Despite what all the pundits have been saying, email is alive and well. My employees use it as our primary communications tool – both internally and externally. But email has changed over the years and we must change with it. People are tired of getting a plethora of messages and are quick to delete. This means that emails today must adapt – we must be more concise and better communicators.

That’s why we have a few rules about sending emails. Rules that are worth sharing here.

Rule 1: Use a signature.

Every email that goes out from my company has a signature line with the basics: the sender’s name, title and phone number.  Are you including your email address in your signature? Why? People don’t need to see your email address in your signature because it’s already there in the header. Flashy icons and logos waste space and get caught in spam filters. Leave out the religious messages and inspirational sayings please.  But include maybe a quick product shout-out – it’s good advertising and if done discreetly, provides that little reminder about what you do.

Rule 2: Pick up the phone.

Ever get a long email from someone? I mean paragraphs long, that go on and on. Is this an email or a short story? Doesn’t the sender realize that the internet has given all of us have short attention spans and we get bored reading anything that takes more than 30 seconds?  I encourage you to keep emails short and sweet. They’re meant to convey quick messages, not your life story. If it’s more than a few lines then pick up the phone. Just admit it, Hemingway: Sometimes things are just better spoken, not written.

Rule 3: Share, share, share.

Too many companies have email systems where each employee is on their own island. They save emails in their own folders and keep all the messages to themselves. Are we not all just one happy family? We use our customer relationship management system as our email client.  That way, all emails go into one database and we get to see them all. So when a client is contacted, no one is left out of the loop. If you work in my company, your client emails are everyone’s emails.

Rule 4: C-A-T spells cat.

If you’re like so many of today’s workers, you were probably raised in a world of text messaging, emojis and acronyms. Therefore, your spelling s-t-i-n-k-s. Getting an email with misspellings or grammatical mistakes is the worst professional mistake you can make. I hate it. It really does make you, and your company, look stupid. So check your spelling and grammar carefully. Remember, there and their means two different things.

Rule 5: For gosh sake, reply.

The worst insult you can inflict on me is to not reply to my email, even when you know me. I get it if my email’s just a salesy cold outreach. But you know me!  No, you’re not too “slammed” or “busy” to send a simple, 20-second reply.  Even getting a “thanks, not now” is better than nothing. I tell all of our people not to blow off people we know. Reply. It’s just decent courtesy.

Rule 6: Make it personal.

It’s common nowadays to send out 20-30 template emails to 20-30 people at a time, pitching a product or an idea or just checking in. But please, take a few minutes, learn how your email application works and build in some personalization where you can embed fields that automatically update with the contact’s information, like their first name. Just a “Hi Gene” is sufficient. Otherwise, I’m getting an email that’s clearly just a blast communication and my first reaction is “gee, how unimportant am I?” We make it a point for all our people to personalize any type of bulk email going out the door because those little things really do count.

Rule 7: A draft can be your friend.

This lesson I’ve learned the hard way.  When someone sends you an email that really ticks you off and you hammer out your brilliant, yet angry reply, just…take a breather. Save it as a draft. Give it 12 hours. Then go back to it. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find yourself not sending out that angry reply. That’s because angry replies never accomplish anything. They just create more anger. I ask my people to do this because if they upset a customer with a rushed, angry email, it’s my profits that get affected.

These are seven email rules we try our best to follow in my company. I can’t say we’re 100 percent compliant. But since establishing these guidelines, I’ve found our use of this technology to be much, much better.

Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can also submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.

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