One of the most vital first impressions of you and your business is often experienced via email. For a task most people find second nature, there can be some very telling pitfalls or red flags that indicate a lack of professionalism, issues with time management, and even some very glaring grammatical or representative problems that can tarnish your brand and image. Our “email identity” is often the first at bat – especially since so many companies have gone virtual – so what is your “identity” saying?
From initial impressions of brand, image, and professionalism, to learning how to best manage your time, here are our top ten email productivity and professionalism tips:
First Impressions – Brand, Image, and Professionalism
- Knock Knock! Who’s There?
Who is your email coming from – you or the company name? A study done by Pinpointe Marketing found that your audience is 35% more likely to open your email if it comes from you rather than your company name. Look, we’re all pretty well-versed in spam maintenance and “blind-deletion” protocols and yes – emails from company names are usually the first to go. Personalize it and put your name in the “From” – you’re more likely to be read.
- You’ve Got the Look
Success! The email has been opened – now what? Sure, there are some ways to make your email stand out with colors or playful fonts, but these don’t read the same across email platforms and usually become messy. Keep the main format of your email clean, readable, and professional, but be sure to create a signature that stands out. Include relevant contact info. Avoid over-cluttering or using large photos. Introduce some pops of color or your logo in a chic way. A well-put together signature speaks much louder than an email with a colorful background that becomes a chore to read.
- Format, Format, Format
The body of your email is the most important part – here’s where you get to truly “speak.” Professionalism is key so avoid overuse of: exclamation points, ALL CAPS, no caps, and other completely unprofessional quirks that litter emails (typos, anyone?).
Do you find that you utilize a lot of boilerplate emails you use over and over? Perfect that email and save it under your “Quick Parts” or as a canned response. With one click, you’ll have a perfect email response devoid of typos and other embarrassing gaffs without having to think about it. Another quick hint? Try to use bullet points & numbered lists – rather than big blocks of texts – to make the email easily readable.
- Mind Your Words
If nothing else – please make this one of your top priorities when sending emails: EDIT THEM! Read over what you’ve written, remove the “fluff” (more words doesn’t mean better work) and make sure the email makes sense. There’s nothing more unprofessional than an email you need to decipher. Keep it simple, keep it short, and most important – Keep it understandable.
- The Cardinal Rule
Actually, we take back our previous statement – if nothing else, make THIS rule your top priority. When in doubt – DON’T REPLY ALL. There may be times when it’s necessary to take up everyone’s time with your response, but it’s less common than you think, and usually only serves to eat up other people’s productivity. If there’s only a handful on the original email, perhaps it’s permissible, but even then – think before you click!
Inbox Management of the Pros
- Block time
If not managed properly, your inbox can easily become an untamed beast constantly nipping at your heels. Your time is held hostage to the constant barrage of incoming email and you feel forced to respond in real time to everything that comes in. That ends now. First things first – block time to check your email and respond. Our suggestion would be NOT to check it first thing – get yourself situated for the day, plan out your priorities, and THEN take a look and see what’s there. You won’t feel obligated to “panic” respond to everything because you have your priorities set (and hopefully you stick to them). It’s also a great way to train clients and colleagues that your time is structured and not everything is an emergency.
- Build a Foundation
If you don’t already, create a filing system that works for your needs – use folders, labels, tags, flags, etc. Ideally, we’d all love our inboxes to be clean everyday with only relevant and recent emails at our fingertips. The first step to getting there is to have a place for everything. Sometimes emails come through that are important, but not urgent. If that’s the case, create a folder for that email to live so you can easily find it without it popping up everyday in your main inbox. A cluttered inbox can lead to a cluttered mind, which can lead to anxiety. So do yourself a favor and do some cleaning up early.
- Inbox Rules Rule!
If you’ve never heard of inbox rules or filters, get up to speed now. These simple to set up rules can drastically increase your productivity by doing a lot of the work for you. Are there emails you get that aren’t urgent but need to reside in a specific folder? Set up a rule for them to bypass your inbox completely. Using tools to view unread and/or total items within a folder is helpful to keep tabs on those types of emails as well.
- Guard Your Focus
Repeat with me: Unsubscribe is your friend. Use it often. Use it liberally. Don’t hold back.
- Play Matchmaker
Is there a software you use often that you feel like would be just perfect if you could interate it with your email? Chances are there’s a way. Whether it’s calendar management like TimeTrade, or CRM integration – there are countless programs that have easy ways to integrate with your email system. And think of all the time you’ll be saving by keeping it all together. If you’re unsure, also check out Zapier (think – Zapier makes you happier) for seamless ways to integrate all your systems.
For a system you’re most likely in first thing in the morning and last thing before day’s end, there are so many small moments for improvement that perhaps you hadn’t even thought of. And these tips are truly just the “tip of the iceberg.” There are so many more ways we can help, and we always love to share our secrets! Want to see some demonstrations and learn a bit more? Join us for the free webinar “Own Your Inbox – Top Tips for Email Productivity and Professionalism.” Register to attend live OR to receive the free recording.
And of course, if you have any additional questions, you can always send us an email