Saturday, April 10, 2010

No One Reads Email Anymore - Deal With It

Two years ago you could send an email to a journalist or a business prospect and expect that they would read it and you might even get a response. Today I would forget about that.

I used to have a lot of luck with email media pitching. I would spend time creating these perfect pitches - I came from the freelance writing world and editors actually read them then. Today I have to assume that no one reads anything - because I really don't. And if they do it's on a mobile and more than a sentence or two gets deleted.

I worked for awhile with a woman who would send out email queries to get people to participate in projects. They were people who had signed up and at some point were engaged. If she didn't hear back she wouldn't even email again. Yes she was in her 20s and email was the only way she'd ever really communicated. She never even thought about doing it another way.

Another former client of mine sent out mass emails expecting responses. She had long lists and would send them from an email address that wasn't even a business. Then she would get frustrated when I would pick up the phone, call the person and get in touch with someone she'd been trying to reach for weeks.

The bottom line is - the telephone is really the only way to know that you've connected with the other person. If you leave a voice mail you know they got it. If they blow you off - at least you know they got it.

But we have to send email too because that's how our world communicates. So here are some simple tips:

Your subject line is your marketing tool - It's your headline, it's your sales message, it's the only thing they are going to read. Make it connect directly with the person that you're trying to reach and address a clear cut need that you can help with. For a product it's basic marketing - think what will make them take action. For a reporter it's why should I write about this - how will it help me impress editor, keep my job, get my next one?

Your email address is everything - If it comes form Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, or one of the other services that people use for personal email not only will the spam filters knock it out, the individual who sees the address will rarely open it.

So find yourself a business email address - even if the only person in the company is you. Set it up so it's linked to a web site that exists and is current.

Set up a Gmail account - It's always good to have a fallback position. I love Gmail because the Google folks know how to get around the spam filters and Gmail accounts don't get a lot of spam. So I use it as a back-up for everything I do. The email may not get opened but I know it got there.

Don't send attachments unless you know the person and even then do it sparingly. Many spam filters are set up to knock out attachments - particularly if it's from an unfamiliar account. This is a particularly big deal in PR - if you cannot include your information in the body of an email you are wasting your and their time. It's an extra click and if there's interest a link is better and it also gives them a reason to get in touch with you.

Keep it short I cannot repeat this enough times or put enough emphasis on it. People today don't read. If you can't distill your information into a couple of sentences you shouldn't be sending it. So many business people rewrite, add, edit, change - lengthen - it's crazy. Your email is your elevator speech cut by half.

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