Category Archives: From the Desk of the President

Workplace Email Etiquette

There is no doubt that email has greatly improved communication in almost all aspects of our lives. My husband and I keep track of our children and appointments with emails, my staff corresponds with clients and each other via email on a daily basis, and we know that many people are using email as a way to try and get their foot in the door. As important as an email can be, it still astonishes me at how lazy, unprofessional and completely unnecessary some emails can be. I sit on three different boards and numerous sub-committees and I try to teach all of them some basic email etiquette.

The basic workplace email etiquette rules are:

  1. Be clear and concise – try not to make an email longer than it needs to be. Add as much detail as the email requires (see #2), however, try to avoid long winded situations. There are some instances where just picking up the phone would be a lot easier then typing out a 5 page email. Make it easy on yourself and on the person who is receiving the email.
  2. Answer all questions – one of my biggest pet peeves is receiving a partially complete email from someone. If you do not answer all of the questions asked in an original email, you are just prompting further emails which will waste your time and the recipients time. A great example of this is when people email me about what credit cards we accept. I could reply with just the names of the credit cards, however, naming the credit cards and telling them how to go about making a payment answers their initial question and probably the question they would have asked next.
  3. Spell check and read aloud if necessary – spell check cannot fix grammatical errors. If you are sending an email to someone, please re-read it before hitting send. A friend of mine received an email stating “I look forward to spanking with you again”. Ouch. Luckily she has a good sense of humor, but not everyone will. Also, try to avoid using acronyms and short hand. It really is not that hard to type out you instead of “u” or okay instead of “k” and it makes you appear a thousand times more professional.
  4. Watch who you are replying and sending to – I sit on many boards who use distribution lists or email aliases as a way to communicate with a larger group of people through a single email point. For example, I can send an email to board@xyzassociation.com and it will be forwarded on to all the board members for that group. There are times when it is appropriate to send a message to the entire board, however, 9 times out of 10 the email could have just been sent to those people immediately affected by the message. Along these same lines, only use reply all when it is totally necessary for everyone to see the message. Remember, we all get too many emails as it is. A reply all could be completely unnecessary.

Implementing these rules will make your emails more professional and efficient and more likely to get read. If I consistently receive emails of this caliber from an individual, they are way more likely to get read and responded to.

Justices and the Seven Dwarfs

Ask the average person to name 2 of the 7 dwarfs and 99% will be able to do it. Ask that same person to name 2 of the 9 supreme court justices in the US and 80% won’t be able to do it. Maybe its because we don’t give our Justices cute nick names. Judge Roberts was nominated by Bush and went to Harvard, if you combine the 2 we could call Judge Roberts, Hushy. More people might be able to remember it that way. They still wouldn’t remember his politics, but that is another blog.

What does that have to do with marketing? Plenty.

The creators of Snow White and the 7 dwarfs spent plenty of time pairing the names of those silly dwarfs with how they looked. Doc looked smart, sleepy looked tired, dopey looked, well, dopey, and sneezy always had that darn red nose from sneezing so much. Giving something a snazzy name that fits and is easy to remember, is called giving it a Handle. What is your handle? Internet Consultant? Principal Consultant? If you are at a backyard BBQ with a bunch of beer drinking pals, what would they say you do? Would they really say “Your name here is an Internet consultant?” or would they say “Your name here owns a company that builds websites”.

I’d bet money that they would say the latter. No one knows what an Internet Consultant does. Do you consult the Internet? Do you just charge a lot of money and tell me what to do but not actually provide me with the solution? What do you do? Can you say I am “Sneezy” and people instantly know what that means?

If your explanation of what you do is longer than 10 seconds (and that is being generous), no one knows what you do. If no one knows what you do, they can’t refer you to others who may need your help. If you have to say “I am an Internet Consultant. I work with all kinds of businesses to build web applications, solutions, and sites to help them increase sales, get a return on their money, blah blah blah blah” is about what I am going to hear.

We all know that we need one quick, concise sentence that says what we do and we need to use that sentence over and over and over and over again so that we have it memorized and all of the people around us have it memorized. “My name is Patrice Valentine and I build websites for companies large and small”. In 14 words and 4 seconds of speaking, you know who I am and what I do.

I do not love that sentence, I don’t think it is as black and white as “Sneezy”, but it gets it done and it works. People I meet at networking meetings can now introduce me to others as “This is Patrice Valentine and she builds websites for companies large and small”.

