Four Common Email Shortcuts and Sidesteps That Could Cost You

When you have a crazy-busy schedule and not nearly enough hours in the day, it makes sense to look for ways to save time. As Email @ symbol and envelopeyou’re squeezing in everything you possibly can in the limited time you have, you might find yourself taking some shortcuts and sidesteps with mundane, everyday processes—like handling email.

 

While some of those shortcuts (such as setting up filters or a priority mailbox format) streamline and boost efficiency, others can potentially cause you to lose opportunities, put business relationships at risk, and…well…make you look like a fool.

 

Four Email Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Business

All of the below are oopses that I’ve made or that I’ve seen made first-hand. Are you guilty of any of them?

 

Never checking who has sent the emails that landed in your spam folder.

I’ve learned the hard way that emails from prospects and clients sometimes turn up in spam rather than my inbox. Don’t miss out on viable opportunities or important information by completely ignoring your spam folder or deleting emails in spam without checking who they’re from first.

Not double-checking (BEFORE you hit send) to make sure you’ve included only the intended recipients.

This can trip you up in many ways. You might send confidential information to someone you shouldn’t have disclosed it to. As a means of venting frustration, you might have written something not so favorable about someone and then inadvertently included that person in the distribution (This happened to one of my friends who is by all accounts an accomplished professional.)

Bcing (blind-copying) someone on an email.

This can set you up for another email faux pas. Under most circumstances, people Bc other people in emails when they secretly want to let those people know what they’ve sent to the “To” recipient(s). That’s fine and dandy until someone who has been Bced “replies all.” Yep. Awkward. It can destroy trust and create hard feelings. If you want to keep others in the loop, consider Ccing them so it’s all up-front or forward them the email you had sent to the recipient. The latter is more stealth than a Cc but less risky than rolling the dice with a Bc.

Thinking that you’ll remember to put a commitment on your calendar later.

Assume you won’t, and reserve the time as soon as you’ve responded to an email with agreement to a meeting, a task, or an event. If your brain is pulled in diverse directions at nearly all times, trust me on this—your memory isn’t as phenomenal as you think it is.

 

The Fix For These Email Faux Pas?

All it takes is a few extra seconds and some attention to make sure you don’t make any of the mistakes above. Your email communications have the potential to make or break your business relationships. Why risk missteps that could make you look unprofessional or alienate clients or project partners?

 

What other easily preventable email mistakes have you seen other professionals make? What’s the worst one you’ve ever made?

Our Accessibility: Benefit or Bane to Solopreneurs and Small Biz Owners?

Accessibility. It has its advantages and disadvantages for solopreneurs and small business owners. The numerous Brand-New-Laptop-Tablet-And-Smartphone-by-stockimagesmodes of communication available to us give us many opportunities to consistently interact with our clients, prospects, family and friends. But always being within reach can also exhaust and overwhelm us.

 

How can I contact you? Let me count the ways…

It’s exciting – and almost dizzying – to think about how many ways people can communicate with us. It wasn’t all that long ago when face to face, phone, and email were the only line items on the list of ways to ask questions, follow up on inquiries, and make deals.

 

Now, someone could ask you to bid on a project through any one of many possible channels of communication:

 

  • Face to face
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Contact form on your website
  • Your blog (in comments)
  • Facebook (messages or in a post on your business page)
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter (via a mention or a direct message)
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Text message on your phone
  • Instant Message

 

 

All of these touch points open the door to opportunities – some are especially significant because they can impel people to act in the moment and contact you immediately. Provided you’re able to respond quickly, you can glean new business or gain referrals that way.

 

The downside to extreme accessibility…

The drawback to being highly accessible is you need to monitor all of your communication channels every day, several times each day so you’re aware of when important messages arrive. If you don’t, you could miss opportunities or fail to address urgent matters before they escalate into emergencies.

 

Accessiblity requires follow up and follow through! And the pressure is on. Especially when expectations of a fast response are high. Did you know that 42% of people expect brands to respond to questions and issues posted on social media within one hour (via a post by Jay Baer on Convince & Convert)? Yikes!

 

And you can never assume a channel isn’t worth paying attention to. I can attest to that…

Typically, my direct message inbox on Twitter consists of auto-responses from other Twitter users thanking me for following them. They’re annoying so I tune them out until I have a collection built up – at which point I delete every single one. Again, that’s typically the nature of DMs; but there are exceptions. Last year, I missed out on a project when I failed to check my Twitter DMs for 2 days. A writer, for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect, had left a DM asking me if I’d be available to work on an assignment she was managing. I discovered the DM too late, and I missed the opportunity. Had I checked my DMs every day, I might have landed that work. Live and learn!

