Successful Business Email Practices
August 15, 2009
Email is fast and convenient. However, this often results in less than professional use of email by business professionals. Just as your outfit or handshake make an impression on your clients and associates, your email also creates an impression of you and your business.
Here are some ways to use email effectively, while creating a professional impression.
Use a signature
People might be able to see who a message is from by looking at the “from” information on a message, but this is like expecting people to use an envelope to see who a letter (written on old fashioned paper) is from. Most modern email software allows for the creation of a signature file, which is then added to the end of all email you send. This means you don’t have to type it each time, and you can have a consistent signature that contains your contact information.
A signature can be short or long, but don’t make it too long. You can use formatting to emphasis text, though you should only use it sparingly. You can also include a logo in your signature, though adding an image is usually a little harder than just adding the text. Here’s an example of an effective and simple signature:
John Smith My Company Name firstname.lastname@example.org (906)555-5555 or 1(800)555-5555 www.mycompany.com
Edit for readability
When responding to an email, type your response at the top of the email rather than after the message you’re responding to. This lets people see the relevant part of the message first. If the original email to you was longer, remove the parts that you are not specifically responding to. It’s often good to retain the parts you are responding to, as this helps maintain context.
Use the default font settings unless absolutely necessary. While styled emails are possible (they use HTML like a web page does) there is unfortunately not much consistency between email programs on how things are written and displayed. If you use formatting, chances are good that it won’t look the same on your computer as it will on the computer of the person who’s reading your message.
DON’T USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS UNLESS YOU’RE ANGRY. FROM THE EARLY DAYS OF THE INTERNET, USING ALL CAPITALS IS EQUIVALENT TO SHOUTING. MOST PEOPLE DON’T LIKE TO BE SHOUTED AT.
Don’t use a “free” email service
There are many free email services available. Some of the more common ones are Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo. These services are great for personal use, but when sending email as a business, why advertise for someone else? You should have your own website, and with most hosting plans or domain registrations you have the option of creating email addresses based on the domain name you have. This means you can create personalized emails with your own domain, like email@example.com or you can opt for a more generic approach like firstname.lastname@example.org. Either way, this will look much more professional than sending mail from AOL or Hotmail or the others.
Use BCC instead of CC when forwarding messages
If you have to forward an email to more than one person at a time, use the BCC (which stands for Blind Carbon Copy) option rather than the CC (Carbon Copy) option. When you use CC, each person getting the email can see all the other people’s names and email addresses who you sent the message to. Using BCC hides that information. Best practice when using BCC is to send a message to yourself, with all of your recipients listed in BCC fields.
Sending emails to a large list of recipients carries some risk. Internet Service Providers may interpret your use as spamming, and you find yourself blocked from the Internet. If you’re using email to send newsletters, advertisements or other marketing messages, you should consider using a third party email service instead. These services also include many very valuable features, like tracking the number of messages opened, forwarded, etc.
Delete email you don’t need anymore
Don’t let your inbox take over. Delete old email messages you don’t need. Organize messages you want to keep by creating folders outside of your inbox. You can take this a step further and create filters that automatically sort your incoming email into various folders, leaving only miscellaneous messages in your inbox. Because time is so valuable and rare these days, a little bit of organizing with your email can save you countless headaches.
Think twice before clicking send
Yes, email is quick and convenient, but it also provides another advantage in communication that people seem to rarely take advantage of. Before you click “send” you can look back over what you wrote, and make sure you’re saying what you want to say. While you don’t have to make every message perfect, there’s less excuse for poor grammar in a written message than in verbal communication, and most email software comes with spell checking software.
Every email you send out is potentially immortal. It can be forwarded, saved, printed, and thrown back at you. It can also reappear years later when you least expect it. You should never assume email is private. Make your messages professional, respectful, and meaningful. (Or, at least, harmless.)
Finally… use it!
Some people still don’t use email, for various reasons. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Email is a great tool for business, both for communicating with your clients and for communicating within your company. If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, seek out the nearest computer geek and ask them to show you the basics.Share, email, or print this post...
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Posted in Articles, Email - tagged: Best Practices, Usability