10 Strategies for Getting a Faster Response to Your Email

Responsiveness is a critical life skill. In fact, I think it may be the single most important factor to your success. People who are not responsive miss out on many opportunities. Why? Because others get tired of waiting on them.

Woman Asleep at Her Computer - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bookwyrmm, Image #11268589

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bookwyrmm

But, let’s be honest—not everyone you or I deal with shares this value. Or, even if they give lip service to it, they don’t practice it in daily life. And so, you wait. And wait. Meanwhile, your own work stacks up and you look unresponsive to your constituents.

It would be great if you never had to deal with these people. The problem is that sometimes “these people” include your boss, a colleague you don’t have authority over, or an important customer. How do you get them to respond to you in a timely manner?

Here are ten strategies that I have found helpful:

  1. Put their name in the “To” field. This should be obvious, but if you want a response from a specific individual, put that person’s name in the To field and that person’s name alone. If there is more than one name, he or she might assume that one of the others will answer. Also, never use the CC field for any purpose other than FYI.
  2. Double-check the email address. A few months ago, one of my colleagues wasn’t getting a response from one of our authors. He said, “I’ve emailed him five times.” I was a little irritated myself, so I said, “Forward me your last email, and I will follow-up.” When I got the email, I noticed that my colleague had one character missing in the email address. I asked him to resend the original email with the correct address. The author responded within the hour.
  3. Write a relevant subject line. Think of the subject line like the headline of a newspaper. The goal is to get them to actually read the body copy. The more specific you can make it, the better. For example, if you are sending me a meeting agenda, don’t just put “Agenda” in the subject line. I get lots of agendas. Instead, put something like “Agenda for June 10th Executive Team Meeting.”
  4. Put your question at the top. Writing a good email is like writing a good blog post or magazine article. As they say, “don’t bury the lead.” Put the most important content (the “lead”) in the very first paragraph. Don’t assume that the recipient will read beyond that. You can use the rest of the email to provide support or background information.
  5. Keep your message short. Long emails only encourage procrastination. Think of your own behavior. What happens when you get a long email? Right. You save it for later. Unfortunately, many people never get around to “later.” If you keep the message short, you make it easy for the other person to digest what you have said and respond now.
  6. Use the high priority flag. You have to be careful with this, because if you use it with every message, people will “brand you” as someone who always cries “Wolf!” However, if you use this sparingly, it can communicate urgency. You can also begin the subject line with the word “Urgent,” a colon, and then your subject. For example, “Urgent: About to Miss the Grisham Deadline.”
  7. Offer multiple choices. Make it easy on the reader. Narrow the range of options down to two or three and then ask them to pick one. For example, “Which hotel do you prefer for our upcoming trip to San Jose: (1) the Marriott, (2) the Sheraton, or (3) the Hilton?” After you ask the question, you can provide the backup on each hotel.
  8. Provide a deadline. This makes your expectations clear, so the reader is less likely to procrastinate. I would advise against providing an artificial or bogus deadline. If the other person discovers that the deadline was not real, your credibility will be damaged. He will never take your deadlines seriously again. Instead, provide the specific date and time. For example, “by noon tomorrow (Thursday)” or “by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 7th.”
  9. Use a “negative option.” When all else fails, this is the strategy I use. Here’s how it works: You tell the person what you are going to do unless you hear back from them by a certain time. This makes their response optional. For example, “Unless you reply by noon tomorrow, I will assume that the proposal meets with your approval and send it on to the client.”
  10. Copy their boss. This is dangerous, I know. The person may respond, but they will likely also resent it. I never do this unless I am out of options, and I can’t get a response any other way. Before you use this strategy, you need to consider the collateral damage to the relationship. However, there are times when you have no other choice.

Finally, maybe you shouldn’t be using email at all. I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone prefers email. If the person isn’t responding, why keep beating your head against the wall? Instead, Twitter them (via DM), call them on the phone, or drop by for a visit. If the other person is your boss or customer, it is your job to conform to their communication preferences not the other way around.

