If your business is product- or service-oriented, then you already know the importance of business leads. Business leads are the new blood that keeps your organization running. Without leads, your entire enterprise will slowly succumb to the withering effects of customer attrition. As such, establishing dependable lines of communication with your leads should be one of your top priorities. And, while paper mailers, voicemail messages, and social media posts are valuable additions to your communication arsenal, in all likelihood email is still your most effective means of lead communication.

Email remains one of the most critical points of engagement: Statistics show that 75 % of companies make their initial response to a business lead through email. Email allows marketers to deliver targeted messages to prospects at the times that they are most likely to respond. However, whether or not that email elicits a response from the prospect depends upon a number of factors, not the least of which is how well the email is written. Even the best offers will result in lackluster response rates unless they are presented in a clear and engaging way.

Naturally, the ability to put together a coherent sentence with proper spelling and grammar is a big plus when composing an email, but it’s still only just the beginning.

What follows are five important email writing skills that can improve business lead response rates:

1. Make it Personal

In today’s world, business prospects are bombarded by emails. Approximately 108.7 billion business emails are sent and received every day. In fact, the sheer number of unsolicited emails received by the average consumer on a daily basis has necessitated the creation of specific ‘spam’ blocking programs and email filters. As a result, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get a prospect’s attention through email. Follow-up emails need to be personalized, with specific attention paid to subject lines. According to research, 43% of email recipients click the ‘spam’ button based on the email ‘from’ name or email address. And, 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone (personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened).

Personalization provides relevance. Today’s marketers have access to all kinds of prospect information gathered via web forms, third-party lists, and social media that can be used to personalize both subject lines and email content. Populating an email with the first name of the recipient adds a strong personal touch. People tend to respond to seeing their names in print more than any other words, and when they do, they become more engaged and trusting of the message. Finally, any information relevant to the prospect that can provide some context for a follow-up email will go a long way toward getting a positive response. Personalization is important for keeping customer retention rates high and raising response rates from business leads who could potentially become new customers.

2. Be Clear and Concise

Business prospects are busy. According to a study by the Radicati Group, business users sent and received an average of 121 emails a day, and this is expected to grow to 140 emails a day by 2018. With everything else on their plates, decision makers have no time or patience for vague emails that ramble on without quickly coming to a point. They respond much better to emails that “cut to the chase,” avoid generalities, and present a value proposition in a clear and concise manner.

Strong subject lines that clearly spell out what the recipient should expect, and that convey a sense of urgency can greatly increase the chances of an email being opened. Clarity and brevity should also be a rule for the body of the message. Sometimes marketers rely on too many adjectives and exclamation marks, which can cheapen the message and reduce credibility. A better solution is to get to the point, presenting the offer in specific terms and explaining precisely how the product or service solves a problem.

3. Use a Specific Call-to-Action

In keeping with the “clear and concise” rule, the call-to-action should be as straightforward and easy to understand as possible. Asking a prospect to do something that is not clearly spelled out can lead to frustration for the recipient, and more often than not, a direct route for your email into the ‘spam’ folder. The best approach is to ask the prospect to make a simple decision, such as to buy or not buy. Putting responsibility back on the prospect by concluding with open-ended sentences such as, “Looking forward to hearing what will work best for you” shows a lack of confidence in the offer… which can be the kiss of death for a business lead.

4. Make a Persuasive Case

With more on-demand options, prospects have high expectations, and the old saying that “the customer is always right” applies now more than ever. Still, many organizations spend large sums on B2B lead generation, only to lose prospects and sales due to emails with offers that just aren’t worthwhile.

As powerful as a subject line may be in getting an email opened, the rest of the email should be equally persuasive. Of course, a potential customer must first determine your email is worthwhile to open and read. Once the offer is stated—and it needs to be a good one—the remaining body of the email must be constructed to build a compelling case for that offer. Every sentence should be relevant and add new information (or some sort of value) that engages the prospect and builds to the final call-to-action.

5. Scrutinize Before Sending

Great sales emails aren’t written on the first try. It usually takes several rewrites, along with lots of polishing, editing, and proofreading before a follow-up email is ready to send. Proofing is essential for ensuring proper spelling and grammar, as these kinds of mistakes come across as unprofessional, and can easily derail a response. Each sentence should be scrutinized impartially to make sure that it sounds genuine and has the right tone and verb strength to engage the reader. Likewise, the email as a whole should be analyzed to make sure that it connects with the reader and carries the message in a clear and powerful way.

We live in the age of communication. With each new digital frontier, new methods of communication are born, forever changing the way that businesses and customers exchange information. But despite this ever-increasing arena, one of the most commonplace communication channels—email—remains not only the most widely-used, but also the most effective.

Email is a powerful communication channel, and organizations that implement these and other writing skills in their business lead follow-up emails will enjoy higher response rates, more sales, and greater competitive advantage. With so much riding on your emails, it only makes sense that you should invest the time and effort in improving your messages. After all, an email that fails to elicit a response is, when all is said and done, really nothing more than spam.