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"If you could only be assured it would be as safe as posting a letter just think of the hard cash youíd save in postage, paper, Ö not to mention the improved efficiency every single day!"

Benefit From Email In Your Business

Think back to the nineties. Few people had heard of Email outside University and fewer still were using it. Now think back three years. More people had heard of it. Kids were using it but businesses?

Now Ė many businesses could not survive without it and the vast majority use it for some or all of their communications. The growth in business use over the last twelve months has been simply phenomenal.

The advantages to a business of using Email are Huge. And weíll discuss these in a moment. Everyoneís conception of Email is that itís Free Ė because unlike the post or telephone thereís no transaction charge. Unfortunately though few things in life are free and Email is no exception.

  • Consider a few "costs" Ö

You need an Internet Service Provider, (ISP)

Yes, you can get a free Email account but if youíre in business you need to convey the right image. daler@freeeservice.com doesnít look as professional as daler@practicenet.co.uk does it? So you need to register your Domain Name like Practice Net.

Your own web Site

If youíre transacting business over the Internet you need your own Web Site. And if youíve not got the skills to design it, create it & maintain it yourself Ė and few business owners do Ė youíll need to pay someone to do it for you.

  • Viruses

Before you start surfing the Web or sending & receiving Email you must protect your PC and office network.

To avoid Virus Infection you need to subscribe to an Anti-virus software service. There are several high quality ones available such as Norton, Sophos Ö Donít make the mistake though of buying software & not the service.

Regular updates are Essential. Iíll repeat that Ė theyíre Absolutely Essential. You can set up your PC to receive daily updates.

And yes, the Anti-virus service comes at a price and itís not cheap.

Other Nasties

Youíve probably already got Anti-virus software but do you have protection against Spyware, Adware, ... ?

Iíve seen many a PC infected by hundreds of Malware, (a generic term to cover these Internet nasties). Sometimes itís not possible to disinfect the PC and a reformat & rebuild is necessary.

So protect yourself in advance. There are several services available such as iscan, adaware, spybot Ö

And yes this also comes at a cost.

You can find information on anti-virus & anti-spyware products at www.practicenet.co.uk.

Thatís enough negatives lets move onto the positives and there are loads.

Cost Savings & Profit Increase

  • Despite all the above, effective use of Email in your business can save you ££££ís. The key word is effective.

Compare the cost of sending an Email with that of a letter. No stamp, no stationery, no envelope, no admin overhead. Just a Click. Multiply that by the number of letters you mail each day, 52 weeks of the year Ė you could save ££££ís on this alone.

And if youíre communicating with many customers or prospects via an Email Mail Merge rather than a document mail merge then your cost saving could be increased hundredfold.

Consider also the people time involved in mailing letters to the minimal time involved in sending Email. If you can utilise this time saving on productive activities then extra profits will result.

Be aware though that Email is instant. Once youíve clicked "Send" itís gone and you canít go to the post bag and retrieve it!

Because Email is quick, instant & low cost you can communicate more regularly with your customers & prospects. You can be proactive. Youíll be amazed at the extra business you generate simply by communicating more regularly.

So make a habit of sending an email every month to your customers.

Provided itís relevant and informative theyíll look forward to it and will not object if it includes a soft sell on your latest product offering. Sometimes you can include this in the body of the Email.

Other times you could simply mention it and include a link to a page on your Website. If you decide on the latter make sure the link takes them straight to your product page and not the Home page. Otherwise most will simply not bother to look for it.

  • Email Must Be Professional

People are used to personal Email. They write as they speak. Often, if theyíre mobile text proficient theyíll include text short hand. They rarely read what theyíve written and may have turned off the spell checker because of all the abbreviations.

The opposite is required for most Business Email. So you need to define the required standard thatís adhered to by everyone in your business. And put everyone in an Email straight-jacket.

Treat outgoing & incoming Email as though it were written communications. This means donít put anything in an Email that you wouldnít put in a letter.

