Human Resources, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Subject: Re: email etiquette

November 30, 2016
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More and more, we are being asked as business owners, employees and customers to engage with technology. That technology ranges from automated phone systems to apps and even to the “old-school” technology of email.

Often times, the days of picking up a phone and talking to someone seem long gone. So long gone, in fact, I recently heard the story of a younger person who while continuously texting a friend, said, “Wow. There has to be an easier way to do this.”

Successful communication is vital for entrepreneurs and their businesses. A break in the chain of communication can cause grief, delay, lost sales, lost deals and even catastrophe. Yes, one small break in the chain can cause catastrophe. Are your employees equipped to communicate effectively? Are you reaching your customers? Is your business missing opportunities to make sales because of poor communication?

While there are many forms of communication, email continues to be a main method of internal and external communication. While it may seem like a basic mode of communication, a poorly crafted email reflects badly on your brand and your business. Take the time to make sure you, and your staff, are sending out professional and efficient emails using the following tips:

An email contains three major components: the To (including cc and bcc), the Subject and the Body.

Know who you’re talking to

This may seem like a very basic step, but nothing is worse than an inbox full of “cc” emails you didn’t need to be included on. The “To” section includes three categories: the To line, cc (carbon copy) line, and the bcc (blind carbon copy) line. The To line is meant for those that you directly want to communicate with. The key word here is directly. The cc line is to include individuals that you want to make aware of the communication. This also could be considered a “FYI” line. The bcc line, like the cc line, is for those you want to make aware of the email but not directly communicate with. However, others on the email won’t see anyone included in the bcc line. The bcc line should be used with caution and only when absolutely necessary. The key question you need to ask yourself here is, “Who am I actually communicating with, and who just needs to be made aware of the email?”

Choose a clear (and short) subject line

The subject of the email should be short and to the point. The Subject line should not be the whole email. It should contain the pertinent information the email is regarding. This pertinent information could include a meeting title, order or tracking number, workshop location or inquiry topic. Additionally, it is important to consider how the subject line will appear on a mobile device. More than 66 percent of all email in the U.S. is opened on a smartphone or tablet, and these devices often show a shorter subject line than a traditional desktop email. Keep your subject lines short and engaging to improve your open rate and to enforce the clarity of the message.

Streamline the body content

The Body is the main section of the email. It should contain the greeting, the more detailed version of the subject including any additional information that needs to be provided or any questions that need to be asked, and a signature.

The greeting can be a simple as “Greetings.” I prefer to use Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening, as they also provide an idea as to what time of day the email was sent. They also can include the person’s name, or group, that the email is addressed to. Greetings are important to personalize the email and will vary based on the recipient.

The body of the email should be written in a thoughtful manner. Always use complete sentences, and try to avoid text-speak acronyms like lol, smh, til, and ftfy — among many others. If you are asking questions, always ask them clearly and concisely. Include relevant information like dates and times, part numbers, titles, product or service issues, etc. Never assume the recipient of your email fully understands the situation or what you are emailing about. The key question to ask yourself here is, “Would I understand this email if I knew nothing about it previously?”

The body should also include a signature. Even on your personal email, always include a signature. You never know who may get forwarded an email from you — it could be a major customer — and what a shame if they couldn’t clearly see how to contact you. The signature should contain your name, title, phone number (especially for a business), email address, and any social media links. You may also personalize it with the added touch of a favorite quote or your company slogan. Many email programs allow you to set up one or more signatures that can be automatically added to your emails. Don’t hesitate to search online for instructions on how to do this with your email program. Your email signature is ultimately an additional way for people to connect with you or your business.

Some additional email best practices include:

  • Never send emails while highly emotional — come back to it, even a day later if necessary.
  • Give yourself time to proofread — step away for a few minutes and read it again to make sure it sounds right. For extremely important emails, I will even print them out and read them, or have a friend or colleague read them and give me a critique.

Put all of these together, and you have a professionally organized email. This will start you down the path of well organized, thoughtful and well-received emails that will influence your sales, brand and customer relationships.

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