How to Communicate effectively (Part V) - Does your e-mail induce response ?

E-mail is arguably the most successful and popular Internet application. It has not only become one of the most accepted and used communication medium in business but have even invaded our personal life. Even grandmothers these days exchange e-mails with their grandsons and granddaughters.

The unobtrusive and indirect nature of e-mail is both a boon as well as bane. Its helpful, because one can easily avoid responding to an e-mail. Its curse because the sender will remain in dark forever why he/she did not receive any response - is it because of wrong e-mail address, technical problem or willful refusal ? It indeed could be intimidating !

I have no doubt that not receiving response has as much to do with sender as with the receiver in many cases. True, many times the receiver does not respond because of lethargy, laziness or sheer habit. It could also be that receiver did not receive the e-mail because of some technical problem. But its also equally true that many e-mails do not invoke any response because it merits NO RESPONSE in the rating of the receiver.

Question is how do you deal with this situation ? Should you ignore silence from receiver ? It could be suicidal in case the receiver actually never received your e-mail or could not respond because of genuine difficulties beyond his/her control. We discuss here a few tips that may help you induce better response rate.

'Reply to' address in your e-mail

Make sure that you have provided correct 'Reply to' address in your e-mail. A small mistake in that column can create a huge negative impact about you and your company. Even if 'From:' column of your e-mail contains correct e-mail address - all responses to your e-mail will always be directed towards e-mail address at 'Reply to:' column of your e-mail. If you use same e-mail address for receiving and sending e-mails, leave the 'Reply to:' column blank in your e-mail preference list.

Signature Line

All professional communications must bear information about sender's identity. Absence of such information reflects poorly on professional competence of sender. Imagine receiving mails from complete strangers - how often do you respond to them ?

You need not spend time in writing your identity information every time you send an e-mail - signature files in e-mail software do that for you. All e-mail software (Outlook, Netscape, Eudora etc.) support signature file that automatically gets appended to your e-mails. The signature should contain your contact details like telephone, fax, mailing address, URL of your Home Site etc.

The signature file is a great advertising tool also. Remember, every time you send an e-mail or someone forwards your message or you post a message at bulletin board or discussion forum - your message spreads without any extra effort.

Address Line

Ensure that your mail is properly and individually addressed. Cramming the CC: or BCC: columns with e-mail addresses may not serve your purpose. How often do you read mails that is not addressed to you individually ? Besides, absence of actual receiver's e-mail address in 'To:' column of your e-mail may lead to its deletion even before opening (many corporate e-mail software routinely destroys e-mails that do not contain recipient's e-mail address at 'To:' column of the mail).

Subject Line

Make sure your mail has not only a SUBJECT but is relevant and as specific as possible (e.g. 'Price and Specification of Brass Candle Holder' rather than a vague sounding "Indian Handicrafts'). Remember - recipients first look at the subject and then the content. If your subject fails to attract recipient's attention, chances are the mail will end up in trash.

Quality is Better Than Quantity

Do not indulge in mindless mass mailing, though it seems so easy and convenient to send thousands of e-mails in no time !! Do not get misled by numbers alone - quality is more important here than quantity. Targeted, specific and individually addressed e-mails carry much more weight than an anonymous mail.

A Gentle Reminder

Forwarding your un-answered mail with a gentle reminder induces many to respond. No harm in doing so once or twice before giving up on a prospect.

Understand the limitation of e-mail

E-mails can never be as proactive as a telephone call - someone has to respond to its ring ! So use judicious mix of telephone and fax along with e-mail for serious inquiries. Do not sit back after sending an initial e-mail - you may have to follow it up with short telephone calls, gentle e-mail reminders etc. for best result.

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 3, Issue 3 April 18' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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