For most soloists, an email is the first contact we make with people related to our business be they customers, suppliers or staff. And while writing emails seems simple enough, it’s easy to forget how important email communication is when it comes to building our reputation and brand.
Which leads us to:
- Not thinking about who is reading the email and what they need from us.
- Thinking we can pay less attention to detail because an email is more informal than a business letter.
- Thinking it’s ok to write without a purpose – failing to plan our emails or make logical arguments.
- Avoiding being direct because we’re afraid the person won’t like what we have to say. Or worse, waffling and buttering people up before getting to the point.
- Failing to check formatting, spelling or punctuation much less editing or proofreading.
If you are making any of these mistakes, here are four ways you can improve your email communication and boost your professional and business reputation.
1. Meaningful subject lines get your email read
- Don’t leave it blank. Ever.
- Your subject lines should be clear, meaningful and useful.
- Think like a newspaper headline and give a teaser of why to read on.
- Include key dates and project names.
- Being specific helps you and your reader organise emails. Call something “Peach Canning Project board minutes – August 2016” rather than “board minutes from last week”.
- Don’t be afraid to break the forwarding chain and remove the FW: from forwarded emails and rename them. Sending an email with a subject of “FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: meeting” sends it to the bottom of the to-do list.
2. Simple, relevant information
- Know your audience so you can get to the point. You can be professional and friendly at the same time. You don’t have to start every email with a question about how their kids or pets are going.
- Only include necessary information. If you are writing a response to a customer on a specific question, don’t overload them with more than they asked for. If you think something else may be relevant to them, include a link or follow up when it is more appropriate.
- Avoid long chunks of text – don’t lose your reader by making them work too hard. Dot points are your friend.
- Always write as though it might be forwarded on (good for getting your business the credit it deserves and saving your customer’s time!)
3. Call to action
- Always include a clear call to action. This does not always mean a task – it can be simply specifying the information is for noting only with no response required.
- Make it clear what you want the reader to do – respond, review and provide comments, accept an invitation, reschedule a meeting, provide specific advice.
- Make it easy for them to respond or action – give clear deadlines and specific requirements.
- Don’t bury a request for a meeting within a long email. Note at the start of the email you will follow the email up immediately with a meeting request to discuss. And then make sure you send the meeting request.
4. Stop saying sorry!
- If you ever find yourself starting business emails with an apology, stop it. This can be tricky when it comes to questions about money. When I get a question asking for my hourly copywriting rate, it is tempting to talk around the question and justify my response. Learning to be direct helps relationships start on a positive note.
- Don’t downplay your understanding of an issue to avoid looking like the most knowledgeable person on the email group. Own it.
- Don’t start out on a negative note with an apology. You damage your own credibility rather than curry favour with others.
- Own your intent, and don’t ask for permission to make a point, provide information or disagree with someone. You can be polite and ask for what you want at the same time.
Want more articles like this? Check out the business productivity section.
For most of us, emails are such a big part of our business day. Get your email communication right and not only will you make your business life easier, you’ll enhance your reputation too.