How to get your email deleted (aka, don’t do this)

One of the email lists I subscribe to starts every email with, “Hello everyone,” and every time I read that I get a little bit annoyed.

I’m not everyone, I’m just me. I don’t care if there are 1000 people getting the same email, when you write to me, write to me. Use my name or just start writing.

This is a basic copywriting premise. Write to your reader in “me to you” language. Don’t call attention to the fact that I’m part of a list and you really don’t know who I am. Even if it is a newsletter and everyone knows it.

I open her email because she has some good things to say. But often, I delete her emails just as quickly. Why? Because her emails are ONE BIG FAT WALL OF TEXT.

Long emails are fine, as long as the content is good. But her emails make me work.

Long paragraphs with no breaks are hard to read. She should use short paragraphs. And short sentences.

Like this.

Break things up and make them visually inviting. Use bullet points and numbered lists. Let me scan the message and get the gist of it.

And then, get to the point. You don’t need to do a warm up, you’ve got my attention so tell me what you want to tell me.

The first sentence of an email is critical. It is a headline for the rest of the message. It determines whether I will read the second sentence, and beyond, so it must grab my attention by promising me a benefit or making me curious.

Of course I won’t be reading that first sentence if the subject line of the email doesn’t get my attention.

If the subject doesn’t grab me, I won’t open the email.

The subject of your email is the single most important sentence in the entire message.

One recent email from this woman had the following subject line: “Wow, another level”.

No, I don’t know what the email was about. I didn’t open it.

Using Followupthen.com email reminder service (with or without Evernote)

Follow up then and evernoteAs you know, I use Evernote for everything: notes, writing, web clips, and task and project management. (Read my posts about how I use Evernote).

A missing element in using Evernote for task management is calendar integration. If I want to see a note on a certain day in the future, I have to manually put a reminder on my calendar, with a link to that note. I calendar “ticklers” to remind me of all kinds of things: reviewing a task, starting a task, calls–anything I need to do or review at a future date.

There is only one issue with this, but one I can live with until something better comes along: The note links that I paste into my Google Calendar aren’t clickable. To find the linked note, I copy and paste the link into a new browser window, hit enter, and the note is launched in my Windows desktop client.

Followupthen.com is an email reminder service that can be used to send reminders to yourself or anyone else (e.g., employees, partners, clients), at pre-set days and times. For example, you can use the service to send yourself an email reminder to call a client three days from today or to begin working on a brief three hours from now.

I’ve tried the followupthen.com service and I like it. It’s easy to use and requires no registration. Simply send an email (To, CC, or BCC) to (time interval) [@] followupthen.com to schedule a future email. The service is free and they have an upgraded version with additional features.

You don’t have to use Evernote to benefit from the Followupthen.com service, but you might want to. Fellow attorney and Evernote lover, Daniel Gold, author of a new ebook on using Evernote for GTD, just posted a video showing how he uses the Evernote Note Links feature with Followupthen.com to remind him of his Evernote tasks:

[mc src=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAsKUFHlA60″ type=”youtube”]Evernote and followupthen.com reminders[/mc]

Followupthen.com may sound like the ideal solution to Evernote’s lack of calendar integration, but there are two issues that preclude me from using it exclusively:

  1. The Evernote note link that is returned to you in the reminder email isn’t clickable (at least not in my chrome browser). I still have to copy and paste it as I do with links in my calendar. This may not be the case if you use Outlook or another email client, but I still have the extra step I have when using gCal. Of course you can use the reminder without note links but then, once reminded, you have to search to find the note in Evernote.
  2. Email isn’t as reliable as a calendar. If an email doesn’t arrive, or you don’t see it when it arrives, you won’t get another reminder. The corresponding task that lies buried in Evernote (or whatever you are using) might forever be forgotten. On my calendar, when I do my weekly review, I can see all of the tasks I did and did not do that week. To re-schedule a task, all I need to do (on gCal) is slide it to another day.

I recommend Followupthen.com but I don’t see it as the best solution for tracking reminders. I can see using it for reminders in addition to using a calendar or other application, but not as a replacement.

Evernote said they are going to release a “due date” field, at which point we will be able to use Evernote itself or other third party applications for reminders.

If you use GTD and Evernote (or want to) and you want to know how to use the two together, Dan’s ebook is only $5. (My review). Dan is currently running a promotion and will be giving away one year of Evernote Premium.

If you are new to Evernote and want to get up to speed quickly, Brett Kelly’s “Evernote Essentials” ebook is highly recommended.

What are your thoughts on Followupthen.com and Evernote reminders?

Save time by not filing email; study proves search is quicker

Filing emails in folders, or adding labels to them, doesn’t make them quicker to find. According to a study by IBM Research, it’s quicker to find them by searches.

“Finding emails by searches took on average 17 seconds, versus 58 seconds finding the emails by folder,” the researchers concluded. “The likelihood of success – that is, finding the intended email – was no greater when it had been filed in a folder.”

