Small business email etiquette

Small business email etiquette

Recently, a member of the Absolutely Fabulous Business Women Facebook group asked me about email etiquette for her home based business.  She asked if she could send her newsletter to contacts in general, past colleagues and friends in addition to targeting former clients and prospects.

Email etiquette is such an overlooked subject and so many female entrepreneurs fail to understand the implications of getting it wrong.

If you have a list of people that you want to contact but are unsure about email etiquette, here are a few tips for getting it right.

Email etiquette tips

Firstly, I would never recommend sending a newsletter to anyone who has not subscribed. If you are using mailing software such as Mailchimp, this is strictly forbidden and if recipients report that they did not subscribe, you may get blacklisted.

It is also bad manners to automatically assume that someone wants to receive this newsletter and inviting yourself into their inbox without seeking permission first.  They may already have an overflowing inbox and your addition to this is likely to cause offence.  It’s like walking into their home without knocking and sitting down in front of them with no introduction and starting up a conversation.

Plain rude!  And likely to get you in to hot water legally ……..

Legal email requirements

Secondly, in the EU you need to be aware of legal restrictions in spending unsolicited email under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

This states:

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes

22.—(1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where—

(a)that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b)the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and

(c)the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).

If you have a database of contacts, I would suggest contacting these people to let them know about your business and inviting them to subscribe to your future newsletters.   They can then opt in out of choice keeping you in line with the law.

Also, if you have various types of contacts such as colleagues, friends, clients etc, they are unlikely to all be attracted to just one message. Friends would respond better if addressed in a different way to colleagues as would clients and prospects. It will take a little more work creating separate messages but should get you far better results.

Small business accounting software

Small business accounting software

The end of the financial year is here again and it is time to consolidate the accounts.  Do you have an easy system in place for this or use small business accounting software or do you sit tearing your hair out and losing sleep over not being able to balance the books?

If the latter, what are your options?  Personally I believe having an accountant is crucial to any business.  Or should I say a good accountant.  My accounts aren’t that difficult and I could quite easily do them myself but I have found that my accountant will always, without fail, find something that will save me money on my tax bill that I hadn’t thought of which pays for her fee instantly.

You can then look at getting a bookkeeper in to reconcile the accounts at the end of each month but this is where I think money can be better spent (sorry to any bookkeepers out there and do correct me if I am wrong!).

I believe in the power of automation to save time, money and stress.  And this is where small business accounting software comes into its own.  Yes, you can use software to replace your accountant but my personal preference is to use it in conjunction with my accountant to make their life easier (and their bill lower!).

There are some fantastic software options on the market today which will make balancing the books so simple and take literally minutes once you get to grips how to use them.

What can small business accounting software do for you?

These packages can take care of all the admin for you including expenses, payroll, and time tracking, to estimates and invoices.

They can help you keep track of your cash flow, see how much profit you are making, allow people to pay you online and send out automatic reminders to people who owe you money.

They will allow you to keep an eye on how much tax you owe and when it’s due.  And some even file your returns including VAT, RTI and Self-Assessment directly to HMRC on your behalf if you are not using an accountant.

Many software options have a free service but these are usually only up to a very small number of clients and also do not include many of the more advanced features so the paid for versions are always better.

Try before you buy

Before you go down the route of using a paid for service, take up a free trial so you can have some time to play with the system and make sure it does everything you want it to and that you can navigate your way around easily and understand the system.

Don’t just go with the first option you come across but review a number of options by talking to other people, particularly those in your industry that may have some quirks that need addressing.  Use online resources to read reviews and make sure you compare prices.

Resources

Below are a number of different financial software solutions for you to have a look at.  There will many more out there but this is a small selection to consider.

FreeAgent          Package prices start at £19.99 + vat PCM.  Hearing lots of good things about this package and just about to switch to it myself.

Freshbooks        A free option for just one client.  Package prices start at $19.99 PCM

Kashflow             Pricing starts from £5 + vat PCM for sole traders.  Has add-on features such as CRM.

Quickbooks        Pricing starts from £9 PCM.  A simple calculator to see which package is best for your business.

Xero                      Pricing starts at £9 PCM for up to 5 invoices.   Lots of add-on features

So have a look at some of these small business accounting software options and please give your own review on which you prefer and why in the comments box below or on The Small Business Kit Facebook page.

 

The hidden dangers of an overflowing inbox

The hidden dangers of an overflowing inbox

Today I flagged up to a company that I had recommended quite a few people to them and a couple of these had sent emails to make bookings but had received no response.  I was informed by the business owner that he did not have time to check his emails as he had an overflowing inbox and people should phone if they want to get in contact.

To say I was dumbfounded is to put it politely.  I gently tried to point out how many opportunities he may be missing out on but the response was that his phone number was on his website, Facebook page and business cards so people should use that.

So my next question was why on earth bother putting on contact details of an email address if you have no intention of checking it.

I was hoping to be able to tell you that this is a rare occurrence with small businesses but unfortunately it is not.  All too often I come across small businesses with an overflowing inbox that is having a detrimental effect on their business.  I know of another business advisor who had been sent a number of clients to speak to.  When I asked them why they had not been in contact, they again told me they had too many emails to trawl through so just picked out the most important looking ones.

Please do not let your emails get out of control and fall into this dangerous trap.  You never know that an absolute golden nugget may be sat amongst them, hidden from view, and that you let slip by.  Don’t bury your head in the sand and think people will make the effort to contact you in another format after a couple of failed attempts.  There is plenty of competition out there folks and if your competitor can be bothered to check their emails, then quite frankly, they deserve the business.

The business owner in question took the attitude that if someone was serious about doing business with him, then they would use alternative avenues and make more effort to get in contact with him.  My attitude is that if you are serious about building your business and gaining a good reputation, you will make the most of every opportunity to engage with potential clients and make it as easy as possible for them to get in contact with you.  And if you give out an email address as a form of contact, people will expect a response if they send you a message.

If you don’t want an overflowing inbox and want to know how to get your emails under control and keep them that way so you don’t ever miss a potential client, drop me a comment below and I will send you an article on ‘How to keep your email inbox under control.’