Three ways to turn client email into new business value

client email

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

A few weeks ago, a disgruntled online biz owner shared his frustrations with me. As a German, he wanted to expand his services to the American market and faced difficulties dealing with US clients via email. He blamed “cultural differences,” I told him to stop crying and ordered him to get better at “reading” emails. Not reading emails like a toddler reads, but understanding the nuances between the lines and realizing the true intent and needs of the client’s message.

Today, I want to reveal my top three tips that will help you turn client email into new business value.  No Jedi Academy training required.

1) Never ‘react’ to an email

I love writing sci-fi stories and selling them on Amazon. For the past three books, I’ve hired a Canadian editor who specializes in sci-fantasy editing. Our working relationship has been fruitful. She’s fast, effective, and knows the differences between firing modes on futuristic assault rifles. Double-whammo.

But when I received the edits of my newest manuscript and proofread it, I found many mistakes … up to five per chapter, which made me question the thoroughness of her work.

I confronted her, showcasing the many mistakes I had found. She replied using curse words and exclamation marks, telling me how the file was corrupted and how she was going to spend an entire holiday weekend to fix it. She apologized but I felt anger burning up my veins. I had aimed for a tight publishing schedule which she agreed on. Now the work was postponed at least two more weeks.

Roar.

I wanted to write a mail with burning fingers and tell her how disappointed I was. My brain made up stories about how she didn’t respect my time and money. But then I held still and read her email again. And again. The unusual amount of exclamation marks and cursing of her message let me realize she was distraught. She deeply cared about her work and was probably disappointed about her file errors.

So instead of going all green Hulk SMASH on her, I told her to relax and enjoy the Easter weekend. I told her to focus on the re-edits with a rejuvenated mind. She called me an ‘angel’ and thanked me for understanding. Our professional relationship improved with one little empathetic email.

Lesson: Never react from an emotionally compromised state. Re-read your client’s email and find a constructive way to deal with any problem. The short-term joy of penning a self-righteous mail will ALWAYS hurt you in the long-term.

2) When your client doesn’t reply, it’s likely your fault

During my online creative career, I’d received various requests from potential clients RAVING about my work. Those soon-to-be-clients often flooded me with compliments, telling me how “colorful and edgy” my drawings looked and how they’d love working with me. My passion leveled up to over 9000!

Well, when I wrote back and showcased my rates and working style, the passion died as no answer returned. Silence echoed through my inbox.

I would wait for days, sometimes up to two weeks while wondering what had happened. Even email updates wouldn’t elicit an answer, so I asked a friend in online marketing. He told me the potential client was probably confused and unsure. He told me to approach the client and eliminate worries, so I wrote:

Hey (client name),

Tell me more about your budget and what works best for you. If there’s something unclear, feel free to ask me. I’m a pretty approachable guy 🙂

Mars

Simplistic, but effective. A short statement like the one above almost always triggered an answer. The client would usually reply within 24 hours and say, “Yeah, sorry, I don’t have the budget for that. Could we just do this X or that Y?”

Or they’d say they didn’t understand my working procedure and waited for me to send the first samples of the work.

A simple reassuring mail was all it took to revive a zombie deal.

Why?

We don’t like to reject people. It feels impolite and embarrassing. So when we’re dealt with an email that confuses us or states different ideas, it’s easy to just stop replying instead of saying “I don’t agree” or “I can’t do that”, especially if we don’t know the person on the other side of the computer. When you, the service provider, offer assistance and clarification, the (potential) client knows they’re in safe hands. They feel comfortable to re-engage.

3) Matching your tone to your client

Peak performance coach Tony Robbins once said in order to build rapport, you should match your attitude to your partner. So when you’re speaking to a calm person who talks in a soothing voice and you flail your arms while babbling words at the speed of bullets, disconnection happen. You’re literally riding on a different wavelength.

Back in the dark ages of 2009, I used to reply to all commission requests in the same way, regardless of the writing style of the client. Urgh. Of course, that behavior resulted in hit-and-miss responses. You could say I failed to accommodate my clients’ needs.

Thankfully, after endless online marketing Hipster-cafe meet-ups with my biz friends, I learned. I adapted to my environment like the xenomorph from Aliens.

Now, I always analyze the writing style of my requests. When the client is more inclined to use curse words and wild language, I match that in my replies. If the client uses formal language, my answers become more sophisticated. Some people call that behavior ‘selling out’, but as long as my moral values are not compromised, I can express a wide range of communication styles.

We talk differently to children, spouses, and parents. So why wouldn’t I talk differently to a comic-geek than to a business lawyer even though they both request my artistic services? It’s all about matching your tone.

Conclusion
One of the best online business skills is to learn ‘reading’ your clients’ emails. Not reading in the traditional sense, but seeing the nuances between the lines, finding the true intent and crafting a reply that matches your client email’s tone. It’s an art, but if you follow the 3 tips from above, you’re closer to becoming a ‘Reply Picasso’.

What’s your number one tip on extracting knowledge from your client emails?

 

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at http://www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian
Original illustration by the author.

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  • Jennifer Porter

    Thank you Mars! What a great post! I am in sales and chair a non profit, when your write many emails it’s tempting to be on automatic pilot. This was a reminder as to why that is not an effective strategy.

  • Thanks, Jennifer. I nowadays always try to be conscious while penning emails. Thankfully, the more you use the deliberate approach, the better you become at it, which means you can apply it to many emails.

  • Wael Tinawi

    Mr. Dorian,

    Thank you for the great article, but i have a question for you. You mentioned that if your potential customer writes in an informal language, we should match his/her style in writing? Do you think this approach will bring the image down of the company? in other words, if you walk in to a five star hotel, and the receptionist use slang language such as Yeah, yep, homey etc., even if you talking to her in slang language way. Do not you think we should impress customers with professionalism that create value to our products and the company in general?

    I appreciate your time and input. Looking forward for your reply.

    Thank you!

    Wael Tinawi

  • Hey Wael, I’ve written the post of a freelancer/small business owner which incorporates a different approach.
    If you work for a (big) company and you represent a brand, you should act in a more official matter in accordance to your company culture. So if you deal with a customer who uses slang and curse words, you can use a more casual formal approach without the need of slang and curse words. My aunt used to own a small hotel in Mexico, and she treated the easy going types more casually and the business people more formal while still containing her core personality.

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