Timing is everything for electronic messaging and sometimes it goes to the back burner.
The Subject, Context, and Kiss are important.
Needless to say, if you need a reply ASAP, you're better off calling. Similarly, be conscientious about the recipient who may be swamped under work or -- even worse -- on vacation? In those instances, follow-ups aren't going to be effective, regardless of how flawlessly crafted.
Use a detailed subject line. However, when checking in on something, make it a goal to use as specific of a subject as possible. That means skipping those fallback standards like "Checking in" and instead writing "Feedback needed on quarterly sales report today!." Explain what you need. Think about the last time you drafted a quick message that said something like, "Hey, just checking in on this!" With each follow-up email remember to reiterate a purpose. What exactly is needed from this person? The more content, the better.
Provide context and content. In a similar vein, the email must contain enough meat and potatoes for that person to take action. Where's the beef? Do not expect them to scroll for the information. This doesn't need to be anything overly complex or exhaustive -- as a matter of fact, you want to keep things somewhat concise. But ensure that you're offering enough information for your recipient to get a brief reminder of what's going on. For example, your message could look something like, "I'm still waiting on your feedback on this quarterly sales report. We need to have this completed now, and I'd especially like your input on the stats included on page four. Thanks!"
KISS Keep it short, and sweet, but still offer more than enough information to be in the loop and stressing action. Offer an out, no matter how much elbow grease you put into crafting the perfect message, there are some people you'll just never hear back from. It's frustrating -- but it happens. It's for this reason that you need to offer an out by explaining your next steps to the recipient. What will you do if you don't receive a response by a deadline? "If I don't receive any notes from you by 4 p.m. on Today, I'll move forward with the report as is."
Yes, this might seem a little direct, particularly if you're used to sending overly polite, "I know you're super busy, but ..." messages out of fear of rocking the boat. But, if you're really aiming to get a response, you're going to need to be a little firmer.
We all have to follow up on things. And, there's no denying that being completely ignored is obnoxious and disheartening. It is to shift the blame to that unreliable recipient, don't forget to turn the spotlight on yourself and the email. Make sure you use these five tips, and you're sure to increase your chances of a reply.