A common part of doing business, particularly as a business owner or entrepreneur, is emailing. Lots and lots of emailing!
Often, email communication is one of the first impressions a new partner or customer will have with your business. So, as a business owner, entrepreneur, blogger or freelancer, it’s important to have stellar (or… at least good 😉) email etiquette.
Here are a few elements of “proper” email etiquette that can help you enhance your brand strategy, provide exemplary customer service, and create a good impression for your business:
Have a professional set-up
However, it’s still best to make sure your email account is set up professionally. A few tips:
It’s viewed as most professional to use an email address that’s native to your website—so, instead of email@example.com, we want to be using [name]@fivedesign.co.
Be sure to set up your email account name to reflect what you’d like recipients to see. This name will appear in the “from” field that recipients see in their inbox. You may need to make a choice between using your business name or your personal name—it’s best to use whichever your recipients would be most likely to recognize.
Many email providers include the ability to upload an image that’s connected to your account. Whether it’s best to use a professional headshot, a logo, or maybe even your website’s favicon is up to you—but aim for a professional image that accurately represents your business and brand.
For business emails, we recommend using G Suite, Google’s “business” version of Gmail and cloud storage. Though it’s $6/month (compared to regular ol’ Gmail being free), it allows you to use custom email addresses connected to your URL, manage all email addresses for your site/team in one place, and, for Squarespace users, it’s seamlessly integrated with the back-end of your Squarespace website. You can trial G Suite free for 14 days:
What to put in a useful and impactful email signature?
Well, it depends on a few things, and the appropriate/strategic content may vary by person or business…or even specifically whom you’re emailing.
It saves time (and, in some ways, looks more professional) to use an auto-signature that’s set up for all of your emails. For many people this works just fine, as the same signature would apply to the majority of the emails you’ll be sending. Some email clients will allow you to craft multiple auto-signatures, which you can choose between based on the purpose and recipient of your email. But for most of us, we’ll be working with one email signature for all emails—so we need to craft it to be as widely relevant as possible.
For most purposes, here’s what we recommend including in your email signature:
Name: Of course, gotta let people know who you are, what you like to be called, and the correct spelling of it. Whether you choose to include your full name, first name only, or nickname is up to you, based on what makes sense for your brand, business needs and most of the emails you’ll be sending.
Title: It’s also a good idea to provide context of what you do by including a title—either your formal job title or something else descriptive of the role you serve.
Company/organization: Definitely let people know where you’re coming from. If you’re emailing on behalf of a company/organization (even your own), that should be included. You could use your logo in place of the company name—just be mindful about using images in email signatures (see below).
Link(s): Where’s the best place for an email contact to find out more about you and what you do? Whether it’s your website, your LinkedIn page or your Upwork profile, it’s helpful to include a link that makes it easy for readers to “get more” if they’re looking for it. This is also an opportunity to link to social channels (perhaps including linked icons).
Images: Though a pretty picture of yourself or a company logo may make sense for your brand, keep in mind that images can end up a little wonky in some email clients. You’ll also want to be aware of the size of the image you’re using and be sure that a) that the file size isn’t so large it clogs inboxes or is slow to download, and b) the proportion of the image in relation to the rest of your email signature makes sense.
Quote or blurb: If it makes sense for your business purposes and is cohesive with your brand, go ahead and add a little quote or blurb that adds value to your email signature and helps it stand out.
All in all, your email signature should simply and cohesively let people know who you are, what you do, where they can find out more—and support your brand while doing all of this.
Get the name right
This almost feels too obvious to list… but it’s incredibly important and unfortunately doesn’t happen all the time:
Properly address the person you’re emailing! 😄
If they’ve emailed you first, address them with the name they used to sign their email. For example, if they used “Margaret,” then use that. But if they used “Maggie,” then use that. (Point being: use the name they’ve given you.) Sometimes the name they’ve given you is in the details: perhaps their email account is set up as “Margaret” but they sign their name “Maggie” when writing to you—note that detail and go with Maggie.
(Also, check twice that you’re spelling the name right! Michelle vs. Michele may seem like a small detail, but it’s a big statement about your own attention to detail—which ends up being applied to your business as well.)
Unless there is an industry standard that says otherwise in your field, there’s usually no need to over-formalize your email with Mr. Last Name. Of course, familiarize yourself with the norm for your industry and proceed accordingly. But, in general (and particularly for newer fields like tech), it tends to come across a little archaic to overly formalize the name.
If you do feel it’s appropriate to use formal pronouns, keep in mind that for women, there is a difference between Mrs., Ms. and Miss. The intended politeness of using one of these is sometimes negated by using the wrong one.
Use meaningful subject lines
Most people have overflowing email inboxes and need to quickly scan them to determine what’s relevant and worth opening vs. what can be discarded without reading.
It’s in both your and the recipient’s best interest to use a meaningful subject line that gives some context to your email content and encourages the reader to open it.
Reply in a timely manner (or apologize)
Ahh, easier said than done, right? Though most of us intend to read and reply to emails in a timely manner, they tend to pile up. In cultivating business relationships, it’s (usually) best to reply to emails in a timely manner—not necessarily within ten minutes of receiving them, but within a day or two.
However, sometimes you’re not able to reply within a couple business days. Depending on the circumstance, it’s probably polite to acknowledge and apologize for your delay. A simple apology helps the recipient feel they aren’t unimportant or forgotten about.
If you know you’ll be out of the office or won’t be able to reply within a couple business days, it’s also a good idea to set up an auto-reply to manage expectations about this.
Use auto-replies strategically
If you’ll be away from your email for longer than what most people would consider a reasonable length of time for awaiting a reply (aka two business days), it can be helpful and polite to set up an auto-reply alerting senders of this.
However, this comes with a caveat: you also want to avoid over-using auto-replies, which tend to add clutter to the sender’s inbox.
A few tips on writing a good auto-reply:
Only use when necessary
Keep it short and sweet
Give readers a heads up about when they can anticipate hearing back from you
Give an interim contact, if appropriate
Answer all the questions
When someone you’re cultivating a business relationship with emails you, be sure you’re thorough in your response and acknowledge all questions they’ve asked. Not just one of the questions, not just some of the questions. Answer (or in some way address) all questions asked of you.
This shows respect for the sender, as well as attention to detail and thoroughness—presumably, traits you’d like to represent in your business.
Be mindful of your tone
Email communication can be a little tricky for discussing sensitive topics, as the intended tone can be inferred differently by the recipient. Be mindful of the tone you’re intending in your email. Sometimes, quickly-typed, direct email messages can come across as terse or negative.
Use the language in your emails to continue to represent your brand (as either a business or business person).
Be thorough yet concise
Good email etiquette emphasizes efficient and effective communication. When emailing, be sure you’re providing thorough messages and replies so you don’t have to waste time emailing back and forth for the complete details.
But you also want to balance this with brevity: be respectful of your reader’s time and avoid writing novel-length messages if they’re not necessary.
This isn’t just a matter of quickly running a built-in spell check. Your words could be spelled correctly but are missing a word (happens frequently when typing quickly). Always proofread your emails before sending to be sure:
They’re grammatically correct
They read and flow well
Your message is clear (and persuasive if necessary)
Your tone is on-brand and appropriate for your purpose
You’ve included all necessary information the recipient needs
You’ve included any links or attachments you’ve meant to include
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