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Top 10 Effective Email Tips

by Matthew Ferrara

In an era of social media and instant notifications, is email still relevant? Absolutely – if you do it right.

Ferrara - articleEmail remains a vital business communications tool, primarily because it remains one of the most secure, private and functional tools to share ideas, conduct transactions and document your conversations. And while email has come a long way since the days of basic text and attachments, a few tips will keep your messages effective and engaging.

1. Keep email simple. Email should send a clear, concise message in the least amount of data. This means keeping messages short. If you need to write more than a paragraph or two, consider picking up the phone instead; then use email to recap or summarize after.

While good etiquette remains important, such as writing greetings and closings, effective emails don't have to appear like a short story. Most people receive dozens of emails a day, and you’ll be doing them a big favor by getting right to the point.

2. Keep email clean. Avoid the temptation to turn your email into a marketing piece. Backgrounds, templates and graphics all complicate email messaging: especially on smaller devices, such as smartphones and mini-tablets.

You don't have to make every message an advertisement. If your content is important and valuable, a nice clean text will do fine, with perhaps a hyperlink that can easily connect the recipient to your full-blown website with all the fancy marketing.

3. Restrain your signature! We've all seen them: signature files that look like Tolstoy wrote them. Line after line of abbreviation, awards, accolades, links, graphs – even an occasional haiku (ok, I made up that last part).

But really, is all that necessary? Consider what that's like to scroll through on a smartphone, or after we've gone back and forth after a few replies. After the basics (mandatory legal language and your best two contact options), suffice it to say that I can get hold of you simply by pressing reply.

4. Smaller is better – especially when it comes to attachments. Even with faster wireless networks, sending 10-MB or larger attachments is often tedious for your recipient.

If you must send a larger file, consider using a document management program like DotLoop instead, or simply place the file in Dropbox and send a private link to it. This is especially important for international clients, who might be paying a premium wireless charge to access email when they're in town.

5. Quote replies. One of the most important "classic" email functions is the quoted reply, which retains the original message at the bottom of your response. Some email systems have started truncating the original message or eliminating it altogether. Ensure your settings continue to include the full original message, so you can create a consistent "paper trail" to document of legal conversations.

6. Write specific subject lines. Most business people receive 100-plus emails a day. They need to save time and apply their efforts to the most critical communications first. So your subject line matters. Be as specific as possible, such as: "The file you requested" instead of just the reply to "RE: our discussion." Take the opportunity to tell your recipient exactly why they want to open your message first with a targeted subject line.

7. Respond, and quickly! One of the reasons more people are using text and social network messaging is that people respond to them very quickly. So make sure your email etiquette tells your clients and fellow industry professionals that you still take email seriously.

Most messages should get some form of acknowledgement within an hour, if not before a half-day passes. By the close of business on any given day, all new communications should be acknowledged, so that prospective clients and referrals know that the message has been received and not sent to your spam folder. Nothing gives a client or prospect a better feeling than your super-prompt attention to their communications.

8. White gloves. Even after years of communicating with clients, I still respond to every email with a "thank you for contacting me" opening or closing. I take every opportunity to use email to reinforce the importance and value of our relationship. In an era where grammatically incorrect text messages and half-baked social media replies have become the norm, a little white-glove attention in your email goes a long way.

9. Spell check. Be sure to revew and chek youre emails for proper grammer and punctuaton. Nothing says you could care less than poorly written messages. Every email program in the world will add a red-squiggly to your misspelled words. But double check for common grammar errors such as "you're" and "your" before pressing send.

10. Prospect gently. These days, people are inundated with information. If you're using email to prospect new clients or keep up with current ones, don't overdo it. Many people are reducing their inbox clutter in favor of social media, unsubscribing to anyone who over-communicates with them by email. When prospecting, it's far more effective to write a personal email to three people a day than to send out 1,000 blast-messages of a generic nature.

Use email to say you care, not just "are you there?"

With practice, these tips can help you keep your email effective and informative. Contrary to popular belief, email isn't going away anytime soon. It can remain a great way to get things done, keep in touch and grow your business, if you take the time to fine tune it for the mobile age.

Matthew FerraraMatthew Ferrara is CEO of Matthew Ferrara & Company, an international real estate consulting, management, strategy and sales organization. For more than two decades, Ferrara has been helping top performing brokerages transform their marketing, technology and customer service strategies to create loyal clients and lead the competition in the next generation of real estate business. Learn more at www.matthewferrara.com.

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