How to Write Professional Emails That Work
Email is often thought of like a business’ secret weapon, fired off covertly straight into your targets’ inboxes — loaded with everything and anything you want to communicate. But the truth is rarely that easy.
Business email is undoubtedly a highly valuable weapon in your marketing, sales, or comms arsenal — now more than ever. But think about how many hit your inbox each week. Do you read them all? Half? Do you read the ones you open all the way through?
The fact is, we’re bombarded by emails from businesses all the time. Some are genuinely great. Some are interesting. But many of them just have us looking for that “unsubscribe” link.
So now you’re probably wondering how to write a professional email the right way? How do you break through the email apathy barrier and get yours opened, read, and grabbing clicks — and more sales? Let’s find out.
Go Pro with Your Email Address
One of the most vital ingredients for sending successful business emails is a professional email address. It helps define your credibility straight away. That’s why you need to forget about sending business emails through personal accounts, such as your Gmail or Hotmail.
You need a professional email address that actually has your business name included. A good professional email address example would be something like email@example.com. If it’s also using the same domain name as your website i.e. www.topbusiness.com, it will create a direct connection to the rest of your online presence.
Customers are far more likely to choose and trust your business if it looks professional across all its online communications. It shows you’ve invested in your digital presence, brand, and reputation.
Set Your Goals
Before you even start, think very carefully about why you’re sending the email. What do you want the email to achieve? What do you want the reader to do? Make sure you’re clear on this, and that your copy doesn’t lose focus. Know the purpose of your email:
- Sign up?
Sorting Subject Lines
Probably the most important part of an email isn’t in the email itself. It’s actually the subject line.
Whether an email is opened or not nearly always comes down to how good (or bad) the subject line is. So they need careful attention. You might have written an email that would’ve made Shakespeare weep with joy, but what was the point if no one opened it?
General tips around professional email subject lines:
- Stay short: shorter subject lines usually have better open rates, so try and keep them to around 40 characters. Once you go too far over that they will get cut off anyway.
- Stay focused: stick to the most important thing or subject. You just need a hook, not the whole story. The subject line is the first step on a wider journey.
- Stay honest: steer clear of exaggerated claims just to get your email opened. Customers will soon abandon ship once they see you can’t back your claims up — and they won’t be back.
Examples of good and bad professional email subject lines:
- Good: “Be first to a .INC domain”
- Too long: “With our early access program, you can be first to a .INC domain”
- Too exaggerated: “A .INC domain just for you.”
Do you have a great offer? Are you giving away something for free? Is there something genuinely interesting about what you’re trying to communicate? Make sure that comes through in your subject line in a short, punchy, but still truthful way.
Don’t Forget Preview Text
It’s often forgotten, but if you’re sending a pro marketing or business email, you might also need some preview text — which sits under the subject line.
When writing these, make sure you’re moving things along. Don’t simply repeat the subject line information again. Reinforce it, but add more context and detail. Don’t write an essay, either. Keep to 50–130 characters.
Example of a subject line and preview line:
- Subject line: “Be first to register a .INC domain”
- Preview: “Beat the competition through our .INC early access program”
Writing the Actual Email
Emails for business and marketing purposes now come in all shapes and sizes. There are even professional email templates with bespoke layouts available from specialists like Campaign Monitor and Mailchimp. But if you’re planning on keeping things more simple and composing your own, the golden rule is ‘Keep things as short as you can’.
It’s perfectly normal to want to flex those creative writing muscles, but remember that people are busy. They have meetings, reports, calls, and probably a million other emails to read. They want information fast. You may have a ton of things you want to tell them, but they probably don’t want to read about them all in one go.
So, even if you’re not working with a professionally designed business email template, you still need to think about creating the most professional email format you can. Try and keep things to two paragraphs, or use bullet points or sub-headings to break copy up. Seconds count, so make the copy as easy to scan and digest as possible.
Remember That It’s a Journey
Another way to keep things short is to plan your user’s journey. Think about your business email comms as a story (starting with the subject line). It’s all too easy to consider the email itself as the final destination. But this is rarely the case.
In fact, the final part of the story will usually be the website or landing page you want the reader to click through to. That’s where you really convert clicks into customers. So make sure you’ve considered where your readers will end up. That is the place for all those extra benefits you’re itching to tell them — leaving your email short and sharp.
It’s Not All About You
It’s always very tempting to simply talk about ourselves (i.e. our businesses) when starting an email. How many times have you read a business email that started with “Here at (company name), we know…” or “We understand your need for…”? Many, many times, right?
Remember that the readers are interested in themselves more than you. They want to know what you can do for them, and quickly. So try to avoid the kind of cliches outlined above. Talk more directly to the customer. Tell them what they will get, what the benefits for them are.
Cutting down on the waffle also means you can get to the point quicker. If you have an offer, white paper, or event you’re emailing about, don’t wait until the very end to mention it. Stay focused and always remember exactly why you’re emailing.
When It’s Time to Get Personal
Most of what we’ve covered so far has focused on more standard business marketing and sales comms, but you may also need to know how to write a business email that opens a deeper and more personal dialogue with individual clients or contacts.
If this need should arise, remember that many of the same rules still apply. Whoever you’re sending your email to, they’re probably busy. You may not want to dive straight into an offer or product benefit with your opening line with these types of email, but you should still avoid cliches and needless sentiment.
Try to connect with the reader on a more personal or surprising level. “Hi (first name)” is probably the best salutation for business emails, but you’ll need to think beyond that.
I don’t mean ask how their wife or husband is. I mean think about ways you can make a stronger connection from your opening line. Have they recently done a blog, article, or talk? Have you actually met before?
- Good: “We recently met at…”
- Good: “I loved your Ted talk on…”
- Bad: “My name is blah blah and I’m the vice president of blah blah…”
Professional email greetings and intro lines don’t have to be boring. Doing a bit of homework on your target also shows them you’re more serious about their business. It’s a simple tactic, but it can work well within more one-to-one business email formats if you make the effort.
The All-Important Call to Action
The success or failure of your email is primarily based on results, and your call to action (CTA) is the gateway to those results. Make it prominent and simple. Don’t make the reader have to stop and think about what you’re asking. Everything you’ve done so far with your email will be geared up to get that click, so don’t fall at the last hurdle:
Examples of high-performing CTA’s for more standard marketing and sales emails include:
- Start my free trial
- Register now
- Save my seat
- Buy now
- Set my reminder
If you’re trying to arrange a call or meeting with a prospective new client, you’ll obviously need to think beyond a simple button or hyperlink. A good tactic is to offer them different day/time options. It gives them the power of choice, and cuts down considerable diary coordination hassles later:
“Which of the following works best for you next week?
- Monday 2–4 pm
- Tuesday 10–12 pm
- Wednesday 3–5 pm
Or please feel free to suggest a time and I’m sure I can work around you”
Do You Have a Signature?
Last but by no means least, don’t forget to set up a professional-looking email signature. It may sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t understand how to sign off a professional email with a proper signature — over and above simply stating your name.
Here’s a typical professional email signature example:
Title and company
Giving this level of detail helps clarify who you are without needed to explain. It also helps validate your professional credentials. A Logo especially adds a nice extra element of credibility. Check out our free logo maker if you don’t yet have one.
Make It All Count
So, as we’ve seen, knowing how to write a business email can cover a number of areas: from subject line to CTA and beyond.
Remember that the best examples of professional email are nearly always short and sweet, and you’re competing for your target’s attention against many other companies and contacts. So make your emails count, and also make sure you have the right email address and services for your business too.