By Larissa Ham - theherald.com.au
Email is one of the speediest forms of communication there is.
But in all the rush, some small businesses forget that an email can also attract – or repel – a potential client in seconds.
We asked three experts how to set the right tone, and avoid email clangers that will rub your recipients up the wrong way.
Check your spelling
Basic yes, but there are still countless people who send emails littered with spelling mistakes, says Julie Schoneveld, CEO of Marketing Eye.
"People just rush it. They send it out and don't check it. Read it before you send it out," she says.
While you're there, don't forget to mind your grammar.
Keep it personal
As many of us struggle to wade through an increasing amount of emails, it's important to keep yours relevant – and helpful.
"These days people don't want a mass email, people want to feel like it's a one-on-one communication," says Schoneveld.
She says if you are going to send a mass email, tailor it to your recipients. This could be as straightforward as showing them that you understand the challenges in their industry. If you can provide some sort of solution, even better.
Schoneveld says this is a much better approach than just talking up your business.
"It's just about how great we are, it's not about how what we can offer can help you."
But don't make it too personal...
Are kisses ever an appropriate way to sign off an email to a professional contact you've never met?
"No!" laughs Schoneveld. "To me that's quite strange."
In fact, she says being over-familiar should be avoided at all costs.
"My name's Julie. People say 'Hey Jules' like they know me, and they've never even met me. Or 'talk to you soon buddy'.
"It's a bit over-familiar and to me it's a bit of that old-school salesman; it's not treating you with respect."
Consider who your client is: a financial planner will likely prefer a different style of email than a musician.
Keep it short and succinct
"As a small business, emails are very important. It can be the first introduction or the first follow-up to a telephone conversation," says Adam Sawell, partner at Cambridge Public Relations.
"A lot of people's impressions are taken from that communication."
A snappy subject line is a great way to make sure your email is actually opened.
Keep it concise in the body of the email too, especially if you are asking a client for information and want more than your first question answered. Sawell says bullet points are a great way of simplifying complex information.
Put the most information at the top of your email, and finish by summarising what you are going to do, and what you would like your reader to do.
Schoneveld says everyone should have an email signature that includes your basic contact details, a succinct description of the business, and a click-through link to your website.
Make sure your signature appears not just on your initial email, but on every subsequent reply. This puts your brand in front of people, and on a practical level, just makes it easier for people to find you. "If they have to search for your details you've lost them," says Schoneveld.
Sawell also recommends removing in-built sign-offs such as "sent from my iPhone", and instead setting up a standardised signature across all devices.
"Part of the reason with that is that different people read different things into where you send your email from," he says.
"It can also put question marks in people's minds. In the client-driven industry I think your client wants to think you're on the case 24/7."
It's also a good idea to ditch, or at least limit, the use of emoticons. A smiley face at the end of every sentence does not look professional.
Other clangers to avoid
Karen Smythe, of Professional Development Training, says no one likes to be shouted out, so avoid using all capital letters. And if you are genuinely angry, don't send the email until you've given yourself time to calm down.
Unless you know the person well, also avoid using abbreviations such as "NW" or "BTW".
"Don't use text talk in your email, because your email, especially in business, can be used in the future so it needs to be as professional as possible," says Smythe.
Other bugbears to avoid are copying people in on emails unnecessarily – or just inundating them with too many emails.
Finally, remember the meaning of emails can often be misconstrued. So if in doubt, take a moment and run your email past a colleague or friend before hitting "send". Because once it's gone, it's gone.
Read more: Newcastle Herald