Every week at ByteStart, we receive hundreds of emails – many from other small businesses keen on working with us, wanting to publicise their services, exchange information or work with us in different ways.
Over the years we’ve seen a massive variety of writing and presentation styles, and as a result we’ve composed 10 tips on what small business owners should try to avoid when exchanging emails.
If you’re thinking about using email marketing as a way to generate more business, you should also read; ByteStart’s Guide on How to plan and implement a successful email marketing campaign for your small business
Unfortunately, given the massive rise in smart phone usage, and the massive impact such devices are already having on the quality of email conversations, this list may seem positively Dickensian very soon!
1. Subject field
The subject field is the first part of your email that a recipient will see. It will often be used to decide whether the email is worth reading at all so it should encourage the user to open the message and read more.
Always use clear wording in the subject line of emails but don’t be misleading in any way. And whatever you do, don’t use ALL CAPS. If the spam filter doesn’t remove the message, the end user is likely to.
Once an email is opened, the next thing a recipient will see is the way it is presented – colours, font face, font size, etc.
In our experience, email should always be composed using standard font faces and sizes (such as Arial, or Times New Roman). Any emails we receive which aren’t roughly in line with the ‘norm’ usually come from unprofessional businesses.
There’s nothing worse than an email with coloured text, or even worse – some kind of ‘background’ image which not only takes up the whole screen when reading it, but also remains when you attempt to reply.
An email signature is an essential part of any correspondence. We often receive emails which don’t contain any contact information whatsoever.
If you want to present a professional image, you should include your full name, title and company name (if this applies). You should also include phone details, and email/web/postal address if you wish.
Business opinion seems to be split on whether including an image beneath the signature is a good or bad idea. I’d say a small, professional, fast-loading image isn’t a problem.
4. Personal accounts
We’d strongly recommend you always use a business email address for all correspondence. Although you can use free providers such as Gmail (which is probably the best service out there), it won’t look professional.
You can buy a domain name for under £10 from companies such as Easily.co.uk, which will enable you to set up professional-looking email addresses @yourbusiness.co.uk. Read more in our guide to choosing a business domain name.
Although there are no strict rules when it comes to signing off an email conversation, ‘Regards’, ‘Best Regards’ and ‘Kind Regards’ are very widely used in business.
Others, such as ‘Cheers’ are fine for people you know well, but probably not advisable when firing off an initial enquiry to a potential customer or client.
6. Grammar, spelling
A significant proportion of the emails we are sent each week contain spelling or grammatical errors. Most email programs have in-built spell checkers, so there are no excuses not to use them. Some of the classic errors include misusing “their” and “there”, “your” and “you’re”. These mistakes can make an otherwise good email look completely unprofessional.
7. Legal requirements
You may well want to add a disclaimer to your email if you deem it necessary. This is standard practice in larger companies to protect the company from ‘problem’ emails with originate from an employee’s email account.
If you run a limited company, you also have to include certain information (such as your company name and registration number) in all correspondence.
8. Read receipts
One thing we particularly dislike at ByteStart is the use of ‘read receipts’. When you open an email, the author has requested that you confirm receipt and a button appears to make this possible. Not only is this an invasion of privacy, but a ‘read receipt’ doesn’t necessarily mean the email has actually been read.
If you are sending an urgent message which warrants a reply, simply ask the recipient to respond as soon as possible – in the body of the email.
You should avoid attaching anything to initial emails. Not only can they take time for the recipient to download, but they can often be mistaken for potential spam. Additionally, they may also be unreadable if the recipient doesn’t have the right software to read the attachment, or if they are using a mobile device.
Photos included alongside press releases and suchlike are also worth avoiding – you can always offer additional material if the recipient requests it.
10. Be prompt
You should try to respond to emails quickly, and politely. Not only does this provide a good impression of your company, but may well lead to more business. A potential client is more likely to remember a company that responds in a professional and timely manner.
If you know you are going to be offline for a period of time, either divert your email to a colleague, or set up an ‘auto-responder’ to let people know when you’ll return and who to contact in your absence.
More help on ByteStart
Startups and small business will often use emails to spread the word about their own business. For more ideas on how you can get noticed, try these other ByteStart guides;
- How to get your business noticed – Self-marketing for start-ups
- How to create business cards that make a big impression
- Making your small business a BIG hit online – A Digital marketing guide for small business owners
- 10 Top tips for small businesses starting out with social media
- How to use Facebook to grow your small business
- 7 clever copywriting secrets for business owners
ByteStart also brings you help and tips on all aspects of starting your own business. Check out some of our most popular guides;
- Top 10 business planning tips for start-ups
- 5 things you must do when you go self employed
- 10 advantages running your business as a limited company has over being a sole trader
- How peer-to-peer lending offers start-ups and small businesses a new funding option
- How to choose the best online accounting software for your business
- Which types of insurance must your business have?