Get Emails Read – Follow 7 Guidelines

Most businesses rely on emails for the majority of their communications. Yet, most of us are certain that some of our emails are ignored by the recipient. If you are trying to get your emails read, consider the below guidelines offered by Jonathan Borge of ToutApp. (Borge was contacted by Tom Searcy for a recent article for Inc.com on the subject.)

1. Subject lines: Remember that only 20 percent to 40 percent of your emails will actually get opened, though most of your subject lines will be seen. To boost your open rates, think of short, catchy, and informative subject lines. You should try to dangle compelling information (“The future of sales emails”), and you can even try adding some mystery (“Strange question”). We also recommend personalized subject lines, if possible (“Hunter Sullivan suggested I contact you”).]

2. Your tone: Portray yourself as someone that other people can connect to. You’ll want to show your recipients that you care about hearing back from them… so you can’t simply sound like you’re just sending another mass email. Never use “Dear sir or Madam,” and stay away from overly formal language.

3. Email content: Make your emails short, simple, and easy to quickly digest. Your leads are busy people with jobs, too, so you need to maintain their interest. Do your research and find out what resonates for your prospects. Try to get an introduction to them or, if that’s not possible, figure out in more detail what they or their company do. Tell them why you’re emailing them, specifically. Talk about how you can solve a problem for them.

Email

4. Your sign-off: End your emails with a definitive, clear call to action. Make it dead simple for your recipients to say yes—whether it’s to a meeting, phone call, or product demo. Don’t ask them for permission. If you want a phone call, then say “Call me right now at X for more details.”

5. Your timing: Reach out to your leads when they’re not too busy. Make sure you avoid heavy traffic times like Monday mornings. Based on our tracking data, we recommend the middle of the week, mid-day, as the best time to send emails.

6. Your image: First impressions are important both in person and online. The tone and formatting of your email is all your recipients have to judge you by. Make sure you are being professional, clear, and easy to understand. Stay away from over-formatted emails that look gimmicky, but don’t hesitate to call out important information in bold or bullet points.

7. Your homework: Send yourself a sales email. Put yourself in your leads’ shoes. If you were them, would you open this email? Would you spend more than two seconds reading it? If so, what would you do next?

Searcy notes that the list sounds almost too basic. Yet, when he went back and examined the last 10 recent emails he had sent to prospects and clients, he found that he only employed four of these guidelines on average per email. Why don’t you take the same challenge? Hopefully, you can learn from it –as he and I have!

 

 

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Soft Skills Matter in Business – Even if Not Measurable

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work alongside some brilliant co-workers and clients. Whether it has been inside a public accounting firm, or as an advisor to engineering and construction companies, I am often surrounded by folks with strong technical skills. Since my role has usually involved organizational development, strategy, or marketing and business development, I have heard time and again how “soft and fuzzy” topics such as relationships, emotional intelligence, and creativity and communication are less needful than the technical skills.

Susan Mazza, who writes a blog entitled Random Acts of Leadership, recognizes the dichotomy of “soft” versus “hard” skills in her recent post, “The Power of Soft.” She states in the post that, “the very need to distinguish “soft” vs. “hard” speaks to a paradigm that has long revered hard results as the only ones that really matter. Unless something can be quantified and measured the underlying belief is that it is somehow less valuable and hence of lesser importance.”Soft vs hard skills

Whether I have been in conversations with a CFO, a business owner, or a  VP of operations, I have heard over and again how that which cannot be measured must be insignificant and pale in priority. Mazza references a recent TED Talk by Dr. Brene’ Brown, “Leaning into Vulnerability” in which Brown shares how one of her research professors once stated, “If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist.” Mazza observes that many with advanced degrees subscribe to a scientific framework that assumes “measurable” is the only test for “real!”

Dr. Brown’s talk about vulnerability addressed the effort to view “soft” subjects with “hard” data. New insights have prevailed that challenge the long-held distinction within the business world of the value of each category of skills. Mazza’s view of the new awareness is that, “in our relentless pursuit to collect and analyze data, we all too often ignore the most important measure of all – our senses!”

The behavior we see and emotions we feel, according to Mazza, are the source of the most powerful tool we have as leaders and mangers – our ability to observe. She observes the following:

You have probably heard the phrase, “the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.” Can’t you feel that tension? How much productive work gets done when that kind of tension is present? Yet we often grind through what we see and feel through simple observation, knowing both the experience and the result are going to be less than satisfying.

Would having a mood Geiger Counter to assign the tension a number really make any difference?

By simply observing the mood and the impact it is having on your ability to fulfill your commitments, you are able to take action to make a difference in any moment. How to take that action is, of course, another subject.

The point here is the real power of soft comes from our innate ability to observe. So perhaps it’s time to give up our attachment to measuring all things and the belief that, “If you can’t measure it it doesn’t exist.”  Why not start  learning to better use the tools we have been born with – our senses – as an access to improving relationships, enhancing performance and creating great places to work?

The ability to navigate through tensions, create win-win scenarios, and build esprit de corps comes not from technical, “hard” skills, but from those soft and fuzzy assets that many C-suite executives and business owners underestimate. Think about your own organization and how greater respect for soft skills could make it a better place to work, where senses are valued equally with data and relationships that build goodwill are put on a pedestal.

