You’ve seen this list a thousand times — the top dos and don’ts of email communication. Most articles offer general guidelines that any size organization can apply. But the dos and don’ts of email communication are not a “one size fits all” category; startups go by their own set of rules. Entrepreneurs and startups are different from other business types in so many ways, it’s befitting that they have their own best practices when it comes to email.
- Know your audience. Dear Mr. Kyle — stop right there! I regularly receive emails (and snail mail!) addressed to me with the incorrect title. (I am a woman with a boy’s name. I hated it as a kid growing up, but I’ve learned to embrace and love it as an adult.) The moment I read “Mister”, the email is earmarked for the trash. What if you were pitching the next big crowdfunding project to a wealthy investor and you greeted him or her incorrectly? Chances are, your email will be trashed (and the opportunity for funding will go along with it). Remember to do a little research before reaching out to potential business partners, sales prospects and customers. Incorrectly addressing a recipient could mean the difference between catching the eye of an investor and getting blacklisted from your startup space.
- Be thorough and thoughtful. Email fatigue is a real thing. It occurs after a long day of receiving, reading and sending dozens of emails. When the energy tank is depleted, it’s easy to send a message quickly without addressing an issue, answering a question or making much sense at all. Sending emails without putting much thought into them is a hard habit to break, so don’t start! Read and understand emails, research if necessary, and take the time to thoroughly address concerns and questions. No one likes to receive half a dozen messages when a single, well-thought-out email would do. After the email’s been written, reread it a few times to ensure it makes sense and try to imagine that you are receiving the email. Does it make sense and how is the tone? Never write an email when you’re frustrated, angry or upset; emotional reactions are never forgotten. Your email can easily be forwarded to someone you didn’t intend to read it, and you can insult someone that might have been interested in your company or product.
- Support team decisions, but be open-minded. Entrepreneurs need to believe that their product is the next big thingin order to more easily manage the ups and downs they will experience when launching their brand. You and your team have a vision and a plan, and working as a united front is attractive to potential investors. However, you must stay open open-minded to new ideas. When you’re building your brand according to your plan, the ability to think outside the box diminishes. Collaborating with people unfamiliar with the business can help generate new ideas that may not have been considered. These ideas could be the key to unlocking great success.
- Use “IMPORTANT”, “URGENT” and capitalized words sparingly. We’ve all received an email marked “IMPORTANT” or “URGENT” in the subject line, but the message is neither “important” nor “urgent”. Like the “Boy Who Cried Wolf”, these two words lose their luster after seeing it a few times. When an emergency actually does occur, no one will believe you or take you seriously. These two words should be used only when absolutely necessary. For example, if information in a press release needs to be changed and it’s scheduled to deploy that day, marking an email “important” or “urgent” makes sense. Or if your product listing price is incorrectly advertised, urgently alerting the team managing the website or campaign is reasonable. Also, refrain from unnecessarily capitalizing words or entire sentences in your messages. Capitalization is alarming and translates into anger, not to mention, it’s incredibly rude.
- Introduce a new topic in a thread. Those of us that work on email know how important it is to stay organized. Introducing a new topic in an email thread throws everything off. Valuable or critical information can easily be lost when buried in an email chain totally unrelated to the topic. When messaging investors, partners or customers, help them stay organized by starting a new thread to address a new topic. This helps establish clearer communication. Has anyone complained about staying too organized? Nope.
- Create an email imbalance. You’ve received a detailed, well-thought-out message from an interested party looking to invest in your brand. Because you’re short on time building your business, you respond with a one-line sentence, or worse, a simple, “thanks”. Email imbalance is disrespectful, not to mention infuriating. If the take-away from this exchange is that you’re “too busy” to craft a detailed, thoughtful message, chances are, the recipient won’t want to do business with you or your company.
Though email marketing is very different from client or partnership communication, it follows the same set of rules, as well as a few others. The purpose of an email marketing campaign is to keep your brand, product or service offering top-of-mind, and in most cases, generate sales. Therefore, it’s important to communicate the action you wish the recipient to take after reading your message. Email marketing expert and author of How To Win at B2B Email Marketing, Adam Holden-Bache, offers the following advice:
“Before you write your email, have a clear goal for what you want the email to accomplish. Are you looking to have the recipient learn more about your business? Start a dialogue? Provide a clear call to action or directive for the recipient. And if you can, set up a way to track or measure the actions that lead towards that goal, such as tracking the email open, a click on a link, or a visit to a web page.”
As an entrepreneur, every meeting and email exchange matters. Keeping these simple “dos and “don’ts” in mind, and establishing email marketing goals, can mean the difference between building a strong brand or failing miserably