Professionals communicate in a professional manner regardless of the mode of communication. If you are a consummate professional, you know that putting your best foot forward, at all times, is just what you do.
When it comes to your business email communications, you need to make an impression that can lend to the determination that you are a credible professional enterprise. You want to be viewed as a partner who will make communications easy and a pleasure to do business with.
You have only one chance to make a first impression be invaluable to building trust and confidence.
The Business Email Etiquette Basics You Need to Know
Here are the key Business Email Etiquette issues that should be applied with every commercial email sent. These are the issues business owners, their employees and Netrepreneurs need to be aware of in their day-to-day online communications to ensure the best possible results.
Professional Behavior on the Job
How you use your email, company email address or employer’s technology is a serious issue. Part of your job performance responsibilities is to not waist valuable business time on distractions.
For example, the sending non-business related emails, jokes, forwards or commentary on company time. This reflects a lack of professionalism.
Or visiting websites that are not necessary to your job responsibilities will reflect that you cannot be trusted. While on company time do not assume you have any privacy when using company resources and equipment.
The Subject Field
The Subject field is the window into your email. What you type in this field can determine if the recipient will open your email. For new contacts, based on a request through your site or otherwise, you want to be recognized.
Visual judgements are made when we scan our inboxes. To help avoid be misidentified as spam, we craft a relevant Subject: field. A short Subject that clearly indicates that your email is a response to their inquiry.
Typos, all caps or all small case can lend to an unprofessional impression. Or, that you may be spammer.
Level of Formality
Avoid the prevailing assumption that email by its very nature allows you to be informal in your business email communications. Only time and relationship building efforts will determine when you can offer a more relaxed tone in your business email.
PRO TIP: A good rule of thumb is to communicate at all times as if your email is on your company letterhead. This means black text and standard fonts. No acronyms, and typing full words and sentences as well. (For example: u vs. you.)
This is your business image you are branding after all.
Initially, address new contacts with the highest level of courtesy: Hello, Mr. Anderson, Dear Ms. Jones, Dr. Osborne, etc. They may very well comment “call me Andy” or “you can call me Diane”.
You also will be able pick up clues as to when you can have a more relaxed tone. Take note of how contacts approach you as well as how they sign off.
Most business people do not mind being called by their first name. However, in a global economy that can be perceived as taking premature liberties in the relationship if used too soon.
To:, From:, BCc, Cc Fields
In the To: field make sure you have your contact’s name formally typed. John B. Doe – not john b doe or JOHN B DOE.
In the From: field make sure you have your full name formally typed. Example: Jane A. Jones. Not: jane a jones or JANE A JONES. The latter two give the perception of lack of education or limited experience with technology.
BCc: use this field when emailing a group of contacts who do not personally know each other. It is considered a breach of privacy to visibly list an arms length list of email addresses in the Cc or TO fields of contacts who do not know each other or who have never met is conducive to publishing their email address to strangers.
This is a serious privacy issue. When forging partnerships, visibly listing an email address in with a group of strangers is a subtle warning. What other privacy issues do you not respect or understand?
Cc: use this field when there are a handful of associates involved in a discussion. They all need to be on the same page.
These contacts know each other or have been introduced. They will have no problem having their email address exposed to the parties involved.
If you are not sure if a business associate would mind their address being made public, then don’t. Contact information is an important commodity. One you want to make clear you will value and respect.
Reply to All
Use this button with great discretion. Carefully think about whether “all” really need to be aware of your reply in order to conduct business.
Never use this button to CYA or e-Tattle on a coworker or colleague. This approach only serves to have you appear petty. Not a good look.
Refrain from using formatting in your day-to-day business email communications. Unless you would type something in bold crimson letters on business letterhead, don’t do it when emailing for commercial gain.
Less is more in this case. You want your message to get across without he distraction of formatting or unnecessary embedded images. All of which can increase your potential spam score.
Even something as simple as using a different font could make your emails more difficult to read. Did you know if the other side doesn’t have that font on their system, it defaults to their system’s font.
This is why it is a good idea to stick with your email software’s provided default font. Those selections are based on what is most universal and user-friendly.
Reflecting you understand technology is part of forming any online business partnership. A misstep of sending a 10M Power Point presentation they didn’t request. What if you fill up their inbox? What about their data a resources?
If they do not have Power Point, they wouldn’t be able open the file. It is wise to not assume your potential customers have the software or data allowance that you do. Ask first to confirm.
When emailing a file (or combination of files) over 500,000K in size, use a zip or compression utility to minimize the download size. It’s easy and simple to do.
Want to make an impression? Reflect uncommon business courtesy by asking first before sending large files. At that time you can confirm they have the same software and version you do.
Then, ask what is the best time of day to send the file(s). And then follow through.
The last thing you want to do is send large attachments without warning, on weekends or after business hours. Unless of course you arranged to do so in advance.
Using Previous Email for New Correspondence
To provide the perception of lazy, find a previous email from your contact and hit reply. Then proceed to communicate about something completely irrelevant to the old email’s subject.
You always want to start a new email for a new subject. Get in the habit of adding your contacts to your address book so you can start a new email with one click.
PRO TIP: When ongoing conversations change direction, change the Subject field to reflect the new direction.
Down Edit Your Replies
Avoid hitting reply and then just start typing. This is referred to as top-posting. We want to down-edit.
Down-editing is a skill those you communicate with will appreciate. It lends to clarity to your communications while showing you respect their time.
By deleting parts of the previous email that no longer apply to your response (including email headers and signature files) you remove clutter. Down-editing allows you to reply point by point which keeps the conversation on track with fewer misunderstandings.
Hello, Hi, Good Day, Thank You, Sincerely, Best Regards. The intros and sign offs that are a staple of professional business communications should also be integrated into your business email communications. Not doing so could have your messages be misinterpreted as demanding or terse.
Always include a salutation and sign-off that includes your name with every email. Here again, think business letterhead.
Courtesy also mandates that you make the effort to communicate as an educated adult. Type in full sentences with proper sentence structure. Not all caps; not all small case.
Proper capitalization and punctuation are a must so that you appear to be an educated professional. All caps or all small case smacks of either lack of education, tech/business savvy — or laziness.
None of which is positive for instilling confidence. Or, encouraging others to want to do business with you.
Keep your signature files short and sweet. No more than 5-6 lines. We don’t want to be to viewed as egocentric. Therefore, limit your signature to your name, website link, company name, and slogan/offer or phone number.
That’s why you include a link to your website. The recipient can get all your contact information from A-Z there. That is what your website is for.
PRO TIP: Include the “https://” when typing your Website address within emails and your signature file. This makes sure the URL is recognized as a clickable URL regardless of the user’s software or platform.
You should do your best to respond to your business communications as quickly as possible. This is a customer service pulse point that should not be underestimated.
By not responding promptly you seem unorganized or unconcerned. Worse, you risk being outperformed by your competitors who understand the importance of appearing efficient and on the ball.
Rise Above the Majority
These very important issues will certainly allow your business communications to rise above the majority who do not take the time to understand and master these topics.
While texting isn’t really email, I do have an article for you to review since more and more business folks are using texting in their business communications.
READ: Business Texting Etiquette: 10 Tips for Professionals
When forging new business relationships and solidifying established partnerships, the level of professionalism and courtesy you relay in your business email communications will always gain clients. Especially when compared to your competition that may be anemic, uninformed or just plain lazy in this area.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out my eBook on Business Email Etiquette & Proper Technology Use for the full scoop.
When it comes to business, regardless of mode of communication used, professionalism and courtesy never go out of style. Instead they go to your bottom-line.