How To Get Your Emails Read

Last night I did my annual "fireside chat" with the InSITE Fellows followed by beers at a local bar. This has become a tradition and one that I enjoy very much. We ended up at Amity Hall where we drank beer, hung out, watched the Knicks do a late game fade against Orlando, and talked a bit of shop. Nishta asked me how to get to her email read. We had some fun with that and turned it into an experiment (yes, she automatically got into my priority inbox) and then a test. I'll let her tell the story:

I men­tioned some­thing and he said, “send me an email”. I instan­ta­neously and quite uncon­sciously replied, “oh come on, you don’t check your emails.” And he said, “I do”. After 2 mins of back and forth, he took out his [Android] and showed me his inbox — sorry, his pri­or­ity inbox. He said, “see that email, now thats a nice sub­ject, I will check it.” “But what if my email gets stuck in your reg­u­lar inbox?” was my imme­di­ate ques­tion? “Then, noth­ing can hap­pen. So you need to at least make it to my pri­or­ity inbox, can you?” “I will find a sub­ject inter­est­ing enough for you then” He smiled and said, “lets try”. I did and both of my emails even­tu­ally showed in his pri­oir­ity inbox few mins later!

She's right. First you need to get into my priority inbox. I am not entirely sure how you do that but Nishta and I have never exchanged emails before and she got into it on the first try.

But second and way more important, you need to get me to open your email. Subject line matters! Use a name I am familiar with in your subject line. Or something else that will get my attention. Here are six subject lines from yesterday, along wtih comments.

"Had lunch with Alexander Ljung" – that works. Alex is the founder of our portfolio company Soundcloud

"Two things" – that doesn't work. Two things is worse than one thing. And not descriptive.

"Pleasure speaking with you" – that doesn't work. I speak to so many people ever day. Not descriptive.

"Twitter board date change" – that double works. Portfolio company name plus very descriptive.

"I know you are a busy man" – that doesn't work. Not descriptive.

"ECB violation" – sadly that works. but please don't send me emails with that subject line.

The point is this. I scan all my mail many times a day and open and reply to all of it that I can. Senders matter. Subjects matter.

And there is mail that gets opened that doesn't get replied to. If the message is super long or the ask is not obvious, I will just sigh and move on. So be brief and specific with the message and the ask.

I like to reply to your emails. But I get so many of them. Make your emails distinctive and easy for me to reply to. Let's start a conversation and a relationship. Like I did with Nishta last night. She's getting her emails replied to now.