Information is moving at the speed of light these days, and while email can be a quick and convenient business tool, it’s worth it to take the time and care to use them well. Your customers’ perceptions of your business are not only derived from your store front or offerings, but by all the different ways you put yourself out into the public. Good email etiquette is just as important as having a good product, service, or return policy. Below are a few common examples of business email best practices that can give you a PR advantage:
Situation: You send information to someone by email and then wonder if they ever received it because you never heard from them since you pressed “send.” After a week, you forget that you even sent the email because so many things have piled up, until your boss asks you, “What ever happened with that email you sent to so and so?” Gulp.
Lesson: Respond to emails within 24 hours, so the recipient knows that you got their message. Even if you’re running short on time and are unable to answer their question or provide the information that they are requesting immediately, respond within 24 hours with a short acknowledgment that you received the email and let them know when you will be able to respond completely. If you’re the email sender, go into your sent file the next day and follow up politely with those from whom you are awaiting a response.
Situation: You receive an email that has been sent to a large group of recipients whose email addresses all appear in the “To” section. You are annoyed to see that your competitor is on the list.
Lesson: When sending email to a group of people, include only your email address in the “To” section and all of the recipients’ email addresses in the “Bcc,” or blind carbon copy, area. That way, everyone’s email address as well as business dealings with you remains private.
Situation: You receive an email from someone in all lower case letters, with little or improper punctuation, no greeting or farewell salutations, and half of the words missing. You strain your eyes and your brain, but you can barely make out the meaning of the message, and you wonder how the person ever survived this long in the business world.
Lesson: Of course you don’t have to refer to the “Chicago Manual of Style” every time you write an email, but take the same care in writing an email message as you would composing a letter. Start off with a polite greeting and end with an appropriate good bye. Double check your spelling. The recipient will be glad you did, and you and your business will be perceived as high quality, respectful, and easy to understand.
Situation: You meet someone new at a meeting and send them an “it was nice to meet you” email afterwards. The next day, you receive from your new contact no less than 12 forwards, including a several chain letters, jokes, and 101 tips on how to use Coca Cola and dryer sheets to clean your house.
Lesson: Sending out an occasional humorous email to well-known business associates is fine (as long as the humor is appropriate and non-offensive), but never add business associates’ email addresses to your personal email lists, and avoid sending “junk mail” altogether.
Situation: You request product information from a new vendor. A company representative emails you back with the information and says that you can call him anytime to find out more details, but he forgets to give you his phone number.
Lesson: Create an email signature and set it to appear on all of your email correspondences. The signature should include your first and last name, title, company, and all of your contact information (mailing address, phone numbers, fax number, email address, website address, etc.). You never know when a contact will need this information, and the easier it is to find, the easier it is for them to reach you and in turn, for you to make your next business deal.
Practice these lessons consistently. When in doubt, err on the side of being more conservative. Your daily emails will be sure to boost your overall PR.