Email - Love It or Leave It?
Handling Email is far more Elegant in 2008 and using email is a modern necessity, especially for small businesses.
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Patrick Murphy, DBA "The Small Businessman"
Email drives average small business folks nuts! For many, it seems too many messages are a total waste of time. Most small and micro business owners have never really understood email as the powerful lightsaber wielding ally that it is. Spoiled by email, you may have forgotten how awful it was for the phone to ring while you're in the restroom or helping a customer spend their money. Sure, we want to be there for our off premise customers at the drop of a hat, but trust me, they don't even want to talk to you while you're taking a shower. Today, your cell phone may be driving you (or someone with you) over the cukoo's nest. Worse it may actually be driving you off the road while your ear takes on a new cell phone accommodating shape. Email, doesn't do that to you. The questions you should ask are whether email is making you money? If it isn't, it should be.You just haven't found your common ground with it. Email may not be the best tool to call 911 with, but it has a very valuable place in our modern world and as a small business owner, you'd better be using it.
Repeat after me, "Email is my friend!"
One of the best things about email is that it gives harried small business folks time to think before they speak. That alone can keep some of folks out of hot water. Remember, everything we do is based on emotions and sometimes we don't want those emotions to interfere with our customer relationships. Email, gives you the chance to have a cup of coffee and carefully choose your message.
Another winning aspect of email delivery is the pricetag. virtually free with no drive to the post office and no drain on your cellular minutes. However, the catch 22 of it is that because its free, some folks don't mind using it to deliver a cheap bottom feeding message to you and the rest of the world. I'll regroup here. After all, bringing up Darth Spam is not helping you to call email your friend.
Even spammers can show us a thing or two. Sometimes, when you have something interesting to say, folks can't wait to hear from you. Republicans probably wait with baited breath for Rush Limbaugh's next "bulk email" message!
Because email is free, we can use it in place of bulk "snail" mail for some clients. That's right. I said "snail" mail. That's because email is almost instantaneous. Think about how far we've come. Andrew Jackson fought the Battle of New Orleans not knowing that a peace accord had been signed. Thinkk of the lives that would've been saved if Andy had email and someone read it first thing that morning. Email is pretty doggon fast, and since its words can be contract, projects can often start up right away without waiting for the mail or using those cumbersome fax machines.
Environmentally speaking, think of all the trees we can save when we use email. Recently, I received an expensive, fancy, full color punch out ad from the U.S. Post Office. Meanwhile, to offset the cost of the ad, they're going to raise stamp prices again. For me, its a good reason to use email, which is killing the Post Office's letter business. At times, I think they are the dumbest organization on the planet and I'm sure its founder, ol' Ben Franklin is turning in his grave when he sees these blunders. Remember, the post office is the original "spammer" with all that junk mail.
Meanwhile, when we're ontop of things, our "brick and mortar" marketing campaigns should work hand in hand with our email and other online marketing. They are not separate. It is so easy to order business cards and forget our email and web address.
Email is all about name recognition. Customers need to think of you often before they commit you to memory. You don't want them referring friends to a business who's name they can't recall.
Perhaps customers can order something online and then come to your store and where your staff can add to the order.
Email can be used to promote events and specials.
Phone calls can frustrate you when you're confronted with a line of customers. Email can help you communicate on your own terms.
Email can be used to run surveys or give out prizes. All of this can be done without spamming the universe.
Email is contract. Think and act that way. It will save you from numerous misunderstandings. Unless you record your conversations, you don't have this advantage with your cell phone.
Email is one of the most valuable technologies today. Used in conjunction with the world wide web, it is even more powerful. Imagine opening your email one day and finding a link from a friend of a friend that has a cure for your cancer.
Email Tips for Small Businesses
If you dread opening your email or answering it, try following these tips:
Answering email should be AT LEAST the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do in the evening. People will be impressed with your fast responses.
Flag what you're mulling over to answer later when you've figured out what you want to say.
Immediately file the email in its proper folder. Backup your email.
Have a business email address. Don't use a provider's domain name, especially a google or Yahoo address unless you want your customers to assume that "you're also a yahoo! Professionals have their own domains and email addresses that they can use for the duration of their business's life. It is also part of your name recognition program, putting your business name in front of them the required eight times.
Use spam filters wisely to hold back spam email in a "junk mail" folder. At the end of each day–or at least each week, go through it and make sure nothing important slipped in there before throwing it out.
Beware of fishing scams that pretend to be one of your bank or other important accounts. That can be financially devastating and is the most dangerous part of email.
Try to avoid giving out any personal information in an email. Mail servers can read your mail and steal the information in it. They can even search the servers for specific patterns like "nnn-nn-nnnn" I wonder what pattern that represents?
Never use email for personal business at work EVEN WHEN IT IS ALLOWED. Most companies have authorized themselves to read any and all correspondence on and sometimes off the premises. You can even be fired based on your email correspondence.
Act as though business competitors and the government are watching your email. If you are in a sensitive situation, email encryption is important if not a hassle.
You should maintain a separate email account that cannot be seen by other family members and friends that might "borrow" your computer. Always log onto your computer. Never let your computer open to your desktop without a login.
Make sure your passwords are good ones. Use a password generator and a password wallet to contain your email settings and related information under your account on your computer.
Consider, answering email on the Internet, which will help protect your computer from viruses and worms, but may leave mail on the server too long where network eyes can see it. Most folks, especially more virus free Macintosh users, download email so that they own it and so that prying Internet eyes don't see it..
There's a lot to consider and because computers are fragile, there are no guarantees. However, there's no guarantees when you cross the street either. No guts, no glory. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Michael Patrick Murphy is the author of two books. The Greens ISBN 13: 9780595133055 and The Government, ISBN 0-595-30863-5. Both are available online or from your favorite bookstores by special order. Mike also ran for the California State Assembly in 2006.
Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org