Effectively Using Email for Business Communications, PR and Marketing

Electronic mail or email is one of the most powerful tools that you will use in the online world. In order to use electronic mail most effectively, do the following.

Write meaningful and interesting subject headers. Subject headers tell readers what your mail is about. That helps them decide whether to open it. Good subject headers are short and specific.

Put the most important message information early in the message, and use good writing techniques including subheads and short paragraphs. That’s because most email readers won’t scroll down to see more of a message unless they perceive a compelling reason to do so. Give them the reason in the early part of the message.

Be succinct and conversational. Email is more like conversation than it is like formal mail Short and sweet works best.

When replying to messages quote portions of the message you’re replying to as part of your reply. If you’ve chosen good email software, this should be automatic.

Use filters on incoming email to make your mail handling easier and more effective. Set up multiple mailboxes for different types of messages. Then use filters to automatically sort messages into the appropriate mailbox.

Filters can also delete messages you know you won’t read anyway.

On many email systems your filtering system can also add labels, color or other features that help you manage your mail more effectively.

Use address grouping and nicknames to make your outgoing mailing more effective.

In your emails, you also need to tell folks who you are and what you do. In the physical world you have stationery and business cards. In the digital world you need a signature file.

Your signature (or signature file) functions as your stationery and business card in cyberspace. Like your stationery and business card in the physical world, your signature should include basic information about you.

Your signature should include your name, your affiliation if that’s appropriate for your communication, ways to contact you, and, perhaps, a brief slogan or message about what you do.

Name and affiliation are pretty self explanatory, what about addresses?

Your signature should tell people how to contact you. I’d suggest that it include at least the following: your email address; a phone number.

Now, you might be asking, “why do I need my email address when all they need to do is hit return?” The answer has to do with the way we know that people use email. According to some studies, more than half of email which is read is also printed out. That’s so people can pass it around to their friends. Their friends, reading the printed version, may want to contact you. They can do that by email if they have your email address.

That’s also why your phone number should be in there. In addition, you phone number functions even for people who could hit reply as an alternative way to reach you.

There are also some older corporate systems that do not allow people to simply hit reply. For those systems, an email address and alternative method of contact are also good. I’d also suggest adding your Web URL to your signature if appropriate for you.

I’d also suggest that adding a brief message about what you do. The operative word here is “brief.” Keep your signature relatively short – most experts recommend five lines or less.

Here’s what one of my signature files looks like

Wally Bock
Publisher of Monday Memo and a popular speaker.
Selected by Inc. Magazine as author of a “Book Every CEO Should Own.”
Let Wally help you make your next meeting a success.
wally@wallybock.com http://www.wallybock.com/ 910-343-8661

There’s an alternative strategy you might consider, also.

Some folks like to have a novel signature that people will remember. They follow a strategy of including the basic information, but adding a different quote frequently.

OK, how do you get this signature file thing done?

If you’ve got good email software, such as Eudora, there should be a way to set up a signature file, which is automatically to each message. Eudora, and some other packages, allow you to set up multiple signature files so you can pick among them for different occasions and types of messages.

Other systems, such as Netscape, have you prepare a single text file, which is appended as a signature to each message. Microsoft Outlook does something similar, except that it creates the file right in the email program.

If you don’t have any of that software, or if you’re on a system like America Online, which doesn’t offer signature files, it’s still pretty easy to have one, or several. Just prepare a simple text file with your signature in it. Then keep that in an open window when you’re doing email, and cut and paste as needed.

Email is a simple and powerful tool. Take the time to learn to use it effectively and you’ll reap benefits for years.

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