What strategies have you found helpful for getting a faster response? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://BasicBlogTips.com Ileane

    Great tips Michael. I use a lot of these and many times I will also call the person before and/or after to let them know that the email is coming and needs their attention. Depending on your relationship with the person, you can call at a off time and leave a voice mail. That way you can cover all bases. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is a great to and provides accountability.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    Example 1:  Either in the subject line or the first line of the email I put the deadline:  “Response needed NLT Tuesday 5PM.”

    Example 2:  I have 2 quick things I need a your thoughts on:
    1.  Where do you want to stay in San Jose:  A) Marriott B) Hilton C) Hyatt.
    2.  Are we meeting the client at the restaurant or picking them up at the office?

    Email is great for gathering information and transferring data like agenda items.  I use bullets and deadlines for those.

    If I want an opinion on something or need to negotiate a result, I ask for a face to face or at least a phone call.

    All my responses to an angry email are when sentence:  “When can we meet to discuss this further?”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I like your response to an angry e-mail. It is not worth escalating the matter further, which e-mail often does. Thanks.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Dave,
      I agree! Email is a bad place to respond to a person’s anger. Email should be used for information and edification! 

      • Brent K

        I once heard excellent advice, probably from MH, that if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t write it in an email. Your usage of email to edify and inform is top-notch.

        • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

          Brent,
          That is great advice. I have seen people say something that they thought was fairly benign but without inflection and context the email was taken out of context…. That’s why emoticons are the new punctuation!

      • http://www.redplanet.biz/ Tufail Shahzad

        @barryhilljr:disqus you’re right! In professional relationships email is not the place to communicate with angry customers/clients but sometimes it works.

    • Ella Rucker

      I like the email response to anger as well… Too late for me, but always good to know ;-)

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    When replying to an email it’s helpful just to put the short response in the subject line followed by [EOM] which means “end of message”. This really speeds things up, since the recipient does not have to open the email to read your answer. For example, If I was responding to a meeting request, I might put this in the subject line.

    I’ll see you at 11 in meeting room B [EOM]

    Creating a few email short codes for your department can increase engagement..

    [TYVM] Thank You Very Much

    [F2F] Face to Face

    [BFN] Bye For Now

    [BRB] Be Right Back

    Don’t get too complicated and this system works well…

    Unfortunately [INAFRTYE] I Need A Fast Response To Your Email 

    may land on deaf ears… :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      At Thomas Nelson, I once compiled an index of acronyms, intending to use it in our new employee training. I never did, but we used a dizzying array of terms. Sometimes, it was downright comical.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        We had good luck with [EOM] in our department. It was really helpful for replies and short questions.

      • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

        Now, I deal with teens most of the time but the list of acronyms for texting is really crazy.  Take a look!

        http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php

    • http://embracethegodlife.com Pat

      I also really appreciate an email marked “for information only” or “no response needed”. 

  • Kirk Goodwin

    I like your Option 11 – pick up the phone and call them better than Option 10. In this age of email, text, twitter – if you aren’t getting a timely response, call them and ask why. They may be overwhelmed, it might have been dumped into a spam folder, it may not be the best medium for them. Understand how to serve them well and they will be a champion for you.

    Kirk

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’ve had some trouble with my emails ending up in someone’s junk or spam folder, too. A phone call is the best way to make sure we’re actually connecting. 

      • http://www.brandongilliland.com/ Brandon Gilliland

        I actually prefer calling someone unless it is something that can be sent quickly.

  • Philippe Demoulin

    Great tips, Michael. The use of “negative option” change my way of handling emails. It is unbelievable the number of persons who now answer me when I  add “By default, I suppose you don’t …” to the question I send. The same idea when you have to send a second email to collect missing answers: instead of sending the email to just the few who haven’t answer, add in Cc the recipients who already answered !

    • Katina Vaselopulos

      What does DEFAULT really mean? Can you, Philippe or anyone else explain to me?

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I’ve got two friends that I meet with on a regular basis. One checks his email. The other doesn’t. Yesterday I sent the non-email friend some time-sensitive information but knew he’d need a nudge to look at it. I spoke to him directly and told him what I’d sent and where I’d sent it (turns out he has 3 email addresses and I only knew about 2).

