E-Mail Etiquette

E-mail is a valuable business building tool that allows you almost immediate access to your prospects with no printing, production or distribution lead times or costs.

In fact, e-mail marketing has become a vital part of the marketing mix, but it is a medium fraught with legal* and ethical hazards.

Here are some tips that will help you to negotiate those hazards and make the most of a powerful selling tool:
Spamming is illegal and unethical. All of your e-mail marketing should be permission based, which means that you only add people to your mailing list with their express permission.

Before starting any kind of e-mail campaign, make sure you familiarize yourself with the spamming laws.

  • The issue of opt-in versus opt-out can be an emotional one, but needs to be considered:
  • Opt-out means that you add people to your mailing list, but allow them to request that you remove them.
  • Opt-in means that you do not add anyone to your list until they request it. Many business owners feel so strongly about this that they insist on double opt-in, which is when you are asked to confirm your request after you subscribe or register.

Ethically, I would strongly urge you to go with opt-in at all times. That way you never leave yourself open to complaints or bad feeling.

If you offer an informational newsletter, make good on that promise. It is just fine to do some selling, but that should always take a back seat to the information you promised.

Don’t overdo it! Everyone is overwhelmed with e-mail, and daily, or even weekly, communications are, for the most part, too frequent. Consider bi-weekly or monthly as a good frequency for avoiding overkill while still maintaining your ‘top of mind’ position.
If you decide to rent an e-mail list, make sure that you use a reputable list broker who qualifies the contacts and can guarantee that they have actively opted-in.

Keep it short. Coming from me, lover of long copy that I am, this seems a little strange, but in e-mail it really is important to make your point quickly. Hammer out your main points briefly and include links to more detailed information.
Make sure the communication is relevant to your reader. E-mail gives us too much capacity for segregating and targeting to excuse mass mailings about irrelevancies.

Be professional. Many people use e-mail as an excuse to use slang, ridiculous little symbols (OK, I know they’re called emoticons!) and absolutely no punctuation or grammar. Please remember this is a business communication and put as much thought into the structure of your writing as you would into any printed piece. It matters!

Whenever possible do not attach files to your mailings to your database. People are rightly wary of opening attachments, and it is much more appropriate to include links to web pages.

In terms of the ocean of e-mail etiquette rules around, this is just a drop in the bucket, but I think it covers some of the most important ‘pet peeves’.

Above all, just remember to use your common sense and respect your reader: respect their time, their privacy and the good faith they have placed in you. If they sense that respect then they are much more likely to become or remain clients.

* N.B. This article is not intended as legal advice, but as a guide to good e-mail manners. If you plan to conduct any kind of mass e-mailings you should ensure that you are familiar with the spamming laws.

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