You may decide that every outgoing Email must have a header, footer/disclaimer, signature or any combination of these. Because you want to reinforce your business image with your customers regardless of which of your employees sent it.

And once this "Template" has been defined any Email sent from any PC on your office network would automatically conform to it.

A word of warning though - Many peopleís Email settings now exclude pictures from their Email. Itís a potential source of Spyware. So your impressive looking corporate Email may not appear as such to the recipient.

More and more Email is being sent as plain text for this very reason.

Ensure that Spell Checker is set for every PC that sends Email. And remind people of the need to read their Email from beginning to end before they hit the send button.

  • Security

Weíve discussed viruses & spyware so if youíve installed software protection youíll be confident that any Email you send will not infect your customersí systems.

And if you havenít Ė rest assured your customers will tell you very quickly!

The other important aspect is that of confidentiality. How to ensure that your Email gets to the intended recipient and her alone.

Youíve probably received an Email that reveals everyone whoís also received it - Simply because the sender forgot to Tick "blind copy". Less frequent, you may have received an email thatís nothing to do with you. It just has your Email address as the recipient.

The solution to both these problems is to use a Database designed for the purpose. And ensure that every customer or prospect record in your database includes the contactís Email address.

Then you insist that every outgoing Email of a business nature is generated via your Database software.

This opens up the full functionality of Mail Merge via Email rather than printed letters to be mailed. An Email Merge will automatically merge recipientsí Email addresses on a Blind Copy basis with your defined Email Template and the text of your Email. And it takes just a few minutes.

Importantly a copy of every Email you send is stored in the customerís electronic folder. This is a major benefit you gain by using a database that controls your Email and which also includes a Document Management System.

  • Email Attachments

Because of security fears many users block attachments that could possibly include a virus. And this includes Microsoft Word & Excel documents.

So how do you get around this and ensure that every Email you send is received in full?

One solution is to include everything in the body of the text. If itís plain text with no attachments then itís highly likely your Email will get through. There is one other thing to consider though Ö

A growing number of users invoke Content Filtering to identify SPAM Ė more of this in a minute. You need to be careful to avoid certain words, (particularly in the Title), such as "Free", "Money Back Guarantee" Ö as these could suggest your Email is a sales letter.

If you do need to include an attachment then make sure itís a PDF. This has become the Industry Standard for Electronic Documents for two reasons.

          A PDF document is highly unlikely to contain a virus and is thus accepted by all.

          A PDF document can be generated such that it cannot be altered. With a Word document for example itís perfectly possible for the recipient to alter it and then their copy is different to yours.

Thatís all very well if your document exists in PDF format but if itís a Word or Excel document what do you do about it?

The answer is to use a PDF converter program and there are many of them. Some are indeed free.

Some Database software include a PDF converter program that works in two ways Ö

You can either convert your Word, Excel, TIF Ö document to PDF format permanently. Or if you wish to retain your document in the format in which it was created you can choose to convert your Email attachment to PDF as your Email is being sent. This way you have the best of both worlds.

  • SPAM Ė Sales Promotional/Advertising Mail

If you use Email youíve received SPAM. The definition of SPAM varies according to the recipient, the mood heís in and whether itís relevant. If he thinks an Email is SPAM then itís SPAM.

Personally I read every Email and never unsubscribe. Yes, this means I get a lot of rubbish but as Iím interested in marketing I pick up ideas some of which are novel & useful.

Ensure though that your business Email is never classed as SPAM. You could get into trouble with your ISP if you do and youíll offend a lot of people.

If someone sends you an Email enquiring about a particular product or service then itís in order to respond by Email. Itís a good idea though to refer to their Email in your Email Title. Itís probably also OK to add their Email address to your Customer Database for future communications.

To be absolutely certain though send them an Email requesting a positive reply. Such as "Thank you for subscribing to the newsletter. You won't be added to our mailing list until you confirm your email address just click on the link in the confirmation email Iíve just sent you.