  • http://www.shannonmilholland.blogspot.com Shannon Milholland

    Great tips as always! I also find it helpful to affirm the person’s wisdom, guidance, input, etc. When someone feels valued, they become more responsive.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s true. Thanks.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       True! Affirmation and positivity go a long way to increase responsiveness.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Very wise! :)

  • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

    Here are some additional things I use in the subject line:

    This way I can prepare the receiver for what I expect from them.  It really improved the responsiveness to my emails.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I like ones that indicate “No Response Needed.” That way I know it is for information only.

      • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

        No Response Needed might be the best three words in the email dictionary.

      • http://twitter.com/MattMcWilliams2 Matt McWilliams

        Here’s a tip…use DNR in the subject line. (Do Not Reply).

        I instituted this at a previous company and it literally cut down on email by 7%. That might not sound like much, but one simple change…7% less email.

        I put it in the beginning like:

        DNR – Information on Tonight’s Team Dinner

        Cuts down on the “Great!” “Thanks Matt” “See you then” emails.

        I created a rule that any email with “Re: DNR” in the subject line was automatically deleted and told people that I did.

        • Peter James

          That might be a legal liability if used in the medical industry where it means Do Not Resuscitate. :-)

          • Dmw24

            Of course, I have seen a lot of emails unnecessarily resuscitated that take on a new life of their own, and someone should label them DNR! ;-)

  • Garrett Miller (CoTria.com)

    Great tips Michael.  I love your advice about including a timeline. If you can include on in the subject line. i.e. Request: Please submit business plan by 5pm EST.
    Remember a timezone if you work in a global organization. Lastly avoid using terms such as COB or ASAP, these terms can be vague and defined differently.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I agree. We have used COB, but we have an agreed upon definition: 5:00 p.m. CT.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      I don’t even know what COB means, but this tip was helpful to me :)

      • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

         Yeah, not sure if COB is still a relevant term today? I don’t feel like I ever close! :)

  • Tim Schurrer

    Someone that I work with us not great with responding to e-mail. In hopes of bettering communication and productivity, we decided to try a new strategy. If I include ** in the subject line, I need a response. E-mails without the ** are still great to read, but are typically sent to keep them in the loop and are not necessary to reply to.

  • http://www.ninanesdoly.com/ Nina Nesdoly

    These are some great ideas! I recently had an experience with a company in the UK that wanted a sponsored post on my site. I was excited, but the problem was, the woman took forever to reply to e-mails. It became such a useless pursuit that I had to cancel; I was tired of waiting 2 weeks for e-mails. 

    While I was away racing at Nationals and had no internet, my boss e-mailed a lot. It made me laugh, because he tried every strategy you mentioned to get me to respond! Thanks for this post, it makes a good checklist! 

  • http://www.ninanesdoly.com/ Nina Nesdoly

    Michael- at some level this question is irrelevant but it’s irking me this morning. Have you got a post in your archive about getting people to comment on your blog posts? People re-share, send me e-mails and Facebook messages about posts, comment on the link on Facebook, etc, but they don’t comment on the actual post. It’s frustrating, especially because I WANT people’s opinions on some topics, as I’m working on a project and trying to develop the theories and figure out how best to convey information. Anything good to read on the subject?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do. Just search for “more comments”.

      • Katina Vaselopulos

        I have just few friends that I share worth-reading mails. Do not bother anyone otherwise, unless personal.
        That way, if I send something important, I usually get responses back fairly fast. But waiting on Facebook or posts, it is frustrating…like Nina said… to get people to leave comments.
        Michael, what do you meam by “search for more comments”?

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Nina, there’s also a specific chapter on this in Michael’s book, Platform (http://www.amazon.com/Platform-Get-Noticed-Noisy-World/dp/159555503X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337125403&sr=8-1). In fact, Part 5 (Chapters 52 – 60) is all about engaging your tribe, and I think it would be a huge help to you.

      • http://www.ninanesdoly.com/ Nina Nesdoly

        Oh great! I have the book, and a back logged reading list, but I’ll skip to that! 

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       http://michaelhyatt.com/7-strategies-for-increasing-your-blog-comments.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacob.a.hughes.1 Jacob A. Hughes

    As a missionary serving in another country, I want my emails back to our supporting churches to be read.  Therefore, I am working at making them more readable.  These ten things are a help to me- thanks for sharing!

