If you hate template email replies

In the Unpopular podcast episode one with Cut A Rug DJ, Aaron Duncan, we covered saved replies and what to do if you are swamped by email but hate impersonal emails.

Aaron’s got the same email problem as everyone: too many emails, not enough time. He’s also not a fan of the impersonal template emails. Here’s two ideas for that problem.

They’re not all automatic, but more semi-automatic. Objected oriented emailing and, asking better questions in your forms.

Object oriented emailing

A popular computer coding/programming method is to identify bits of code that have uses in multiple programs and you break that out into it’s own object, and then call on it when you need it. It saves the programmer re-writing that same code every time, or worse, copy-pasting it, and if that code needs to be updated you can update it once and all of the programs referencing it are automatically updated.

Linking out of your emails to your blog

So I like applying this technique to emailing. If I’m asked a question often, I’ll answer the problem in a blog post and every time I’m asked that question I’ll reply “I wrote about that topic recently on my blog, here’s the link!”

An added bonus to this is that you’re answering real actual questions from clients and you’re writing about content that matters to your target market, and it’s all public on your website for Google (read: SEO) and website visitors to consume.

Breaking up your emails

Another application of this ideology is to reduce the size of your emails.

I find that big long wordy emails are harder to read and on the other side, are often ignored or not replied to. There’s no doubt that all of the contents of the emails are important and it would be remiss of you to not share that information, but can we break out sections of those emails, expand on them on your website and link to it in emails?

An example of a long email might be:

“Thanks for your enquiry, I’m available to be your service provider. My fee is $10,000 and it includes services a, b, c and d, except on Sundays when the fee is $20,000 and if it’s a public holiday then there’s a 10% increase on fees. My fee also includes all insurances but not travel. My travel fees are based on made up numbers I have entered into a spreadsheet and then I add 4% for a credit card surcharge.”

And that same email, shortened:

“Thanks for your enquiry, I’m available to be your service provider. My fee starts at $2000 but website.com/fees covers the whole schedule.”

One email loses me, the other keeps me interested and answers the main question being asked “are you available”.

These break-out pages can be publicly available in your website menu system, or it’s more likely that they’re private pages only accessible if you know the URL.

These breakout pages are also not PDFs, because PDFs aren’t mobile responsive and they’re harder to update than pages on your CMS.

Asking better questions

Another method to help your email triage is to ask better questions, so that when they email comes into your inbox it comes pre-loaded with actionable info. Opposed to the regular email that might require you to ask more questions before you can answer correctly.

Asking better questions is going to rest heavily on you having a pre-designed customer journey. So if you haven’t created a customer journey, an ideal path for your customers to walk down, then that’s got to come before this.

In contact forms

Is every field in your contact form serving a purpose, asking a question that makes

  1. Your future communication better, or,
  2. The form filler feel confident that you’re worth doing business with?

Look over every question and ask if the form would still work if that question wasn’t there, if it would, drop it.

Think about how the common inquiry goes. Does the initial inquiry come in and you have to reply asking for the date they’re inquiring about? Do you ask for their last name when you don’t actually use it? Could your automations work better if you asked for a phone number? Does a subject or message field go unused because all of the questions are sufficiently asked in other fields?

Make your contact form work it’s ass off for you, AND for your client. That’s wy we have robots, to make life easier.

In emails or in solicitations for emails

When emailing clients, or if you’re soliciting for someone to email you, perhaps on the website or on social media, are you soliciting with a call to action?

The better question is, are you saying “Email me” or are you asking for them to send you their top ten songs they want played at the event in an email?

End every email with a call to action so when it’s replied to it has a purpose and you can triage it quickly.

The goal

I know this article doesn’t cover email automation, we’re getting there soon, but emailing, like letter writing, should always have a personal aspect to it if you’re running an unpopular business, so the art of actually writing emails might never be automated but we can certainly lubricate the process.

Image Credits: Florian Klauer.