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Business Email Inquiries: Addressing the Unknown

Don't overly automate your business emails -- personalize.

To Whom it May Concern strikes again!

Yes, I’ve written about this before — and now it is time for a reminder. I run both of my email etiquette blogs based on what I see in my day-to-day email activities and by what visitors ask about.

Today, through my various websites I received several emails addressed “To Whom It May Concern”. Who thinks that is effective?

With a click or two on all three sites you would know that Judith is the one person behind the site. And who you will be addressing when you email with a question, solicitation (spam) or inquiry.

When you email, especially for commercial gain, you need to make your best effort to contact folks by name (with appropriate formality). That’s called a personal touch.

“To Whom it May Concern” tells me you are not concerned about who you are contacting. You just want to get your pitch in front of anyone. That you are probably emailing thousands of others the very same email. That certainly doesn’t make a positive impression.

Neither does “Hi, Team” — no team; just me.

As a matter of fact, when I see “To Whom it May Concern” I pretty much stop reading and hit the Junk button.

Add to that the “Dear Sir” emails I get in my inbox on a pretty regular basis. These greetings are actually doing me a favor. They let me easily determine the serious inquiries from those who are just mass mailing everyone. Emails addressed in this manner are not read — they go right to trash.

Time and Place for Automation

I receive many emails a day that are addressed directly to me that I know are automated. They are being sent by software to a list of names the sender acquired. That’s spam. And those emails get marked as such.

How to I know they are automated?

  • The email address they send to is one they’ve farmed from elsewhere. They are usually addresses I use for services and logins — not my primary or website email address.
  • The email itself has nothing unique to me. Generic blah blah blah that can apply to anyone.

Don’t Automate; Personalize

If you cannot find a name to address a simple “Hello” will stand a better chance of your email being read. If it isn’t important enough to make a little effort to send to the right email address, and customize your message to that recipient, you are basically throwing emails at the wall and seeing what will stick.

So, don’t make the mistake of being overly automated or impersonal to the point of being disregarded. There really is no reason to use a non-greeting like To Whom it May Concern that screams “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t care”.

Use “To Whom It May Concern” and we know you actually have no concern other than yourself. Delete!

Care to share?