Whether you send large email newsletters or just use email to communicate with friends, colleagues and customers, following these nine strategies will make your email more effective.

One Main Message per Email – The most effective email messages have one main idea or concept. Before you start writing a message, write down what you’re trying to communicate. Or at least think about your message before you start writing. The most effective messages are ones that are crisp, clear and concise.

Keep it Short – People simply have too many distractions to wade through a really long email. You might think they need all of the information. But when people are faced with dense blocks of text, many people’s eyes glaze over. And then they ignore the entire message. Two or three short sentences and perhaps a couple of bullet points followed by supporting material (an attachment or a link to more information) is all that should be included in each email!

Keep it Relevant – If your messages are relevant, your recipients will pay attention to what you are trying to say. If your messaging is not relevant, you’re quickly going to find that your messages are filed in the “I’ll get to these later” pile.

Subject Line – The subject line is the most important part of an effective email. If you forget to include a subject line, your message is much more likely to go into a junk mail folder, or just not be opened. Email marketing professionals live and die by subject lines. A good subject line will sum up what the message is all about, but still entice someone to open the message, read it, and take action. Personalizing a subject line with your company’s name or the recipient’s name or other information can also lead to higher message open rates.

Personalize Each Message – Except when being called into the principal’s office, everyone likes being called by his or her name. In this impersonal world of email messages, people like to know that you know who they are, and that you care about them as a person.

Always include your contact information – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not returned a call promptly because I didn’t have someone’s contact information readily available. I know this is a simple and basic thing. But so many people don’t follow it. If you want someone to respond to you, you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for him or her. Same thing goes for leaving a voice mail.

Strong Call to Action – In direct marketing or email correspondence, most of the time you want someone to take a specific action when they receive your message. You might want to set up an in-person meeting, or have them click through to a website to read more. Or respond back and say, “Yes, let’s go ahead with the project.” The most effective email messages always have a strong call to action, telling the recipient what you want them to do.

Use Folders & Filters – If you’re like me and you receive a lot of email, you can use folders to store messages from different people or clients. In most email programs, you can set up automatic rules (often called filters) that will place all messages from Joe into a specific folder. That way you can review all of the messages Joe sends over to you, reply to the ones that need attention, and not have to spend the time moving the messages from the inbox to another folder when you’re finished. This one strategy has made me amazingly more efficient at dealing with the large volume of email I receive each day.

Know when email doesn’t work – Pick up the phone instead…Email remains one of the primary ways that businesses communicate internally and externally. Make sure you recognize when email is losing its effectiveness. It’s easy to hide behind email when we don’t want to speak to a scary client or team member. I’ve been guilty of that as well when I have a million things going on. A three-minute conversation can usually clear up confusion caused from five days of back-and-forth email messages.

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Filed under: January 2010

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