Remember the days when carrier pigeons – and the odd postman – would carry correspondence? Nope, me neither! These days e-mail is ubiquitous. Even my 90 year old grandmother is online and tweeting. E-mail is an instant way of getting your message across, and for the savvy interim – a powerful business tool and marketing channel.
Caveat sender, though. Email can also be your downfall. We’ve all heard those stories about the emails that go to the person they weren’t intended for because someone pressed the ‘send all’ button when they should have pressed ‘delete’…e-mail is an informal medium, but do your colleagues really need sight of your nudist holiday snaps? Unless you work for a naturist magazine, I think you know the answer to that one! At a more prosaic level, e-mail etiquette – like giving good meetings and firm handshakes – is a necessary part of business life in the 21st century. Best you understand the ground rules.
Rule #1: Tend before you send. E-mail is an instant medium, so think carefully before you press send on that all important pitch letter. There is nothing more annoying to busy people than individuals who feel it necessary to press send all when this isn’t necessary. If it’s appropriate, do it. If not, direct your correspondence to the person who needs to see it, not the entire department! E-mail is also far more casual in nature than formal business correspondence, but that does not mean that you need to throw spelling and good grammar out of the window. I am amazed by the amount of text speak that passes for email these days. ‘Mt you l8tr’ is appropriate for texting your teenage daughter, not confirming timings with the new CEO. And for goodness sake, proof-read any important emails – don’t rely on spell-checker.
Rule #2: Your signature is an advert. Yes, really. It’s a perfect place to drive traffic to your website, put links to your latest blogs and invite people to connect with you via social media. You don’t need to put your physical address, but an accurate contact number and mobile details are pre-requisite. I know, this seem obvious, but I’ve lost count of people whose phone numbers are inaccurate. Even if you aren’t particularly IT-minded, it’s also very easy to add hyper-linked buttons for Twitter and Linked-in, or connect people to your social media pages. Just check out the FAQ sections on their web pages.
Rule #3: Do what it says on the tin! If you are starting out as an interim – at least get yourself a domain name and an email address that sounds professional. Gregfirstname.lastname@example.org isn’t terribly impressive, unless you are wrestling reptile in a Circus. It is perfectly acceptable to use your first and last name, as in http://www.greg-roberts.com or email@example.com. It also makes it easier for people to find you when they type your name into Google. The suffix ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’ doesn’t matter that much – the main thing is that clients and prospects can reach you if they need to.
Rule #4. SPAM is a four-letter word. This is a no-brainer. By all means reach out to contacts and prospects with an email or e-newsletter. However, be absolutely sure that your contacts want to receive this. Make it easy for people to ‘opt-in’ to your regular email marketing using free services like ‘Constant Contact’ or ‘Mailchimp’.
Stick to the rules, and you might find e-mail becomes an ally, not the enemy!
Lisa Bondesio is an independent consultant and interim. She prefers short, spell-checked emails, but is far fonder of face to face contact with her clients and contemporaries.