Email etiquette and making a GOOD first impression are so important for your handmade business. Let’s start by comparing the various ways that we initially meet our potential customers.
Making a good first impression in a traditional meeting:
Let’s say you are exhibiting at a craft fair, people are coming into your booth space and you are talking with them. Perhaps you introduce yourself by saying “Hi, I’m [insert your name] the owner of [insert your business name] is there anything I can help your with today?” Even though you may not realize it, a bond is instantly formed by this simple human contact and an impression is made – good or bad. Lasting relationships are made because certain people are remembered. As people leave your booth, perhaps with a business card in hand, the memory of the meeting will remain, and when they are with other groups of people and conversations occur, it’s quite likely that someone will say to someone else, “I met a person the other day that does that; let me give you their contact information.”
Making a good first impression via email:
Most of us use email every day – it’s a fast and effective form of communication. But, let’s face it – it’s cold, impersonal, often unclear and used ineffectively. It totally lacks the personal contact of the traditional way in which we meet someone at a craft fair.
Email is also often the source of viruses, and is frequently used by spammers, so we need to pay attention to how our email is perceived by the person receiving it. Let’s begin with the basic sections of an email.
- The “From” section: When we first setup an email account we all have an opportunity to include our name (which we all should take advantage of), because let’s face it, you know that you are firstname.lastname@example.org, but will the person receiving the email have any idea who you are?
- The “Subject” line: This is the reason we are contacting the person in the first place. It should be short, clear, and concise. A blank subject line is a big “NO-NO” and may be immediately blocked or sent to their spam folder. If it does make it through, it’s often a red flag for the person on the other end, because it could be a virus! The message you sent could be immediately deleted and your inquiry will never be answered.
- The “Body” of the email: This is the real purpose for contacting the person you sent the email to. It should be clear, concise, and to the point. When you write your email, always try to think about what you would say if you were talking to that person on the phone – or better yet – if you were talking to them in person.
- The “Signature” or “Contact” block: Create a standard email “signature” that includes your name, title, company name, website address, and perhaps your phone number. This clearly indicates that you are a professional and provides them with additional information on how to contact you.
In my day job as a software developer, I receive countless emails. Some good – some not so good. Let me show you an example of a not so good one.
What’s the cost of the program?
Let’s analyze this email for a moment:
- I don’t recognize the email address and there isn’t a person’s name (this is a red flag)
- There is no subject (again, this is a red flag – and usually by this time, I’m ready to delete the email)
- What’s the cost of the program? I always have the preview option on in Outlook so I do see this, and while some of you may not think there is anything wrong with this question – there really is. We have four software programs, and while the sender obviously knew which product they had in mind – I as the receiver – don’t have a clue!
- No name, signature, or identifying information about the person who sent the message – so I have no idea who I am “talking” to, and no way to try to figure out which program they may be referring to. What could have been a simple response, now becomes a more time-consuming one, and both the sender and I will have to do a lot of extra work in order to get the information that was desired.
While this may seem picky – it’s really all about conveying a clear message to the person that you are corresponding with, and when this does happen, you do not portray a good first impression.
Making a good first impression on the phone:
As a professional, how do you answer your phone when it rings?
- Do you simply say “hello”?
- Do you say “Hello, Company Name, this is (your name)”?
- Do you say “Hello this is (your name)”?
How does the person calling respond? Let’s look at two situations:
- The person calling also identifies themselves. Pleasantries are exchanges. Next, you get to the heart of the call – whether it’s a product inquiry, a general question, or a request for help. Words are exchanged, as the conversation develops. When the call ends, a lasting memory of that conversations remains with each person. Hopefully, a good impression is made, and you look forward to the possibility of another encounter with that person.
- The person calling in does not identify themselves. No pleasantries are exchanged. You are immediately bombarded by questions that are not clear. You pleasantly attempt to steer the conversation toward a more positive interaction, while trying to determine if this is a current client/customer, a prospective client/customer, someone that you met, etc., in order to give the caller the appropriate information. Abruptly the conversation ends. You feel frustrated. A bad impression is made – and you hope you never hear from that person again!
Making a good first impression through our website:
Many prospects are now meeting us for the first time via our website, and it’s equally important that we also make a good first impression, in this manner; after all, it is the first glimpse that the prospect has of the product or service that we offer, and ultimately, us as a person.
- Your website should be an introduction to your product or service, your company, and you.
- Your website should clearly inform the prospect why they should choose your product or service over your competition.
- A website should be designed to make you stand out in a crowd, not appear like you are no different than the competition.
- Your website should focus on what you can do for the prospect, what benefit they will derive from your product or service, and not “drone” on about who you are.
- It’s important that you website have an “About Us” page, where you can provide a bit more detailed information.
Keeping these things in mind when meeting someone for the first time – no matter how it happens – can help you to make a good first impression and portray yourself as a professional.
Next week we’ll talk about Manners and Tone as it applies to email etiquette.
Until then, Happy Handmade