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9 Ways to Optimize Business Email

Ranking right up there with the business letter and the corporate memo, email has taken a giant step to the forefront of today's business communications options.

C.L. Morrison has been a successful marketing/PR professional for more than 15 years. C. L. Morrison has managed an ad agency, handled corporate communications for US and global firms, developed PR programming for non-profits, and founded a municipal public information department.Whether you use the electronic medium for most of your business correspondence, or reserve email for an occasional message to colleagues, you'll want to be assured that you're communicating clearly and professionally.

How to Make Email More Effective

Here are a few key strategies to optimize the effectiveness of your business email:

  1. Simplicity - Brief, uncomplicated topics lend themselves most readily to the email format. Save complex and emotionally-charged subjects for face-to-face or other, more appropriate, contexts.
  2. Accountable - It's important to understand that email isn't a private medium. How many horror stories have you read about messages that wind up in places they were never intended to go? Before you put anything in writing - email, traditional mail or memo - be sure you're prepared to be held accountable for your words if they come back to haunt you.
  3. Plan - Because we can quickly and conveniently dash off an email message, we tend to dive right in and do so. Take time to think before you write. Will your message serve a purpose for you and your reader? And don't be in such a hurry that you overlook spelling, grammar or the tone your words convey. Minding details like these underscores your professionalism.
  4. Focus - Put your attention on the points you want to get across in your message. Before concluding, be sure to clearly tell your reader what sort of response you want. For instance, "We need to schedule a meeting with the marketing staff. Please tell me which day and time would work best for you."
  5. Complete - Does your reader need additional information in order to act on your message? Be sure to include any necessary details. And be sensitive to virus fears and company firewalls. You may need to place information like this in the body of your email rather than in a file attachment.
  6. Clarity - How many times have you struggled to make sense of the dreaded one-incredibly-long-paragraph email? Make your messages easy to read by keeping sentences short and breaking text into brief paragraphs. Your readers will love you for the added white space!
  7. Audience - Limiting each email to one main idea simplifies things for everyone concerned - see section on Target Audience Analysis. Both you and your reader will find it easier to organize and respond to messages that relate to a single topic.
  8. Direct - Another tip to help organize messages and speed response time: use specific and accurate subject lines. Instead of "Monthly Report", make it "Monthly Sales Report - November 2003". Imagine how much time this will save when you need to find that November report in a hurry.
  9. Check - Before you hit send, take a few moments to re-read what you've written. Even if you run a spell check, look over your work for spelling, typos and overall content. Does the message say exactly what you want it to?

Emails reflect on you and your company every bit as much as traditional business letters do. Taking a little extra time and effort assures you that you're presenting yourself well.

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