How to use email more effectively

02 Jun 2016

Email - what's the problem?

Before starting Expertise on Tap in 2007, I worked in companies where email had ceased to be effective. Employees were suffering from extreme email overload, and it was affecting their productivity. In a bad way.

If email overload can be reduced in business, then it becomes a far more effective communication tool, just like it was originally designed to be.

Tips to help you use email more effectively

1) Do you need to use email at all?

Ask your clients what their preferred communication method is.

For example, I have one client who uses Twitter constantly. The easiest way for me to communicate with him is via Twitter DMs (direct messages) and I always get a reply within minutes.

I have other clients who are frequently in meetings, and when you phone them it often goes to voicemail. They've told me they prefer to receive emails rather than phone calls.Conversely, I have clients who prefer phone calls, so I use email only if I need to send them a link or a file.

2) Work out when your clients and contacts usually check their emails.

In the SME world, this could be anything from 6am to midnight. SME owners tend not to work 9-5. If you send your emails when your client is most likely to be online, it will land in their inbox as a fresh email and they’re more likely to deal with it. One way to do this is to write your email and then set it to send at a later time - you can do this in some email programs, including Outlook.

3) If you’ve decided email is the best option for a particular client or supplier, here are some further tips.

  • State in the subject line the classification of the email. This helps people prioritise. Eg. “for action”, “for review” or “for information”.
  • Use Reply to All and cc functions sparingly. Do you really need to copy 10 other people? And avoid copying someone’s boss just to score points.
  • If the email is for action by more than one person, explain who needs to do what.
  • Don’t expect that because you’ve sent an e-mail you have a right to an instant reply.
  • Use a descriptive subject line to help the recipient prioritise the email. Don’t just say “Meeting”. Instead, put “Our meeting 16th August 2pm – just checking you can come.”
  • Or you could try a subject line to grab their attention! Instead of “Gloucestershire Echo article” you could try “John Smith from ABC Widgets is in the Echo today – have you seen it?”
  • Be concise and to the point. No-one wants to read an essay.
  • Lay out clearly the decision you want from that e-mail and the ideal date you want it completed by.
  • Use numbered bullet points rather than lengthy paragraphs. That also makes it easier for the recipient to respond to, eg. “Regarding point #3”.
  • Read your e-mail back and check that it makes sense.