A tale of two emails.
Sometimes an email is just an email. Other times, it’s an X ray of someone’s character. Here’s a perfect example of the difference.
Recently, a friend emailed me. He asked if I would forward the résumé of a friend of his to my clients that have intern programs. I did so happily.
Both people I emailed replied within a few hours (after all, they work at PR agencies). Yet while they basically said the same thing — “You’re too late” — the tones they used were strikingly divergent. Here’s what they wrote:
Digital branding starts in your inbox.
It’s something you take for granted, something seemingly trivial, even mundane. When executed thoughtfully, however, it makes a splash. It says, “This guy is sharp — I want to work with him!”
What is this opportunity, obvious but overlooked? It’s the bookends of your emails: your address and signature block — often, the first and last thing your recipients will see. For better or worse, your email bookends are powerful purveyors of your brand. What are yours conveying about you?
Consider just the address. As the Oatmeal has observed, the domain you choose is like a Rorschach test, betraying your sophistication, or lack thereof. A few examples:
Practice deftness, not deafness.
In a recent blog post, Chris Brogan describes a scenario familiar to anyone not living under a rock: “Today, I sheepishly deleted several e-mails that were waiting for a quick response. Dozens. Maybe 100 overall. So that means almost 100 people got my attention, got me to read something, got me to think that maybe I should do something,” and then never heard back.
Why does this happen so often to so many? Brogan’s diagnosis is convincing: Because “we don’t fully understand the syntax of saying ‘no.’”
He offers a graceful example of how to construct this elusive sentence: “What you’re doing is important, and I’m very supportive of you, but I’m not able to take on what you’d like me to do because of my own full plate of commitments.”
In other words: Thanks, but no thanks.
One of the most overlooked opportunities for online marketing also happens to be one of the most ubiquitous: the email “signature.”
One of the first things new employees do is create a “signature block” for their emails. These half-dozen lines or so, consisting of your contact info, plop themselves at the bottom of every email we send. Yet few people put any thought into their e-signature, let alone alter it after it’s set up.
This modus operandi reflects a 1.0 mindset. Let’s upgrade it.
In the current edition of her e-newsletter, Claire Kittle, who runs the Talent Market staffing agency, recounts an anecdote that immediately rang true for me. With Claire’s permission, I’m reprinting the story, which I’ve edited slightly.
★ ★ ★
I get dozens of applications every day, and you would be amazed to see how many seemingly intelligent candidates do not follow instructions. If I had to put a number on it, I’d estimate that 50% of applicants fail to send me what my clients request.
I used to give all candidates the benefit of the doubt. I would follow-up with them and ask for the information they neglected to send the first time. But I learned that those same candidates often still fail to follow instructions on the second (and third!) attempts, and worse—they frequently get belligerent about being asked for more information!
Here’s a sample scenario:
One month ago, I posted some thoughts on the pros and cons of communicating via e-mail. As promised, I’d like now to outline some best practices that have served me well (even if I’ve learned them the hard way).
Granted, some of these are idiosyncratic, so if you disagree or have additional insights, definitely please let me know.
I love e-mail. I think of it as I think of Google: I’d be lost without it. Indeed, with the exception of family and close friends and personal situations, I prefer communicating via my inbox.
I enjoy the challenge of converting my thoughts into words, of committing something to paper. I appreciate the chance to think before responding. And, above all, I embrace the opportunity to stay organized and keep everyone accountable. Here are two examples of the latter: