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Boring to Brilliant: Game-Changing Out of Office Emails

With the holiday season coming up, there’s a good chance that you will need to use the trusty ole out-of-office reply email. You know the one. It typically goes a little something like this:

“I am out of the office until [insert date] with little access to email. If you need immediate assistance, please contact …”

As a marketer, those lackluster replies makes me cringe. Here’s why:

  1. Inboxes are noisy, crowded, and competitive. On average, business professionals receive 121 emails per day (Source: Campaign Monitor). You must seize every opportunity you get with email contacts.
  2. You already have my attention, and I’m probably awaiting a response. So, why would you waste that opportunity to engage with me by sending a boring message that just tells me to wait until you have time for me?

Instead of cranking out crap while you’re out of the office, take a little time to customize a message that engages, educates, or entertains (or all three!). Let’s take a look at a few ideas that can take your ‘Basic Betty’ OOO reply to new heights.

For Lead Generation (Engage)

Some of the people that read your response may already know you – a vendor, co-worker, or your mother-in-law. For the rest, this is an excellent opportunity to share content that helps build trust and drive sales.

Upcoming Webinar

Do you have an upcoming webinar that you want to promote? Many service providers hold monthly partner webinars. If that’s you – take the opportunity to help drive registration for the webinar.

Subject: I’m out of the office, but our webinar is in full swing!

Hello and thanks for your email! I am currently out of the office, returning on [insert date]. You can expect a reply no later than [insert date].

In the meantime, take a minute to sign up for the webinar, “[insert the title to your super awesome webinar],” which is taking place on [insert webinar date] at [insert webinar time]. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about [insert the one big thing they will learn during the webinar].

Talk to you when I return to the office!

On-Demand Content

Maybe you don’t have a webinar coming up, but you have a really great webinar on-demand that you want to promote. Here’s an example of how someone at Carve Digital might leverage an OOO reply to promote one of our previous webinars.

Subject: I’m OOO, but I think this is what you are looking for

Unfortunately, I’m out of the office until [insert date] and will be slow to respond to emails. If you need immediate assistance, feel free to reach out to Kelley (insert Kelley’s email address).

While you’re waiting for a reply, you should check out our recent on-demand, exclusive training webinar, “Selling Cloud Services.” This will give you insider tricks to developing a next-gen sales pitch that drives higher close rates, more revenue, and better results.

Let me know what you think about the webinar! If you have any questions, I’d love to set up a time to discuss your selling strategies when I return to the office.


Lead Gen Download

Maybe you don’t have a webinar coming up. Maybe, instead, you have a really great  eBook/Infographic/Whitepaper or another piece of collateral to promote to your email contacts. Here’s an example of how you might leverage an OOO reply to promote an awesome piece of content for lead generation.

Subject: I’m OOO, but I think this is what you are looking for.

I’m out of the office today and will be returning on [insert date]. Fortunately for you, even though I’m not here to help you, our awesome eBook/Infographic/Whitepaper on [insert title or topic] never gets a day off. Yes, it’s unfair, but he/she knows that there is no rest for the best.

You can access the eBook/Infographic/Whitepaper here [insert link to landing page].

Be sure to check out [add a particular stat, page number, or topic from the asset that you think is important], and let me know what you think!


For Increasing Traffic (Education)

If you can’t be there to respond to the email, you might as well take the opportunity to share some knowledge with your email contacts. Not only are you helping them, but you’re also driving traffic to your website or blog. Trust us; your marketing team will love that your helping to improve website metrics.

Educate with Blog Posts

You or your marketing team/agency (or both!) have been hard at work creating great blog content for prospective and existing customers. Since you obviously can’t segment in OOO replies, give them suggested reads that help them no matter what stage in the buying cycle they might be in. And don’t forget to suggest that they subscribe to your blog!

Subject: I’ll be back soon – but here’s a little light reading while you wait

As you probably can tell, I’m out of the office. I’ll be back on [insert date] and should be able to get back to you shortly after I return. You’re probably asking yourself, “Well, what am I supposed to do now?” Don’t worry – I already thought about that and decided that a little light reading always makes the time go by faster.

Check out these awesome posts from [insert name of company/company blog]:

And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog while you’re there. That way, you don’t have to wait for me to go OOO to get updates on new content!


Promote Website Pages

Promoting your website content is always a great idea too. Here’s the beauty of it – prospective customers need to know what services/products you offer AND existing customers, while they’ve purchased something from you, might not be aware of all your new offerings. Why not let them know in your OOO reply what they might be missing?

Subject: I’m OOO, but you need to take a look at this while I’m out

Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m out of the office from [insert date] to [insert date] with limited/no access to email. I know it’s not ideal, so here are a few options for you:

  1. If you need immediate assistance – please contact Kelley [insert Kelley’s email address].
  2. If you are reaching out about My Content Bar – Great! You’ll find everything you need here – My Content Bar.
  3. If you are emailing to ask about something else – kick back, relax, and I will get back to you no later than [insert date].


Break the Mold (Entertainment)

Another brilliant OOO approach is to break the mold. Science shows that our brains love surprises. Life is pretty predictable, especially when it comes to OOO replies. We have come to expect the canned, dull response that everyone uses these days. So why not break the mold with a reply that’s entertaining and shows off your personality a bit? Here are a few for inspiration.

Anticipation – Will it be you?

Subject: Will you make the cut? Only time will tell!

As you can probably guess from the automated response, I am out of the office. I know I’m supposed to say that “I’ll have limited access to email and won’t be able to respond immediately,” but that’s not exactly true. My iPhone will be with me the whole time. And, yes, I may have to interrupt lounging on the beach to tend to an important work-related issue.

The million dollar question … will it be for this? Is your request that urgent? Only time will tell. If you don’t hear back from me within a few hours, it’s safe to assume your email didn’t make the cut. Don’t take it personally. I still like you, but I’m in desperate need of a vacation!

If you think you’ve been unfairly denied, feel free to reach out to Kelley [insert Kelley’s email] for immediate assistance. Otherwise, kick back, relax, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


Live Vicariously – An autoresponder’s life.

Subject: Donna is out of the office, but I’m still here.

Guess who is available on email and who is *not* available on email this week!

  • Who is on email: Me, the email auto-responder.
  • Who is mostly not on email: Donna.
  • Fun fact: Donna and I never, EVER are on duty at the same time. (Mind blown, right?)

Being an auto-responder is not a bad gig. Upside: I spend the vast majority of my time sitting around, waiting for Donna  to take a vacation or for Channel Partners to roll around.

The latter is precisely what’s going on now! Channel Partners might be an awesome event for service providers and telecom agents. But for me, it’s like my Chrismakwanzakah — HOORAY! I have something to do today aside from making microwave nachos and binge-watch Netflix!

(What’s Channel Partners? See here: You can probably still buy a ticket. I cannot. I’ve got work to do!)

You can also peek at what she’s up to in Vegas here: Thanks for swinging by! More importantly, thanks for giving my life purpose and meaning!

Your friend,

Email auto-responder (Repping Donna)

Free for the Taking – Download the Template

Ready to write your own creative OOO reply, but don’t want to start from scratch? You can copy, past, and customize the ones above by accessing this Out-of-Office Reply Template doc. Next time you go on vacation, to a conference, or just leave the office for a few days, take the time to give your email contacts a little something extra in your OOO reply. Trust us – they will appreciate the creativity!