Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Don't you hate long email messages?

“Do they really expect me to read all this?” is what usually goes through my mind. It’s not that I don’t want to; I just don’t have the time. I spent an entire day recently going through my inbox -- saving, filing and trashing messages (not reading most of them) just to make sure I haven't missed any important ones.

To me, long email messages are unusable, in the same way a visually cluttered web site (often with too much text) is unusable.

I spend my time teaching clients how to be more usable because it's better marketing. They need to know how to write short, concise email messages that ask for (and get) a response. And we all need to know when it's time to pick up the phone.

Anyone who writes a long message – whether to someone they know or don’t know – without permission, a warning or a request, is asking for it to languish in an inbox and not be responded to.

What are some other qualities or actions that make people unusable?

(BTW: this is one of the ideas I'm developing for a short talk on "Personal Usability" -- Nov. 3rd 12:30-4 PM in NYC -- that will be part of World Usability Day, sponsored by the NYC Usability Professionals' Association, Human Factors International and others. More info and free registration here:


Blogger EC (Lisa) Stewart said...

That is one of my pet peeves, Ilise.

I am now teaching my clients that conversation (whether it's email, phone, face-to-face) is a matter of ‘launches’ or 'diving' if you will. You dive into the shallow end with your introduction, you allow the recipient to answer and get out of the pool. If the recipient responds with a question, one knows to head to deeper waters.

This volley continues until one of you heads out of the pool, but not without an actionable item to continue the talk at a later time.

This not only shows that you're receptive to their time, but that you're listening to them on many levels. Your recipient should jump out of that pool refreshed, invigorated and eager to talk w/you again.

The second part of your question: what are some other actions that make people unusable… Not leaving voicemail. I’ve learned to construct my time wisely and it includes when to check/respond to my email and when to listen/answer to voicemail; urgent calls excluded.

While I could speculate all day as to why folks don’t like leaving vm, it seems to me that if they’re running a business, they should realize others are, too. Even if one leaves a vm indicating that they’ll be leaving an email with some add’l information is very helpful, but is very rarely the case.

Also, I will indicate to the caller who might happen to be a new client that I am email centric, allowing them to allay any fears they might have with certain technological devices.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Duchessherri said...

When you can't avoid a long email message, put it into bullet format to make it a quick(er) read. Don't give all the details, summarize those bullets and make it easy for the recipient to call you to initiate a phone discussion in more detail.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Interesting topic, Ilise. I get loads of email from folks asking for help with this or that - “How much should I charge?” “How do I get more clients?” “My client’s turned into the devil incarnate,” and such. Those typically require a lengthy reply and the recipient is likely hoping for one, at least judging by the responses I get. But, by and large, emails to my primary crew and clients are typically one or two-liners.

As for personal usability on the business landscape, I think that pretty much boils down to becoming a resource. I tend to spend a lot of time on the Net during my workday. I’ll often come across articles, sites and/or tools that I believe will be useful to a certain client or group of clients. When I find one, I’ll shoot off an email with a link.

Beyond that is offering advice or other help off the clock. The “giving to get,” type of marketing. It accomplishes a few things. First, it might help get my client, prospect or associate out of a jam. Second, it helps to position me as a guy with some know-how. Third, it’s another point of contact that helps to keep my name on their mind.

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Eileen Coale said...

I know we all love to hate long email messages, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water just yet. Long emails are regularly used in marketing, and they can generate significant profits for businesses. I've received them myself as a customer, and I've written them as a copywriter.

The key, of course, is to focus on what the customer wants, and offer up enticing information that makes him or her not only want to keep reading, but also to click on the link to a landing page where they'll sign up for a newsletter or make a purchase. If you want to try out long marketing emails, focus on your customer's needs. Test several different subject lines and several different length messages. You might just be surprised at what you discover.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Jude said...

Interesting topic! I would like to learn more about how to do it the right way. With your short tip about this topic really helps me a lot. Your new topic about "being usable" is very interesting for me to learn too. All of us have talents that are helpful to each of us. This very important part of us is a great tool in marketing. I like to read more about it. Hope to be informed. I am an artist who would like to be usable to all whom I can help extend my help. This is a great topic! Thanks for sharing with us.

All the best,
Jude Maceren

My Journal (My Blog-Spiritual Paintings):

My Website:

10:09 AM  
Blogger Jeff Fisher LogoMotives said...

Long emails, letters, direct mail pieces and phone voice mail messages do immediately irritate me. I feel such things are wasting my time - and/or perhaps I have a short attention span. I always find myself skimming through long written items trying to find "the point." Why is the person contacting me and what do they want? The odd thing is that I can usually respond to such emails in two or three sentences and be done with the request. Luckily, often receiving many requests for the same info, I can pull one of stock responses from my archives and send it off with little or no alteration.

In her contribution to this topic, EIleen Coale wrote "Long emails are regularly used in marketing, and they can generate significant profits for businesses." Maybe that's why some traditional marketing methods annoy the hell out of me. I will not invest the time in reading them. When I get one of those multiple-page direct mail solicitation letters in the mail it immediately goes in the circular file. An organization doesn't need to provide me with six to eight pages of justification for their need of my money. They'd be much better off just sending me the donor envelope with a short note to "send money" - I'll be making me decision just as quickly. Keep it short, keep it simple, and give me the answer I'm seeking (or tell me immediately what you have to offer, what it's going to do for me, or what you need from me).

"Unusability" of many emails or voice mail messages comes from the fact that the fact the person sending/leaving the message does not provide any idea of who they really are, what they need or the topic to be discussed. "Could you please get back to me" doesn't help me at all. It does put their communication effort at the bottom of my timely response list. I'm not one to play communication volleyball to get to the gist of what a person wants or needs.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

My friend told about his problem and as far as he told his emails were lost on unknown reason. I couldn't help him. Fortunately this morning I have accidentally came upon this tool - view .dbx file. To my great surprise the application assisted him for seconds and he gave me a gift:)

1:28 PM  

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