Small Business Email 101:

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Email is the heart and soul of any business today. People use email for everything, but it amazes me how many small businesses I work with use email badly. I’m not talking about the words they type to communicate, I’m talking about the level of professionalism they display when using this most fundamental method of communication.

Here are three things I regularly see that make me shake my head:

Don’t Use a Generic Domain

If you are running a small business and still using a gmail.com, aol.com, comcast.net, verizon.net or some other generic domain for your email. STOP.

This is probably the one thing I see the most and it makes me scratch my head every time. Why are you not using your company’s domain name for your email? If you have a web site, even a simple web site, I am 99.999% certain that you also have some email service as a part of your hosting service. Use it.

Nothing says “I don’t get this modern Web thing” quite like using a generic domain for your email. It’s your business, your company, your image; why would you not identify yourself with your company?

I’ve heard small business owners state over and over, “But I’ve had this email address forever, no one will find me if I change now.” Wrong.

After you setup your new email address you can automatically forward your old email address to your new one. This will ensure that, after you tell everyone you regularly work with what your new email address is, the stragglers won’t get left behind. It will also mean that when you respond to them you will respond with your new email address. Eventually, even the most stubborn address updaters will get the message.

Don’t Use a Big Signature Block

A Signature Block on your email is a good idea. If you don’t use one, you should and they are easy to make. However, you need to keep in mind that your signature block is also a statement about you and your company, so for that reason alone we should adopt the KISS Principle and keep it simple.

Your signature should contain your most used contact information. It should not contain every contact point you have on the planet earth. Your name, primary email address and primary phone number would be the minimum amount of information your signature should contain. You can add a mailing and or location address as well if you have a retail front end or prestigious office location. And your signature should be in plain or HTML text.

I use two different signatures, a “long” signature and a “short” signature. The long signature goes on any new email I write and the short one goes on any reply email’s I write. Note that even the long signature is pretty short.

Long Signature:

Your Name                                                 Company Name
you@mycompany.com                              123 Main St.
(123) 456-7890                                            Anyrown, USA 12345

Short Signature:

Your Name
email@yourcompany.com
(123) 456-7890

The whole point of the signature block is to convey contact information quickly and efficiently. If people have to wade through 10 different contact points to find the one you use most, they will get frustrated. If people have to see X’s because their phone, tablet or computer email program does not display images by default, they will get frustrated. If people can’t do a simple copy and paste or long press to access your contact information, they will get frustrated.

So here’s a quick list of things to avoid:

  • Images – Any Images including Logos, Awards and Twitter/facebook/LinkedIn links.

  • More than 3 contact methods

  • A picture of your Signature – The only thing people want to see your actual signature on is a check or a contract, not an email.

  • A pithy Quote or e-slogan – People are not going to not print your email just because you remind them to save a tree. If they need to print it out, they will anyway.

  • Legal Disclaimer – They don’t mean anything, they are not enforceable and frankly if you send an email to the wrong person, the fault lies with you not recipient. I have had discussions with Lawyers who agree that the disclaimers are useless, but they include them anyway as an “I did what I could” measure. I get that. However, if you’re not in the Legal or Medical profession, skip it.

Set Up a Separate Email Address for Marketing Material

If your business sends out a lot of marketing material, don’t send it as you. Set up a different email like info@yourcompany.com or marketing@yourcompany.com and send it through that account.

Here’s why. We all get bombarded by email “noise” every day. We all have to sift through our inboxes looking for the really important emails, so don’t make it harder on your contacts to find your really important email. If they want your marketing material they will get it, but when they see there is an email from you, it will more likely get read because it’s not buried in a sea of marketing messages. Email from you should be specifically for the recipients of the email, not general marketing material.

I hope these tips help you more effectively communicate with your customer and suppliers.

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