The time spent filing email, in addition to the added time spent retrieving it, can add 20 minutes a day to your workload, the study concluded. A comment to the article questions whether this is true under real world conditions:

In the majority of scenarios, searching is more efficient, however if you forget. . . the metadata [key words]. . . related to the email, then your search efforts are going to be quite difficult. On the other hand, if you remember that you simply filed the email under the “important” folder, then odds are you may only be a few clicks away. In a black and white world, yes searching is more efficient, however there are still valid purposes to using folders.

My plan to achieve email inbox zero calls for me to get rid of all but one label and rely on Gmail’s search capability. I’m pretty sure I won’t miss having more labels since I don’t use the 50 I currently have. But my view is colored by my use of Evernote to file important emails and to manage tasks and projects.

In Evernote, I tag everything (and sometimes also add key words to the body of the note). The difference though is that I don’t “file” all my email this way, just the actionable or otherwise important ones which constitute less than 5%.

I found most interesting the researchers conclusion that most people don’t file emails in folders to make it easier to find them so much as to remove from view the overwhelming volume of email. They pare down the inbox so that they can use it for task management, which the study implied was not efficient.

If they used Evernote like I do, they wouldn’t have to spend as much time filing all of their email in the right folders, they could simply send the important ones to Evernote and archive the rest.

Lawyers: How to write emails that get results

In my previous post I talked about email mistakes to avoid. Today, I want to share some basic but nevertheless vital ideas for writing emails that get opened, get read, and get results.

WRITE AN EFFECTIVE SUBJECT LINE

Your email may be powerful and persuasive but if people don’t open it, they won’t read it. The key to getting your emails opened is your subject. It is the “headline” for your email message. It has to stop the reader who is skimming his email in box and get them to click. The more effective your subject, the more often this will occur. Also, an effective subject “pre-sells” the message contained in the body of your email, making it that much more likely that the recipient will respond to your request.

  • Be specific. Effective subjects are clear and precise. They tell the reader what your message is about.
  • Include a benefit. What will the reader gain (or avoid) by reading your email? Why should they read your message?
  • Use their name. Although using the recipient’s name in the subject is overdone in some circles, it is still an effective way to get their attention. It can also convey urgency, e.g., “John, please call me as soon as you read this”.
  • Include key words. Specific nouns and active verbs communicate. Project-specific key words will also get attention.
  • Include due dates. If you have a time-oriented offer or request, consider putting the date in the subject.
  • Front load. Most email programs cut off the end of lengthy subjects so put the most important parts up front.

GET TO THE POINT

The purpose of the subject (headline) is to get readers to open the email. The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence. And so on. You’ve got their attention but it is oh so easy to lose it, so say what you have to say–immediately.

Put the most important things up front: due dates, requests for information, requests for action. If you bury these, they may never been seen (or seen too late). Telegraph your message so the reader cannot possibly miss it.

How long should an email be? Long enough to get the job done and no longer. Make it as short as possible but don’t worry if your message is lengthy. In a particularly lengthy message, you can always link to additional information (or offer to send it).

CLOSE FOR ACTION

  • Summarize. There’s a communication formula that works in writing and speaking. (1) Tell them what you’re going to tell them. (2) Tell them. (3) tell them what you told them. This may not be necessary in a short email but it can prove helpful to you and your reader in a longer message.
  • Tell them what to do. Repeat your request (or offer) at the end of the message and tell them what to do. Do you want them to call? Email? Go? Be specific; you’ll get more people doing what you want them to do when you tell them precisely what to do.
  • Tell them why. Studies show that when you give a person a reason they are more likely to comply with a request. This should obviously be a part of the body of your email but it’s a good idea to repeat it in your close.
  • Give them ways to contact you. Don’t assume they know your phone number or even your email address. (You might want a reply to a different email.) Provide full contact information in your signature to make it easy for them to contact you or otherwise connect with you through a web site or social media.

Writing effective emails will save you time and get you better results. Your recipients will also save time and be more inclined to not only read your messages but act on them.

How to get clients by email; the right and wrong approach

I just got an email from a investment company representative that is a classic illustration of the WRONG way to use email to generate new business.

Hi David,

My group wanted to reach out to you to see if you have any interest in our services.

We are an independent, fee-only investment advisor with a proven track record and compelling value proposition. We have a sophisticated investment process that combines individual bonds and equities/ETFs to produce a tax sensitive, highly liquid, totally transparent, risk managed portfolio. Our philosophy is grounded in academically proven methodologies. We don’t do broker talk, just easy to understand investing.

Our CIO was formerly an executive corporate risk manager at BIG COMPANY, and a MAJOR UNIVERSITY grad and CFA. We have a solid understanding of not only equities and bonds but also foreign currency and interest rate risk management. We have retained over 95% of our clients over the last 5 years.

I wanted to see if you were open to exploring opportunities with us? Perhaps I can email you a 1 page breakdown about our firm, bio’s and performance?

Apologize for the email intrusion, however we believe it’s a less intrusive way of an introduction.

Best,

Name
Managing Director
Company Name

Okay, what do you think? Is this likely to bring in any business? What would you do differently?

I’m not concerned that it’s unsolicited. It’s okay to approach prospective clients or referral sources to introduce yourself in an unsolicited email. But you’ve got to do it right and the first thing that’s wrong with this email is it seeks to do much more than that and takes too much for granted about my interest in using this company’s services.