    • Rachel Lance

      Jacob, in your case it might be good to set your emails up as a newsletter with a consistent schedule and format so your readers know what to expect. Do you blog? Using a newsletter to deliver excerpts of blog posts will help to drive traffic and lead to continuing conversation between you and your stateside readers.

  • http://joannamuses.com/ Joanna

    One that might be helpful especially for people you need to communicate with on a regular basis is to not send emails that are not particularly necessarily. If they are used to getting emails from you that aren’t important there is a good chance the one time you do need to send something that’s important they’ll assume it isn’t important

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great point, Joanna.

  • LivewithFlair

    My best tip is to write a ridiculously specific subject line. Number 3 makes all the difference in which emails I go to first. I explain more here: http://livewithflair.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-to-write-great-email-subject-line.html and mention tips by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, writers of Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home. 

  • LivewithFlair

    PS (this is off topic!) I wanted to THANK YOU for the amazing proposal templates for fiction. Worth every single penny. I used your templates and just signed with DC Jacobson literary agency. Highly recommend these templates!

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      Congratulations on your signing! That is wonderful! 

      • LivewithFlair

         Thank you!!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Congratulations!!!

  • SallyV1

    Great tips!  Question, when someone uses all caps in their email (when it’s not in celebration of something) doesn’t it mean that they are yelling at you?  I’ve had several people do this lately in businesses that I’ve hired and I feel that it is very unprofessional and shows bad customer service. Am I off base about this?

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Sally … You’re not off-base at all. CAPS are used by people who are:

      1. Yelling
      2. Clueless

      Either way, you probably don’t want to tangle with either of the above people groups ;)

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Sally,
      I agree with Justin! I had a friend that did this a lot, and he was very appreciative when I told him that he was yelling at everyone! He had no idea!

  • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

    Great, practical advice Michael. My weapon of choice is the brief email. Make it 1-2 sentences and I’ve found your success rate DRASTICALLY increases.

    As you point out, people do not have time to read long emails.

  • http://Thefieldgeneral.com/ Chris Coussens

    Michael,
    I am so in synch with you on this post. In fact, the first post on my new blog was about how to use email effectively… it was kind of inspired by your Jun 14 post http://michaelhyatt.com/angry-email.html . One thing I would add from my own experience is that the “short” part increases in importance with the seniorty of the person in question.

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    I find it helpful to use bullet points with no more than one statement per bullet. When dealing with some people, communication is like an onion—you have to approach it in layers from large concept to small details. Providing the details too early shuts down additional communication. 

  • JaysonFeltner

    Fantastic tips. I’ve been using the”Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich” approach to email subjects with amazing results. I can’t say for sure but I would bet most people open my emails before most of the other ones in their inbox.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       I got to get that book! I have been dragging my feet on that for months!

      • JaysonFeltner

        I purchased the hard copy (a bit pricey) for my company, but the ebook version is very affordable and worth every cent.

        • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

          the e-book route is a great idea. Thanks, J!

    • Jim Martin

      Jayson, I also purchased the book (on my Kindle) and have found it to be very helpful.

  • http://twitter.com/MattMcWilliams2 Matt McWilliams

    —1. Love #4. Reminds me of BLUF
    – Bottom Line Up Front. It’s a military term. It means make your most important
    point first. 

    So many people make the mistake of making the case, giving the background, giving me all the data…and on and on, BEFORE asking the question or making the point. 

    Ask the question or make the point first…then I’ll want to read your data.

    —2: One of the most common mistakes I see if on forwards.

    If you must forward something to me, include an introduction. Please do not just forward an email to me and expect me
    to know what it is about. Include a brief intro. What is it about? What have
    you done about it? What is the expected response?

    Don’t just forward something and expect me to know you want a reply or input.

    —3: Don’t send it after hours. I’m not going to read it until 9:30 am the next day anyway. No, I am not impressed that you are working at 11:13 pm. 

    Seriously, can you not draft it and send tomorrow morning? You are more like to get me to read the entire email and get a reply during the work day.

