Greetings & Salutations: 5 Questions You Need to Answer Before Writing Your Next Email or Letter
Hey (YourNameGoesHere), I bet you're wondering what this article is all about. I've just given you a couple of clues. Our topic today is salutations — how, when and why to use them in promotional emails and letters.
As a quick refresher, Merriam-Webster defines salutation as a word or phrase that begins a letter such as Dear Pat or Dear Madam. It greets the reader. However in today's digital world, that reader may have just opened an email or a piece of traditional mail. Webster goes on to describe a salutation as an expression or gesture of goodwill or courtesy.
Goodwill and courtesy sure sound like positive enticements to keep people reading. So, now you're wondering ....
1. Should I use a salutation in every email?
Probably not. It may not be appropriate. But when you want to greet/personally connect with your reader from the get-go, the answer is YES! A salutation welcomes your reader to the message that follows. It also confirms the reader-messenger relationship. (I know you, I know your name.) Test sending emails with and without a salutation to see what happens.
2. Does a salutation always start with the word 'Dear'?
Nope. Dear is formal, traditional and still preferred by many. But in today's less formal world, test using other salutations that are appropriate for your audience, their relationship with you, and your brand voice. Examples include: Hi, Hello, Hi There, Good Morning, Greetings ... even Hey!
3. Should I use my customer's/prospect's/donor's name in the salutation?
If you can, do it! Just make sure it's spelled correctly. Using a person's name makes an immediate personal and visual connection:
Hi There, Pat
Good Morning, Pat
In each case, the first thing I see is my name. CAUTION: Be careful when you're forcing a name from data on your file. For example, my last name is Friesen. My husband's last name is Jasper. When a marketer who has my husband's last name on file forces the prefix Mrs., that correspondence is going to a Mrs. Jasper who doesn't exist. And I won't open it.
4. If I can't use a person's name in the salutation, are there other ways to make it have personal appeal?
Yes, you can still use the data you have to make the salutation as personal as possible. For example, Dear Valued Customer, Dear BWM Owner or Dear Busy Mom. All of these make a more powerful connection than simply saying Dear Customer or Dear Friend.
5. How do I punctuate a salutation?
If your organization is a stickler for following traditional standards, read up on punctuation in resources like The Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook. However, in today's world of less formal electronic communications (often driven by character counts), commas (,) and colons (:) are often missing in email salutations. And it's not unheard of to use an aposiopesis (an ellipsis [...] that trails off) or even an exclamation point (!). It's more about brand voice than following or breaking rules.
If you want to check out what other marketers are doing, you may want to tap the Who's Mailing What! searchable database of that archives actual email and direct mail samples.
Pat Friesen is the author of the best-selling Direct Marketing IQ report, "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook." She writes for direct mail, email, blogs, catalogs, the Web and other direct response media. She's also a sought-after copy coach, workshop presenter and columnist for Target Marketing magazine. Contact Pat at (913) 341-1211 and Pat@PatFriesen.com.