Too much, too soon.

Selling investment services is like selling legal services. It’s a process, over time. It’s based on a relationship between the professional and the prospective client or referral source and trust is integral to that relationship. Trust takes time and must be earned. (It can also be borrowed from a mutual contact who refers the parties).

Before marriage there is courtship and before courtship is the first date. You haven’t even asked me out but you want me to meet your family?

Too much, too soon.

So what’s a better offer? How about information that could help me save or make money, like a report or mp3 or newsletter with investing tips, strategies, or predictions? Or, how about an invitation to a free tele-seminar or web-inar? This would not only provide value it would also allow me to identify myself to you as a potential prospect for your services.

Offer something I want and I can have without a big commitment or a sales pitch. Make it easy for me to say yes.

(There’s another benefit (to you) of offering valuable information: it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, which is much better than you simply proclaiming it.)

An offer must contain a benefit. What’s in it for me? What do I get out of it? Had this email offered valuable information I may have been interested in receiving it. The door to our relationship would have opened. You would have gotten my attention and eventually, over time, as trust is built, we might begin courting.

Another problem with this email is that it’s all about you–your firm, your experience, you, you, you. Talk to me about me–my concerns, my desires, my portfolio. I’m interested in my life, not yours.

Show me made an effort to learn something about me and what I do, perhaps a comment about my blog . I know it’s a form letter but if you had made any effort to personalize it, you’d have a much better chance of getting my attention.

Marketing is common sense. If we met in person, what would you say to get my attention? What would you offer that might make me interested in speaking further?

Emails like this make me think that common sense isn’t really that common.

Lawyer marketing 101: The basics of networking

Experts tell us that 85 percent of success in the business and professional worlds is accomplished through personal contacts and word of mouth. The more people you know, then, the more chances you have of meeting people who can and will further your career.

One of the best ways to develop more personal contacts is by networking within organizations. Bar associations, community and charitable groups, and organizations in your target markets provide opportunities to meet prospective referral sources and clients, as well as others who can provide introductions, information, and advice.

Begin by selecting one or two candidate groups that contain people it would be helpful for you to know in the years ahead. Attend a meeting or two, introduce yourself, and decide if it would be useful for you to join. If you decide to join, attend every meeting and
begin the process of making yourself known.

One of the best ways to do that is to volunteer to work on an important committee within the organization. Choose one that has members on it that you would like to get to know or that is engaged in activities that will bring you into contact with key people both inside and outside the organization.

Your work on committees will require time and effort, but over the long term, the relationships you develop can provide everything you need to ensure a lifetime of success.

Today, networking online has become popular. I’ll address that in a future post.

Attorneys can benefit from a unique selling proposition

A few years ago, Progressive Insurance ran TV commercials touting that they assign a dedicated claims specialist claimants their policyholders can count on for the life of their claim. The benefit is that you can always call "your" representative and never have to worry about what’s going on with your claim. Policyholders want to be able to talk to the same person each time they call, someone who understands their claim and is staying on top of it "for them".

Now, most other insurance companies probably do the same thing. But because those companies aren’t saying they do it, when Progressive says it, they virtually OWN that benefit.

You can do the same thing. You can promise prospective clients that they will have a dedicated member of your firm assigned to their claim, so that they don’t have to worry about who to ask for when they call. They’ll feel better just knowing that someone is assigned to their case and that it’s not lost in the shuffle.

The fact that most lawyers do the same thing is not important. If you say it and they don’t, or you say it FIRST, you can effectively "own" that benefit and preempt other lawyers in your market from using it. It can become your "Unique Selling Proposition" (USP), the competitive advantage that sets you apart from other lawyers in the minds of clients and prospects.

In marketing, perception is everything. If you appear to offer a unique advantage, people will see a benefit to hiring you instead of your competition.

Your USP can be about any meaningful benefit you offer. What do you do faster, better, or more thoroughly? What do you do that you know clients like?

A great way to find a powerful USP is to learn what your clients DON’T like about lawyers in your field, and promise them the opposite. If clients consistently complain that lawyers who do what you do take to long to do it, for example, your promise to do it quickly would likely be seen as valuable and desirable to those who can hire you.

The number one complaint received by state bar associations is lack of communication by their lawyer. Many lawyers have difficulty, it seems, keeping their clients informed about the progress of their legal matter. Even worse, many complaints involve lawyers who don’t return phone calls. Something this common, and this easy to fix, would seem to be a great USP for lawyers in many practice areas.

If you’re bad at keeping clients informed (or returning calls), resolve to get better. In fact, I’d suggest a goal to become not just better but the best. Make a promise to yourself to return calls within 24 hours, for example. Raise the bar. It’s so easy to do and it will have a profound impact on your practice. Fewer unhappy clients, more repeat clients and referrals.

Then, proclaim it to your clients and everyone else. Let them know of your commitment. Make it your unique selling proposition.

If you’re already good at keeping clients informed and returning calls, the odds are you don’t tell people this, or you don’t tell them enough. Consider doing so before some other attorney decides to make it her unique selling proposition.