Wednesday, 30 September 2015

How To Craft Powerful Emails That Get You Noticed


Unless you are a celebrity, (Oprah Winfrey), a business mogul, (Richard Branson) or a universally-recognised figure, (Barack Obama), six out of ten times, (and this is a conservative figure), your unsolicited email will be deleted. 

Worse yet, even when you do have legitimate reasons for sending emails - such as seeking clarification for a project; asking for feedback from your boss; or following up on a lead - your emails are either not acknowledged in a timely manner or are ignored altogether. 

When you do get a response, it is frustratingly vague or fails to address the issue at hand. This forces you to send additional emails, thus beginning the vicious cycle of 'email hide-and-seek'.

But before you write off that recipient as the devil's incarnate, understand that people at work are busy. And I mean really busy. They juggle stressful situations, deadlines, countless meetings, addictions to devices and short breaks...often not effectively. This means that emails deemed unimportant or irrelevant, are shelved to be answered when the recipient has a spare moment...which of course never happens. So even with the best of intentions, that email that you vaguely labelled "Next phase" will not be opened.

Why emails really matter 

Before you conclude that emails are so passé, the points below should convince you to take them very seriously:

1) Despite the popularity of social media, emails are still considered the preferred choice for business communication among the three generations, consisting of the Baby Boomers, (born 1940s/1950s); Generation X executives, (born 1960s/1970s); and Generation Y professionals, (born 1980s/1990s).

2) Business-to-business email marketing is considered a gold mine due to high conversion rates linked to email lists.

3) You will be perceived as an unreliable professional, a slacker, if you habitually don't respond to emails. In fact, responsiveness in this digital age is linked to perceptions of trustworthinesswhich of course is crucial to your career progression. Look at it from Management's viewpoint: How would you expect to be promoted to a position of high responsibility when you can't be counted upon to acknowledge issues and address them in a timely manner.

Therefore, learning how to write a winning email and responding appropriately will get you noticed and will set you apart from the pack.  

Writing that elusive, compelling email

So here's the dilemma: Presenting your thoughts in such a way that a response is almost always guaranteed.

I say almost  because despite your best efforts, some people who are just not 'email people' will not respond. In such cases, you will need to find the preferred method for communicating with such people: via telephone calls, in face-to-face meetings, through video-based communication tools, by using social media etc. 

Drawing upon my experience writing numerous unsolicited emails, (in situations where I had no prior contacts), and other emails to persuade or trigger actions from businesses, CEOs, etc. this is what I learnt about emails that yield results: 

Highlight the value/benefit you will bring to the recipient. 

Whatever is contained in your email should make his role easier, (making him look good); his business more competitive/profitable; or his company's brand more recognised. Only when you can address the allure of value, even from the subject line, does your email get a chance of being opened. 

Below are tips that will help you with the process.

1) Writing a catchy subject line

This is actually the most important part of the email but is often not given much thought.

You could grab the attention of the recipient by writing a short, declarative phrase, which gets straight to the point.


For unsolicited emails, examples could be:

A) Most Admired Company X in Y Location Seeking Partnership In Z Venture.

B) Boosting Recipient Company's Profits Using X Initiative.

C) Increasing Recipient Company's Sales With Proven X Method.

D) Addressing X Problem To Preempt Y Crisis.  

For other emails which are expected, the rule of thumb is to jot the memory of the recipient to enable him respond quickly. Some examples could be:

I) Approval Required For Project A Before B Deadline.

II) Follow-up On C Issue For D Purpose.

III) Recommendations For Quick Resolution Of E Issue.

Remember that the aim is to get the recipient interested enough to click on the emails because of its relevance. The straightforward subject line allows him to 'tune in' on the issue; it also eliminates ambiguity if he is handling similar matters.  

2) Effectively constructing the body of the email

The body of the email should comprise the following elements:  

A) The salutation/greeting

It is important to ensure the correct spelling of the recipient's name and title.

Dear Mr./Mrs./Dr. X, Head of Sales/CEO,Y Company”.

Never address anyone thus:"To Whom It May Concern". It gives the impression that you couldn't be bothered to do basic research and may ruffle some feathers. Don't take that risk.  

B) The heading 

This should repeat the wording of the email subject, with a few extra words for clarity, if necessary.

