Professional Communication = Professional Image

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Make sure that your business communicates professionally. Focusing on a single communication method – email – marketing guru, Yanic Smith, gives advice to pump up your professional image through communication.

You may think that you’ve got this topic covered, but we can guarantee that every reader reading this article will fall short in some way or another. So, before you turn the page, consider this: how are you really representing yourself? Let’s focus on email, one of the most common forms of communication, and sometimes, the first point of contact with a potential client.

People may not take you seriously if you are unable to communicate or carry your brand in a professional manner. By simply looking at your email, a recipient can immediately draw a conclusion with regards to your company’s professionalism.

We’ve put the following guidelines together to help ensure you have the right recipe. Some may seem obvious, but apply these correctly and your business will no doubt benefit:

1. Always use a professional email address

It is sad but true – your email address directly reflects on you and your business. The email address will set the tone, representing the way you carry yourself and your business in a professional environment.

Ask yourself the question: If I receive an email from one of the following email addresses, which sender would I trust more?

  1. abcaccounting@gmail.com or
  2. yourname@abcaccounting.co.za.

Even if the email comes from the same sender, the email address with the company name as domain name looks more professional and it creates the perception that it is a big, established and professional accounting firm.

Here are a few simple steps to put you on the right path to create a professional email address for your company:

Research professional webhost providers that offer domains and free email services attached to the registered domain. Be sure to select a webhost provider that has been in the market for a while.

As soon as you register your company with a webhost provider you will receive a free email addresses. Service providers such as Hetzner charges as little as R19 per month per email address. With this pricing structure there should be no reason to use a free email account for your business. For R19 a month this service is priceless.

2. Use a professional email signature

It is a well-known fact that a signature always includes the sender’s details such as name, surname, telephone number and logo.

Keep the email signature short and sweet. The general rule of thumb is that the number of lines never exceeds 7.

A common mistake is to add your favourite quote to your signature. Personal quotes are great for sharing with friends and family, but should be left off company signatures. A personal quote may just offend a reader and it’s just not worth it. Rather add your company’s tagline to your signature.

When designing your company’s signature take note of the following:

  • Avoid hard to read fonts such as script fonts, for example the Palace font.
  • Don’t make use of playful fonts, for example the Comic Sans font. This may look great to you, but your client may find it childish.
  • Don’t use overly large or small text.
  • Unless you are the Smarties brand, never use too many different colours in your signature. To be safe, use a maximum of 3 colours. One or two primary colours and one secondary colour, such as grey or black.

Be sure to hyperlink your company’s website address to your signature – this will give the reader easy access to your website. Don’t use a signature that is completely made out of an image, as this would prevent you from linking the email signature and the reader won’t be able to copy and paste your details into their contact list.

A great way to increase your social media following is to add your company’s link to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn to your email signature.

Once you’ve gone through all the effort to design a great email signature, ensure that all the employees in your company use the same signature with their specific details. Consistency within a company is king.

3. Good grammar and professional language

Employees are a company’s greatest asset – your clients interact with them on a daily basis. Thus, they are a direct reflection of your company. An employee with poor spelling and grammar can bring the professionalism of your company into question. It is important for all staff to remember that they are communicating with professionals and shorthand abbreviations such as “lol”, “u”, “thx” and “msg” is unacceptable on a professional email. Staff should always avoid slang or inappropriate language. Even if emails are sent internally, the above should be followed, as you never know who will read your email in the future.

Last but not least, always edit and proofread your email before you hit the “send” button. It will decrease the brand perception of the reader when reading an email full of grammatical errors.

4. Use of colour and font

Be careful when applying colours and fonts. The best message may be turned into the worst when you use the wrong font or colour. Colours have psychological effects on people and your message may come across different to what you intended. The text of a professional mail should be in black and in readable size. It is advisable to never use red in a mailer, because it is considered as “shouting”. Another unwritten rule is to never use all capital letters, unless you want to shout at someone. An entire email written in capital letters is considered rude.

The best fonts to use in mailers are the most common fonts that you will find in Outlook. Stick with professional fonts such as Times New Roman, Verdana or Arial. Don’t try to be fancy with your emails. The funnier the font you use, the less professional your email will be perceived as.

5. Out of the office reply

If you know that you will be away from your emails for a day or more, be sure to let senders know so that they don’t think you are ignoring them. If possible, try to give an alternative number or email address to where queries or urgent matters can be diverted.

6. Spray and pray is a marketing sin

There is nothing more damaging to your brand than sending out a sales email to someone who is not expecting it, or sending irrelevant content to a recipient.  If you don’t know the profile of the recipient or you’ve never engaged with them before, do not send an email. There is nothing more damaging. Spam will damage your brand.

In conclusion, clear emails always have a clear purpose and message. Keep your emails brief and stick to the point. Your tone should always be polite and professional.

Also, remember that professionals are accountable for their actions at all times. Ensure that your emails reflect who you are. If you are not sure that you would say something in person, avoid sending it via email. Be kind and firm, but professional at all times.

Yes, emails are less formal than writing letters, but never let an email make you look less professional.