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Using Your Business E-mail Professionally and Effective

Ignore at your peril the marketing value of the e-mail messages you send to prospects, customers, vendors, and other people. They might be so poorly written that they turn off the recipient or have such large attachments that the recipient’s e-mail program discards them as spam.

Here’s some advice to keep in mind when you compose e-mail messages:

  • From line: The From line is the first criterion that recipients use in deciding whether to open a message — which makes your e-mail address a marketing decision. Select text that customers will recognize, such as your full name or a phrase such as CustomerService@YourCompany.com.

    At this point, every good web host offers free e-mail addresses with your web domain name (@yourdomain.com), which you should use for branding and name recognition. You can access these addresses directly by using your e-mail program or have them forwarded to your regular e-mail account. Your developer or host can help you set them up.

    To appear professional, don't reply from or otherwise display your regular Internet service provider (ISP) e-mail account (for example, @aol, @hotmail, @gmail, or @comcast) or send business e-mail containing advertisements. Most e-mail programs let you define the From address that’s displayed in recipients’ inboxes. If you have any difficulty, ask your ISP.

  • Subject line: Recipients use the Subject line as their second criterion in the ruthless game of Toss or Read. Be succinct and factual; this isn’t the place for cute tricks. Keep the Subject line to fewer than 50 characters, which is the maximum length of the standard subject display. Shorter is better anyway; several studies have shown that shorter

    Subject lines are more likely to be opened and to generate clicks. If your e-mail address doesn’t include your company name or function, put it in the Subject line: Your Tech Support Reply from ABC Products, for example. If appropriate, put an event name or a meeting date in the Subject line.

  • Message text: In the text itself, quickly identify yourself, the nature of your relationship with the recipient (or the person who referred you), and the purpose of your message. Also, keep your messages businesslike in appearance.

    Save the fancy fonts and bright colors for your personal e-mail. If you include a small logo, remember that some people suppress images in e-mail. All these directives hold true for autoresponders and blurbs as well as for e-mail messages.

    E-mail messages, autoresponders, and blurbs are standard forms of business correspondence. Always check them for clarity, formatting, spelling, and other essential principles of good writing. Send them to yourself or others to test whether they look right in different e-mail clients. Put the most important information at the top in case someone views messages in Preview mode.

Keep separate accounts for your business and personal e-mail. Many people keep a third e-mail identity for newsletters and other correspondence from websites to which they've given their e-mail address.

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