RapidFireSomething’s been on my mind lately…it’s business email etiquette. Now, there are quite a few resources on email etiquette, and most are fairly simple:

  • Be professional and courteous in business emails,
  • Don’t send or forward inappropriate content,
  • Make sure your subject line summarizes the content without being overly cute,

But there are a few more tips about email and business email etiquette that you could probably use a refresher on. So first, here are a few tips about email etiquette that you probably don’t know:

You Might Be Breaking the Law

Hey, did you know that if you’re sending mass emails from your email address instead of from an email newsletter management tool, you just might be breaking the law? The CAN-SPAM law sets certain parameters that any business that sends out commercial emails must follow. And if you’re not following those laws, you’re breaking them. Worse, if you’re in Canada, you have even stricter laws than in the U.S. businesses must follow. Pay attention: each violation can cost $16,000.

Side note: STOP Adding People to Your List Without Their Permission!!

I get emails all the time from people who have met me once, asked for my card, and then added me to their mailing list to start sending me junk emails. It makes me so mad! If I just met you, I would certainly welcome a personal email from you, saying how nice it was to meet, but if I get a canned, automatic “Welcome to my list” email? You’ve just lost any chance of me hiring you to do anything .

Your Signature Might Get Your Email Rejected

If you have a long or complex signature, your emails might be getting sent to junk mail. Specifically, when you include web addresses in your signature file, some companies will just automatically send you to the spam folder. In fact, I’ve had companies actually return my emails as “undeliverable” simply because I included my LinkedIn profile URL in the signature line. So. Frustrating. But it happens.

You Should Respond as Promptly as Possible

In this day and age, people seem to think that replying to emails promptly (if at all) is optional. Problem is, each time you don’t reply promptly to an email (and I’m talking about within the same day or two), you’re showing your clients and prospective clients that they aren’t important to you.

And remember – if you’re frustrated when people don’t respond to your marketing emails, think about how people feel when you don’t respond to theirs. Even a, “Thank you for reaching out, but we’re not looking for this right now,” email is appreciated when someone has put their time into contacting you (but note that this tip doesn’t apply to marketing emails that contain the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom – that’s a sign that they haven’t contacted you personally and you can delete and ignore without hurting anyone’s feelings).

You Have an Autoresponder – Use It Wisely

Autoresponders: everybody has them, so few people use them the right way. I know there are some people who recommend that you use an autoresponder all the time, for productivity reasons, to tell people when you’ll be checking email, how to contact you in an emergency, and whatnot.

Remember, though, that you do business with people and autoresponders remove a significant part of the remaining human element from the exchange. What do you think it feels like to a prospective client to contact you and receive an autoresponder that essentially tells them how unreachable you are? Does it make you look impressive, somehow, or does it give them the impression that you’ll be hard to reach (which, just in case you didn’t know, doesn’t make you overly appealing to people who are going to want to do business with you).

And here are a few tips that you probably know, but ignore:

“Reply All” Is Super-Annoying

Unless you have a message that actually needs to be seen by everyone, always skip Reply All. Period.

Triple Check the Recipient

Many articles recommend that you avoid letting your email software auto-complete the recipient field. In fact, many experts suggest that you not even add a recipient until you’re done writing your email, to avoid the inadvertent sending of an email before you’re really done. I highly advocate this strategy. Sometimes I find it cumbersome to go back and find the email address when I really just want to “Reply” to someone, but the memory of the horror of an email sent to the wrong person is enough to put in the extra effort.

You Really REALLY Need a Professional Address

Professional email addresses are a must today. If you’re sending something that’s business-related (and it’s not a job application) from a Gmail account, you’ll be taken less seriously. It’s just as simple as that. Most domains come with free email these days and certainly all hosting accounts should. Even if that isn’t the case for you, or if you aren’t going to set up a web site right away, secure a domain name and use it professionally by using Gmail to set up your domain name. That way you can use Gmail to manage your account – for example, I use Gmail to manage my businessinbluejeans.com emails, so I can access it easily from anywhere.

Well, this “RapidFire” turned into a much longer post than I anticipated. Still, business email etiquette isn’t anything to mess around with. Even with a business named “Business in Blue Jeans,” I still take all of these tips and guidelines seriously…and so should you.

If you think I’ve missed any email tips that are really important, share them in the comments below!