Besides the telephone, email is one of the most important tools we have for communication at ZURB. At first blush, it may appear that a well-written email has nothing to do with design. However, next to poor visual execution, poorly-written emails are the single biggest factor in bad design projects. It can cause project delays, hinder momentum, and ruin credibility. Make sure the email you send is focused, service oriented and has a clear call to action. When writing an email, make your subject lines sing so people don't brush off the email without ever reading its message. Make a direct call to action— if you're trying to schedule a call or meeting, put the time and date in the subject line. Write your subject line with its recipient in mind: Will he find this relevant? Will she care about opening the email based on this first impression? To make sure you're setting the right tone, try writing the email message first, then adding the subject line just before sending so your thoughts have had time to crystallize. At ZURB we've seen incredible follow-through when we direct clients in the subject line.
When you're ready to tackle the body of the email, start with the conclusion first— let the reader know just what you want him to do. Don't waste time on long paragraphs; bullet points outlining why you need something are just as effective. Follow up your "why statement" with a "because statement" that indebts the reader to action for an total-package approach for connecting with the recipient. Next to the subject, the first couple lines increases the likelihood of action being taken.
An effective message aligns your needs with benefits to the reader, so be direct but also explain "what's in it for him." Think of your email as a marketing campaign and do what brands do to encourage customers to act on their product suggestions: list three benefits the reader gets by listening to your request.
When you're done, step away from the email for a few minutes, then come back and give it a good once-over. Make sure you've kept the length of your email in check, and pare down any paragraph longer than four sentences. Will your message compel its recipient, does it include a call for action? If the email's content is particularly passionate or negative, scrap it and pick up the phone instead.
The last thing to do before you hit send is to remind yourself once the email leaves your computer, it's no longer sacred or secret. As long as you're okay with your email falling into someone else's hands unexpectedly, then you're good to go.
Project management is important to design, but the short-term gains of good communication are vital as well. Although designers may not be known for their critical thinking skills, using these tips to craft excellent email messages lets other business people know you can speak their language.