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Writing effective emails is a valuable skill that will serve you well throughout your entire career
Emails have become our primary way of communication. Even Lloyds of London, a traditional institution with a face to face business culture, is focused on modernization. The use of electronic messaging is meant to increase efficiency and decrease costs.
But is spending hours writing an email that will go unread efficient? Are underwriters able to seize on profitable opportunities, or are they overwhelmed deciphering burdensome emails? What about clients who perceive insurance as complicated and cumbersome? Are we making it easy for them to understand our message?
The challenge, for all of us, becomes sifting through 200+ emails a day. Make your emails stand out by picking up a few tips for creating eye-catching messages that will get read!
The five tips to writing effective emails
Here are five easy tips to help you write eye-catching emails that your recipients will read:
1. Know your audience
In the insurance industry, communication flows from the insurance company to the broker and then to the client. Though indirectly, we typically engage in three-way communication. Be conscious of the ultimate recipient of your emails, as it may not necessarily be whom you name as the recipient. This awareness will help you customize the message to your final audience.
If you know the recipient, try to mirror the tone of the reader. People speak and write the way they like to be written to. Some like smiley faces, some don’t like them :). Don’t be afraid to drop the weird formalities like, “please see attached” as no one speaks like that in real life. Try to type as you would speak to that person.
If you don’t know the recipient, using a friendly, warm conversational tone will make your email more comfortable to read. Also, think about your relationship with the recipient in the long term. You will do business with the email recipient again and again in the future. A warm, friendly tone will be better received and can open the door to more business opportunities.
2. Start with a Grabber
A grabber is essentially what your email is about, a summary of what’s to come. Synthesizing your email into one opening sentence will not only grab the readers’ attention but also help you keep your email to point.
Ask yourself, why should the recipient be interested in opening and reading your email? What is in it for them and why should they take time from their busy day to read it.
3. Write short paragraphs
We live in a world where we all are overwhelmed with information. Long text is intimidating, especially when it relates to insurance. Make your emails easy to read by keeping your paragraphs to two or three sentences.
White space between text is soothing for the eyes, making emails more natural to read. One sentence paragraphs look weird, so switch it up between two and five sentences per paragraph. The mix of shorter and longer sections combined with the white space will have an eye-catching effect!
4. Organize your email
Help your audience follow your email by using different organizational techniques.
The use of subheadings creates structure and helps the brain gobble and digest the bites of information. Keep the subtitles short and to the point to create an outline of your most important points.
Use bullet points where appropriate to summarize key points. A good example is when communicating steps in an action plan such as renewal timeline and plan, specific details about a risk, or explanations such as why insurance rates are on the rise.
Use bold text or italics to highlight important information. Most of us scan documents before picking and choosing what to read. Bold text makes it easy to find the sections on which to focus.
Do not overdo the highlighting because it will lose its effect. It’s like crying wolf! What’s appropriate? Once per subheading or once every 3-4 paragraphs.
5. End with a specific positive call to action
As you are wrapping up your email, go back to the opening sentence of your email where you established your purpose. What is the next step in achieving your objective? An effective way to end an email is by stating a timeline for your subsequent interaction or conveying your expectations. Examples: “I will call you this afternoon to review my email.” “Please confirm by the end of the day tomorrow if you will be providing a quote.” “I will send you a calendar invitation for a renewal meeting for next Thursday.” “Please call me back when you have reviewed the information contained on this email”
Throughout my career, I have written many ineffective emails. Some of these emails have resulted in losing clients, missing placement opportunities, or creating frustration. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way on what to avoid:
1. Do not bury the bodies
We are talking about insurance! It’s inevitable to be dealing with bad news. Issues arise on renewals and placement opportunities for both brokers and underwriters.
Do not bury the bodies or hide information. It’s best to be out front and honest with the situation or challenges and deliver the problematic message head-on.
Try to take this as an opportunity to control the message, highlight the positives, and build trust. Though, be careful to stick to the necessary and refrain from providing unnecessary details that will distract from the issue discussed.
2. Do not use acronyms or jargon
CGL, D&O, GRC, EPL, PI…the list goes on forever… Why do we expect clients to understand abbreviations that have taken us years to learn? Remember, this is your area of expertise, not your client’s. This goes back to knowing your audience and who will ultimately read your email. Between colleagues or business partners with whom you have a rapport, the use of acronyms and jargon is acceptable. Beyond that, it is best to avoid it.
3. Always run a spell check.
You get brownie points for using grammarly.com! Grammarly is a program that checks not only for spelling but for message effectiveness. Grammarly will check for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word choice. It also checks for hedging words such as “just” or “maybe,” which are no-nos in most business communication and can make you sound wishy-washy.
So often we forget how important emails are. We send texts and emails every day to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues and don’t give it much thought; however, effective communication can make or break success in the business world. Sometimes, our emails are the only way we’ve communicated with certain clients or colleagues. Who you are to that person is directly related to how to type, so putting effort into your emails should be a top priority! Practice crafting your next email with these tips in mind- the more thought you put on an initial email, the less you’ll spend clarifying yourself!
Learn more about the role of a broker: What is a broker?