    —#4: If it’s really important, give me a quick call and let me know you are about to send it, or sent it, and give me a 30-second flyover of why the email is so long and has so much data and that you would like my input. Chances are, it’s the next email I will read and I will mentally block out the time to carefully read it and craft a response.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Matt,
      I was just going to share about BLUF, so glad you did! One of the volunteers in my church (outside DC), who is like double top secret something or other, and not even permitted to share with me what he does, but one day he shared with me about BLUF and it has made all the difference!

      That and keeping it short!

      • http://twitter.com/MattMcWilliams2 Matt McWilliams

        He told you and yet you are still alive? Hmmm must not be TOO top secret LOL

        • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

          ha! yes, I am still alive….but he gave me THE LOOK!

    • Brent Keck

      Matt, 
      Regarding your item 3, after hours, comment. I usually use the delayed send option email for my late night missives, just so my employees don’t think all I do is work (I don’t) and so they won’t feel obligated to do the same.

      • http://twitter.com/MattMcWilliams2 Matt McWilliams

        Yes! If you can do that, do it. I don’t use it on Gmail, though there is a plug-in now I just read. I just draft and send in the morning.

    • Jim Martin

      Matt, I like your first comment.  Thanks for the explanation of “Bluff.”

  • Tim Osborn

    After the 08 Olympics we created the “clean handoff” principle at our company. In Beijing the USA men’s 4×100 was the first in history to have all 6 runners be sub-10 seconds in the open 100. Yet we didn’t make it out of the semifinals because we dropped the baton.

    We are remote from many of our customers and we view our emails as handoffs, striving to make them clean, using a similar set of guidelines. Our clients (and colleagues) receive 100s of emails a day and have finite limit of responses; making them use one to ask for clarification or more information is considered a bobbled handoff.  

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Tim,
      Love the imagery!

       

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Good advice.  Thanks

  • Pmpope68

    The other thing about long e-mails is that I will usually scan through all the fluff searching for the meat of the message.  That’s why it’s best to be direct and then include any justifications after the main message.  As a former boss of mine used to say, “Save me the labor; give me the baby.”  

    • Jim Martin

      I was visiting with a guy the other day who asked me about the day/time of a particular event.  He said, “I got an e-mail from _______ and I am sure the day/time was buried somewhere in that note.  However, the guy writes paragraph after paragraph in his e-mails.  Who has time to read that?”

      I need to remember this.

      • Pmpope68

        Right.  You’d date and time of an event would be near the top with explanation following.  

  • http://www.newequus.wordpress.com/ Mindy @ New Equus

    Sometimes I include my supervisor as well as their supervisor in the CC. It highlights that this is an important matter for our department and not just me personally.

  • http://www.faughnfamily.com/ Adam Faughn

    I think #4 is the key. When I send emails that ramble on before getting to the point, the response is slow, at best. I try to remember to get right to the point. Most email is not about flattery or “setting the stage,” it’s about getting things done, so get to the point!

  • http://www.offthebeatenpathministries.com/ Kay

    I also try to give the person multiple ways to respond to me: email me, call me on my office phone, text me on my cell phone. Thanks for the great tips. We definitely live in a time where our messages can easily get swallowed up in communication chaos, so it’s good to have some pointers to help stay on top of things.

  • http://www.CareerCoachJeff.com/ Jeff Melvin

    Absolutely love #10 Copy their boss! I use the 3 Strikes policy. I’ll email a person twice expecting a response, if I haven’t received one then I’ll email their boss on attempt #3 – never fails to get some kind of response, either from the boss or the person.

    • Jim Martin

      Jeff, your 3 Strikes policy makes a lot of sense.  Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/clarethwaites Clare Thwaites

    Hi Michael I just found your blog! AWESOME!! Will keep checking back in with you, looks like you have lots of great info here.
    I run a small record label and I am only just now sending regular emails to my list. So my puzzle is that I don’t have everyone’s names – depending when and how they signed up – it’s not urgent – and its been at LEAST a year since I last emailed them (lol long story, but all changed now and going good!)

    And just putting “intelligent audio news xx month 2012″ is pretty dull – but hey, got to start somewhere eh?! Do you have tips for enticing titles for these types of emails – sort of news, updates, etc? I definitely can come up with my own – just asking!! :-)

    I know with my free promos I send out, the “promo” in the title gets a lot more opens! Thanks for a great blog! Clare x

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Using these tips will definitely get someone’s attention. I have to work on keeping my emails shorter, it seems like everything I write lately is a novel!

