Business Email etiquette
When you get a business email from a client or contact, how quickly do you respond? Or do you respond at all?
Email is very much a dominant form of communication in today’s world and perhaps because we all get so much of it, we stop dealing with it in the correct manner.
All too often I will email a client or contact and then sit in silence awaiting a response that never materialises. And according to others I speak with this is becoming all too often an occurrence. This simply isn’t good enough. Quite frankly it is plain bad manners.
Whether you receive a business email from a prospect, a client, a contact or anyone else for that matter, if someone takes the time to contact you to pass on some information that you may find useful or to ask a question, it is only common courtesy to respond.
Even if you send a quick holding email if you are busy or don’t have a full response as yet at least you have shown enough respect to let the sender know that their message has been read and you are not just ignoring them.
A simple line such as ‘thanks, I will be in touch soon’ is better than complete silence.
Don’t get me wrong. You don’t want to be responding to emails at all unearthly hours as you need some clear set boundaries of your working hours. You don’t need your phone on email alert so that you check and answer every one the second it comes in. But if you want to run a professional business and for your clients and contacts to remember you for all the right reasons, you do need to have an email policy in place and to respond within a reasonable time frame. You just never know when that person may be in a position to either do business with you in the future or pass business on to you and if you have left a negative impression in their mind, they may choose not to!
If for any reason you know that you are going to busy and unable to respond within 24 hours, simply set an out of office reply to let people know.
So come on, up your game and abide by email etiquette to let people know you care.
If your email box is overflowing and out of control which is causing a knock on effect with your response time, read the related article ‘how to control your inbox’.
End of year business review
The start of a new year is a good time to sit back and review your small business to see what went well and what areas need improvement.
Here are a few ideas of what to review for your small business to see what changes you may need to make next year.
What did you spend on your marketing and what return did you get as a direct result? If you don’t have any system in place for measuring your marketing efforts, then put some in place now. If you can’t measure your efforts, you could be throwing away good money on something that simply doesn’t work or could be missing a golden opportunity where a low-cost campaign is gaining you higher than average sales.
Review your marketing message. Is it still connecting with your ideal customer or has your business changed direction in any way and your message needs tweaking to reflect these changes?
Is your website attracting the traffic you want? Where are website visitors coming from and how long do they spend on your site and what pages do they visit the most? Google analytics has all this information (and a lot more) so use it.
If any of your marketing isn’t working, stop doing it and focus your efforts elsewhere. Don’t just blindly follow the crowd because everyone is doing something. Facebook is a great example of this. Everyone feels they must be doing it but for some, they are simply not getting any results yet spend hours each day in a vain hope of attracting attention. Maybe your efforts would be best spent elsewhere such as using Pinterest, Instagram (just take a look at the Body Coach who has built his whole business on this platform) or LinkedIn.
Are there any new marketing avenues that you want to try such as public speaking, running workshops, attending networking events or a direct mail campaign. Have a review to see what else may bring results for your business.
Systems and Process
What systems do you have in place to help streamline your business and save you time and money? If you don’t have any consider setting some up for the New Year. And if you already have something in place, is it still working or could it be improved. From financial software to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems, these can be lifesavers for a small business. I use FreeAgent for looking after my finances and the time and stress it has saved me has far outweighed the £20 per month investment. I also use Capsule CRM to keep me up to date with following up prospects and keeping in touch with clients and would simply be lost without it.
I have my own time management system for controlling my diary and setting the most important and urgent tasks each day and since implementing this, my working day is far less stressful and far more work gets done.
Outsourcing and staffing
Are you still doing mundane but important tasks that would be better served from outsourcing to someone else? Could someone else do these tasks in a fraction of the time it takes you which will save you stress, get the job done to a better standard and free up your time for working on the core area of your business to make more money? You don’t need to go full hog and employ someone on a full-time basis. You could simply outsource certain tasks as and when required.
On the other hand, if you are already outsourcing or employing staff, are they up to the standard you require. Take stock and make sure any initial high standards haven’t slipped and make any changes if necessary. Don’t continue to spend money on staff and outworkers if they are no longer a use to the business or providing some real benefit.
Have a review of your current suppliers. Are you getting a good deal or could you shop around to find something better for your business? Are they still delivering on their promises or does the service level agreement between you need re-addressing?
Do you love the clients and customers you are working with or do some of them give you sleepless nights? One of the benefits of running your own business is that you can decide who you work with and who you don’t. If you have any particularly difficult clients that you dread working with, politely but firmly, release them from your services. These people can be such an energy drain on you personally and be letting them go, you can have more energy and enthusiasm to work with those people who value and appreciate what you do.
Having a review of the finances is so important and should be done on a monthly basis but if you haven’t been doing this, take time to have a good look now. Are there any unnecessary costs that could be cut altogether where you have signed up for things that you no longer use or others that could be renegotiated such as insurance or phone charges. Are there any ways that you could save on tax? Go speak to your accountant and make sure you are not wasting any hard earned money.
Are your prices right or do you need to adjust them? If you offer a service and are fully booked with clients (firstly well done) could you implement an increase in your pricing strategy? Just a small increase in pricing can generate much higher profits if combined with cutting costs where possible as above.
Products and services
Don’t let your products and services get stale. Do any need changing or could you add something new to your business to keep interest alive in what you do and to attract new clients and more sales? Do some research and see what your current customers and clients might like.
This is so often missed on a business review list but is so important. What is happening in your chosen industry? What trends are happening? Are there any upcoming legislations that might affect what you do or new competitors coming into the market? Don’t bury your head in the sand and get left behind with any new technology, trends or changes in the market. Do your research, keep your knowledge updated and stay ahead of the game.
External help and support
Are you still spending hours, days and weeks trying to figure things out on your own? Is this the right time to invest in yourself and your business to get someone to help drive your business forward who has the necessary experience to save you time and money. Too often we think we can’t afford to hire a coach or mentor but look at it this way – if you spent £2,000 on a coach but this help brought you in £10,000, would it be worth it?
Review your business over the past year as part of updating your business plan. Keep doing and improving what is doing well and stop anything that is not working. Revisit your business plan and look at your sales income against your start of year forecasts. If you did not meet your forecasted figures, look at what you can do to fill this gap over the next 12 months. Get help if you need it to take a serious review of your current business and to find ways to make next year your best year ever.
P.S. If you really are serious about making next year your best ever, come join my private member’s club where you will get all the resources and personal support to achieve all that you want.
P.P.S. As a member you will also get access to my full Business Building Bundle on How to review your business along with a workbook that will really get you focused and ready to forge ahead to success in the New Year.