How You Communicate in Email Reflects Your Personal & Business Brand
How many emails do you currently have in your work inbox? “Too many” is a common response among busy professionals these days.
Sending and receiving email takes up about a quarter of most workdays, according to an article printed in The Daily Mail in 2012. According to reports, we send and receive an average of 105 email messages a day. In this day and age, appropriate email etiquette is vital to reaching and retaining your customer base.
How you present yourself through this medium is arguably as important as how you physically and verbally present yourself to clients. Email can either be a tool for building rapport and strengthening relationships with your contacts or it can be an avenue to being written off as unprofessional and lacking credibility.
10 Business Email Best Practices
Here are some tips to help you better communicate with your clients while presenting a professional decorum that will preserve the integrity of your brand:
1. Respond Promptly
We live in an age of instant gratification. Customers expect, at the very least, to be contacted within 24 hours of their email. Even if you do not have a solution or answer to their inquiry, you are well-served professionally to send a quick reply acknowledging receipt of the customer’s message and confirming that you are working on a more thorough reply.
2. Use a Standard Font
Font choice is important when communicating via email. It should go without stating that the font should be legible, but then again, we’ve all seen emails come across with scripty, flourished fonts that make reading more time-consuming and difficult. Times New Roman or Ariel are typical of business communication. With that being said, be certain to use a black or dark font color. A professional email correspondence is not the time to show your stylish flair or knack for color choices. The object is to be understood concretely and quickly.
Colorful fonts are unprofessional for business email. Use a sans serif font (like Arial) in black instead.
3. Be Concise
We are all extremely busy people who spend lots of time on email already. Carefully choose what must be conveyed via email and leave the finer details for face-to-face or phone interaction. Consider organizing your response into a bulleted or numbered list. Keep paragraphs short. Avoid making yourself known as the Dostoyevsky of email!
4. Always Use a Formal Greeting and Closure
While email as a medium of communication is widely viewed as a more informal arena, don’t slack on the niceties of including a salutation and closure. Being mindful of these types of details will make your client feel like you’ve taken the time needed to carefully consider your message to them.
5. Vary Your Punctuation
Though it may be true that you cannot contain your excitement regarding the information you are about to share with your clients, avoid the temptation to end each sentence with multiple exclamation points. Customers and clients will question whether or not they can take you seriously if you cannot show some restraint in this arena.
Too many exclamation marks in business email is unprofessional.
6. Avoid Overusing CAPS LOCK
No one wants to be yelled at! Use CAPS LOCK only when necessary to emphasize your point.
7. Do Not Overuse Emoticons and Smileys
Some might argue that emoticons and smileys do not have a place in professional correspondence. That is a stylistic choice that can be left to each individual. However, as we all know, tone of voice can often be misinterpreted via email. You may find that including a smiley or emoticon may help you to communicate your intentions more clearly.
8. Choose the Right Subject Line
The subject line can make or break you. A well-chosen subject line can mean the difference between your email being read immediately or being discarded in the trash folder. Select subject lines that are short and as specific as possible. Ensure that your subject lines are free of typos and adhere to proper capitalization rules. Also, beware that using CAPS LOCK creates red flags, which trigger spam filters.
What is this email about? Use a specific subject line instead. This email is clearly about today’s meeting. See the difference?
9. Exercise Restraint with “Reply All”
Remember your own ever-expanding inbox and be considerate of others. Often times we hit the “reply all” button out of habit or laziness when replying to a specific individual would be better, especially if you’re only replying to say “Thanks!”
10. Use the Bcc: (not the Cc:)Field to Send Mass Emails to Individuals Who Are Not Professionally Connected
Never take it upon yourself to expose your client’s email addresses without their expressed consent. Additionally, mass emailing can make you appear too lazy or unwilling to give contacts individual time and attention. No matter how arduous the task may seem, clients will appreciate a message personally addressed to them and will be more likely to reply to you.
Email Represents Your Brand
While adhering to all of the above suggestions may seem overly time-consuming for everyday email correspondence, your customers and clients will acknowledge and appreciate the extra time you take to craft messages that embody the integrity of your organization.
Regardless of the communication mode used, you should always take advantage of an opportunity to best represent your brand with the highest level of professionalism possible. Your customers will notice it and it will set you apart from any of your competition who are more lax in the realm of email etiquette.
Photo courtesty of Jason Rogers