How many times have you said: “my prospects don’t read my emails!” Or have you heard that from your colleagues? I guess quite a lot.
The good news though is: you are not alone!
This is a very common frustration that especially effects salespeople that feel as though they waste their time sending reports, data sheets, videos, and information that nobody will read.
Bad news: there’s a high chance you are the problem – not your prospects.
But don’t worry, in today’s blog, we’re going to explain why and try to assist you in turning this around.
Why Your Emails Are Ignored
In 2015, the whole planet sent and received more than 205 billion emails (click on the link to download the full report in PDF) every single day. What's worse is that these emails often have a call to action that puts someone (you) in stand-by until this someone (always you) does not have a reply or an action in order to follow up. Can we abandon the use of the email for something more useful? Unfortunately not; however, there are some solutions that are focussed on one aim: get the attention of your prospects.
First things first: what device do you use to read your emails? A smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop? This is something that you have to consider because every single device has its own dimensions which creates a lack of consistency about how emails should be formatted: something that can be read on an iPhone can be difficult to read on a desktop for example. This is the first point you have to analyse: you need to understand how your client actually reads emails.
How Prospects Read (When They Read)
The science on how we read is pretty clear. Bill Hill, in his amazing eBook “The Magic of Reading”, explains that we read by "jumping" between words and then "carrying out recognition during pauses or fixations". What does it mean? That we read only “pieces” of the sentence, just bits of it, and our brain then puts everything together to reconstruct the concept. We don’t read every single word.
How we can resolve this problem? We need to provide the information we want to send to a client in a very easy way, with a good layout and a clear (and smart) structure. Hill wrote: "Reading becomes hard work. Cognitive capacity normally available exclusively for extracting meaning has to carry an additional load."
To improve the structure of your emails -- and therefore the readability -- follow these three rules:
1) Use the inverted pyramid.
Follow this common piece of advice: Don't bury the lead.
The inverted pyramid is a journalistic approach where you detail the most important information first, specifically the who, what, when, why, and how. In Creative Writing this is called ‘incipit’: every famous writer will tell you that a great story has a great and strong incipit. Give to your client all the information he needs in short: for people who want detail, the words are all there, and for those who don't, you've given them the key takeaways.
2) Build in white space.
Sending a wall of plain text scares people. An intelligent application of including white space using the elements below will create emails easy to scan and digest. Here below how:
- Line Spacing: Add space between your lines. "Leading" does lengthen emails, especially on mobile, but it will create valuable white space.
- Line Length: Eight to twelve word sentences are universally preferred. Long lines are hard to digest, and short lines slow reading flow (and probably don’t contain enough interesting information).
- Indentation: In long emails, indent your paragraphs to signal the start of a new thought. Indentation is optional in short emails.
3) Use sub-headers to guide.
How many lines should an email have? There isn’t an answer but we both know that sometimes we have to provide a long and in-depth explanation and picking up the phone isn't an option. Sub-headers break up large chunks of content and serve as ways to entice clients to continue reading and skim if they don't want all of the details. In this way your client can easily find the information he wants to read and skip what he doesn’t need without going through everything.
How to Optimize Your Emails
Utilizing text elements well provides your clients with the visual clues to more easily scan your email for the most important messages and takeaways. Consider how you use these text elements in your next email:
- Text Size: Eleven-point size is the standard. Don't change it. Both smaller and larger sizes are read more slowly.
- Font: Letter spacing in fonts is crucial for pattern-recognition. Good fonts have letters close together.
- Italics: Italics is the best tool for emphasizing a word. It's read more slowly than both ordinary and bold text. Don't over-use it, but use it ahead of bold.
- Bold: Use bold for your most important words and points. Whereas italics is used for emphasis, bold should be used to capture attention.
- Underline: Underlining text is unnecessary and can make it look like you're linking to something. Underlining will only confuse your client.
- Bullet Points: Bullet points are the best tool for adding structure, organization, and whitespace. Use them liberally.
- Numbering: If you're asking multiple questions, presenting multiple agenda items, or making multiple points, number them. This helps the reader to keep things organized, limiting miscommunication due to a large amount of information provided.
- Colored Text: Color can be helpful, but be very conservative with your use. If you present action items, you could label red as something the client needs to do, and blue as the deliverables you'll be held to.
- Links: Link out if it helps explain an important point. If using jargon is unavoidable or you reference information or source material that supports your point, link out as a way to clarify.
Using the elements above is a critical factor not just for making your emails enticing, but helping you to craft more clear messages. Simply follow the above best practices for structuring and formatting, and you'll make it easier for your prospects to pay attention and act on your communication.
If you'd like INCo to help you create compelling email marketing for your target market, why not speak to us today;