January 7, 2016
It’s just like when that person you asked out said “no.” When you send an email and the recipient doesn’t reply, you play back the message in your head time after time wondering what you could’ve done differently.
It might help you to know that an average email open rate is only 33 percent, so there’s not a great chance that any one person you email is even going to see it. But let’s stay optimistic and assume the recipient has opened and read your email – they just didn’t reply to it. Why not? Here’s several reasons why someone probably didn’t reply to your email.
1. Do you know how many emails people get everyday?
Seriously, do you? The average “business user” (someone with a business email account) receives just short of 90 emails every single day (only about 10 of which are spam). Do you know how many they send everyday? Under 40. Keep in mind this is an average. If you’re trying to get in touch with someone who’s generally busier or holds a more “important” title, the number received goes up, and the percentage answered decreases. Would you really expect someone to reply to 90 or more emails everyday? Don’t take they’re silence too personally.
2. You wrote way too much (TL;DR).
People generally have short attention spans. That’s why things like comic strips, GIFs, Snapchat, and Vine do so well. In fact, they’ll only spend 15-20 seconds reading an email. Since an average reader reads 200 words per minute, you’ve got about 50-65 words to get your message across, or to at least make someone really interested in reading more. It might not be that you’re saying anything wrong, that people aren’t replying to your emails. You probably just need to be more concise.
3. I don’t want to buy anything from you.
Most people aren’t looking to buy that one particular product you’re selling at that one specific moment when they read your email. If you have any sales experience, you know it’s a numbers game. Rather than being discouraged that no one’s replying to you, try upping your numbers. Or it could just be that no one appreciates sells emails. That’s why the marketer’s battle cry is “Content is king!” Consumers expect to be given something valuable before they purchase. Instead of just asking people to buy, you could first offer them a piece of valuable content to build trust and prove your worth.
4. What you had to say wasn’t important to me.
Relevance is a big deal! And frankly, if you’re not someone who’s currently giving money to the person you’re emailing, or someone who they want to be giving them money, there’s a strong chance that whatever you have to say at that particular moment isn’t going to be seen as very important. Typically people prioritize family, work (making money), and pleasure. If your email doesn’t fall into one of those three categories, you’re going to have a much more difficult time getting someone to respond.
5. You came off rude or blunt.
Surveys are typically split down the middle, with about 50 percent of people considering themselves optimists, and the other 50 percent considering themselves somewhere between realists and a pessimists. Studies also show that people are naturally optimistic, which is evident by the fact that we’re all continually hoping for some thing or another. But this puts emailers into a bit of a quandary. It means that people have a natural tendency to avoid negativity.
Accordingly, your email needs to do two things: it needs to make you seem like a genuinely happy person presenting a great opportunity or helpful piece of content; and it needs to avoid negative words like “not,” “no,” “can’t,” “shouldn’t,” etc. If you stay more positive, more people will read and engage with what you have to say, and would therefore be more likely to reply to your email.
6. You sounded like a robot.
Nobody wants to deal an automated service. If you come across as sounding stiff, or even too professional, you’re going to turn people off. Not only is it boring to read, it feels automated. People want to talk with people, not machines! If you want people to reply to your email, it will help to avoid giving them any hesitancy towards responding – like thinking you’re a robot.
7. You sounded like a broken record.
When you have very little time to grab and keep someone’s attention, repetition is your enemy. You want to be concise. You need to say as much as you can in as few words as possible. If you say “check this out” three times within 200 words, the reader is going to write you off as annoying, and not bother to write you back. Instead of harking on an idea or phrase, or what the reader needs to do, give them the information they actually need as quickly as possible.
8. You asked me to do too many things.
When you ask a person to do multiple things at the same time, you’re increasing their cognitive load and adding to their to-do list. People’s working memory can hold about 10-15 seconds worth of information, on average. That means you have a 10-15 second window in which to explain what next step they need to take, and why they should take it. That’s about 40 words, or two sentences.
Asking for more than one step increases the threshold of what someone’s willing to do, and thus the barrier to entry. If you ask me to “click here,” I might. If you ask me to “click here and tell me what you think,” I probably won’t. Keep it simple. Never email a cold or lukewarm contact asking them to do more than one thing at a time.
9. You didn’t ask me to do anything, or give me a next step.
Opposite to our last point, people aren’t going to do anything without a bit of encouragement. You could have the most well crafted message in the world, but if you don’t encourage the reader to do anything with that information, it’s pointless! If you don’t give the reader a next step, their reaction will be “OK” and they’ll move on. What you want is “OK, and now I need to do X.”
10. I was busy when I read it, and forgot about it.
How many times has your spouse asked you to do something while you were paying attention to something else, and you completely forgot about it? People are busy, they get distracted, they have plenty of things to do. Then their attention is grabbed over 150 times a day by advertisements, 150 times a day for smart phone notifications, and then there’s your email! Even if your message adds a lot of value, it’s plausible (if not guaranteed) that they’ll forget about your message as soon as they click away from it.
11. I didn’t feel like being formal.
Too often, emails are overly “professional” and verbose. Many times, you can condense the message of a 200- to 300-word email to a potential customer into a single text message or tweet. Who has time to read fluff? And then, who wants to bother reciprocating that kind of verbose, suit-and-tie wording, even if what’s presented to them is interesting?
12. You were trying too hard.
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, people are great at reading body language, tone, candor, and even syntax to understand what another person is feeling at any particular moment. Like when you mistakenly answer a sales call, and you can tell the salesman is nervous about his script. People know when your email isn’t written with confidence. Being apologetic, overly zealous, or too “understanding” of how busy the recipient is sends a red flag to readers not to trust you.
13. I wasn’t the right person to reach out to.
If I’m not the person in charge of whatever you’re talking about, there’s a higher chance of me ignoring your message – even if you ask me to connect you with the right person. If you don’t know who to talk to, you obviously haven’t had some form of prior contact with our business or personnel. When people read “could you connect me with the right person,” they check out. No one wants to be the messenger introducing a random salesman.
14. I didn’t see how responding would benefit me.
What value are you providing? People need to know that interacting with you or responding to your message is going to benefit them in some way. No one wants to waste their time, and if you don’t provide an immediately apparent value proposition, the funnel stops there.
15. An adequate response would have taken up too much of my time.
People value their time more than they value anything else. “I didn’t want to take the time to…” is possibly the most common response to why people don’t do something. People don’t want to waste their time on something that won’t be helpful. But they’ll gladly take time for something that will free up more time later, and provide them with more opportunities (money) to use that time better. You have to prove that you’re worth they’re time, and that you’ll be able to give them more of it.
All in all, people don’t enjoy emails like they used to. They’re not quite as bad as voice mail, but if only 33 percent of messages are being opened, especially compared to the 95 percent of texts that are read within three minutes, you might want to look at restructuring your communications strategy. These days, people prefer communication that more easily fits in the palm of their hand. That’s why tweets, texts, and social media direct messages are so popular.
It’s safe to say that the bulk of people you’re still waiting to hear back from didn’t reply to your email simply because you sent an email.
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