Email empathy

Dec 05, 2021

We’re all busy – but take a few minutes to value the time of your partner organizations.

I received the following email one morning last week:

I am sharing with you the Request for the [ORGANIZATION REDACTED] collaborative, innovative project proposal. Please provide an offer and your availability for the scope of work.

We are excited to partner with you on this project. Upon your review, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the package. Please confirm your attendance at the mandatory December 10th, 2021 meeting.


How many of you have received spam RFP requests? Here at Zweig Group, we now get a few a day. Often, they are followed up by an apology note from the actual sender, stating their email was hacked and the link sent in the email was a virus, but sometimes we never know. Worse yet, we get another few of these emails a day that are worded almost identically for real projects! For both the real and spam requests, it seems that the adventure to find out what the project is about is long and tedious – after clicking the link it’s often necessary to fill out a form, download some document from a remote server somewhere, and only then, upon careful reading, is it evident what type of work is required. Unfortunately, most of these RFPs involve projects that Zweig Group would have nothing to do with – like designing buildings!

How many of you are sending your potential partners on treasure hunts to find out what you need from them?

For the love of your neighbors, please stop. Everyone in the AEC industry is busy, inundated with emails and work requests, overwhelmed by spam, and (understandably) skeptical of viruses. All of this can be prevented with clean and clear communication on the front end!

Here are a few more communication tips that don’t just apply to RFQs/RFPs:

  1. Include a subject in the subject of the email. It can be as simple as, “RFP for Transportation Project.” For firms that have multiple service areas, this information allows the recipient to make sure this request is sent immediately to the proper department. This information also makes the email less likely to be deleted, less likely to end up in spam, and confirms legitimacy of the sender and content. This doesn’t just apply to RFPs – it’s any kind of communication. Include the project name and a relevant detail.
  2. Reiterate in the body of the email a few short details about any attachment or download request that is included.
  3. Keep things simple – don’t use multiple layers of logins and downloading unless absolutely necessary to protect the privacy of your document.
  4. Keep language simple; say what you you’re looking for without lots of adjectives. Do you think any firm has not applied for a project because they’ve self-assessed and decided they just aren’t “collaborative” or “innovative” enough?
  5. When bulk emailing – make sure you curate a list of targeted individuals and/or organizations before sending. Don’t send emails to every person you’ve ever contacted, if you’re only looking for a firm to work on an HVAC system!

All of us working in the AEC industry are feeling a little overwhelmed right now, so help each other out by being clear in your communications and doing what it takes to make sure your email doesn’t end up in the spam box!

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.