I don’t know if you will agree, but I’m almost convinced that email is going to stick around for a while as a business tool.
This being the case, I would like to make the bold suggestion to all of you who write emails (and hopefully that is everyone in The FENG) that you “get with the program.”
When I write emails, I make every attempt to make them look like business correspondence. The simple reason is BECAUSE THEY ARE. If you have fallen into bad habits because you are writing to close friends all the time, understand that (as said in the Godfather movies) this is about business, it’s not personal.
If you recall those halcyon days of written business correspondence, you may remember that they began with the business card information of the person to whom you were writing, as in:
Mr. Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Networking Group, Inc.
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883
If you don’t think the person you are writing to will be impressed, think again. Everyone likes to see their name in print. And, with their exalted title, even better.
I suppose I should have started at the top. (There I go again giving you the “middle line.”)
If you don’t know how to do it, it will take you the better part of an hour to figure this out, but your “From” box should have your name. Mine looks like this:
From: Matt Bud, The FENG <MattBud@TheFENG.org>
To make this happen in Outlook, you fill in “Matt Bud, The FENG” in the box labeled “Your Name.” To get your email address properly uppercased and lowercased, you fill it in that way in your account set up under “E-mail Address.” (If I’m going too fast for anyone, you can always reread this section.)
If you have an email address that isn’t your name, now is the time to get a new address. (Actually it was several years ago, but I digress.) Joe1234@aol.com isn’t going to make you look like you actually know how these new fangled gadgets called computers work. If you want to look like the professional I assume you are, everything about you has to look right.
Okay, one more time I am going to plead the case for adding an outgoing signature. (I never give up on this topic, so you may as well give in and save us both a lot of time.) Yes, and even though it isn’t the default selection, an outgoing signature is needed on replies too. If you think I am going to look up how to reach you or that I actually have your contact information handy, please stop dreaming. You may not be that important to me. However, if you make it really easy, I just might call you or write to you.
There are those of you out there who believe, for privacy reasons, that you shouldn’t have a FULL outgoing signature. Privacy is gone. Get over it. And, who cares? Take a look at Google Earth and you can see a picture of your backyard from space. (If that isn’t scary, I don’t know what is.) Unless you provide your SSAN# or drivers license number, you will likely avoid identity theft. A FULL outgoing signature with a street address and your phone numbers makes you look real and it provides a time zone so I’ll know when I should call. (Besides, you can’t send a gift without a street address. Think of all the presents you’re missing!) You are welcome to model yours using mine which appears at the end of this section. Notice the labels for the phone numbers are on the right so the numbers line up. (I’m such an accountant.)
Now we get to the hard part. The hard part is the middle of the email.
First, Matt’s law: Email cover letters shouldn’t be more than one page. How do you know if it’s longer? Try writing to yourself and see what it looks like. If you need two pages, make it two pages, not one page plus three lines.
There is sound advice out there that you should do all your writing in Word and paste the result into your emails. I agree. However, when you paste, you want to paste unformatted or in the format you have defined. I’m an Arial 12 kind of person. The problem is that Outlook is too versatile. It allows you to send messages in HTML and to use all kinds of formatting. Nice. Except that many of the notes I see look like messages sent from a kidnapper.
Some of the fonts are large. Some of them are small. Some of them are bold. Often, several different fonts are used in the same message. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see such mistakes. Again, if you’re not sure you are pasting correctly, send yourself a few messages until you are certain it is perfect.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. All I know about you is in front of me.
Those to whom you are writing will be making judgments about your technological proficiency from your email. If you can’t get email to look right, can we trust you to implement an SAP or ERP system?
Your goal is to appear to be the consummate professional. See if you can fool me into believing it is true. To quote a dear friend of mine by the name of Doug Fine (a former Co-Chair of The FENG): Don’t make your first impression your last.