C) The opening line 

Get straight to the point:

"Last year, your company recorded sales in excess of X million USD. We can increase your sales' volume by X% this year. By merging our company's software Y with your existing tool..." (For unsolicited emails for which you are adding value).

"Further to our discussion on Xdate about the proposed budget for Project Y..." (For a requested email to jot memory).

D) The call-to-action

This is the action you want your recipient to take and essentially the purpose for sending the email. It could be a date for a meeting you'd like scheduled; some urgent documentation you need sent; an idea/innovation you want considered; a complaint you demand handled, etc.

Simply state your request, using polite terms:

"I would appreciate it if you could kindly schedule a meeting to discuss the X solutions we offer that will reduce your operational costs by Y%". 

"In order to ensure the smooth delivery of Project X, please suggest which of the above-mentioned options will be most effective".

"To prevent the issue of X from escalating into a full-blown crisis, I would appreciate your speedy response". 

E) The closing remarks

End with flourish, always adhering to standard business language:

"Whilst awaiting your response on this sensitive matter, we wish to thank you for your kind consideration".

"Thank you for your time. I look forward to receiving feedback at your convenience".

Remember the parting words:

"With best regards";

"With revered regards", (for those really important recipients);

"With deep appreciation of your continued/anticipated support"; etc. 

If you are wary of rocking the boat, then the standard will suffice: 

"Yours sincerely", (for 'named' recipients, i.e. Professor X, Mrs. Smith);

"Yours faithfully", (for 'unnamed' recipients, i.e. "The Director, Corporate Communications"; "The Dean, X Business School"; etc.).  

Notes to remember

In general, your email should be short and not longer than four or five paragraphs, including the closing remarks.

Nevertheless, when addressing a complex issue you may need to write longer emails. Your writing should be crisper, so aim for shorter sentences of 10-15 words.  Use bullet points when communicating multiple points and strip away flowery language. Strong verbs such as 'provided', 'analysed', 'sold', 'built', 'supervised', 'led', etc. are effective for highlighting important information.

You should also prioritise the active voice: "We decided to discontinue the process" versus "A decision was made to discontinue the process". 

Above all: 


1) Proof-read thoroughly:  

"I cited Shakespeare in my literature class" versus "I sighted Shakespeare in my literature class". 

Use the second option and get a free pass to a psychiatric ward.  

2) Edit ruthlessly:

"Let's eat, grandma" versus "Let's eat grandma". 

You get the idea...  


So now I concede that you don't have to be a celebrity or a popular figure to write powerful emails that will resonate with your recipient.

It may seem that all the points mentioned in this post will make writing that winning email cumbersome, but the opposite is true: Your email will be clear, succinct and will prompt action.

Trust me on this.

So take the plunge. Use the tips provided and go craft that email!

What other tips have you used to write effective emails? Let me know by posting your comments below.

Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to: 

Help someone out. Kindly share it in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top of the post or below. 

You should also sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don't miss any more articles!

Recommended reading

Need help in writing?

Hire me for a writing assignment or coaching sessions in communications. 

Contact me by:

A) Sending a direct email to:  

B) Calling for advice and a free consultation:

Nigeria:                0704 631 0592 
International:      +234 704 631 0592 


N.B–  First, second,  third,  sixth  and seventh images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via Fourth image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via Fifth image courtesy of Sira Anamwong; via 

Monday, 31 August 2015

Business Communications: 3 ‘Rules’ For Effectiveness

As professionals, we need to ‘stand out’ to remain competitive – and thus relevant - in our careers.

No one is excluded from this requirement: From the newly-appointed CEO, to the enthusiastic greenhorn, we constantly seek ways to update our skills, increase our knowledge and strengthen our portfolios.

And globalisation - the interplay of international trade, transfer of technology, and socio-cultural exchanges in our daily lives - is to blame for this mad rush for professional development. This has become evident as careers become increasingly fluid and competition becomes rife.

Although there may be differing opinions about the benefits of, or woes from this powerful force, one constant is indisputable: the inevitability of change. People, processes, ideas, ‘best practices’, employment trends; they all change.

Consequently, the way we communicate and how we do so in business circles have also evolved. Gone are the days where content could only be delivered by faxes, letters, emails and the press. Rapid advances in technology have resulted in various options from which to choose: communicating by video calls/online meetings, (Skype, GoToMeeting etc.); using business communication tools; and connecting via social media apps, (YouTube, Periscope, Vine, etc.). We have also become creative with our communications and at our disposal are different formats for disseminating information: e-books, images, videos, blog articles, infographics, podcasts etc.

