November 2, 2004 Volume 4 Issue 26
What's Special About E-Mail?
The National Speakers Association publication Professional Speaker is one of only a handful of magazines I read in a paper format.
The September issue carried this excellent article by Janelle Barlow, President of TMI US (http://www.tmius.com/). I asked Janelle (who was in Croatia at the time ... some of you are in Croatia!) if I could share her collection of E-mail ideas with you, she said "yes", so here they are.
(As you read this, remember Janelle is a professional speaker, writing for a professional speaking audience. Drop in your business/industry, and these ideas will work equally as well for you.)
It's friendly, simple to use, and inexpensive. E-mail is also easy to abuse, and, therefore, costly if not used well. While there is a lot of speaking business to be had, creating a bad impression and losing business with e-mail faux pas is definitely not a good idea. And e-mail is easily saved so meeting planners, bureaus, and participants in your sessions can have a permanent reminder of inadequate e-mail. They can even forward it to others!
Whether we like it or not e-mail has a voice. This voice is a statement about your speaking brand and market value. And its voice, just like your platform voice, is loud and strong to the customer for whom e-mail is frequently the only realistic communication tool available.
Listed below are 35 ideas to positively amplify your voice, rather than have it work against you. While some of these ideas have been around for awhile, it's always a good idea to review your e-mail practices.
1. CAPITAL letters. As most people know by now, they have the feel of shouting because of the way they stand out. They definitely emphasize whatever you are saying. Use them sparingly.
2. One topic per e-mail. By and large, it's a good idea to have only topic per e-mail. It makes it easier for people to respond and also makes it easier to file. Sometimes this isn't possible. Then put in your header, "Six items to discuss." Number your items so both of you can respond easily.
When people send you multiple items to handle, interlineate your responses. This way, your responses will be right next to their questions. Change your font or font size when you do this, so the other person can see your message in contrast to theirs.
3. Keep changing the subject line. When responding to an e-mail, change the descriptive header to reflect the changes you have made by your answer. For example, if the e-mail is about your upcoming speech, perhaps the response e-mail would be labeled, "Upcoming Meeting: Agenda." If it's about your introduction, use "Introduction for speaker."
4. Avoid abbreviations. Stay away from abbreviations, unless they are extremely common, such as ASAP, or you are absolutely certain the individual receiving your e-mail knows what they mean. A person can spend a lot of time trying to decipher your note, and they may be embarrassed to write and ask what you meant. But they'll wonder whether you will address their audience in the same obscure style.
Avoid spelling mistakes. Even though e-mail is an informal means of communication, put care into making sure words are spelled correctly. If you are not a great proofreader, turn your spell checker to catch spelling errors. You can also read the e-mail out loud before sending to catch most mistakes. Use periods. Sentences are difficult to read without basic punctuation.
6. Use your signature file function. If you get a number of e-mails all asking the same question, create a "standard response." Put it in your signature file and you can just click on it and it will be inserted in your e-mail. Be sure to include your telephone number on all e-mails. That way you make it easy for someone to contact you by phone without having to look up your number. And while on the subject of the signature file, definitely use one so you don't have to type in all your information over and over again.
7. Copying contents. Copy the contents of the previous e-mail into your response. Each mail program has different commands for how to do this. Some do it automatically, others you have to highlight the text to copy.
8. But don't copy everything! While on the subject of copying contents of e-mail, don't copy ALL the previous e-mails. It is possible to get a string of communication that contains 15 responses. Be a jewel, summarize previous messages when they get too long. The person who receives your nice and compact e-mail will be appreciative.
9. Be concise and to the point. Don't ramble in an e-mail. Long e-mails almost always elicit a groan on the part of the receiver. Use the telephone for lengthy interactive discussions.
10. Be proactive in your responses. If you think your response will elicit further questions, answer them as well. Do everything you can to stop the exchange of e-mails.
11. Be yourself. E-mail is informal, so it can tolerate a more personal approach. The better you know someone, the more informal you can be. But if you are sending a formal business document, it is best sent by regular mail or as an attachment, rather than in the body of the e-mail.
12. Receivers don't necessarily get what you send. Don't assume that how you send your e-mail is how the receiver will receive it. Many times, unseemly formatting commands appear in sent e-mail. Spacing will not necessarily show up the same as you composed it. Keep formatting simple.
13. Protect your eyes and your reader's eyes. Go to your mail's preference command and increase the font size. Use a size that you can easily read and a font that is clear.