 

How to make sure accessibility works for you, not against you…

 

  • Put a plan in place for monitoring your communications channels.

    Some channels require more attention than others because of how likely you are to receive messages through them and because of how quickly people expect you to respond. Consider setting some “rules of response” for each medium. For example, you might commit to responding to emails within 24 hours, non-emergency phone calls within 6 hours, social media mentions or messages within 3 hours, etc. Of course, you’ll need to set those standards according to your own capabilities and clients’ needs.

To make sure you’re covering all the bases every day, try reserving time on your calendar (as repeat appointments) daily for checking messages on your various channels. That will also help prevent you from feeling the need to constantly check social media and email when you should be working on billable projects.

 

  • Set the precedent for what methods of communications you prefer.

Let clients and colleagues know what channels of communication will work best when collaborating with you. For example, I prefer receiving requirements and information needed for writing projects via email or through a project management app. It’s clumsy and inefficient for me to receive info like that via text messages or through social media. And while I like to confirm and get clarification on details by phone, I don’t like to communicate that way to gather the bulk of what I need.

 

Of course, you’ll want to make things convenient for your clients as well. And you will by establishing a routine for working together. Your projects and working relationships will flow much more smoothly if you’re exchanging information and ideas in a uniform way rather than inconsistently using multiple networks to communicate. Setting a precedent will also help alleviate misunderstandings and prevent things from slipping through the cracks.

 

  • Set boundaries.

As important as it is to make yourself accessible to prospects and clients, you may also need to set limits around your availability. Unless your business is one that deals with anything as dire as life or death situations, do clients really need to call you at 11 p.m. (unless they’re across the globe in a different time zone)? Is it necessary for them to shoot you a text for a non-urgent question that could be effectively responded to via email?

 

Yes, you have an obligation to serve your customers, and it’s mutually beneficial to serve them exceptionally well. But you can excel at that without being at anyone’s beck and call 24/7. You’re a business owner, but you also have a life!

 

How has your heightened accessibility presented opportunities and challenges for you in your business? Are there any modes of communication that have proven most demanding or difficult to control?

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post

 

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Writing Right Now

As a freelance writer, I’ve talked with a lot of business owners and professionals who have shared that writing isn’t Tips to improve your writing now.among their core competencies. But communicating effectively via email, blogs, and social media channels requires a degree of writing aptitude.

Writing well in business will help you:

  • Express your ideas more clearly.
  • Define your expectations.
  • Gain approval and acceptance.
  • Project your intentions.
  • Move prospects, clients, colleagues, employees, and vendors to action.

While bringing in the help of a professional writer/editor can can benefit you immensely if writing isn’t among your entrepreneurial strong points, there are a few things you can do on your own to improve your writing immediately.

Quick Writing Fixes to Make You a Better Communicator

    • Get to the point.
      Don’t overcomplicate your message by going off on tangents or trying to cram too many main points into a single communication. Avoid confusion by making your focus clear to your readers. You’ll find them more likely to stay tuned in if they know what to expect.

 

    • Use bullet points.
      When you’ve got several key points to address, separate and emphasize them by putting them in a bulleted list. It will help keep your writing more organized, and readers will find it easier to digest that information.

 

    • Give it some space.
      Large chunks of text are a turn off to readers. Infuse your writing with “eye rests” (a.k.a. paragraph breaks and white space between them) so your audience can consume your content without feeling overwhelmed by the weight of too much text in a tight space.

 

    • Spell check – and then double check.
      I know. Spell Check has its flaws, but it does pick up on blatant fat-finger errors. Always, always, always run Spell Check on your writing. And when you’re finished, look it over again yourself (or better yet, ask someone else to proofread it) to pick up on any sneaky oopses that might have slipped by. Even though most readers are tolerant of a small mistake (We’re all human after all.), it looks unprofessional and sloppy if you’ve got multiple errors in a single piece of writing.

 

  • Read it aloud.
    I think this is the very best way to ensure you’re on target with your writing. Whenever you write, whatever you write, read it out loud before sharing it with anyone else. Not only will you find this effective for catching mistakes, you’ll also be able to assess the appropriateness of your tone. Does it sound like you? Is it implying sarcasm you hadn’t intended? Does it seem too long?

Incorporating the above won’t turn you into a stellar writer overnight, but it will improve your readers’ experience immediately. And it will make them more likely to tune in rather than tune out.

 

By Dawn Mentzer