Nonetheless, we can distinguish ourselves from the pack of educated, competent professionals and remain relevant in our careers.

Here's the simple, but often underestimated advice:

Demonstrate communication skills which ensure that ideas/initiatives/innovations are presented in ways that generate trust and lead to acceptance and action.

Since communication is only effective when it achieves a goal, three 'rules' of communication should be noted for best results:

1) Tailoring communications for the audience

Whatever the content being delivered, whether it is a speech, presentation, proposal or report, the first point to consider is the audience. Are its members university-educated or high school certificate holders? Do they engage more with visual content or do they prefer a text-audio combination? Know beforehand what is likely to resonate with them and then tailor your communications to suit the group's preferences.

For example, the language and style you will use when giving a seminar to a group of PhD holders will differ significantly from how you will address a group of rank and file employees. Using the appropriate language and format will lead to acceptance of your content.  

2) Prioritising brevity, simplicity and clarity

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”.

- Albert Einstein. 

Yes, your audience knows you have a lot of 'important' information to share, and that you must acknowledge the 'village' that helped you achieve X,Y,Z but please get to the point! Be brief. If people want more details, tell them how to get them. The more you waffle on, the quicker they tune off. Don't expect anything meaningful to be achieved in this situation. 

You also need to present your information in simple terms - without the jargon and ambiguity - so that your recipients understand your message. You don't need to use 'big' or redundant words to appear clever. Take a cue from Einstein’s quote about simplicity. 

Finally, tell them what you want them to do at the end of your delivery. When your call-to-action is clear, assumptions and conjectures are eliminated. Because they know what is expected of them, they will be empowered to support your goals.  

3) Providing timely and factual feedback

Let's assume here that feedback is virtually guaranteed when everything is on track.

But what happens when 'all hell breaks loose'?

It doesn't matter if the unpleasant situation was a result of your actions, lack thereof, or was beyond your control; you will need to provide feedback. But the feedback should be timely and factual, (meaning no delayed recaps or speculations), in order to be effective. 

Whilst no one wants to be the bearer of bad news, the sooner the true state of affairs is known, the quicker the resources - natural, human, technological, etc. - could be mobilised to tackle the problem. Timely and factual feedback is crucial in a crisis and when merged in this blog's six-component communications strategy, it can make a difference between how the crisis is 'contained' and how it escalates to disastrous proportions.  


So  as  we  strive  to become  more competitive in our fields, let's become better communicators.

Due to the availability of numerous communications tools and different types of content to inspire, captivate, motivate or persuade, we will be spoilt for choice.

Still, by using the three 'rules' of business communication listed above, we'll be able to cut through the 'noise' in our fast-paced environment and get the business results we seek.

As a bonus, to help C-suite executives, the ultra-short but useful embedded presentation below recaps:


Now it's your turn. What other 'rules' have been effective in your business communication?
Kindly post your comments below, anonymously if you prefer.

Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:

1) Share this article in your social media networks by clicking on the icons at the top of this post or below.

2) Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!

Recommended reading 

Overcoming Our Phobia Of Formal Writing 

Need help with crafting your business content?  

Hire me for a writing assignment, some consulting work and/or coaching sessions in communications.  

Contact me by: 

A) Sending a direct email to:

B) Calling for advice and a free consultation:

Nigeria:             0704 631 0592 
International:   +234 704 631 0592 


N.B-  First image courtesy of Jesadaphorn; via Embedded tweet courtesy of author’s Twitter account. Second image courtesy of Hywards; via Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via Last image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via The embedded presentation is author's work.

Friday, 31 July 2015

How To Become An Exceptional Employer

It takes a little effort to be a decent human being.

When we were children, we were taught principles which later became values and shaped our characters: Respect everyone; be considerate; be charitable, do onto others as you would have them do onto you, etc.

As adults, due to societal pressures and the prioritisation of 'self', we often struggle to adhere to the admirable tenet of being our brother's keeper. On a subconscious level however, we all want to matter. We want to be of value to someone or something and we desire to be treated with dignity.

It's no wonder that such a quest for worth extends to our careers.

Fair or not, we look to our employers to be 'decent' entities.

