How to Write an Email Your Customers Will Give a Crap About

“You’ve Got Mail” — not just a classic rom-com but an alert that really rocked the working world.

In the ‘90s, email was one of the most welcomed inventions to hit a professional’s day-to-day. It streamlined communication, ensured multiple people were simultaneously “looped in” and enabled business professionals to be more organized and accountable. People were excited when they heard the “ding” of a new item in their inboxes… okay, maybe “excited” is an overstatement but it really was pretty novel.

Nowadays, email notifications are more likely to elicit cringing or rising blood pressure. In this age of overflowing inboxes and forgotten emails (when they’re not Boomeranged), how can we prevent our personalized messages to clients, customers, and colleagues from getting lost in the shuffle of mass-marketed newsletters?

As a PR Engineer, I spend a lot of time writing emails to AirPR customers with the goal of informing them about the functionalities and features of our PR measurement and reporting software. I’ve noticed that the emails that garner the most attention have a few things in common. Here are my tips for writing better customer emails:

1. Clearly identify the goal from the get-go.

How many emails have you skimmed through and thought: What exactly is this email about again? The goal of your email should be spelled out in the first sentence or two.

Here are some new features we’d like to share with you…

I need to know X, Y, and Z in order to better serve you…

I’m following up on what we discussed in our last meeting…  

Avoid overcomplicating the topic or dancing around the bush. And if it’s difficult to explain your purpose in writing, you should probably hop on the phone instead.

2. Make it far shorter than you think it should be.

Save yourself and the recipient time by cutting to the chase. What are you really trying to say? I’m definitely guilty of spending an inordinate amount of time crafting flowery emails, explaining things down to the minutia. But unless the person you’re emailing needs to know every detail, keep it simple especially if you’re emailing a busy executive.

Have you ever heard of the 70% Noise Reduction Rule? Write what you need to communicate then cut it down by a whopping 70%. It’s easier said than done but you’d be surprised by how tight and effective you can get your message when you force yourself to slice.

3. Articulate next steps clearly.

If you’ve been able to keep someone’s attention long enough to read your entire email, fab’ job! Now, it’s time to be crystal clear about next steps so they’re not playing the guessing game. Do you need them to take action? Bold, italicize, or underline your request to catch the reader’s attention and inspire action.

If the onus is on you, tell the reader about your next move: I will follow up in a week with an analysis of the success of your recent press mention.

4. Shorten your subject line.

There isn’t much real estate to utilize here to begin with, but you can pack a punch with a short, focused subject line. MailChimp suggests writing subject lines of 50 characters or fewer but I’ve also heard that subject lines with the sweet spot of six to 10 words generate a 21 percent open rate.

It also helps to include a short disclaimer at the beginning of your subject line, whether it’s [Please Review], URGENT, or your company name followed by a colon and the email topic. Anything that can signal the gist of your email to your recipient quickly as they scan their inbox (without having to actually open the email) is a good thing.

Have any effective customer success email tactics of your own? Pet peeves welcome too!

How to Write an Email

Last week, PR Engineer Kelly Byrd shared how to use data to ensure content success. Next week, AirPR’s Chief Strategy Officer Rebekah Iliff will share her secrets for writing effective bylines to top off our Optimizing PR Fundamentals series. Stay tuned!