3 seconds to the delete button

Liz Wendling

E-mail is an effective way to increase brand awareness, leads and sales, but many businesses don’t get the response rate they are looking for because their approach is weak, worn out and completely off track. It comes down to three seconds, and if your message doesn’t hit the target your e-mail will be immediately deleted.  Your mission should be to get your reader to open, read and respond.

Do people respond to your e-mails in the way you want? Are you sure that you’re making the best possible impression?

Unfortunately most e-mail messages are ineffective, lengthy and seller-centered. Many do not stand a chance and end up in the trash without being read. They make it to the trash because they’re missing these three key ingredients:

  1. The subject line must have a purpose and be customized to the reader
  2. The body of the e-mail must be brief and to the point.
  3. The ending should get the reader to take some sort of action.

An e-mail subject line should compel recipients to open it at least to skim. People receive hundreds of e-mails every day and most are read with a finger on the trigger of the delete button.  If the subject is generic, boring and weak it immediately gets dumped in the trash. 

Think of the e-mail subject line as a headline in a newspaper or magazine. You have two to three seconds to grab their attention, so choose a headline that is strong and compelling. A few strong and well-chosen words increase the open rate by over thirty-four percent. Invest time in your subject line as if you were paying hundreds of dollars for each one.  

I coach sales teams to try out a few test subject lines on other people before you send them to prospective clients. Try sending them to others in your office, on your team or in your family to get their input and reaction to the subject line. Ask yourself, would you open your own e-mails?

If you’re able to get prospects to open your e-mail, you must make your point as briefly as you can without sacrificing quality. An effective and easy formula to follow is one subject line, two brief paragraphs and one action item. I have received and saved many e-mails that were nothing but a not-so-cleverly-disguised seven-paragraph sales pitch. What a waste of time, money and energy.

Your e-mail needs to start with a quick, friendly and to-the-point statement explaining why you’re writing to them. Remember that you need to get their attention and hold it. E-mail readers and web surfers think and react in seconds so use your time wisely.

They’re choosing to read your e-mail so you owe it to them to make it about them, not you. Repeat, what’s in it for them, not for you. If the body is all about you, your company and how amazing you are, it will be discarded without a thought. They want to know how you can help them solve their issues and problems. The more time you invest in discussing their issues, the greater the likelihood you’ll move the sales conversation forward. If you don’t, guess where your e-mail is going?

With e-mail and online communication you have only two to three seconds to get their attention. Only seven seconds to build interest and about 20 seconds to get them to take an action.  Following this rule will improve your response rate dramatically.

Liz Wendling is a business consultant, sales expert and emotional intelligence coach. Learn more at InsightBusinessConsultants.com.