by Wanda Loskot
Yes, I am serious. I am asking you if you are sure that you use e-mail so that you get maximum benefits. I know that *everyone* knows how to send e-mail letter but judging from 100-150 letters I receive daily, only a fraction of people takes full advantage of this wonderful tool by communicating effectively.
And by now you should know that communicating effectively can make or break your business.
To begin, remember that as the internet business person you seldom get a chance to meet your correspondents face to face. Your e-mail creates an impression about you and your business. Make sure that you pay attention to small things
Use a signature file
I assume that you would not write a business letter without some kind of stationary, right? Then use a signature file in your e-mail! It serves the same purpose. It identifies who you are, what you do and where you reside. If done right, it allows the recipient to visit your website with just one click of a mouse button.
Signature file is the simplest and perhaps most effective internet marketing tool (it is also the most underutilized). Make sure that your create and use it all the time - even if you don't have a website, you can have an impressive internet presence!
Forget about the HTML
Unless you know that the other person is using the same mail program forget about special fonts and other formatting tricks (especially that colorful stationery!). Would you read a letter that looks like this:
</FONT><FONT COLOR="#ff0000" SIZE=6><U>JUST FOR</U><U><U><U> YOU</U> <U>SURE</U> <U>WAY </FONT><FONT COLOR="#0000ff" SIZE=5> </U>Christmas Greetings - and Happy New Year!!!</FONT><FONT COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3></B></P><P ALIGN=LEFT></P><P ALIGN=CENTER>
This is how it might look on another e-mail program! At least many messages look like this on my own computer screen. If you want to make sure that your messages are read, send your email in plain text. Some things are good and don't need any improvement.
Those formatted messages also load up much slower and quite often even crash slower computers (not the best first impression!).
Keep your lines short
It is difficult enough to read from a computer screen (especially if someone wears bi-focal eye glasses as I do). Don't make it even more difficult by filling the entire width of the screen with text.
When you use maximum 60-70 characters per line, there is another benefit. Your message can be read as you intended it to be read otherwise your recipient might end up with lines broken in the most unexpected places - VERY difficult to read. Even if your mail software does a "word wrap", use the hard return key at the end of each line to avoid the problem.
Also, sooner or later you will engage in e-mail "conversation", exchanging message back and forth. Each time you get an answer, a quotation mark will be added at the beginning of the quoted line and the line width will grow. Usually it breaks the lines of the message which makes difficult to see who said what previously. With short lines and that extra space at the end, your e-mail messages will always look clean and inviting to read, even after several such exchanges.
Trim the fat
When you respond to someone's message, quote it by all mean - it helps to remind the topic of conversation. But trim the fat. Erase the irrelevant text so it is not repeated. It takes just a moment of your time and makes you appear thoughtful and more professional.
Quoting anything more than just few lines is way too much, unless there is a really good reason. These unnecessarily long messages are not only a waste of time; quite often they waste money too. Remember that many people around the globe pay for the internet connection and every minute of downloading time counts.
And never EVER return the entire e-mail message preceding your own, unless it is very short. I receive the entire pages and pages of my own "Referrals Unlimited" newsletter with a few line message at the end. Ouch!
Sending to the group
Learn how to use your e-mail software. Make sure that if you send a message to a distribution list, recipients don't see everyone's else e-mail address. If for no other reason (and there are plenty) - than to protect their privacy.
Most of the e-mail programs have two carbon copy fields "cc" and "bcc". Put the addresses in the "bcc" field (blind carbon copy) - NOT in the "cc" field.
Before you hit the "forwarding" button
Forward only important mail. Something your *know* the other party will appreciate. Just because what you got in the mail sounds very interesting to you, it doesn't mean that it is worth to forward to everyone on your list. Most likely it is not.
Most likely it's a hoax!
When it comes to forwarding, be very discriminate with messages like "Danger!" and "Virus Alert" or "A Little Girl Is Dying". These are old internet chain letters created especially to waste peoples time and test our patience. If you send it around, chances are you will annoy majority of your recipients who received the same message already many times. They might not tell you about it from lack of time or to be polite - but don't assume that just because no one complains, these messages are really appreciated. Most likely the opposite is true. You might be bugging people instead of saving the world or building relationships!
Be especially alert if the warning urges you to pass it on to your friends -- do not! This alone should raise your red flag that the warning is a hoax. (Another flag to watch for is when the warning states that it is a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) warning. According to the FCC, they have not and never will issue warnings on viruses. It is not part of their job. (to read more about it go to http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html )
A few words about postcards
I received several hundreds of them during the holiday season. To view them all I'd need to take a short vacation, which I can't take at the moment. Plus I'm sure you agree that there are better things to do during vacation.
Before you send another electronic postcard, consider this: to see it, your addressee needs to open a browsers window, surf to the postcard hosting site, watch loading the home page with some advertising banners. Often they need to enter a special key number and then wait again for a new window to open. This time with a cute graphic or slowly loading java script and midi file which might take a long time... Are you getting the picture?
Electronic postcards are great idea for close friends and family members but among business people generally you will not score any brownie points for sending "thank you" or "happy anything". It is much better to send a simple personal note in plain text. And if your REALLY want to make that person feel special, send a greeting card via regular mail - post offices are still around!
Wanda Loskot, author of business system that will can your business work so that YOU can rest or play - you can reach her at http://loska.com
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