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How To Get More From Your "Out-of-Office Reply"

I’m in the process of making a large purchase on behalf of The Brooks Group. Recently, I sent an email to the salesperson. Here’s the response I got: ===

Subject: OUT OF OFFICE REPLY Hi! You have reached the desk of [Name Removed to Protect the Guilty]. Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office all day Friday.  I will respond to all requests as soon as I return Monday morning.  If you have an URGENT request, please contact [Name Removed to Protect the Poor Sap Who Has To Deal with Her Stuff]. Thank you! 

=== I certainly don't begrudge the out-of-office reply. In fact, I appreciate the "head's up" that I shouldn't hold my breath for a response. However, I think there's a lot more you can do with it. An out-of-office reply is valuable real estate in someone’s inbox. That's because they're expecting your response and, if it's done right, they'll read it. Why not use that to your advantage? It's not done right if the subject line is "Out of Office." By now, you probably realize how critical a Subject Line is. Most email programs include something like "Out of Office Automatic Reply" by default. Change it! Convert that subject line to something more compelling. First, change the subject. How about something like...

  • Sorry I missed you
  • Since I’m out of my office, here’s a consolation prize
  • If it's an emergency call me at (555) 123-4567

Whatever it is, don’t go with the old “Out of office reply” or “I’m on vacation” subject lines. You’re missing out on a lot. Your goal with the subject line is simply to get your email opened. If your subject line is compelling enough to get your email opened, you can provide some real value in the body of the email, too.

  1. Promote a product or service: Have you just launched a new offering? Use the out-of-office reply to give your customers the "inside scoop."
  2. Explain your own professional development: If you're out of the office for a professional development program (a sales training course, for example), explain what you're learning and how it will help your customers.
  3. Encourage a download of a whitepaper: Perhaps your marketing department has written a great one. If so, use this as an opportunity to share it.
  4. Provide value with free tips about your product: Your probably have knowledge that would help your customers get more out of what they already own. Share it!
  5. Link to your social media networks: As long as you're using them to provide good value to your followers, promote them here. You don't want to do this if you're simply posting what you had for lunch.
  6. Include a coupon code: If you've got a promotion that makes sense to share, do it!
  7. Post testimonials: Preface the testimonial by saying something like, "People think I do a good job even if I go on vacation every now and then..."

Here's an even better automatic reply: ===

Subject: Because I'm Out of the Office... Since I'm out of the office with limited access to email and won't be able to respond until Monday, it's only fair that I give you something as a consolation prize. Here's a link to a whitepaper with 107 Time Management Tips. I picked it because I'm going to find the tips incredibly useful when I get back and have these emails to respond to! Although I commit to respond to you no later than Monday at 4:00 Eastern, if you have an URGENT request, please contact John Doe at johndoe@email.com or (123) 555-5555. Thank you! 

=== So, you see, an out-of-office reply can be an incredibly useful tool. Just make it compelling and valuable! @JebBrooks