"Emails are the devil" and how to get responses to your messages

  • by Steve Phillip
  • 13 Jan, 2017

A look at why the way we manage our communication must change. Includes 10 tips to increase the chances of your messages being replied to.

It's time to stop communicating. Let's face it; it's just not working anymore and if you don't believe me, take a look at some of the comments received on my recent blog; ' When Did Replying To Messages Go Out Of Fashion ?'

Take a look at your sent email folder, view some of the LinkedIn messages you've sent recently; what percentage have not been replied to within 24 hours of you pressing send? What was your expectation and did you believe (or was it more a glimmer of hope) that some of these communications would be responded to at all?

My own research, as well as views and comments from my network of LinkedIn connections, indicates that there is a massive sense of frustration out there when it comes to others not replying to messages.

Our Communication Culture Is Spiraling Downward

Something has changed; where once the values of politeness and good manners reigned, it appears that most of us have become so overwhelmed by communication that we simply no longer have time to be courteous.

Fearful that replying to an email will encourage a further response from the sender or a commitment of some kind on the recipient's part, the solution for an increasing number of people is not to reply to messages at all! Often such action is passed off as 'no response = a no'! I don't buy this, and I think it has more to do with people avoiding confrontation;

"if I respond by refusing this request, then my decision might be challenged, and I don't know how to deal with that, so I won't respond!"

It would seem there are other reasons for failing to respond to emails and other forms of messaging. Such behaviour can easily be justified, as one of my clients recently informed me when he said: "

Emails are the devil and I just don't read them

". Perhaps then we should not take a lack of response to our messages so personally? Could it be that we have all become so numb to the plethora of daily communication that we no longer believe we’re ignoring a person, but the email or LinkedIn message itself which is some abstract interruption that we'll look at if and when we have time?

As the volume of communication increases, the risk is that its value decreases and the incentive to reply, therefore, diminishes. If we allow this communication malaise to continue then potentially all communication becomes 'the devil' and is treated with a similar level of disdain.  

What Are The Ramifications Of Communication Malaise?

If the value of communication declines, particularly in the professional business world, we should expect the following outcomes:

·        We become more suspicious of the sender's motives.

·        We become increasingly protective of our time and no longer reply to any messages, except the most urgent (as interpreted by us).

·        We run the risk of offending others and damaging business relationships.

·        We devalue our own personal brand in the eyes of others as they will second guess our reason for not replying.

·        We experience a paralysis where not to respond to messages is less painful than to action them.

·        The time taken to chase people who don't reply to messages (externally and internally) adds significant cost to business, and as a result,           economies begin to suffer.

Why Don't People Respond To Messages?

I've already suggested that the sheer volume of emails and other forms of communication can be so overwhelming to the extent that it can lead to a kind of paralysis, where the thought process might be;

"I'm not sure how I'd like to respond to this email.", "I don't have time to deal with a further response if I decide to reply to this request.", "I don't fully understand what I'm being asked.", "I'm not certain how important this request is, so I'll leave it for now."

There are other reasons why people don't reply to your messages which are out of their control. Tighter spam filters ensure that sometimes your message doesn't even reach the intended recipient, or perhaps they're out of the office and can't reply immediately.

Are we though, experiencing a new phenomenon, one that none of us has adequately prepared for because we didn't see it coming?

Managing Ourselves In The New Communication Era

I began this post by suggesting that we all need to stop communicating and that's true. We need to forget everything we know about communication and usher in a new era.

It's not just about good manners and being courteous. I believe that business leaders need to take responsibility for coaching themselves and their employees to reassess communication with customers, suppliers, partners and colleagues and consider creating a culture which supports the following approaches:

1.      Protecting brand reputation by responding to all communications within an agreed time frame.

2.      Communicate with others using their preferred channels and understanding what these channels are.

3.      Communicate via email or online message when telephone or face-to-face discussion (internal) is not possible.

4.      All emails or online messages should be restricted to a certain length and any actionable requests be limited to one (if more than one action   is required, this should be included in an attachment).

5.      Automated messages (emails/phone) must be set if there is likely to be any period of unavailability in communications.

If people really do buy from people in business, then industry leaders must remove any challenges which run the risk of frustrating, upsetting or annoying those they want to or are doing business with. If businesses don’t change their approach to how communication is handled then, in the long run, it will have an adverse effect on companies, individuals, teams and potentially the economic performance of countries.

As Humans We Are Motivated To Respond To Two Specific Emotions

In this new communication era, if our ability to get our message across is under so much threat, then is it worth having a social media content marketing strategy? Or an email campaign? Or any other form of sales and marketing plan come to that? In short, yes, it is worth it, but how these campaigns are managed needs to change.