We are realistic: we know that they are in business to make money - a development that serves our need to be employed. We realise that due to globalisation and its impact on our careers, at some point we would become expendable.

We also understand, as some researchers in organisational behavioural science have echoed, that lifelong employment might no longer be possible and that we are retained to the extent that we can provide value to organisations. In exchange, we are rewarded with reasonable compensation packages, as well as training and resources to be efficient in our roles in order to be employable elsewhere, should the need be.  (Coyle-Shapiro, 2000).

Nonetheless,  for the duration of our stints in companies, we believe that employers could rise above the status of simply being 'decent'; they could become exceptional.

The rewards? Our increased engagement  leading  to less absenteeism, reduction in turnover and increased customer satisfaction - factors which translate to higher performance at the workplace.

In a nutshell, as a prospective exceptional employer we want you to:

1) Show us that we matter to you

It's not always about the money. As Badgeville's infographic below illustrates, 70% of us are more motivated by non-monetary rewards at work.


Surprised to know that 83% of us prefer recognition for our work than rewards or gifts? Or that 90% of us find a fun work environment "very or extremely" motivating? What about the revelation that in every age group, opportunities for growth are a more motivating factor for staying in a company than pay increases?

Well, armed with those statistics, you could differentiate your company from the pack and earn yourself  committed and loyal staff.

2) Prioritise clear communication 

This may sound simple but do you really listen to us and then take actions to address our concerns?

Are you willing to go back to the basics to create a 'listening culture' that would benefit us both?

We also value factual and timely feedback. Therefore,  promoting an atmosphere whereby communication is prioritisedfrom top management to new entrants, empowers us in our roles and prepares us for future crises.

Note  this:

So say what you mean and mean what you say. Take two-way jargon-free communication seriously...and you won't regret it when you notice increased productivity at the workplace.

3) Uphold fairness and promote transparency

You should neither have 'inner circles', nor a preference for promoting the interests of certain C-suite executives to the detriment of your workforce.

While experienced professionals bring a wealth of experience and much needed insight to the company's operations, these three groups of executives cause havoc by their behaviours and must be swiftly weeded out when consistent complaints are made by the staff. (There should already be an functional communication channel via which employees are encouraged to express their dissatisfaction).

When incidents of discrimination and harassment have been reported, we expect you to do the following:

- Launch an independent investigation;

- Strongly renounce the offence;

- Discipline the perpetrators by adhering strictly to sanctions listed in your policy without fear or favour;

- Compensate the victim appropriately by offering whatever financial, legal or psychological aid (i.e. therapy) that is required  for his well-being.

In order words, we want you to be fair. The employee handbooks and other corporate manuals were penned for a reason - to support the vision of the company as it relates to the humane management of its manpower.

Rules should not be waived because the CEO  plays golf with the Chairman twice a month; nor because the chief operating officer and the chief financial officer were roommates at university; nor because the HR boss comes from the same town as the technical director.

For other issues relating to compensation packages, promotions and career development, we also request that you be transparentCareer progression must be based on competence and experience; no one should be denied a coveted spot because of age, gender, ethnicity etc.

Being fair and transparent would make you more credible. When we trust your leadership, we will support you in ways you wouldn't imagine.


Now we realise that the points above might appear impractical to some. Others would reckon that they cannot be implemented due to historical or cultural influences or because of business concerns like cost reduction and lean management. 

Still, you should ask this question:

"How important are our talented staff - in whom we have invested Xamount in Yyears to train, develop and handle large/complex projects - to our operations this year?"

Since we drive your productivity to levels envied by your rivals and boost your reputation, the truth is that losing us to competitors by simply being 'decent'  would be easy.

To retain us, you need to become exceptional. It doesn’t matter if you are a large organisation or a small business; you’ll need to evolve. It takes courage, a commitment to change and a culture of continuity to ensure that new processes 'stick', but start the process anyway. When we see the efforts being made, we will be encouraged to go 'over and beyond' what is expected.

And that's a promise.

Kindly post your comments below, anonymously if you prefer.

Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:

1) Share this article in your social media networks by clicking on the icons at the top of this post or below.

2) Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Never miss an article again!

Recommended reading


N.B- First image courtesy of Cooldesign; via Second image courtesy of Ammer; via Embedded tweets courtesy of author’s twitter account. Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via