Using Email Effectively

Email is an effective means of communication for business and personal use but it also has some disadvantages.

Firstly, the advantages are;

  1. Email is effective in providing quick answers to yes and no, type questions. eg. Do you do international delivery?
  2. Email is effective in finding the right person in an organisation or company to answer your question.
  3. Email is good to make appointments for busy people.
  4. Email can distribute information quickly to many people for the time it takes to email one person.

The disadvantages are;

  1. Email can become timeconsuming for answering complicated questions and misunderstandings can arise because cultural differences in the interpretation of certain words. The telephone, is much better for providing detailed answers or if you feel that the question is not absolutely clear.
  2. Email can compromise the security of an organisation because sensitive information can be easily distributed accidently or deliberately. Email should be entrusted to well trained and trusted staff members.
  3. Email can become impersonal or misunderstood.
  4. The use of pronouns can lead to serious misunderstandings. Users should always try to write the full description rather than abbreviate their sentences with pronouns.

Using business email

More and more individuals are receiving more emails than they can digest and because it is physically more difficult to read on a computer screen, email writing is different from other styles of letter writing.

In business it is important that emails do not become so burdensome, that more time is spent answering email that doing work. Emails must be prioritized, and accurate subject lines chosen. Skimming emails is common, so make sure that the major point in your email is handled first. Make a decision whether it is best to divide the email into multiple emails with different subject lines, because this is often easier and quickier to reply to and also because many people will read one point in the email and totally miss another point.

Email security

Do not open an attachment or click on a link in an email from someone you don't know. If the content of the email looks suspicious, but it is from someone you know - don't open until you clarify it with the sender first. Trust your intuition or you may end up infected with a computer virus.

Most honest people do not realize that email addresses are easily forged. This is because the domain name system does not do a DNS check with the registrar of the domain, when email is sent. So, even if you get an email appearing to be from a bank or person you know, if it looks suspicious, email them and if they reply to the email, you know that they really did send the email.

The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an attempt to control forged emails by editing the zone file of a domain name, but since only a small number of domain name registrants enter the SPF records into their zone file and not all mail servers subscribe to that policy, the policy is itself, a work in progress.  Banks and hosting companies, increasingly request users to login, to send secure mail because they cannot be certain that an email address is not being forged.

Lastly, never open attachments of forwarded emails that are offered for inspiration or amusement. Among friendship groups emails may be forwarded that seem funny. The first person in the loop may have been sent a message that they believed was from someone they knew and this person becomes an innocent distributer of malware. Malware is malicious code that is designed to steal confidential information. eg. login details to internet banking.

Use of Mailing Lists

Email is a highly effective medium of communication but a wise company needs to treat the recipient like a person not a number on a mailing list. Email needs to be personal or else it is regarded as SPAM and sent off to the recycling bin or blocked by the customer.

SPAM is unsolicited mail. Because it is easy and inexpensive to send email, it is also easy and inexpensive to send junk email.

Just because a person joins your mailing list does not necessarily mean that he or she wants to be bombarded with useless information or made feel as you are using the mailing list purely for profit.

Email can look really impressive by adopting a brochure format, but unless the pictures are there for a reason and the email engages the reader by providing useful information, then it is better to send a text based email. If you need to display products, then a link inside an email to the page on your web site where the product is displayed is in my opinion a better option. This leads the person back to your web site. An email formatted like a brochure is uninviting because it resembles advertising but by providing a link, you are giving the customer a choice to view your product. This empowerment is the difference between informative email and advertising. Informative email is inviting, email that resembles advertising is pushy.

Email needs to tread the line of being personal yet business like. It is a way of building good customer relationships.

Email used well can make people feel as though they matter.

Relationships are the key to any business and it can make for a rewarding experience.

If the desire is to serve the customer, you will certainly be well in front of your competition by responding to every email, promptly and politely.

See Using Mailing Lists for more information

Email tips

Always, greet the customer using their name and end by using your name. To not use a recipient's name makes the customer feel as though you are too busy to care to address them properly.

Make sure your contact details are clearly displayed on the end of every email. Your contact details should include your full name and company name, ABN or ACN number, your business phone number, fax number, web site address, mobile phone number, business address and postal address.

Always ask the customer if they want to be included on a mailing list before adding them to the mailing list.

Terms like 'regards' or 'kind regards' are formal but friendly.

When sending out newsletters, make sure they are personal. Imagine that you are the recipient. Treat your customer like a person and not a number.

Do not use subject lines like 'newletter number 42' or 'company A weekly newsletter'. Make sure that the email title entices the recipient to read the email. Increasingly, large volumes of information means that an email subject title needs to stand out.

Be yourself and enjoy the instantaneous and wonderful medium of email.

Using Business Email Addresses

Surprisingly, large numbers of small businesses choose to use their ISPs email address. There are three reasons why you should avoid using an email address provided by your ISP or free email addresses like hotmail, yahoo or googlemail.

(1) Branding. Using  your own domain name and email associated with your domain name enables you an opportunity to promote your business. You also don't have to put up with advertising being served up to your clients by free email accounts.

(2) Transportability. If you change ISPs you cannot take your email address with  you and it is difficult to inform everyone of your new email address.

(3) You are less likely to be blocked for SPAM by mail servers and mail programs because free mail accounts are often used by fraudsters and spammers.

Even if you don't have a website, a business email address associated with a domain name that you can register is an inexpensive investment. See Business Email Hosting for more information