A recent article on LifeHacker talks about tips to get faster email responses. They talk about:
- Write shorter emails
- Write fewer emails
- Ask for a response
- Start with a deadline
- Only email one person at a time
Those are good, but I’d like to expand a bit on them and also put it in the perspective of a marketing manager.
Five Email Productivity Tips for Marketing Managers
1. Make subject lines work for you: Use subject lines with deadlines and action verb in order to help people spot your email easily in their inbox and to get them to act. Examples of subject lines might be:
“Webinar Email – Review Copy by Wed 10am”
“eBook Copy Approved with Changes – Finalize by Thursday”
“For review and approval – deadline is Wed 9am”
I like using either a campaign name or something that will help immediately identify the task at hand. If you start showing good use of this tactic and encourage your team to do the same, spotting the useful emails from the junk or from the typical corporate communication will be much easier.
Bonus tip: Transform your email into an action item! If using MS Outlook, just click and drag the email to the Tasks panel to create a task. Or you can also flag the email for later follow up. Other email clients have similar options.
2. Write with a purpose: Short, clear, and action oriented (what do you want to happen?) emails will get faster and better responses. So cut to the chase and get down to what you want as a result of your email. Examples are:
“Here’s the revised copy for the email invitation to the July 16 webinar. Please a) edit copy; b) send to Mark for design by Wed, c) email me the final email for approval”
“Jen, I have reviewed the presentation for the webinar and here’s what you need to do: a) add the company logo to the master slide (upper left corner); b) replace slides 3 and 5 with the new ones I mention in my notes; c) review once more for grammar and style; d) send to John for formatting by Tues noon.”
Replace paragraphs with bullet points and you’ll get people to actually do what you asked them to do. Keep each email related to a separate subject, this way is easier for the recipient to focus on one thing at a time and for you to follow up later.
Bonus tip: Need to follow up on an email you just sent a few days later? In MS Outlook you can “flag” the message before sending so it reminds you of the message later (you can also flag the message for the recipient, so if they have Outlook as well, they will be reminded of the message until they clear the flag).
3. Make the deadline clear: If you don’t say when you need it by, usually you won’t get it done. Make sure to add a deadline and action required (eg. Make changes and send back to me by EOD friday) in the beginning of the email. This way the first thing the person sees is the deadline and he or she can plan accordingly. For example, you can start the email like this:
“Jen, I need this by EOD Thursday! See below.”
“Edited and approved copy for eBook below. Please finalize by 07/15/11 at 12:00pm ET!”
Avoid using “urgent” and “ASAP” type words. They don’t mean anything. Is ASAP something due today or by tomorrow morning? Also avoid saying “send it back to me tomorrow” without giving some kind of time reference. Otherwise it becomes a debate of what “morning” means (8am or 11am?).
4. Assign an owner: Send the email to only one person, or make sure each person has an action. You may be tempted to email the whole team after a meeting outlining what was decided. Or, there’s a task involving two people (editing the new banner artwork and sending to the printer, for example) and you want them both to see the same message. OK, but make sure each person listed on the “to” or “cc” lines have some kind of action item associated to their names. It could, for example, be like this:
“Team, I need you all to read and add the following to your to-do lists based on our earlier meeting today:
Jen: Review web analytics and report back to me by Friday 11am;
Bob: Edit the latest spec sheet design as discussed, send reviewed design to Mary by Thursday 9am.. “
5. If you attach, then make it clear: At my previous company we had a policy of never attaching a file to an email if the email was being sent internally. This was to avoid two problems, the always precious server space being eaten by files attachments in our Exchange server and to keep the latest files always in the network where it would be easier to find. Whether you have a policy like that or not, if you need to add files to your email then list and describe attachments (and name them appropriately). It could be something like this:
“… and I’m attaching the following files:
7-16-Webinar-Preso.PPT: Final version of the webinar presentation
Alpha-Prod-Whitepaper-CopyV2.doc: Whitepaper draft, please review this copy “
Especially useful if you have many attachments, it helps ensure all attachments are accounted for when you send out the email and helps the receiver sort through all the files coming towards him/her.
Unless you have a system like what my company offers [shameless plug!] for Marketing Resource Management or Marketing Project Management, odds are you rely on email to keep your team in check. You use email to exchange files, to communicate, and get things done. That’s ok, and by using some productivity tips I hope you can at least make good use of the tools at your disposal and spend less time chasing down people and deadlines, and more time actually doing marketing.
Additional Outlook Productivity Tips
If you’re using MS Outlook, then check out additional productivity tips I have for Outlook users in this other blog post.