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      You’re keeping those writing muscles active!    

      BTW, I haven’t had a chance to tell you…Congrats on all of your recent success with your new speaking/writing career, Kimanzi!  You’re an inspiration! 

      • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

        Thanks John :)

  • http://www.brandongilliland.com/ Brandon Gilliland

    You mentioned in your last few sentences that some do not prefer email. You mentioned that you can twitter dm them.

    Do you believe that twitter is taking a more prevalent role than email? Just wondering your thoughts on it…

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Twitter is definitely taking a more prevalent role, but I think the jury is still out on how many people will replace email with it.  Michael uses Twitter DM instead of texting and that makes sense to me.  I could see a majority someday taking that position.  But since Twitter does not serve all of the functions of email, I don’t see it replacing email in its current form.  

      • http://www.brandongilliland.com/ Brandon Gilliland

        True. I agree with you. Too bad twitter dms are limited to 140 characters!

  • http://leadershiphats.com/ Kevin Wax

    As a big time user of email…I must say that this is the BEST and MOST HELPFUL article on email I’ve ever read. Kudos…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Wow. Thanks!

  • http://www.authorpeterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    A few people who I communicate with only seem to respond if I contact them through Facebook. For me, it is the channel of last resort.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I’ve found the same thing Peter!  

      Like Michael said, if they are my boss or my customer, it’s my job to communicate with them the way they want to communicate.  To avoid issues, one of the first questions that I almost always ask a new client is “How do you prefer to communicate?”  It saves a lot of trouble on the back end.

    • Jim Martin

      Peter, I have also found this to be true.  Recently, I was visiting with a person whom I had only communicated with through FB.  (He would initiate the contact through FB.)  I finally asked him if this is what he preferred or did he also use regular e-mail.

  • http://www.andyhofmann.com/ Andreas M. Hofmann

    Michael—Great tips. Clear and valuable. Like so many, the points you make are vital to the daily grind I live in. Effective written communication via email is a critical skill. In order to obtain response from some individuals, you must be a craftsman of sorts. Looking forward to applying your tips in the office, this week. —amh

  • Chris

    When there is a lot of detail that is necessary to relay, but may not be read immediately, we supply a “BLOT: ” as the first line of the message. BLOT means the Bottom Line of the message is On Top. For example: “BLOT: File Server crashed and down for 30 minutes. Back up now. No lost data.” The message would then go into when it crashed, what was done to fix the issue, and when it was back up. It may also include who was impacted, in case anyone cares.

  • http://www.sudhirwarrier.com/ Sudhir Warrier

    Great tips. I found that the surest way to get a response is to address by name. If I expect a response from Tom, Tom and only Tom should be in To field and in the body, I would address him as “Hi Tom”. This ensures that the recipient feels accountable for a response. Second approach I adopt is to add “second reminder” or “third reminder” appendage, that adds up the peer pressure that prompts the person to respond. 

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  • http://embracethegodlife.com Pat

    As email senders we are tempted to add multiple names to the “to” field, thinking this will speed a response. I stopped doing this when I noticed how I respond to these emails: I file them and wait for someone else to respond.

    Here’s my tip if you really feel the need to ask multiple people for the same information/action: send each person a separate email instead.

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  • KathleenMSmith

    totally agree about short emails!

  • http://www.kevinsonglive.com/ Kevin Song

    #10 is definitely a last resort. I had made some mistakes in my career using that one too early, ouch! A valuable lesson learned for me. Good tips Michael!

  • http://www.andytraub.com/ Andy Traub

    i much prefer DM’s which is why i follow so few people. keeps it a very clean communication channel. Great post brother.

