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Linked In member Alan started a good discussion in the Small Business Accelerator group with the question “What happened to the salutation in emails?” That is a closed group, so you can only see the discussion if you are a group member.
It is an intriguing topic and the question received many varied and interesting replies. I thought it would make a good subject for a blog post, here is my response, I also recorded it as a podcast, just click on the player below to listen.
As a general rule, I use “Hello” and the recipient’s name for two reasons. One, very few people use Hello, the default seems to be Hi which as a non-North American for most of my life I find too informal for business use. I like to be outside the herd. I do not have an objection to Hi on emails sent to me, but would prefer the sender showed some originality if the correspondence becomes frequent.
Secondly, as a Boomer generation male I am cautious about addressing younger females as “Dear”. I do use Dear, when appropriate and will sometimes incorporate the recipient’s name into a compliment as a salutation if it works. Generally only in follow-up emails in a series on a related subject.
Time related salutations are awkward, we have no way of knowing when our emails will be opened and many of us are communicating across time zones. Your Good Morning might seem incongruous when I am checking my emails late at night. “Good Day” sounds antiquated.
“Greetings” before a name is an alternative I occasionally use for Hello.
Emails received with no salutation do not give me a good first impression and are more likely to be deleted unread. I rarely send a salutation-less email and only if I want to make a point or provide a one or two-word response.
The salutation “Dear” and my first name in emails from people with whom I have had no prior contact assumes a familiar relationship status. In the pre-email days, the equivalent salutation in a letter would be one of Dear Sir / Madam, or Dear Mr. Mrs. Miss, and surname / last name.
I accept that my last comment is due to my generational and educational biases and that society has evolved with less formal rules. However, we all have biases, so a marketer who ignores a generation’s biases in email correspondence is going to experience a lower response rate than one who does recognise them. Even if the recipients themselves cannot identify which words or omissions are triggering the negative effect.
An inappropriate, disrespectful or offensive salutation can create a negative effect in the receivers mind before he or she has read the content. Sandwich that between a weak subject line and an ineffective opening sentence and you have an email that is not going to be read or get action.
Groups of people have biases, they could be generational, educational, religious, ethnic, cultural, occupational, recreational, geographical or any of a range of distinctions.
It’s impossible to please all the people all the time, but exercising care with salutations in emails is just one way we can make our communication more effective.
How do you prefer to be addressed in emails, what is your preferred salutation in those you send? Are they the same or do you use different salutations for different contacts?
Leave a comment.
Wishing you success.