Have you ever noticed that the simplest-looking things often turn out to have more going on below the surface than we might imagine at first glance? I encountered a great example of that today, which led me to create this article on how to write a thank you email.
No matter how long I spend writing for this blog, there’s always something new to write about, and this is a subject I rarely thought about before, because I mistakenly assumed that the topic was too simple to write much about (have you ever done that?)
It all started with a question from one of my LinkedIn group members:
“When somebody buys your photos online, and you have his/her email, do you send a ‘thank you’ email? I’m afraid some customers could feel it’s aggressive marketing…”
My first reaction was, “how could a thank you email ever be seen as aggressive marketing by its recipient? It’s a thank you note…”
After all, I’ve never had anyone question my motives for saying “thank you” in person; not openly, at any rate.
But the question really got me thinking, and took me on quite a journey. Pull up a seat and come with me…
Thank You – Here’s Some More Marketing!
What if business owners somehow lost their minds and were to start sending marketing messages disguised as thank you emails? What then?
I expect the vast majority of people would simply take the message as a simple automated thank you note, and just ignore the marketing aspect of it.
Others would, no doubt, delete the email…
Some might start hunting for the unsubscribe link…
A few might even complain to the company about the mixed messages they’re sending out…
Whichever of those were to happen, the offending business probably wouldn’t lose too many customers as a result of this basic mistake – at least not at first.
But then I realized that’s not the main point.
The big loss would be in the form of intangibles, such as:
- Brand authority…
- The human factor…
The trouble is, the process is somewhat like erosion. No one notices for a long time until one day when their house tumbles off a cliff into the ocean.
Regardless of any long-term ill-effects, it’s unlikely such a business would generate any good will or positive reactions from bad thank you emails, and the only word of mouth marketing they’d generate would be the negative kind – perhaps something like:
“Hey, this business loves to exploit its customers by sending out a thank you email with more marketing in it than genuine thanks…”
After more thought, I came to two obvious conclusions:
- The purpose of a thank you email is very simple – to say “thank you” and foster a positive and productive relationship with the customer.
- And, perhaps there’s a recipe for creating a “thank you” email that can act as “good” marketing for your business without sounding like marketing.
Has The Thank You Email Gone Out Of Fashion?
For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s anywhere near enough “thanking” going on in business these days. I mean, think about it – when was the last time a business really thanked you for being a customer of theirs instead of their competition?
It’s just a small part of what marketing expert Jay Baer calls “Youtility“, which he talks about in his latest (awesome) book, for example, but it is a powerful and highly effective means of communication in this modern-day hyper-fast world we live in, where politeness seems to be going out of fashion.
How To Write A Thank You Email – 11 Tips
So, is there a recipe we can follow to help answer the question of how to write a thank you email that’s effective at saying “thank you” and fostering that all-important customer relationship, without coming across as trying to further market ourselves.
The answer is definitely “yes”, but with a couple of caveats:
- The email must seem genuine and authentic…
- While a recipe is useful, it doesn’t help if every thank you email we send out is nothing more than a cookie-cutter copy-and-paste email that’s not personalized in some way.
With that said, let’s take a look at the 11-step checklist I came up with:
- Be a real person…
- Easily understandable subject line…
- Keep the message simple and personal…
- Make your opening lines engaging…
- Give them some additional information they can use…
- Make sure they know how to contact you…
- What they can expect next…
- Use an appropriate email signature…
- PS: Send them something juicy and exclusive…
- Zero sales language – no special offers or coupons…
Free PDF of “How To Write A Thank You Email”
#1: Be A Real Person
Don’t you just love those business emails that originate from an address like “email@example.com”?
Nothing says, “we don’t want to hear from you because we’re more important than you” than a totally impersonal email address like that.
Likewise, avoid generic email addresses like “info”, “sales”, “office” etc. even if they have a real name attached to them.
It’s all too easy to go to the other extreme too. For example, don’t use gmail, Yahoo! or other “personal” type email addresses for your business – that comes across as simply unprofessional, and people do notice these things.
So, make sure that when your email shows up in someone’s inbox it’s very clear who it’s from, and they don’t have to be a psychic to figure it out.
