Leadership

9 typical business emails you're doing all wrong

Habit is a dangerous force.

Some tasks are so routine that we shut off our brains and run on autopilot.

"Been there, done that," we presume. "Let's plow through the work and move onto something more stimulating."

We don't realize even the most mundane activity offers the chance to turn "ho hum" into a life-changing opportunity.

Case in point: business emails.

Every email below will, at first blush, make you want to run through the motions. So boring. So tedious. How soon can it be over?

But look at the simple twist to each message, and you'll see how a fresh perspective can propel your career in unexpected ways.

The first four examples focus on finding a job.

How to write someone after a networking event

Boring way: "So nice to meet you. Please keep me in mind for any potential job opportunities."

Smarter way: Do research on the employer's business and weave your findings into the message. You will score major points and build trust at the same time.

Smarter way example:

"After I left, I did more research on your company, Acme Corporation. I especially like the fun recycling program with the hashtag #gogreenportland. That's the kind of creative, digital campaign I want to work on."

How to apply even if the company has no openings at the time

Boring way: "I'm in the job market and would love to know if your company is hiring."

Smarter way: Like example No. 1, research the company and provide an example of a recent project you respect. The strategy makes your email authentic and genuine -- and you'll stand a far better chance at a response. From there, who knows? The conversation could lead to job. A flat, boring message (because you rushed through it) will take you nowhere.

Smarter way example:

I checked out the Acme Corporation website and respect the work you do, in particular the 10K walk to support research on brain cancer and the capital campaign to aid the river clean-up. The two projects were well orchestrated, and it's clear your team knows how to deliver results."

How to ask for a letter of recommendation

Boring way: "Are you able to write me a letter of recommendation? Please let me know."

Smarter way: Ask the person to share a specific example of your past success. The request will ensure the letter isn't full of empty rhetoric like "best person I have ever had the pleasure of working with."

Smarter way example:

"Would you be able to write a letter of recommendation for me? If so, I think the boss would like to know about the time I ran all over NYC to gather different types of flowers for the outdoor garden photo shoot. That day is a great example of my hustle and focus."

How to ask for an informational interview

Boring way: "Are you able to meet with me for an informational interview?"

Smarter way: Study up on the employer's own background and provide an example of how you respect the person's career path so far. Be selfless and the person will be inclined to respond.

Smarter way example:

"I read about your background and see you began as an intern at Big Corporation and rose to become a senior vice president. It's inspiring for someone like me who has started out in the field."

How to send effective LinkedIn invites (not an email but the same principles apply)

Boring way (the default line from LinkedIn): "Hi Danny, I'd like to join your LinkedIn network."

Smarter way: Make the message customized! Why would someone respond to the generic line from LinkedIn? Take time to craft a unique message to encourage the person to write back.

Smarter way example:

If you saw/read/heard the person and liked what he/she is all about, go with something like, "I enjoyed your interview about children and nutrition on the radio. How did you become an expert in the space?"

The final four emails relate at a job.

How to relay that you're troubleshooting a problem

Boring way: "We're working on it. Will keep you posted."

Smarter way: Be as specific as possible. The client is likely stressed, and details will help to put him/her at ease.

Smarter way example:

"I want to let you know we are aware of the mistake with the shipment of hard drives to California. Our team is working on the problem now and will continue to provide updates as they come available."

How to ask if a company wants to be a sponsor

Boring way: "We would love to have your company as a sponsor."

Smarter way: Before you write the person at the company, review the company's website and choose one recent accomplishment to include at the start of your email. Don't "sell" right out of the gate; be authentic and build a relationship!

Smarter way example (imagine the company works in construction):

"Congrats on the completion of the multi-purpose center at Acme University. What a beautiful building!"

How to ask if you can guest post on a blog or website

Boring way: "Do you accept guest posts? I'd love to contribute!"

Smarter way: Visit the website where you want to guest post, read at least one blog post and then return to your email and explain to the site editor specifically how much you value what you read. DO NOT tell the person, "You have amazing content" but never back up the claim. Fake praise all the way.

Smarter way example:

"I am a big fan of ABC Money Tips and read your content all the time. I especially like your articles on how to plan for retirement while a college student and 9 ways to save while working multiple part-time jobs. I have several part-time jobs right now and I will put tip No. 3 from your nine-point list to work right away — the one about how to invest $50 a month in mutual funds through a direct bank deposit. Good idea!"

How to inquire about freelance opportunities

Boring way: "Please know I am available for any freelance opportunities."

Smarter way: Advice from email example No. 1 all over again. Do research on the employer's business and weave your findings into the message. You will score major points and build trust at the same time.

Smarter way example:

"I'd like to explore ways I can help your team on website projects. I checked out Acme Corporation's website and like the work you do, in particular the landing page for the Acme Hospital System and the ecommerce site for the rental car startup. You produce high quality work, and I respect your attention to detail."

Let the competition write typical emails the typical way.

Push harder. Be different. And never fall in line.

Danny Rubin is an author and speaker on business communication skills. Learn more about his latest book, Wait, How Do I Promote My Business?, a collection of 100+ templates for website content, press releases, crowdfunding pages and more. Follow him on Twitter at @DannyHRubin.