Getting the most from your e-mail - 5th Apr 2011

Here's some quick tips to help you get the most from your e-mail.

Write clear, concise e-mails

Always try to write clear, concise e-mails, and use a formal e-mail sign-off with your full name, title, company name, and your contact information.

E-mail communication represents your business

Any e-mail that you send should be treated with the same professionalism as written communication.  Just as you would prefix a letter with a letterhead and formal introduction, you should also do the same with an e-mail. E-mail of course can be used in an informal manner, but remember that everything you say in an e-mail is stored in many places, even after deletion.

You should ensure that the message correctly and quickly identifies who you are, and is consistent with your business name.  For example you should use "Steve Smith - Acme Ltd" for your name and steve.smith@acme.co.nz for your e-mail address, rather than steveo82@windowslive.com. If you don't do this then the chances of your message being deleted before being read are much higher.

Use a meaningful subject line

Any message you send may be replied to by the recipient and using an appropriate subject will help to locate the message thread (a thread is a series of e-mail messages that are all related to the same initial e-mail).  An appropriate subject will help you find those messages at a later date. Some appropriate e-mail message subjects are "Turboweb Maintenance Schedule" or "Request for information regarding ABC123".  If you use an empty subject or a subject of "hey" then you may find that you will have trouble finding information later.

Remember that it takes time to read an e-mail

Most people get hammered with e-mails - it's not uncommon to find someone with a thousand or more messages in their inbox, with a hefty amount of those unread.  If you are sending an e-mail to a mailing list, try to break your message up into sections (like this message is) to allow people who don't have time to read the entire message to find the key points of interest. If your message requires a response, make it clear what that response is and what the expected time frame is for the response.

Never assume privacy

If the content of the message is useful to the recipient then the chances of it being forwarded are greater.  Given this you should always assume that an e-mail is in the public domain. If you wish to have it treated accordingly make sure you make it very clear to the recipient that it is a private matter.

Present your contact information properly

Always use an e-mail signature. You can set your e-mail program to include it automatically, that way your contact details always go with your e-mail. Make sure everything is spelt correctly (use the spell checker in your e-mail program) and that it looks how you want it to. If required, you can test this by sending an e-mail to yourself.

Some people make their signatures out of one large image. The down side of this method it that readers cannot cut and paste your info, they have to manually type it into their contact list allowing the potential for mistakes. If you do use text then smart devices (such as iPads, iPhones and Android phones) can turn those details into clickable links that trigger maps to locate addresses or dial numbers directly. It's very easy to have a great looking e-mail signature made with HTML that includes your logo and has all your info in text.

This process can be fiddly, but we've done it many times already so we can help you out. Drop us a line and we'll let you know what's involved.

Avoid attachments where possible

We've seen people create PDF attachments that contain the actual message they want to deliver and then send that to people. If you can type the information in the e-mail then that's the right thing to do. Attachments require more work to open, can be slow to download and also require software on the receiving computer to open them.

Market your e-mail address

Make sure your e-mail address is on all your printed material. I saw a car the other day with beautiful new signage. The company website was on there in big letters www.example.com and the e-mail address even bigger kay.milne5@xtra.co.nz! It didn't look that flash and it does not send the message that you are well organized.



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