For example, “John Smith at XYZ Photography” is great, whereas “JS” is completely cryptic, and likely to give your email a one-way ticket to the trash folder.
#2: Easily Understandable Subject Line
The next thing people look at while trying to decide whether or not to delete your email is the subject line.
Your customers are not judging a cute headline contest here, they just want to know what to expect when they open the email, so keep it simple and clear.
Since this is a thank you email, a simple “Thank you for…” will more than suffice.
#3: Keep The Message Simple And Personal
One of the reasons I didn’t think very much on this topic for so long was I thought, “how hard can it really be?”
Surely, people are not messing this up, are they?
Turns out, they are, by over-complicating things or sounding too business-like.
The idea is to thank someone for giving you their business, so stick to the point and do just that before launching into anything else. That way, they’ll know immediately what the point of the email is, and that there’s no secret agenda.
It’s a good idea to write your thank you email in a personal style and a conversational tone, as if you’re actually speaking to them in person.
One thing that really helps with this is to use plain text emails, rather than fancy HTML messages full of cute graphics. Plain text emails more closely resemble the kind of emails we send exchange with our friends and family, so they naturally seem more personal and less business-oriented.
#4: Make Your Opening Lines Engaging
The opening lines of your thank you email are the most important ones, and are designed to get their attention and create enough interest for them to carry on reading the rest of the email.
Again, writing in a very loose, personal, and conversational way can really help to let them know you’re a friendly and approachable person who cares that they trusted you enough to buy something from you.
#5: Give Them Some Additional Information They Can Use
The middle of your email can be a short section with some additional information they might like or find useful.
For example, if they purchased a print from you, they might like to read more of the story behind the photograph – a short and interesting anecdote they can share with their friends.
#6: Make Sure They Know How To Contact You
This is important, but should be done in a non-business manner. By making sure they know how to contact you, you’re demonstrating that you’re fully open to any feedback they might have about their purchase (good or bad), and that they have a way to contact you in the unlikely event of a problem.
This might also be a good place to offer a couple of ways for them to connect with you on social media – again, presented in a friendly and open way.
#7: What They Can Expect Next
This part is optional, and only really necessary if they signed up for something that has follow-up actions or requires you to contact them again.
For example, if they ordered photographs that need to be printed and shipped to them, you should give some clear ideas of when they can expect those things to happen (and what they should do if they don’t happen).
#8: Use An Appropriate Email Signature
As you sign off your email, your signature is important. Maintain the personal touch of your email by keeping it friendly, and keeping the business stuff we usually see in email signatures to a minimum.
#9: PS: Send Them Something Juicy And Exclusive
The “PS” is one of the most-read sections of our emails, so it’s important to include one at the end of your thank you email too.
This is a great place to gently point them in the direction of another resource on your website, a video, blog post, special article etc. but, again, in a friendly and personal way.
Whatever you do, don’t send them to any kind of sales page or marketing materials.
#10: Zero Sales Language – No Special Offers Or Coupons!
I don’t know why so many businesses manage to mess this one up, but thank you emails are not the place to start selling more stuff. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make you sound like a real marketer, it’s including special offers, coupons, and other promotions in a thank you email.
Don’t do it.
Enough said on that one.
I feel as though I shouldn’t have to mention this one, as it seems so obvious, but too many of the emails that land in my inbox have never seen the inside of a spell-checker!
We’re all human, and we make spelling mistakes, but there’s really no excuse for poor spelling in a sent email!
Besides the obvious spell-check, be sure to proof-read your email (several times and by several people if necessary) before you send it out, to catch the things the spell-checker missed.
- Use of “it’s” instead of “its”…
- Incorrect use of “should of” instead of “should have”…
- Missing words…
- Lost meaning caused by improper editing…
Worse still, I would advise NOT sending emails via your smartphone. As we all know, smartphones are anything but smart when it comes to auto-correcting our texts so don’t let them loose on your emails!
How To Write A Thank You Email – One Final Tip
If all you do is remember this final tip, you’ll be in good shape:
The one thing your thank you email must do is make the person who receives it feel better than they did before they opened it…
I hope you’ve found this article useful, and thank you for taking the time to read it! With that, I say go ahead and send your “thank-you” notes – your clients will thank you for it!