And every positive Email reply is stored in your Customer Database. Then if anybody does complain at some future time you can simply Email them the confirmation Email.

This is particularly important with prospects with who youíve not established the same level of Rapport youíve got with your customers.

In any event you should include an Unsubscribe option at the foot of every Email that makes it easy for the recipient to do just that. Then you must act on it immediately.

Indeed your Customer Database software should automatically update the record of every customer/prospect thatís sent an Unsubscribe Email. Ensuring they never receive another.

  • Email Control

You currently retain a copy of every incoming & outgoing letter, possibly in electronic form. But what about your Email?

In many businesses Email is a loose cannon because you canít be confident that youíve a record of every Email. Indeed itís preventing effective use of Email.

The solution is to ensure a copy of every incoming & outgoing Email is stored in the clientís folder just like your paper originated documents are. And this needs to be as automatic as possible.

If every outgoing Email is generated via your Customer Database then a copy is stored in the clientís electronic folder Ė automatically.

With incoming Email itís a bit different as you need to differentiate between business & personal email and of course SPAM. Your Customer Database software should be able to match every incoming Email with customer Email addresses in your database. So these can be stored automatically. Those remaining will need to be done manually by identifying the relevant clients.

  • Email Approval

Some business owners insist that every outgoing document whether by post, fax or Email is approved by a director/partner/owner before it leaves the premises. Indeed it may be a requirement of your P.I. insurance.

If so, what do you do about Email?

One method is to send the content of every business Email as an attachment. So a Word document is drafted, itís approved or amended by the Director and then sent as a converted PDF attachment with a standard message in the body of the Email.

An alternative is that every outgoing Email is sent to the Director who forwards it on after review.

Most businesses though rely on the fact that every outgoing Email is stored in the clientís folder and can be viewed at any time. So any person who deviates from the business template can be identified & dealt with. This very soon becomes a rare event.

  • Personal Email

What are your views on your staff sending & receiving personal Email using your computer equipment & during business hours? And are your employees aware of them?

If youíre concerned about business risk, confidentiality issues, decreased productivity, legal liability, industrial tribunal Ö then seek advice - From your legal advisor or HR Consultant/Advisor.

Then establish your businessís internal Email policy and publish it so everyone in your business understands it.

If you intend to periodically look at personal Email because of business risk issues then state this. But seek advice from your advisor in advance.

  • Check List

OK weíve covered the issues regarding business use of Email and youíre probably already aware of most of these. But how many have you actually implemented?

Take a few minutes to consider each item in this Check List and tick those youíve actioned. Then address those you havenít and start Now!

  1. Select your ISP and register your Domain Name

  2. Set up your Web Site

  3. Subscribe to Anti-virus and Anti-spyware services

  4. Publish your Internal Email Policy

  5. Purchase Database software thatís designed for Document Management/Marketing & Email Control

Design your business Email Template

Contact your customers and obtain their Email addresses and consent to receive Email from you

Train everyone in the use of your new system and test each step before you launch it for real. Never make the mistake of your first Email Merge being for real to all your customers. It could be a disaster! If you do an internal test first and then to a few external customers you can roll it out with confidence.

  • Relevancy

Because someoneís given you permission to Email them it doesnít mean youíre entitled to bore them to death! So ensure your every Email is relevant. How do you do this?

You keep it Relevant.

Unlike a bulk mailing Email costs nothing other than someoneís time & thatís not a great deal either. So people get into the habit of Emailing their whole list.

If your Customer Database contains a coded profile of every customer & it should then youíre probably using this already to select those to receive a specific written communication.

So do the same with Email. Put yourself in your customerís shoes. If every Email she gets from you hits the right button then if she doesnít respond to this one sheíll certainly look forward to the next. Whereas if your subject matter is of no interest to her she may not even open your next Email.

The rules of targeted mailing apply just as much if not more so to Email so keep it relevant. Then youíll be treated as a welcome visitor than an unwelcome nuisance.


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