Most of us are so comfortable communicating via email that we avoid providing much thought. We all dash off messages while eating, riding or sprinting to a meeting. But every time we mindlessly send a message, we’re missing away on meaningful work at home opportunities.
Entrepreneur, freelancer or small business owner who communicates with clients via email on a near-daily basis, have a near-daily possibility to enhance your reputation and make strong relationships with your clients – and you also have a near-daily chance to weaken said relationships and diminish your value in the sight of your clients.
Here are the best seven email etiquette procedures that can make or break your relationships with clients.
- Identify whether your client likes email in the first place.
Before establishing an email relationship with a client, first ask if they want to communicate via email — then adhere to whatever preferences they share. Asking this question will deliver to clients that you genuinely invested in making their life more comfortable.
- Be compassionate.
Whenever possible, make a habit of replying within 24 hours (and remember to use out-of-office reminders if you won’t be able to do so). Clients want to feel like they’re a priority and that you’re there to assist them when they need it.
- Keep it brief.
Shorter emails are more likely to be read and processed. Before sending an email, challenge yourself to define its goal — and scrap anything, not in service to that objective. Then, aim to write the email in no more than five sentences.
- Be friendly.
Do open and close your email with friendly salutations that will help set a pleasant tone for your client communications. Making a note of personal knowledge — like “Hope you had fun at your daughter’s play!” — can help maintain a sense of positivity and familiarity in your relationship.
- Keep it systematized.
Any email you send should keep as visually uncluttered as possible. It should also provide clear-cut information and highlight any actions that need to take. To that end, make a habit of adopting the following strategies:
- Use a clear subject line. A client should be able to know what your email is about just by reading the subject line.
- Distinguish who the email is for. Don’t include multiple people in an email unless they need to be part of a thread. Remember that standard email etiquette says the “To” field is a reserve for people who need to take action on the email, while the “CC” field meant for people who just need to be kept in the loop.
- Include all the necessary information up front. Prioritize the specific over the general. Include every detail that might be needed for a client to make a decision or take action, and try to preempt any questions you know might arise from the content of your email.
- Highlight actions that need to take. Take a page out of Tim Ferris’ playbook and provide “if-then” guidelines for your clients. For example, you might say “If this looks good to you, then no reply is necessary.” Or “I can talk on the phone at 9:30 am EST.
- Respect clients’ privacy.
When clients work with you, they implicitly trust you to keep their business information confidential. Honor that trust by making it a policy not to share your client’s messages, attachments, contact information, or files without their permission. Failing to do this is a quick way to lose your client’s trust entirely (and possibly get you into hot water).
- Read before you send.
Avoid the panic of realizing you misspelled your client’s name or forgot to include an attachment by carefully proofreading emails before hitting send. If you want to be extra cautious, consider sending the email to yourself and reading it in your inbox so you can see exactly how it will appear to clients. Only when you’re satisfied an email has followed all the guidelines on this list should you send it.
Thanks to our friend’s Entrepreneur for this valuable information.