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#2.15: The “Get Important People to Read your Email” Issue

1 > Subject line matters
2 > Write your email like an executive
3 > Get to the point
4 > Rules of email attachments

1 > Subject line matters

It’s common for executives to receive hundreds of emails a day, so you better make sure your email stands out among the others. Among the things that first catch the recipient’s eye is the subject line. If the recipient doesn’t know what the message is about, it doesn’t get opened. Think of your subject line as a “TV Guide” listing — if you don’t know what the program is, it goes unwatched. Avoid at all costs the ultimate death knell — the blank subject line. Always write a subject line, and make it tell the story. Not having a subject line, besides being unhelpful, always makes you look like an

The lesson: Cut through the fray by writing a descriptive and relevant subject line for your recipient. Keep in mind what you would personally open or delete.

2 > Write your email like an executive

It’s all about perception — always appear to be on the same level as the peers your courting. You’ll see that many of the emails written by busy executives are brief — not because the person is rude but because their busy. Copy that style and you will look like a busy executive too. Writing essays gives the impression that you have too much time on your hands. In terms of a convenience bonus, shorter emails are easy and helpful when importing into handheld devices. If your messages go beyond one paragraph, limit your paragraphs to a single topic and keep the paragraphs concise. Lastly, spell check your email before hitting the send button.

The lesson: Think of your initial email as a face-to-face introduction with this person. Keep your appearance professional and your stature big.

3 > Get to the point

Tell the recipient what you want them to do in the first sentence. The farther down in the message your action request is, the less likely it’ll get seen or done. Up front brevity and directness matters because many executives will import the opening sentence into their handheld device. Never send someone a lengthy diatribe with the call-to-action camouflaged at the bottom, because they’re not sticking around to read the entire message. Also, play the name card if you can — if someone referred you to them, use their name early on. Those types of emails definitely get read.

The lesson: Don’t bury the most important item. Put it first. The recipient will appreciate your “get down to business” attitude.

4 > Rules of email attachments

We’ve all received the obnoxious attachments — they’re too heavy, too heavy without a warning, too many attachments, or they are incompatible with their system. Here are a few guidelines that will keep you in the
recipient’s good graces:

1. Keep attachments small — never more than 500K.
2. If you have a large attachment, ask permission to send it.
3. Keep them openable — a WinZip file will always get deleted.
4. Keep them compatible. Only use standard programs. Even PDF has trouble for new versions.
5. Don’t send more than 3 attachments. It’s better if you can get it to one document.

The lesson: Don’t send an attachment that you wouldn’t want to receive. If you are in doubt about compatibility, create an HTML document and store it on your Web server so that she or he can definitely read it.

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