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Subject Lines On Email Messages Are Like Headlines On Ads

Written by Bill Koelzer on Tuesday, 13 April 2010 7:00 pm
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Let's say that you are a Realtor. You and Fred, the client, have sent each other more than thirty emails back and forth, and now the client is on the phone urgently asking you to look up that one particular email that he CCd you on where Joe Johnson, the landscaper, left his vacation cabin's fax number.

Fred needs to fax Joe something legal ASAP about fixing the latest of the continuing lawn sprinkler problems on the new house that Fred bought some months ago through you.

You put Fred on speakerphone, and race through your inbox, sent and deleted files. There are so many emails there that you've gotten from and sent to Fred. Worse yet, they all say, "From Janie RealtorLady," which is you. How can you possibly find the particular one he wants you to find in the next few minutes?

Sure, you can find that single email he wants by going to Edit, then Find, then Message, then Look In, then choose From, and then LOOK IN MESSAGE, and then enter the word "Johnson." But you might have a dozen messages containing the word Joe Johnson, since Joe Johnson himself sometimes uses that name in his own business signature on HIS emails.

Yes, you can isolate messages in Outlook and Outlook Express by what date they were sent, but what if you don't remember when that particular message was sent?

And Joe's still on the phone waiting while you, frustrated, make excuses and sweat bullets.

Well, you could have found that email easily if you (and the client) had known the rule that most early people on the Internet routinely observed, which is this: CHANGE YOUR SUBJECT LINE with each new email!

See, if somewhere along the line, you'd have labeled the email topic he wants you to find now as "sprinklers Johnson Cabin #s" or "Joe's input and cabin phone number re: sprinkler problem" you'd have already found the email he seeks, just by scanning only the subject lines of the emails.

You could have done this subject line scanning even faster if you'd have first gone to any email from Fred, and directly above it in your email client, have clicked on From. After you had done that, all the emails that are from Fred would have appeared in one place in your email preview pane. You could far more quickly scan these since they're all the ones from Fred.

What about when you get and send a volley of emails between you and someone, all on the same subject? We do this all the time with our friends when we gossip with them, and sometimes with clients instead of Instant Messaging (IM) them.

C'mon, use your noggin. If you need to email back and forth about the same subject, there must be some element in each succeeding email that clarifies something earlier. Just notice what that element is and add THAT to the forefront of the subject line on the email.

In the case of Fred's missing email, when you answered him back, that email's subject line might have said: CabinContact#s/Johnson/BackPatioDrain/Sprinkler Problem. See, it's almost like the Dewey Decimal System , using words instead of digits, and for email subjects instead of books, right?

Think of it as adding a subfolder to a subfolder … at least with "slugging " each email's subject line with a newly added "slug," your eye can travel quickly down the preview pane of emails listed on your screen and find in seconds what otherwise might take minutes. (Time is money, and all that, right?)

There are also programs you can buy that work with Outlook and let you find stuff by key words in 3-4 seconds. The best one is NeoFind .

Okay, let's review what we have learned today:

    1. Always write a new, explanatory, specific, logical slug in your email subject line.

    2. Never send an email back to someone with it having the identical subject line as when you got it.

Do this forever and watch how quickly your clients and friends catch on and begin making their lives, and those of their friends and clients, much easier, by doing the same thing as you have taught them to do. Remember, you should always RE-slug your emails!

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