 

 

 

Smarter Family Business Via Communication

Having grown up in a family owned business, I have experienced a thing or two in common with many of my clients. Even when I was yet in middle school, I would be recruited to help out in the business, much to my own dismay at times when I would much rather be doing something (anything?) else. However, a little bit of pay went a long ways to making a young man very content. As I grew older, however, the conflict between what needed to be done in the business and what I wanted to do became greater. My goals, dreams, and ambitions had less and less to do with staying in town, working alongside my dad, and us building something together. As you can imagine, this difference of opinion caused a bit of a rift in our relationship. So it goes with many family businesses.

The mismatch between the expectations that a founder has in terms of the involvement of children in the business and their actual desire to be involved is one of the leading problems encountered in family businesses. The parent (substitute other type of founder, but effect is similar) wonders why the child doesn’t put forth the same effort, see the same vision, realize the potential, etc. I delivered a talk for Harley Davidson University on this subject a few years ago, “Why They Don’t Ride With You.” In my session, I spoke with dealers about their frustrations with family members who seemed disinterested in working in or taking over the business. My encouragement to them was to do three things:

  1. Hold the opportunity with an open hand. Instead of making up your mind that there is only one “right” scenario for family members to take part in your business, be flexible! Determine that, while you may have preferences, you will corral your opinions and keep them in check as you attempt to find a common ground.
  2. Communicate often, specifically, including listening. Far too often, a patriarch will squelch the input of a child, spouse, etc in the home–and at work–particularly if work and home blend as in the case of a family business. Rather than honing in on what the other person has to say, we can easily insist on getting our point across before seeking to understand the other person’s view. Ask open ended questions about what the family member enjoys doing, what role they see themselves in, and how those choices affect the business. Create an open dialogue-constantly.
  3. Distinguish between ownership and management. An heir may work in the business or out of it, but still function as an owner. Sometimes, it is best for all if it’s known to be a safe choice to be just an owner or just a manager, rather than both as the founder has been. Realizing that such options exist can diffuse tension, lead to productive conversations, and aid in succession planning. Quite often, outsiders are better successors to founders because they can be objective about the contribution family members make to the business.

There are many other issues that, seen operating in a family business, look and feel different than their counterparts in other types of businesses. Everything from performance measurement to compensation, perks to preferences, psychology to sociology, and very much in between can be seen at work and become a spark for emotions. By far, family businesses are more emotional than others. Whatever your situation, think about tools that help create objective conversations about business issues so that you can lessen the impact of emotions in decisions that are being made. Your business and your family will be better off for it!

 

Social Media – the Village Approach to Innovation

It’s interesting how social media has subtly made the migration from a peripheral domain for adolescents to share extraneous to a mainstream business tool. Even within the business arena, social media (SM) used to be relegated to a branding or marketing activity rather than the comprehensive resource many now realize it to be. In a recent blog post, Braden Kelly points out, for instance, how innovation can be fueled by social media:

‘What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)’ Social media serves an incredibly important role in innovation. Social media functions as the glue to stick together incomplete knowledge, incomplete ideas, incomplete teams, and incomplete skillsets. Social media is not some mysterious magic box. Ultimately it is a tool that serves to connect people and information.

How can SM be like glue in your organization? Is there a way to use blogs, wikis, and online videos to enhance learning, information sharing, and collaboration within your daily practice? For instance, posting questions for which your team has no answers to elicit knowledge possessed by others can be a very good use of social media. Or, learning a skill foreign to your core team through an online video can be a means to spur growth or learn how to more effectively manage a contractor/consultant. 

(Kelly:) Social media can help ideas grow and thrive that would otherwise wither and die under the boot of the perfectionist in all of us. Do you remember the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, it takes a village to create an innovation from an idea as well, and social media helps to aggregate and mobilize the people and knowledge necessary to do just that. But, that is social media working in the positive. We must remember that social media tools are just that – tools.

Village innovation – Hillary Clinton should have thought of that! How does the collaboration effect pertain to SM? Quite simply, there is no substitute for building knowledge systems. For non-proprietary information, you and your peers can start an online conversation thread that others build upon and you are able to glean insights non-resident to your group.  When you do wish to protect methods, processes and intellectual property, it is still preferable to find an internal means to capture group best practices, lessons learned, and puzzles to be solved. How could one or more forms of SM enable you to do this better? Kelly suggests that SM tools are seen in a positive light when they do the following:

  1. To make innovative ideas visible and accessible
  2. To allow people to have conversations
  3. To build community
  4. To facilitate information exchange
  5. To enable knowledge sharing
  6. To assist with expert location
  7. To power collaboration on idea evolution
  8. To help people educate themselves
  9. To connect people to others who share their passion
  10. To surface the insights and strategy that people should be building ideas from

The better you become at the above, the stronger your organization’s innovation capability will become, the more engaged your employees will become, and the more ready you will become to engage successfully in open innovation…Please consider the ways in which social media in your organization might be able to strengthen inter-disciplinary cooperation, make the organization itself more adaptable, and how it could help to create an organization with the power to transform more ideas into innovations.