For something we use every single day, most of us really end up sucking at email.
It's not that we're not all really articulate - we've got some really brilliant writers in our ranks. It's not that we have nothing to say - most of our companies really are doing terrific things that create real value for clients and agencies.
No, our emails suck for one very simple and pedestrian reason: We don't know how to start them.
There are whole books and business articles and classes devoted to the use of email. Recently, Robert Glazer celebrated the joy of brevity in his 'Friday Forward' post. Brief, well-structured - check, check. But none of that matters if you don't - first - get to the point!
Consider that your customers read and edit much of their email on the screen of a mobile phone. A quick swipe of the thumb and your email is gone and forgotten. Whether or not that thumb goes left is based on (1) whether you have an existing personal or business relationship - odds are that you don't; (2) the subject line; and (3) the first two lines of copy. Yet despite the critical importance of points 2 and 3, sellers waste this precious real estate every day.
For lack of consideration (or maybe lack of any real reason for writing), we carelessly stick the client's company name "X" our company name in the subject line. Perhaps because we want to appear folksy and nonthreatening, we start with something inane like "Hope you had a great weekend!" or "I'll only take a minute of your time."
Your subject line is nothing less than the headline for the story you're writing. It should speak directly to the core value you hope to deliver. "3.5 Million Incremental Shoppers for Your Holiday Push" or "High Income Millennials are Not Hearing Your Core Story" would be good examples.
And when it comes to the opening sentence of your email, here's the best one I've ever seen: I'm writing you because... This simple phrase forces you to speak immediately and directly to the reason why your customer should spend even another second reading. If you haven't got a good reason, it will become immediately apparent to you, and you can go back to the drawing board.
It's time to start thinking, acting and writing intentionally. Drop the shallow chumminess and stop clearing your throat. Respect is the new friendship, and if you respect your client's time by getting to the point you'll be rewarded with their most precious currency: attention.