14. Numbers. If you have to cover several points in your e-mail, definitely use numbers. Lists are more difficult to read on a screen, so make it easy for your readers. Bullets can transmit unsightly formatting command without leaving the bullet.
15. Never send an e-mail without a designated subject. Many people will simply delete the e-mail if they do not recognize your name. Be careful about your headers. Some spam programs will designate an e-mail as spam if the subject is: "Hey," or something too informal. If you don't put in a header, most e-mail programs will put in one called, "No subject." That's not an appealing message to send. If there's no subject, why have you bothered to send it?
16. Re-read every e-mail before you send it. This is particularly important when you have been interrupted in the middle of responding to an e-mail. You may forget what you wrote at the beginning of the e-mail.
17. Colors. Be careful with colors. When you do use them, be sure to use colors that are easy to read. Light red is very difficult to read. And remember, not everyone will receive your colors in their e-mail system.
18. Use the active voice rather than a passive voice. It sounds more personal. For example, don't say, "Your contract will be sent today." Rather say, "I will send our Speaker's Agreement today."
19. Avoid long sentences. Remember e-mail is difficult to read on a computer. And long sentences, read back and forth, across a wide screen, can make it difficult for the reader to understand what you meant.
20. Be careful who you cc on your e-mails. Most people who get a carbon copy assume there is something they are supposed to do. Make sure it is clear in the body of the e-mail that the cc people are being copied just to keep them in the loop.
21. When to respond. Too many speakers dive right into e-mail before doing anything else. After all, they have a day in their office, and that e-mail may be another speaking request. For many speakers, opening e-mail is a way to set the agenda for the day, the very day when you need to be concentrating on your next book. As a result, the computer, specifically e-mail sent by others, controls a lot of time. Obviously, some e-mails will shape your day. It's just too vital of a communication tool for it not to do that at least occasionally. The question is whether you think it is most effective to allow any outside force shape your day on a consistent basis.
22. Be careful with anti-spam software. Some require whoever sends you e-mail to get prior approval. That's perhaps nice for the person who has the software, but it's additional work for anyone who wants to send you e-mail. And if you are on any lists, it simply doesn't work.
23. Sending attachments. Sending a large package that won't fit into a mail box to someone when they aren't at home is the equivalent of sending large documents by e-mail. Or perhaps worse. Most people don't understand that e-mail wasn't really designed to handle large attachments. High speed lines have helped, but you don't know if someone is downloading an attachment via modem. Large attachments can take over an hour to download via dialup.
24. Check about size. If you are going to send a large e-mail (anything over 1.5 MB), first write to make sure that the person's e-mail controls aren't set to refuse anything that large. Find out if they have any problems receiving large attachments. Many companies have automatic limits to the size of e-mails that can be sent. You don't want them to sit there and curse you while your e-mail plugs up their system. Definitely check before sending EVERY large attachment. The person may normally be able to receive your attachments, but they may be traveling and on dialup.
25. Check on ability to read. Determine that someone can read a particular type of attachment before sending. It's the courteous thing to do.
26. Check on compression. It may not be possible for someone to unstuff your attachments if your computer automatically compress files of a certain size. This is particularly true if you are on a PC and are sending to a Mac, or vice versa.
27. Use CDs and snail mail. If you have multiple files to send, consider putting them on a CD and sending it through the mail. Or, park large documents on the Web. If your web site does not enable you to do this, you can set up a parking lot on such handlers as yahoo.com. File Courier provides the same type of service. They are very easy to set up and are extremely inexpensive.
28. Check who is getting your e-mail. It's very easy to send e-mails to the wrong person. Most mail programs collect addresses, so that when you begin to type in a person's name, several e-mail addresses appear as an option. Be sure to note which one you are clicking. It's very easy to mistakenly send your message to the wrong person.
29. E-mails to multiple addresses. When you are send e-mails to multiple people, put one person's name in the To Box. You can even put your own name in the To Box. Then put everyone else's name into the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) box. If you don't do this, everyone will receive everyone else's e-mail address. Many addressees may not appreciate your giving their e-mail address away. I just got the entire e-mail address list of a speaker's bureau because they put everyone's address in their CC line. Definitely not good!
30. Responding to lists. If you are on a list, don't automatically hit "reply" when responding if you want to respond "off-line" to just one person. You will end up sending your response to everyone on the list, and that may not be appropriate. Unfortunately this happens with a lot of the NSA lists. Copy the name of the person you want to respond to into the address box. Check to see whom your e-mail is going to before you click the send icon.
