Did you know that just one email can tell people a lot about your business? And not all of what it says is good. Many small business owners fail to consider how their business email looks to others. Does it say professional, savvy and smart, or—something less favorable? Here are the most common email mistakes businesses make and instructions for solving them in Outlook.
5 Email Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
1. Spammy Sender Information
Have you ever received an email purportedly from Sam99876, or Front Desk, or Scanner1? I have and you probably have too. That kind of sender information doesn't identify you in a businesslike way, and those messages risk getting lost, overlooked or moved to the Trash. If your sender information looks like this, take a few minutes to set up your email account properly so that recipients can tell immediately who sent the email.
To do this, first decide what your sender information should look like. Good options are yourname@ your domain name, but other options—such as support@ your domain name, info@ your domain name and so on—work well, too.
Figure 1: Configure the Sender information so that recipients can see clearly identify you as the source of the email.
In Outlook choose File > Info > Account Settings and select the account to set up. Click Change and then, in the Change Account dialog, locate the Your Name entry—this is what appears in the recipient's From or Sender list. Change it to something appropriate and descriptive of your business, click Next, and wait as the account is tested. Then, when it is confirmed, click Close and Finish. New emails from this account will now carry the new details in the sender field.
2. Perpetuating Bad Subject Lines
Whenever you send an outgoing message it's courteous and informative to include a meaningful subject line. Occasionally, you will receive an email message from someone with either no subject line or one that's irrelevant, incorrect or unhelpful. Luckily you can break the cycle in Outlook by changing the subject of an email message that you receive.
First, open the received message and either select the current subject line or click in the subject box if it's empty. Type the new subject over the top of the old one and press Enter. Now when you click to respond to the message, your reply will have the new subject line as its subject. Outlook will prompt you to save the changes you made to the original incoming message—go ahead and do so.
3. Advertising Google Instead of Your Business
Often you'll see companies with their own domain name and website, but their owners and employees use free mail services such as Gmail and Hotmail. Not only does this look unprofessional, it also means you're losing a perfect opportunity to advertise your own business. Instead, you're advertising Google or Microsoft.
If your email is Your Name@your domain, then you're advertising your business whenever and wherever you send email. Plus, you make it easy for your recipients to determine your company's domain name and find your website. A Gmail address can’t do that for you.
Figure 2: Most hosting services supply email accounts with your site hosting - check the support or help to set these up.
It's easy to set up an email service, and most companies that host websites also provide email mailboxes as part of the hosting package. Check your hosting site's support page or knowledgebase for details as to how to set up your mail boxes using their administration interface—and just get it done.
Once you create the accounts, check the hosting site to configure those email accounts in Outlook so you can send and receive mail using the new accounts.
4. Out of the Office or Gone Forever?
When you're away from the office for a period of time, or when somebody leaves your business, it's vital that you handle the incoming email messages so that the message-senders know what is happening. In Outlook you can set up an "out of office reply" telling people that you're away, when you will be back, and whether they should contact someone else in the interim.
Figure 3: Use rules to automatically send out-of-office replies or to manage email sent to former employees.
If someone leaves your business, designate someone to manage that person's email. You can easily add additional email accounts to Outlook using File > Account Settings so that you can receive and deal with that email. You can also set up rule to respond in a variety of ways:
- Send an automatic reply to the sender indicating that the person has left
- Automatically route those emails to another person
- Set up a rule which does both
Either way, letting emails just disappear into a black hole isn't professional, and it's unnecessary when it's so simple to implement these alternatives.
5. Blurring Your Business and Personal Life
Many people blur the distinction between business and personal, and they use their business email account for personal correspondence. This isn't a good habit, because it's very hard to undo this when they leave the business or the business is sold.
Worse still is the opposite situation where your employees use their personal email accounts for business email. In this case you have no control over those messages or any attachments. If they leave your business, your email messages, your client contact details and potentially your business files go with them. The result can range from inconvenient to legally damaging to your business.
Figure 4: When setting up multiple email accounts in Outlook, you can designate one of them as the default for new messages.
Since Outlook can handle multiple accounts, you can use one interface to handle both personal and business email—and still keep them quite separate. Once you set up multiple accounts, you can designate one as the default for new messages in the Account Settings.
When you create a new email you can choose the account to send it from by selecting the correct account from the From: dropdown list. When replying to emails, Outlook defaults to an existing message using the account through which the message was received. You can change that, if desired, on a message-by-message basis.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
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