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This is the first installment in the three-part series “Stop the Madness: Manage Email to Grow Your Business”

Last week I proposed a problem in this blog post. That problem was this: The fact that you’re running a business (or two) means that “email inundation” is about as common a phrase to you as “It was on the invoice”.

Then I asked a question: So, what do you do?

flickr user juliebee

flickr user juliebee

Some of you shrugged. Others continued weeping about the perplexing nature of your email reality. Either way, consider yourself doused in empathy. The email hammer falls mercilessly on many a business owner. But, rather than swap stories about the number of hair follicles abandoned by their strands because of email horrors, I say we look for viable solutions.

With that in mind, these are the parts of this series:

Today: Branding: Yes, It’s In Your Email, Too
Tomorrow: Loosen the Grip: Email Will Bury You If You Don’t Share It
Friday: Respect Your Email: Add Value When You Touch It

As a business owner — in particular — and even as an employee, it’s important to acknowledge that everything generated by your business — from the product or service to the supporting elements and beyond is a reflection of your brand. If you’re scoring at home, let me reiterate: everything.

In no component of your business is that more true than with email correspondence. Every message that you originate or reply to is a piece of marketing collateral that can either represent you well or reflect poorly on your approach to business.

“But it’s just an email,” you say. “I was just replying to a customer’s question.”

You could view email messages that way, yes, but what if you took a different tact? What if you viewed each email as marketing touchpoint — a chance to extend your brand? Then you would start to pay particular attention to these things:

  • Sentence Structure: Whether your selling consulting services or shoelaces, your customers or potential customers need to know that you’re capable of creating complete sentences. Nothing says “Feel free to doubt my competency” like an obnoxious fragment.
  • Grammar: See above and replace “creating complete” with “punctuating”. Beyond the message sent by the absence of grammar, you also risk confusing the meaning of your email.
  • Aesthetic: Remember, we’re talking about branding. Make sure that the email is clean. If you’re conveying multiple points, use numbers or bullets.
  • Signature: Here’s a chance to send a digital business card 100 times per day. Make sure you’ve got a title, contact information and other pertinent links. Be careful not to go crazy here. A 12-line signature crosses into desperation or showing off — neither of which is good.
  • Information: Make sure the messages you send address the issue at hand and provide the information necessary to resolve it — inasmuch as that’s possible. You chuckle, but a third of my day is spent wondering why people bothered to hit the “send” button.
  • Over-delivery: Do this every once in a while. Again, this is an extension of your brand. Being known as a consultant/company/organization that goes the extra mile will pay unexpected dividends.

The nice thing about the email management tools available today is that they prevent the need to create each email from scratch. Using a template or canned response, as long as it meets the branding requirements, is not only acceptable, but advised.

Now, if this seems to you like a bucket of effort you’re not convinced will make a difference, keep this reality in mind: We’re living at the confluence of a couple of major forces that can impact your way of life. You say, “That seems like hyperbole, Jason, could you just go back to talking about email?” In one moment, because it’s all related.

The two forces are Market Saturation and Social Media. In simple terms:

1. There are a lot of businesses out there vying for space in the market.
2. Social Media has turned everybody into a visible figure, which has raised the bar on individual expectation of service.

This means that to create your space in the market, all of the tools in your branding shed must be sharp. And because of the nature of business communication, email needs to be viewed as the Philips-head screwdriver: always ready, always reliable.

Come back tomorrow for the second installment in this series, “Loosen Your Grip: Email Will Bury You If You Don’t Share It”. Can you say riveting?

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