31. A timely response is a good idea. Responding to e-mails in a timely fashion is just common courtesy. Decide what your standard is and follow it. Consider using the 24-hour gold standard and clear your e-mail in-tray within 24 hours. This may require a quick e-mail response to someone saying that you have their e-mail and you will get back to them with your questions in two to three days time.
Not all e-mail is delivered by the way. We have gotten to the point where we think it is 100% accurate. It's not. For this reason alone, letting people know that you received their e-mail helps them to understand what has happened with their e-mail.
32. Auto-responder. If you are away from your e-mail turn on the auto-responder if your system has one. This way, people will know you are gone for a period of time. They won't worry that their e-mail didn't get through to you.
Be careful with an auto-responder if you are on any lists. It can create a feedback loop, as your own address gets sent a message that you are out of the office.
33. E-Mail isn't for everything. Just because we have e-mail as a tool, doesn't mean it should be used for everything. Don't write e-mails in anger. Hot topics, such as a complaint about your last speech, a misunderstanding on speech logistics, are simply best avoided. Talk in person unless you absolutely have no other alternative. If you have any doubts about how your e-mail will be perceived, put it aside for 24 hours before sending it. Or send it to a buddy and ask how they would respond.
34. E-mail is not for chain letters. They are more than ridiculous and do not create a good impression when you send them to others. If you think something is even remotely not true, just delete it. Don't pollute the world with a bunch of messages written by people who clearly have too much time on their hands. A lot of people pass along phony warnings about e-mail viruses. Some of these warnings even encourage people to delete important system files from their computers.
35. Think post card. Because e-mail is so easy to send on to others, think of whatever you write to someone else as a post card that is being delivered to possibly multiple addresses. Do you want that?
Today is national election day in the US. Soon we'll be into six weeks of year end holidays.
These few words from Anonymous seem fitting;
"Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once."
A Horoscope for the Workplace
Astrology tells us about you and your future simply by your birthday. The Chinese Zodiac uses the year of your birth. Demographics tell us what you like, dislike, whom you vote for, what you buy, and what you watch on TV. Well, the Corporate Zodiac goes a step further: simply by your job title, people will have you all figured out.
MARKETING: You are ambitious yet stupid. You chose a marketing degree to avoid having to study in college, concentrating instead on drinking and socializing, which is pretty much what your job responsibilities are now. Least compatible with Sales.
SALES: Laziest of all signs, often referred to as "marketing without a degree," you are also self-centered and paranoid. Unless someone calls you and begs you to take their money, you like to avoid contact with "customers" so you can "concentrate on the big picture." You seek admiration for your golf game throughout your life.
TECHNOLOGY: Unable to control anything in your personal life, you are instead content to completely control everything that happens at your workplace. Often even YOU don't understand what you are saying, but who the heck can tell?! It is written that the geeks shall inherit the Earth.
MIDDLE MANAGEMENT/DEPARTMENT MANAGEMENT/"TEAM LEADS": Catty, cut-throat, yet completely spineless, you are destined to remain at your current job for the rest of your life. Unable to make a single decision you tend to measure your worth by the number of meetings you can schedule for yourself. Best suited to marry other "Middle Managers," as everyone in your social circle is a "Middle Manager."
SENIOR MANAGEMENT: Catty, cut-throat, yet completely spineless, you are destined to remain at your current job for the rest of your life. Unable to make a single decision you tend to measure your worth by the number of meetings you can schedule for yourself. Best suited to marry other "Senior Managers," as everyone in your social circle is a "Senior Manager."
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Bright, cheery, positive, you are a fifty-cent cab ride from taking your own life. As a child very few of you asked your parents for a little cubicle for your room and a headset so you could pretend to play "Customer Service." Continually passed over for promotions, your best bet is to date your boss.
The RJm Story
"How To REALLY Do Marketing Right!" is a sub-title I've used in my writings for a decade and a half. Or more.
It came about because many of the 'how to ...' papers didn't do a very good job in talking direct marking as a discipline. A complete discipline.
Are you seeking a different answer? Maybe an outrageous thought? Something truly not within your current marketing and sales circle?
Maybe I can help. By bringing to you and your organization a point of view undoubtedly different than yours. To help you see through the maze...the maze that is your every day business.Interested? Call Nancy or me @+1+760-376-1858. Or send your E-mail message to Ray@RayJutkins.com.
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.