Years ago, the predominant form of business communication was the formal business letter. The texture and color of the paper, the appeal of the logo, and the reverence given to content and grammar was essential. Everything had to be just perfect; two spaces here, three returns there, and never closer than a half inch from the bottom. Formal business correspondence had VERY specific rules and etiquette, including who typed the letter. A poorly written letter and improperly addressed envelope was a direct reflection on you and your company, also known as your brand.
The same was also true for business phone calls. Proper business protocol included a full time receptionist to answer calls on the 2nd ring. “Good afternoon, Smith and Gordon Professional Services. How may I direct your call?” Ah…the days without automated operators and digital answering services.
Today, email has replaced the beautifully crafted business letter. Emails are quick, often contain grammatically incorrect sentences, and produced without much thought to longevity or the permanence of the interaction. Occasionally, an emoticon might show up here or there. No matter how friendly your business relationship with clients, it’s a mistake to consider email a casual business interaction. Email and a voice on the end of the telephone are extensions of your brand—don’t overlook them.
What is email? How should it be used?
Bottom line, if you wouldn’t say it out loud in mixed company, don’t write it down in an email [or post it online]. Email is NOT a private conversation and should be treated as such. Much in the way you would conduct a business conversation in a restaurant. Others sitting around you may be able to hear the words you use, so be smart about what you say.
And don’t forget about your signature line. Yes, every email needs a signature, even the replies you send. How many times do you receive email from a colleague and they just sign it with their first initial? No telephone, no email address. Make sure your recipients can see your email address and a phone number for you in EACH email chain. If you want a call-back, then make it easy for them. Statistics show that in our fast-paced, electronic environment, our short term memory has diminished to the point that most people are hard-pressed to recall the phone numbers most frequently called without looking them up. In fact, it has a name; Digital Dementia.
It’s easy to set up a default email signature. You can even create different signatures for your original outgoing email or your replies. If you have multiple email accounts, you can customize a different signature for each. Treat your email correspondence with the same respect you show to clients and customers when you have in person conversations. Think of every email conversation as another opportunity to cement your company identity with the person who is reading it.
The message here?
- Choose your words carefully; be concise, spell check, and never use ALL CAPS (unless you need to shout).
- Include your company name, telephone and even a logo in the initial email interaction; like formal stationary, appearance matters.
- Don’t forget about your subject line; it is a preview to the content below.
- Think before you send. If the content is long or contains complicated concepts, the message may be better delivered in a phone call.
Your phone messaging system is another brand ambassador.
You may be thinking, “Elke, you’ve lost your mind. A phone isn’t marketing — we just talk on it”. Wrong. Today, we email, text, tweet, chat, and video all from our smart phones. You set up your voicemail right? That is an extension of your brand as well. It is an immediate representation of your professionalism, or lack thereof. Is your message longer than 10 seconds? Are you asking callers to waste their time listening to your message before they can leave their own, or do you make them go through so many options that it is easier to just hang up? Some companies force us to listen to directions to their office. Really? How many callers a day ask for directions to your location these days?
Think about your outgoing message. What is most important to the caller—talking to a live person? You may have noticed an increase in calls without any messaging left. The caller just hangs up because they know you’ll call back to find out what they wanted. Clearly, they got lost in your dissertation on why you can’t talk right now, option selections, and your favorite song before the call is connected. Keep it simple. Here are a few simple examples.
- Your call is important, please leave me a message and I’ll call you back today.
- Thank you for calling XYZ company. Let us know why you called or who you wish to speak with and we’ll call you back today.
Your message should be different for your personal phone and your company phone. Your personal message can be a bit more fun. “Hi, this is Mark, your personal coach. Obviously I can’t talk to you right now, so leave me a message and I’ll call you back today.”
Like this blog, our daily communication is a direct reflection of our company and of ourselves as professional businessmen and women. What we say and how we say it makes a difference. If you need help crafting your message, call us. It’s what we love to do.