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Working for yourself is a little different than working for a company. You can’t rely on HR to take care of the details. You’re not going to run into someone in the break room where you can say, “Hey did you get my email?” You have limited chances to communicate with your clients and collaborators, so you want to be as clear as possible. Here are some tips on proper email protocol that will help foster your business relationships and help people to remember you as an exceptional communicator!
1. Read the other person’s email several times before writing your reply. Sometimes in our hurry to get things done, we glaze over important details and miss the message. Are you asking questions that someone already took their precious time to answer the first time around? Did you MISS their questions that require a response? Slow down, take your time, be thorough! Your clients will be glad for the specialized attention and great service.
2. Always include contact information at the end of your email. Even if you’ve talked to this person a thousand times before, they’ll always appreciate easy access to your full company name, email address, phone and fax number. You want referrals, right? Think of how simple it will be for them to pass along your info to a new customer if it’s right before their eyes!
3. Never assume that someone doesn’t know something. Sure, you’re a storehouse of handy information, but it’s a little arrogant to assume that no one else on the planet knows what you know. If you want to offer an impromptu tutorial, great. But do tack on a friendly intro such as: “Maybe you already know this but,” or “Ever try such-and-such?” If they haven’t, they can say, “No… but thanks for the new ideas!” If they have, they can respond with an enthusiastic, “Yes I have, and I love it!”
4. Always let your colleague know that you’ve received an important message, and inform them of when you intend to respond. Example: “Thanks for sending the contract; I’ll look it over this weekend and get back to you by Monday evening at the latest.” Even if you’re incredibly busy and not sure exactly when you’ll be ready with an answer, don’t leave anyone hanging indefinitely. For all they know, you never got the email!
5. Include the original transcript along with your reply. Imagine getting an email from your client out of the blue that says: “Yes, I totally agree”–and nothing more. HUH? Avoid the confusion of a delayed and incomplete reply. Instead, leave the original remarks in so you can trail the path of communication! If the conversation is lengthy, you may want to copy a snippet from their email, add a response of your own in a different font or color, copy another snippet, so on and so forth. This ensures that you won’t miss any questions or remarks that require further comments.
6. Utilize your subjectline. The subjectline is there as a handy reference, so be consistent. Let’s say you’re sending a draft of web copy. Choose a naming convention, such as: Web Copy Draft 1, and stick with it. Your next draft should be named, Web Copy Draft 2 using the exact same punctuation and capitalization. Why? Because you’ll be able to sort your emails later on and extract what you need when you need it.
7. Know when the conversation is over. We’re all busy, so as much as you want to be attentive to your client’s needs, you don’t want to pester them incessently, either. Suppose you’ve already had five or six email back-and-forths. All relevant points have been made and you’re dwindling down to “Thanks alot” – your cue that This Conversation is Ending. If they say, “OK, thanks– I’ll be in touch,” don’t reply with “Great! When?” Just let it go until next time.
Email is a handy tool that can make or break your professional relationships. Use it to your advantage with clear and concise correspondence. If you do, you’ll be sure that clients and colleagues alike will regard you as an excellent communicator!
Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.