Why Should B2B Emails Be “Somewhat Informal” Post-Pandemic?

why should b2b emails be informal

We can draw upon a few research papers on the factors that could affect the sender’s choice of formality and if it is affected by social distance. However, instead of going into too much depth in this article, I want to focus on what will help the reader send a better marketing email and subsequently increase the response rate.

Recent observations have shown us that our B2B customers are starting to prefer emails with a more informal tone. To satisfy this behavior, we need to change how we send out marketing and informational messages; they should be formatted as if you were speaking face-to-face with your friends or colleagues.

There’s a reason why I have chosen the phrase “friends or colleagues” as there is a distinctive style that can be acquired from this phase and used correctly should increase your marketing email open and read rate. A paper by Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness (1987) shows the effects of different types of formal to informal content in emails. For instance, an email is usually more formal if it is about a business matter, and even more, attention is taken if the email is sent to someone with a higher rank.

Many aspects of the research by Brown and Levinson, however, dated, have now become relevant to the fundamental understanding of business email interaction. The paper discussed the effects of “social distance” between the sender and recipient, “position of power,” and the weight of the email content, for instance, whether it is a request of some importance. 

What interests me the most as a marketer is achieving a better conversion rate by sending bulk emails. We know from our personal experience that our judgment on whether an email is formal or informal can be subjective. You may not realize this, but your brain instantly places the content into four categories when you read an email.

  • Very Formal
  • Somewhat Formal
  • Somewhat Informal
  • Very Informal

Due to the subjective nature, formality in emails is hard to define generally. Therefore, the courtesy of an email between the sender and the recipient should not be dictated by the relationship of both parties. For example, emails from solicitors/lawyers will almost certainly be formal regardless of the relationship. 

The Case For “Somewhat Informal” Emails

From a subjective point of view, you may agree that “very informal” will be scattered with offensive, vulgar, and misspelled words with very little consideration for the reader. The informal “style” is known to us, and we may find it somewhat entertaining and happy to engage with it with close relationships. 

Informal content gives us the means to express ourselves in a more unique, personality-driven form of communication, much desired in a time where face-to-face dialogue has been limited. Albert Mehrabian first coined our understanding of the “7%-38%-55% Rule” during transmission. 

The more we practice social distancing, the more we lose out on it. The more significant percentage of body language and subtle vocal cues help us understand the message better during communication. Our written words in an email count for only 7% of the total contact. It is no wonder people don’t want to read your email due to the lack of adequate, meaningful communication that is desired. 

To write “somewhat informal” emails, our objective should be to pack that 7% of communication with as much personality as possible without overstepping into the realm of “very informal.” When injecting personality, make sure to correct misspelled words, fix grammar and punctuate correctly. Do not use offensive, vulgar words, and always write in an active voice.

How to write informal emails:

How Social Distancing Affects Email Formality

People are likely to be more informal with their friends and family than business colleagues, and the more communication exchanges, the closer people feel they become. This feeling of closeness comes naturally to us, and experienced marketers tend to use this method to delve into the customer’s comfort zone.

With email marketing, you want to increase the communication exchange. Asking questions, presenting a thought-provoking paradox or a request of some sort are all excellent ways to start a conversation. 

During WFH and social distancing, people spent far more time seeking communication digitally to make up for the missed face-to-face conversation they would have in the workplace. Digital activity increased, and so with it changed (slightly) our behavior and expectations. 

People now expect a far more friendly, caring, and entertaining approach to interaction. The formalities of the office have been replaced with the informalities of working from home. People react and respond better to informal interaction as that is usually the norm they experience working from home. 

Should Bulk Emails Be More Informal?

It has always been assumed that the recipients of the more prominent email dictate how formal and professional the content should be. However, recent studies have shown that the more significant number of recipients results in a lower formality (somewhat informal). It appears that the rate of informality is nearly cut in half when there are 3 to 5 recipients as opposed to only one. However, the larger the number of recipients becomes, the more informal the email content becomes.

This is due to people responding better to friendlier, familiar, and personal emails. However, B2B emails tend to be more formal than B2C to achieve a better response rate with more significant recipients.

It is an exciting phenomenon that emails sent to an extensive mailing list of strangers are informal and entertaining to improve conversion rates. This works, likely due to the positive acceptance of the email made almost indistinguishable to an email from a “small group of friends.” The positive vibe of the email resonates with familiarity suitable for attention and response. 


Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness (1987) created the foundation framework for understanding email content etiquette. From this, we’re able to understand better the needs of the recipient post-pandemic.

In this article, it has been asserted that marketing emails sent to a large group need to be “somewhat informal” to achieve a better conversion rate. Most recipients have no desire to read a stranger’s email and will easily ignore or delete it. However, if the content seems familiar, somewhat similar in etiquette to that of “a small group of friends,” the email has a greater chance of being read and responded to. Social distancing and working from home have directly influenced what recipients except for emails.

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Wasim Jabbar

Hi, I'm Wasim - a startup founder and proud dad of two sons. With 15 years of experience building startups, I'd like to share my secret to achieving business success - quality marketing leads. Signup today to gain access to over 52 million leads worldwide.

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