Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to what happens in cyberspace. Black holes do seem to swallow up e-mail messages.
Occasionally, you will know when an e-mail message does not reach its destination because a failure notice is sent to you. But, just as often, you get no notification.
Because of all the new anti-SPAM software, your message could be dumped before your recipient ever sees it. Each of the anti-SPAM software programs looks for specific keywords in the subject line. If you happen to put one of those keywords in the subject line of your e-mail, you have now sent SPAM. And logic doesn't always work when you try to figure out which words to avoid. Some software can be customized for the user's own specific keywords.
I had this situation occur with my Web master. I was following up with her to find out if she received the updates I sent her. The subject line was: Did You Get Updates? Her anti-SPAM program identified "get" in the subject line as SPAM and immediately trashed the message. Who would have known? I knew not to use words like "Free" in the subject line, but "get" never occurred to me.
For the last three years I have been using a mass-mailing program to send out e-mails to about 350 members of a nonprofit group I belong to. We have never had any problems with the members receiving their e-mail. However, in the last six months, some of the providers like AOL and Earthlink are interpreting these messages as SPAM because they recognize the software I am using. The only way I've gotten around this problem is to make sure all 350 members have my e-mail address in their address books. Otherwise, the message gets bounced.
So, is there an easy way to find out if your message was received if you don't get an error message? Sure, pick up the phone to confirm a message was received. But, you have to be careful when you do this. People can misinterpret your action as being pushy like you need an answer right now and are not willing to wait.
A good approach is to start off by saying, "This is just a courtesy call. I sent you an important e-mail and I want to make sure you got it. I know you needed the information right away and I want to make sure you have it." This way, it appears you are looking out for them and are only trying to be efficient. You won't come across as demanding and cause the person to become defensive.
As the receiver of an e-mail, you can greatly help this situation by always acknowledging the receipt of an e-mail. Even if you can't get the answers right away, simply select the reply button and let the sender know the message arrived. Make it a habit to do this. Respond with a quick reply like, "Thanks. Got your e-mail, but won't have an answer for you till tomorrow." Or, even something shorter would work, "Got your e-mail. Will get back to you ASAP."
If you haven't been in the habit of acknowledging the receipt of an e-mail, start today. Letting someone know their e-mail arrived is easy to do and greatly appreciated.
Michelle Howe, president of Howe Write You Are, specializes in writing irresistible copy for Web sites. Transform the way you do business. Visit her Web site at http://www.howewriteyouare.com and download a FREE special report, “30 Tips for Sending Out Perfect email.”© 2004 Michelle Howe
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