It’s time to step up your e-mail game. If you run a business, especially an online business, you need to read this.
In one of my many college courses, we discussed how the world is getting smaller. It was my Globalization course, to be exact. We weren’t chatting about how the world was physically becoming smaller, but rather that technology makes it easier to communicate with people the next state over, across the country, and even the world. We no longer have to wait for weeks to sail across the ocean to deliver a message, or for the post to deliver it. People are merely an e-mail away, making it easy to effectively and quickly communicate. In essence, the world is becoming “smaller” because of this and nothing seems too far out of reach anymore.
Technology is pretty dang fabulous, right? But let’s face it — it can be tricky, too. Writing an e-mail seems easy, in theory. You type some text into a box, sometimes proofread it, and then send it off. What happens next? This magical process delivers your e-mail to (hopefully) the intended recipient, and you go about your business. What about communicating your point, or making your e-mail personable?
For a business, this is crucial. You have to be professional, be personable, and you have to communicate effectively through your keyboard. Making all three happen in a single e-mail? Not everyone can manage that.
Let’s take a look at a few tips to help you nail your e-mail game.
Your e-mail greeting is the introduction to your e-mail. You should consider the person you’re talking to when you add your greeting — is it your mom, your client, or your boss? All three might have very different greetings. For me, I want each e-mail to feel like we’re having a conversation in my living room or at a coffee shop. I’ve developed a brand with Autumn Lane Paperie in which people (I hope) feel warmth and as if they’re talking with a friend. It’s simply who I am. I usually start off with “Hey <client name>!” because I like having a casual, open interaction with my clients. I find that attempting to communicate more professionally and in a more sterile manner really hinders my creative process. Ultimately, I want to put my clients at ease and make them feel as though they can communicate with me honestly.
I didn’t initially plan for my e-mails to take shape the way they have — I think it’s just who I am, and when I thought about changing it to be more professional…it just didn’t sit well with me! Yes, I’m a professional providing professional services…but really, I just love what I do, and I want people to be at ease when they’re doing business with me.
This is that little opener in your e-mail that tells your client you’ve thought of them, how they are, and what they’ve been up to. You should only use a pleasantry if you genuinely care, otherwise, it’s going to seem forced. If your client mentioned that they spent their weekend camping with their family, it would be totally cool to tell them that you hope they had a great time camping. If they’ve been unwell, it would be awesome to tell them you hope they’re feeling better.
I try to use a pleasantry as much as possible, but it’s often not even a thought or something I consider — it usually just happens, because I really love hearing what my clients have been up to. It’s great for my creative process to know who my clients are and what they enjoy outside of what I’m working on for them. It enables me to inject bits of their personality in what I’m working on so that they can connect with it even more, and really take ownership of their brand.
Appreciate their response or their feedback? That’s important. Let them know, especially if they’ve gone above & beyond to answer the questions you’ve asked them or respond to something you’ve provided them. It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you leave out that gratitude part, your e-mail will lose its warmth. Additionally, you don’t want to make your client feel that you don’t care about what they said or that you’ve taken for granted that they’ve made an effort to collaborate and respond.
Information, Details, Answers.
This is the meaty part of your e-mail. Sending an attachment? Explain what you’ve attached, why they need to look at it, what feedback you might need, and so on. Answer questions that were in their e-mail, and re-state anything to clarify. Spending an extra five minutes on that e-mail now will save you fifteen minutes later when you have to go back to clarify because you didn’t do that the first time. Re-stating ensures that you’re clear on what was asked, and so that your client knows that you’ve taken the time to read their e-mail.
Have a lot of questions to answer? Use a bulleted list, numbered list, or the good ol’ copy/paste with answers in bold. Do what works for you and what will make your e-mail as clear as possible.
Call to Action.
Request your response, and be clear about it. Your e-mail might contain a ton of info & details with no specific questions, but you still need your client to confirm information or agree that they’re on board. Don’t leave that to them to decide whether or not a response is necessary — ask them for one.
You don’t have to be stuffy about it and say, “Please respond ASAP.” or even super rigid like “A response is requested immediately.” A simple “Let me know what you think!” or “Tell me your thoughts!” should do the trick. If all else fails, simply pose your question to them: “What do you think?”
Related to this, if you require a response in a timely manner, ensure that you’ve provided a time frame in which you’re hoping to have a response. Don’t leave it to anyone’s imagination!
There are, of course, other things you should consider with your e-mail that aren’t related to the content of your e-mail.
I’m guilty of this just as much as the next guy or gal — reading tone into a message. At the end of the day, you need to ensure that you’ve done your part to ensure your clients read your message the way you intend it to be read. A great deal of that is how you provide your details, ask your questions, and ensure that you’ve communicated adequately the points you’re trying to make. This keeps anyone from reading tone in that isn’t there. However, you can’t control how anyone else composes their e-mail. Keep an open mind, and realize that you might be a bit reactionary if you take offense to a statement that could be read any number of ways.
Punctuation might help a bit with the tone issue. Selecting the appropriate punctuation will aid in deciding how a message could be read.
Take a look at this:
It’s ok. Meh, it’s alright.
It’s ok? You can do that?
It’s ok! No problem, that’s cool!
its ok I acknowledge that but don’t care enough to say more.
Furthermore, punctuation helps establish where one thought ends, and the next begins, and it helps clarify your thoughts. Have you ever been sent an e-mail that was one giant paragraph of a run-on sentence? It hurts my head when I get those, and I often have to copy/paste the e-mail into another window and separate it myself to decipher it. I used to be a linguist in my previous job; I don’t want to do that again.
The Return Key.
Similar to punctuation, make use of your return key to separate your ideas and paragraphs. A wall of text can be rather daunting for people, especially if you suck at using punctuation.
THIS. So much this!! I’m not a robot by any means, and I still make mistakes or don’t catch typos, but I can’t even begin to tell y’all how many typos that I’ve fixed that saved me from a ton of embarrassment! Proofread your e-mails. Spelling, clarity, and making sure that your ideas make sense. I have received e-mails that were so bad that I’ve had to ask for clients to restate or resend because it didn’t make sense. Don’t do that, especially related to business!
All in all, e-mail is hugely convenient: instant communication around the world, answering at your convenience, and being able to keep your thoughts in writing. What are some tips you have for your e-mail game that have worked for you?