I’d love to hear back from you on what your handle is. Are you using Internet Consultant? Do people “get it” when they hear that?

Let’s figure out something that works.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog which will feature my biggest pet peeve….. the overuse of punctuation!!!!

And the winner is…

I am thrilled to announce that we have just been nominated for the Small Business of the Year for 2008 from the Northwest Business Monthly. This is such an honor for us and I hope that we take home the trophy this time! The awards ceremony is March 12th. We are up against some stong competition, but hopefully our hard work and dedication will pay off this time around.

A critical critique….

Funny thing… I stumbled upon a blog today that critiqued our “Does Your Website Stink” ad. She wrote this…

Deciding what makes for good creative is subjective. Results are all that really matter. But how many ads do you see that make you cringe? For me, this one did. It’s ugly. But what’s important is that people click on it. Following the rules is not top priority, like in David Ogilvy’s days. Click. Or not. And I wouldn’t.

Ogilvy, the author of Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising, would argue that every ad needs a compelling headline; “Does Your Website Stink?” is attention-getting, for sure. He would also require an appropriate graphic. Using the gas mask assumes the reader wouldn’t get it without this literal reference. I’m thinking an outhouse or litter box may have been considered as well. In Mr. O.’s day, a good ad needed a call to action, like the logo and link to the company’s site that I removed. I don’t want to point fingers. Not today, anyway.

To me, the ad says a lot about this web design firm–it makes them look crass by appealing to crass sensibilities–which may have been the goal. If so, they achieved it, and I hope they have thousands of hits today.

At least they didn’t ask, “Does your website suck?” with a picture of a straw.

I tried to respond on her blog, but it wasn’t working, so I sent an email response that said…

I am the owner of the company whose ad you are critiquing. Feel free to put our logo back on the ad as we are not embarrassed or regretful for creating that advertisement. Please feel free to post it as you found it which also had a link back to our website (www.netsolutionsna.com). Whether the ad annoys you, offends you, or hurts your eyes, it made you look, you read it, and you even took the time to Blog about it. I can only hope now that our ad is recognizable enough that people will want to go to our Blog to see if we have a response to what you have written. If that happens, then our ultimate goal of getting a potential customer to our website will have been achieved.

The one aspect of your post that I found insightful was “To me, the ad says a lot about this web design firm–it makes them look crass by appealing to crass sensibilities–which may have been the goal.” Certainly, this is not the goal. We know that in advertising you have only a small window of opportunity to grab someone’s attention. We know that posting our logo does not grab anyone’s attention. But we knew that those 4 little words, for better or for worse, would grab someone’s attention. The clients that we get from these click-throughs are the “low hanging fruit”. They are the people that are already in the market, are feeling some pain because their existing website “doesn’t work” and they are looking to make a change immediately. For someone who is not looking to create a new website or web application in the next few weeks, this ad probably means very little to them. For those people, we need to find another way to get their attention. That is why we offer quarterly website classes that teach you how to build an effective website, how to optimize it, and how to edit and maintain it yourself. By educating our potential customers in our classes, we are putting in motion the law of reciprocity. If we educate them (not sell to them) they are likely to use us in the future if/when they are in the market for what we sell.

Since you are in the marketing/advertising world Teresa, I am sure you can appreciate the need for multiple ads that have different headlines and different uses. The ad that you critiqued is attention grabbing and is meant more as a joke than as a crude or crass comment. We try not to take ourselves too seriously around here and that is the spirit in which that ad was created.

What do you think? Is our ad offensive or crass?

More Email – junk or news?

For the past 2 months, I have really noticed an increase in email. A lot of the new stuff coming is in the form of e-newsletters. I guess people have finally figured out that emailing a newsletter is cheaper and faster than printing and mailing a newsletter and is definitely more effective than not doing one at all.

Did you know it’s a great time to buy?

Some ad guy somewhere decided that no matter what industry you work in, no matter what service you provide and no matter what product you sell, the tag-line of the year needed to be “Now is a great time to buy!” You need a car? You are in luck! It’s a great time to buy. In the market to buy a house? Fantastic! It’s a great time to buy. How about a fireplace? You need one of those heading into summer time, well shoot! It’s a great time to buy! To all those people who can’t afford to buy right now, no worries, when you do get the cash they will be sure to hike the prices back up just to make it that much more painful.