  • http://www.fieldofdebt.com/ Jen McDonough

    Michael, I use to support 38 of the most awesome, yet BUSY cardiology doctors – they are great people, but AWFUL at responding back to most people. I got them to respond back the following ways:
    1. I ONLY truly used URGENT/ASAP/STAT when it was absolutely necessary. Overuse got them to ignore people who overacted on the little things.
    2. I would put what action item, if any, was needed in the subject line such as FYI, ACTION REQUESTED, ACTION REQUIRED, GET BACK TO ME BY (DATE), etc – these were always capitalized. For example: 
    11/1/11 Board packet info – PROXY NEEDED BY 12/30/11 IF NOT ATTENDING;
     Parking update – FYI only;
    credentialing info needed – RESPONSE REQUIRED
    3. Short and to the point – what I wanted from them or what was really important in bold.
    4. Lastly, they knew I would follow up CONSISTENTLY if items were not received and be “bugged” (nicely) for all due action items.

  • MarinaBromley

    I head up a volunteer ministry, and when getting contact information I ask if it’s ok to text them. When I send out a group email, I text each person individually letting them know to expect the meeting details (or whatever) in an email. It just gives them a head’s up that it’s there, and if they have any questions (or can’t make meeting) they have a short cut to respond immediately to me. 

  • http://christopherbattles.net/ Christopher Battles

    Thank you Michael.  Good information.
    Deadlines are good to put.
    I also see sending in the proper amount of time.  
    The email send late at night before for the next morning is not “early notice.”
    Great points.

    K, bye

  • http://twitter.com/LeadingEveryday Juan Cruz Jr

    Unfortunately sometimes the only way to get a response is to copy everyone, short of their parents. 

  • Steven Burkard

    I utilize a finishing line that reads “Thanks in advance for your response”. I find this makes your request more personal and more likely to be read favorably.

    Easiest by far is to pick up the phone. I am a Salesman, so the phone is already glued to my ear.

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  • Mathewhongai

    never thought these i try now!

  • http://www.brandongerard.net/ Brandon Gerard

    Thanks for sharing.  Don’t Burying the Lead, this is an area I am working on improving.  At times it has proved to be harder than I realized. Focusing on this area has helped with writing better emails and making them much shorter.  

  • http://www.redplanet.biz/ Tufail Shahzad

    @mhyatt:disqus I’m using the similar strategies for the email communication, and recently started “Cold Calling” to my LinkedIn connections and I got few responses. I always use the first name in my subject line, as you mentioned above, and I don’t think if someone read your juicy & productive email strategies and he/she will not Tweet or spread these potential tips across their social networks like mine!

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  • Victor Carrere

    Between items 8 and 9 I would list an item that has worked for me: “Use the positive option”: Bring up the “whats in it for the reader of the email”. For instance: If I hear from you before Wednesday, February 6, we will be able to implement a plan. that features the options you wanted.

  • Manat

    If the sender is important to me, such as my boss. Yes, I have to take immediately action as the 1st priority. As well as we are the important guy to the receivers, they will quick response.
    I call them some time before sending some time after sending to let them know I did send or will send and need for their respond.
    I also use email for summarize what we’re talking and ask for their review and confirmation.
    For optional case, I also provide with my suggestion which one is better for their consideration. Because I ever had experience that they replied with no objection for both options, but finally they not satify with it.

  • uttamasara

    you can ask them like say hey how are you ? then ask something she like ok good

  • http://www.drjasonjones.com/ Jason E. Jones

    Great article, Michael. I’d also add, Pairing the email with a text message or phone message. This is a great way to get the person to know an email has actually been sent. Very helpful for people who get hundreds of email daily and have a strong email filter.

  • Melinda Todd

    This is one of those things that drives me insane when I can’t move on until I hear from this person. I hate those who wait until the last minute to get me something that I needed days ago, like a lesson plan for a class I’m teaching. I need time to read the material and prepare. These are good pieces of advice. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

    I’ve been soured on the copying of the boss option. One time my assistant director, director, and VP were copied on an e-mail asking me for a report. I think I may have been slightly late in getting the report to the person who needed it, but it wasn’t something that was time-critical.

    I then made the mistake of sending her the report without replying to all, so one by one all three of those leaders came to me to make sure I did the report.

  • Chris

    Sapulpa Historical Society sends many emails to members. Some of our members say they prefer a paper newsletter &/or invitations. When a response is needed, we always follow-up with a phone call.

    Every few months we give the option of being removed from our mailing list.
    Be sure to update you contact lists every six months.

  • ISSolutions4U

    Lots of great tips here! I’m going to have to revisit this one again. I’ll also be sharing it with others.