Emailing with Clients: 13 Tips, Zero Tricks
May 20, 2022 - By Dave Clarke
I love email. (Don’t @ me. I’m not interested in any “But I get 536 emails a day!” sentiment. Congrats. You’re a big deal. Or you’re a journalist that gets a firehose of lousy pitches every. Damn. Day. You, I feel for.)
What I love about email is the ability it affords you to orchestrate asynchronous discussion. You can set a stage and guide your audience to where you ultimately want them to arrive. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.
Email is the perfect blend of art and science. It’s a skill honed over time. The earlier you treat it as such, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
So here are some tips to getting more out of email.
Write Like You Speak
Would you say the following out loud to a colleague?
“Dear Brad, In an attempt to keep the ball rolling with this worthy initiative, I seek your expert assessment with regards to the designs. Best Regards, Dave.”
Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you email it when, “What do you think of the designs, Brad?” is more than sufficient?
Lose the jargon. Lose the rigidity.
Say what you mean as succinctly as possible. Succinctly say what you mean.
I always tell my junior team members to mimic the style and preferences of the client. For example, some clients need the full back story of an ask, while others are so busy and time stressed that they just want short and to the point emails/explanations. I think this goes a long way in building positive and trusting relationships with clients.
Put the Important Stuff Up Top
“It’s not a recipe blog where we want the life story behind the email. Just tell us the important stuff up front.” (Shout out Trust Insights co-founder Chris Penn for that gem. You should follow Chris. Smart person.)
Don’t leave things up for interpretation. (You’re orchestrating, remember!) One of my biggest ambiguous irritants? “Etc.” If there’s more, say it! Don’t let your audience wonder what else you might’ve meant.
Use Gmail? Install the Undo Send Feature
Just don’t let it become a crutch.
Proofread and Then Proofread Again
For super important emails, I’ll read them out loud. It helps.
Write in the Active Voice
You’ll save words. You’ll be more direct. (Btw, not everyone knows the difference between active and passive voice. It’s basically this: “I ate a whole rack of ribs.” vs. “A whole rack of ribs was eaten by me.” Grammarly’s got a good summary.)
If There’s Something You Can Do to Make Your Recipient’s Life Easier, Do It
Scheduling a meeting via email? Offer your team’s availability for your recipient to match against instead of asking for their availability which you’ll inevitably have a conflict with and hooray you’re back to square one.
Utilize Design Elements
Bolding, bullets and varying font sizes can call attention to specific/important information.
Be Personable, But…
Go easy on the small talk. This ultimately comes down to knowing your audience.
Keep Paragraphs Short
A huge block of text is DOA.
Every Email is a Brand Moment
We always tell clients that every piece of outward facing communication is a brand delivery vehicle. This includes email. Your voice, your style, your tone should feel on-brand. That doesn’t mean you have to weave in taglines or mission/vision/values statements. You know the gut feeling you want your audiences to have about your company. Give them the tools to get there with on-brand voice, style and tone in your emails.
Our To-Dos, Your To-Dos
Coming out of a call or meeting, a recap email is pretty standard—and it’s a great opportunity to be super clear about who’s doing what going forward. So, uh, be super clear about who’s doing what going forward.
Instill a Sense of Confidence
Because email is asynchronous, it gives the recipient time to think. It gives them time to form opinions, particularly as it relates to the business relationship. In our case, clients hire us to do what they can’t. We want them to be 100 percent confident in their decision to work with us so we make a concerted effort to eliminate language in our emails that can make them think otherwise. I’m talking about casual, open-ended phrases like “We’ll see what happens” or “We’ll figure it out.”
Telling a client “We’ll see what happens” is uncertain at best. Worst case, you’ve planted the seed that you might not know what you’re doing. Same goes for “We’ll figure it out.” Nope. Bring a plan. Client’s not paying you to wing it.