your mail.
- Don't mark your email urgent. Urgent to you is not urgent to me.
- Don't lie in your subject line, and don't be cute. You're not clever enough to be cute. Just be honest.
- Following up on an impersonal spam email is twice as dumb as sending the first one. Invest the time to do it right the first time.
- Anticipated, personal and relevant permission mail will always dramatically outperform greedy short-term spam. I promise.
- Just because you have someone's email address doesn't mean you have the right to email them.
Jacques de Villiers is a motivational speaker in South Africa