"I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You've got mail," chirps Meg Ryan's character Kathleen Kelly in the box office hit "You've Got Mail."

This rom-com featured a pair of characters who fell in love over email without really knowing anything about each other’s personal lives — basically "Sleepless in Seattle" sponsored by AOL. It's tough to remember what it was like to feel Kelly's excitement about email, but there was a time when people actually looked forward to opening their inbox.

Though the technology had been around since the 1970s, email really started to catch on in the '90s. And when "You’ve Got Mail" was released in 1998, email truly hit the mainstream.

Yet nearly 20 years later, it's surprising just how often people simply don't know how to send a good email.

Today, the average office workers sends or receives 121 emails a day. That means it's tough to stand out in the crowd with email.

When it comes to B2B communication, the first step is to get your foot in the door. This is the easy part so many people get wrong.

So to all the salespeople, PR representatives and marketers, here are five surefire ways to get me to delete your email as soon as I open it.

1. Getting the name wrong

The first line of communication is the greeting, so it's crucial to get it right. As my former newspaper editor would say, "The only thing a man comes into this world with is his name. Don't [screw] it up."

As someone with a first name for a last name, I get my share of "Hi Richard" greetings, and I can understand that mix-up. But there are plenty of others I've come across Ross, Rhonda, Rodney. It shouldn't be that tough.

And if you just write "Hi" with no name following or "Dear Reader," that tells me you're either using a form to email or you're just a bot.

2. Not doing your research

If you're trying to sell something to me or my company, it's crucial to know a little about us.

An email that says, "Since you're in the textile business" is an automatic indicator that you have no idea what we do. Even if you're close, talking about how you noticed that our website needs "responsive design to draw more readers" is a big swing and miss (we already are).

It's not that difficult to do a little background research to learn about your target audience, and it goes a long way toward building that initial trust to move forward.

3. Not giving your full information

Your first email should be about building trust and credibility. You're reaching out to establish a relationship.

If you sign your email with "Marie" and don't put your last name or the name of your organization, that's an immediate red flag. Another warning sign is if you're emailing from a generic Gmail or Yahoo account.

A professional email should have a signature at the bottom with your full name, contact information and a link to your organization's website and/or social media page.

4. Going crazy with the text

At this point, you might be thinking, "Hmm, if I need to get the reader's attention, I better get creative with the style of the email." Don't do it.

Lots of bolds and italics, colored text, all caps, etc., just makes an email difficult to read. Remember, you're going for easy and simple in this first contact.

When it comes to fonts, you should know by now to avoid Comic Sans, but which one should you use? Again, keep it simple. Use a font with clearly distinct letters and consistent letter-spacing. While I'm partial to Calibri, here's a list of five solid choices.


Stop emailing press releases with this all-caps "breaking news" line at the top. It's great that your company has named a new VP of operations, but it's not going to get me to read about your product or service described below.

If you're simply looking to get it published, try PR Newswire or a similar service. But you might just save yourself some effort by avoiding writing these altogether. In fact, the last time they were necessary was back when "You've Got Mail" hit the box office.

So while you might not find true love on the other end of your email, following these five simple steps can at least get your foot in the door for a business relationship.