When I was 13, I had to write 150 thank you notes. It took me about two days, and as arduous a task it was, it taught me a valuable lesson: how to write a short, meaningful note efficiently. Even at that age, I remember getting sterile, pre-printed thank you notes from birthdays and thinking, “what a waste of paper,” and I was determined not to have someone think that of me.
I had to write another 150 thank you notes when I got married. But, after years of practice with pen-pals, college and grad school admissions, cover letters, and, of course, emails, I was able to knock them out in eight hours — every note handwritten and personalized with the person’s name, gift, gratitude, and intention.
Because here’s the secret, the one big secret behind every letter, email, and postcard ever sent:
Their only purpose is to deliver value.
For my wedding guests, the value was that feeling of deep appreciation, accomplished by recognizing their gift, thanking them, and telling them what impact it would have on our lives.
For email, what is considered “valuable” to a reader can vary wildly.
Email from companies to clients convey value in terms of information: either bargain values, the reader’s current status as a customer, or insider news about the business, products, or services.
For professional (B2B) emails, you convey value by initiating a conversation that will get your reader to see how connecting with you is a mutually beneficial relationship, leading inevitably to a transformative transaction.
For personal emails, the value ties into emotion: familial news, asking for a favor, excitement at something new, or regret at something lost. An email is a chance for a connection, or it’s the notice that someone’s connection has been shut down.
Professional personal emails, such as author newsletters, are a delicate balance between being an influencer and being a billboard. It’s a sprinkle of your personality, thoughts, and activities, with a targeted view of what your reader wants to know. For example, showcasing the struggle of writing your current book with the intent of showing your ambitious newbie writers that “the struggle is real” is fine as long as you let them know that it’s still on track to come out on a specific day.
And for work emails, the value is purely informational and easily actionable. Concise and clear is the only way to go.
Remember: Good emails get engagement (GEGE). If you want your emails read, you must understand what makes them worth reading.