Small business email etiquette

Small business email etiquette

Recently, a member of the Absolutely Fabulous Business Women Facebook group asked me about email etiquette for her home based business.  She asked if she could send her newsletter to contacts in general, past colleagues and friends in addition to targeting former clients and prospects.

Email etiquette is such an overlooked subject and so many female entrepreneurs fail to understand the implications of getting it wrong.

If you have a list of people that you want to contact but are unsure about email etiquette, here are a few tips for getting it right.

Email etiquette tips

Firstly, I would never recommend sending a newsletter to anyone who has not subscribed. If you are using mailing software such as Mailchimp, this is strictly forbidden and if recipients report that they did not subscribe, you may get blacklisted.

It is also bad manners to automatically assume that someone wants to receive this newsletter and inviting yourself into their inbox without seeking permission first.  They may already have an overflowing inbox and your addition to this is likely to cause offence.  It’s like walking into their home without knocking and sitting down in front of them with no introduction and starting up a conversation.

Plain rude!  And likely to get you in to hot water legally ……..

Legal email requirements

Secondly, in the EU you need to be aware of legal restrictions in spending unsolicited email under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

This states:

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes

22.—(1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where—

(a)that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b)the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and

(c)the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).

If you have a database of contacts, I would suggest contacting these people individually to let them know about your business and inviting them to subscribe to your future newsletters.   They can then opt in out of choice keeping you in line with the law.

Also, if you have various types of contacts such as colleagues, friends, clients etc, they are unlikely to all be attracted to just one message. Friends would respond better if addressed in a different way to colleagues as would clients and prospects. It will take a little more work creating separate messages but should get you far better results.

The number 1 thing you must do when receiving a business email

The number 1 thing you must do when receiving a business email

Business Email Etiquette

When you get a business email from a client or contact, how quickly do you respond?  Or do you respond at all?

An email is very much a dominant form of communication in today’s world and perhaps because we all get so much of it, we stop dealing with it in the correct manner.

All too often I will email a client or contact and then sit in silence awaiting a response that never materialises.  And according to others, I speak with this is becoming all too often an occurrence.  This simply isn’t good enough.  Quite frankly it is plain bad manners.

Whether you receive a business email from a prospect, a client, contact or anyone else for that matter, if someone takes the time to contact you to pass on some information that you may find useful or to ask a question, it is only common courtesy to respond.

Even if you send a quick holding email if you are busy or don’t have a full response as yet at least you have shown enough respect to let the sender know that their message has been read and you are not just ignoring them.

A simple line such as ‘thanks, I will be in touch soon’ is better than complete silence.

Don’t get me wrong.  You don’t want to be responding to emails at all unearthly hours as you need some clear set boundaries of your working hours.  You don’t need your phone on email alert so that you check and answer every one the second it comes in.  But if you want to run a professional business and for your clients and contacts to remember you for all the right reasons, you do need to have an email policy in place and to respond within a reasonable time frame.  You just never know when that person may be in a position to either do business with you in the future or pass the business on to you and if you have left a negative impression in their mind, they may choose not to!

If for any reason you know that you are going to be busy and unable to respond within 24 hours, simply set an out-of-office reply to let people know.

So come on, up your game and abide by email etiquette to let people know you care.

If your email box is overflowing and out of control which is causing a knock-on effect on your response time, read the related article ‘how to control your inbox’.