If you email me or send me a LinkedIn message or post a tweet, you have seconds, sometimes milliseconds, to get my attention and when you have got my focus, it will be because the opening of your message is relevant and not only relevant but just so and right now.

As human’s we are motivated, often, to respond to two specific emotions; to move toward pleasure or avoid pain. If you have ever attended a marketing course or read a book on this subject, then you will know that your content should deal with the recipient's pain points and the problems and challenges they're facing and tell them how you can solve these problems for them. Research suggests that many executives only check their email inbox once a week or even just once a month and even then, they are conditioned to respond only to those messages they have mentally or physically tagged as important.

Take this a step further and read what one of the respondents to my last blog told me;

"Sales leaders told me that if your email/message/proposal isn't solving something in their top 2 or 3 key priorities right now, then it will be deprioritised. So they may have pain in a certain area, but if it's not acute and other things hurt them more then you will not get their attention".

 We all have different and changing priorities, and we must face the fact that what might be important to us, is not, at that moment in time, important to someone else. It might be that our own values dictate we respond immediately to a communication or message; but do we have the right to expect this from others? What makes our rules right and someone else's wrong? The bottom line is this: we need to understand that in a world where communication from all sides engulfs us, we must be smarter and more considerate when messaging others.

How Do You Increase The Chances Of Your Message Achieving A Response?

There is no simple switch or solution to ensure that your message is received, decoded and then acted upon by those it’s intended for. However, here are 10 tips that will help to increase your chances of success:

1.      Ensure your message adds real value and is highly relevant to the recipient.

2.      If your marketing offers a solution to a problem, make sure it deals with at least one of the recipient's three priority challenges.

3.      Include a short paragraph which explains the benefit to all concerned of responding to your message.

4.      Be bolder and more direct in your request for a response.

5.      If your message requires a reply and you have not received one, forward the same message, include 'fwd:' in the title and then include the      words; '2nd Request' and if necessary '3rd Request'. Where appropriate Bcc other people included in the original communication or their         boss!

6.      Make your message brief and concise, try and keep to no more than three lines per paragraph, use bold or change the font colour to              highlight important points and use bullets to separate key points so they don't get lost in paragraphs of text.

7.      Communicate like an executive; minimise the pleasantries and simply keep to the point. Your message will come across as more assertive        (don't overdo it and become aggressive though!)

8.      Limit the number of actionable requests you make. Make it easier for the recipient to respond now, rather than having to consider how      they'll deal with the several requests contained in your message.

9.      Include a time frame for your required response. Don't just hit the red urgent exclamation mark option, instead let the recipient know, in   the title of your message, when you need a response by.

10.  If your emails are not being responded to, pick up the phone.

Next time you intend to message someone, by email, LinkedIn, text or telephone, and you require a response, just stop for a moment and put yourself in the recipient's shoes and ask; what motivation is there for this person to respond to my message now?

A Thank you

I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who commented and shared my blog from last week and whose suggestions and feedback I have used as the basis for this post - you might recognise yourself in some of the content - thanks again.

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Picture your business, whatever product or service you produce, as a retail shop on a busy high street. You head to the front door, to open-up for the day when suddenly you stop dead in your tracks. As you look out, you see a crowd of people, hundreds in fact and they're all looking in your shop window - some are actually knocking on your door, wanting to come in and check out what you have for sale.

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As the sales director read through my proposal, he came to a list of the clients I had worked with to date; firms like FedEx, the British Red Cross, Toyota GB, Deloitte, Oxford Brookes University and many others. He turned to me and said "There's some pretty big names here. How did you get to work with these firms?" . I replied with a slight smile and one word, "LinkedIn" .

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by Steve Phillip 12 Jun, 2017

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by Steve Phillip 29 May, 2017
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by Steve Phillip 15 May, 2017
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by Steve Phillip 02 May, 2017

If you’re reading this post, the chances are you’re a parent, with a child or children who attend school and if you’re not, then you probably know someone who is. If you are a teacher then you're probably wondering why I'm providing parents with advice about how to criticise you? If so, then please read on and be reassured.

Rarely, these days, does a week go by, when we don’t hear coverage on the news about cases of online bullying. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this phenomenon, tagged as ‘cyberbullying’, is mainly aimed at children, such as the tragic story of 14 year old Megan Evans , from Millford Haven, who, in February 2017, was driven to take her own life, following a consistent campaign of cyber-bullying on the social media site Snapchat.

Such stories are particularly heart breaking when they involve children. Equally concerning though is the increase with which teachers are on the receiving end of similar bullying and abuse and often from the parents of the children they teach.

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This week, the media has emphasised the problem of inappropriate online posts by singling out some of the top web and social media sites for failing to do enough to prevent illegal and hateful content being shared online.

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