Supplier Communication 101 - IMPORTANT: The subject line that cried wolf (Creating the perfect subject line)

Why do we email suppliers? It’s certainly not for the fun of it.

We spend an hour putting together the email. A couple of days waiting to see if anyone got it. And weeks chasing them up when we realise they haven’t (or did, and didn’t respond). This certainly wasn’t mentioned in the job description under ‘Supplier Relationship Management’.

We email suppliers because we want them to do something – ‘complete your specifications’, ‘tell me how much post-consumer recycled content is in your packaging’, ‘read and understand my new policy’…

It needs to be done and email is often the best way to do it when so many suppliers are involved. But how do we make sure that they actually do what we ask and within a reasonable timeframe?

(And without hiring a call centre to chase your supply base)

In this blog series I cover five things you can do to help you relieve the burden of supplier administration by getting it right first time and minimise those pesky chaser emails.


IMPORTANT: The subject line that cried wolf

We all know one of those people. The one whose emails lead with a subject line which may as well be heralding the end of the world. But the reality? A little more dry - and definitely not URGENT!

However, we only fall for it once and their IMPORTANT emails are forever relegated to the bottom of the pile.

I am not advocating the banishment of this this tactic, simply the use of restraint. My experience and conversations with other retail professionals indicates that the abuse of importance and urgency will tarnish your reputation in their inbox. And without a good ‘email’ reputation, you may as well have sent the request by carrier pigeon.

So what should you do?

I begin every email I send by thinking carefully about what exactly what I need the suppliers to do or what information I am sharing and try and convey that in one sentence:

  • Submit Product Info for Upcoming ‘Cookie’ Taste Panel
  • Upcoming FIR Labelling Training Course Dates
  • Provide Update on Outstanding Ethical Sourcing Corrective Actions
  • Complete Supplier Scorecard Self-Appraisal
  • New Own Brand Packaging Guidelines added to Knowledgebase

When your email lands in the supplier’s inbox, it’s clear and concise subject line will allow suppliers instantly understand what you need from them without even opening your email. This makes your email the overwhelming favourite to complete and ‘tick-off’ their inbox to-do list as they wade through the spam and equally unappealing email with photos from last week’s office party.

Make yours a double

Our figures consistently show that the number of suppliers opening emails double (Yes, x2) when we introduce this style of subject line. That’s dozens of suppliers which no longer need to be chased. That’s hours of your working week for the taking.


The next blog in the ‘Supplier Communication 101' series explores the relevance of relevance in the world of supplier communications. Sending your emails to everyman and his dog food supplier? This one is aimed at you. 

Tags: Supplier engagement

David Taylor

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