Proper business email etiquette for retail services

No SPAM here

You may have heard that email marketing is dead. It’s not. Email is still at the top of every marketer’s list for reaching customers quickly, effectively and inexpensively; that’s why big retail services companies send an email blast each day. A study by eMarketer found that there will be around 236.8 million email users in the U.S. by 2017. But when it comes to communicating with your subscribers, are you following proper business email etiquette? Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re on the right track.

Go with the pros

Choose a professional email marketing company to create your campaigns. There are hundreds of companies out there that can get you up, running, and marketing like a pro in a matter of minutes.

Most of them give you the ability to create email newsletters, surveys, calendars and social media promotions, and all of them offer statistical information so you can track how you are doing.

You can choose from a variety of templates or create a custom one that’s unique to your store. Retailer favorites include Constant Contact, Email Contact, SnapRetail and MailChimp. Each one offers a free trial period so you can try them all and then choose your favorite.

Pro tip: Try out GoDaddy’s Email Marketing for a simple drag-and-drop composer that lets you create beautiful campaigns in a matter of minutes.

Ask for permission, not forgiveness

Business Email Etiquette Permission
Image generated at Meme Generator.

When it comes to proper business email etiquette, you must obtain permission before you send customers your email blast. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act gives consumers the right to stop a business from emailing them; failing to adhere to it is a violation of the law.

Go organic

Collect email addresses organically. In addition to having sign-up sheets at the register and online, make asking for the shopper’s email address part of the regular checkout process.

Don’t waste your time and money purchasing email lists.

 

The people on those lists may have opted into receiving email blasts, but they didn’t give that permission to you. They may not be qualified to buy or interested in what you sell. And they may be offended that you emailed them without their permission.

Remember why you’re doing this

The goal of your email marketing is to entice the customer to take action by visiting your website, or better yet, get them off of the couch and into your store.

People’s email boxes are crowded — you have a limited amount of time to capture their attention.

 

Each email must have one clear message. It’s OK to send out an occasional newsletter with lots of articles (and links to your website), but for the most part, your email marketing needs to focus on one subject.

Show, don’t tell

Think more photos, less copy. Big photos. Photos that when clicked go directly to your website for a closer look at that cool product. It should take a reader just 20 seconds or less to fully understand the message you are trying to convey.

Every photo you use should be linked to a web page that will give the reader more information about the product or the option to click to buy.

Check who owns your photos

Business Email Etiquette Photos

Use your own photos! Using an image you found on Google Images is a bad idea. Those photos are property of someone who holds the copyright. A B2B consultant we know used two photos on a webpage he thought belonged to his client. They didn’t, and he was fined $12,000.

Take your own photos, ask vendors for photos you can use, or use stock photos if needed. Some email services offer royalty-free photos as well.

Don’t make your customers squint

Limit the amount of fonts you use to two, and use a Serif font that’s 12 points or larger. Make sure your contact info is easy to find. Know what drives customers crazy? When they want to give you a call or send you an email, but they have to search for your contact information.

Most importantly, always test your email on a variety of devices before you hit “send.”

 

Half of email today is accessed via mobile device, so test to be sure your email blast looks just as good on a mobile device as it does on a desktop.

Send them somewhere good

Rock the landing page — the first page readers see when they click on a link in your email to enter your website. This page needs to be important, colorful, interesting and fun. Remember, you have just seconds to grab their attention before they move on to something else. Retail campaigns need to direct customers to products and provide solutions to their needs. It’s considered good business email etiquette to do just that.

Testing, testing

Business Email Etiquette Links

Proper business email etiquette involves testing the URLs in your campaigns to make sure they work. You worked hard to put together that email blast. You used a great photo and you loaded it up with clickable links. Now make sure those links take the reader where you intended them to go.

Pique their interest

Don’t make the subject line an afterthought: 64 percent of people say they open an email because of the subject line alone. Make it compelling.

Most email marketing companies agree that it’s best to limit your subject line to 50 characters or less. You can use more characters when it’s absolutely necessary or when you need to target a specific audience, but understand that the length of your subject line will vary depending on which device the reader uses. Cutting off the subject in the wrong place could result in a very different meaning than what you intended.

Avoid clickbait

This might seem semi-contradictory to the last piece of advice, but you can grab someone’s attention without resorting to cheap tactics. It’s proper business email etiquette 101.

Avoid red flag words. “Free,” “Help,” “Order Now,” “Act now!” and symbols like “!!!” or “#1” and anything in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in your subject line will probably get your email snagged by spam filters before it has a chance to reach a mailbox.

Know what else? Spammers like to use red type near the top of their email blasts. If you do this, there’s a good chance your email could get bounced as well.

Invite them to do more

Business Email Etiquette Invitation

Add a call to action. Most people won’t take action unless you ask them to. Create a sense of urgency and encourage the reader to stop in or make a purchase online ASAP. You can do this by adding a limited-time offer such as “Please respond by _____,” “The first 50 people to respond will receive _________” or even a coupon with an expiration date.

The call to action will help you determine if your email marketing is catching the reader’s attention.

Be consistent

Send your email blasts on a regular basis. Choose a particular day of the week and you’ll train customers to watch their email boxes to see what’s new at your store.

Measure your results

You could send out gorgeous email blasts every day (but let’s be real — flooding your subscribers inboxes isn’t great business email etiquette), but if you don’t take the time to measure your results, you’re wasting your time. How can you improve your marketing if you don’t know what works and what doesn’t?

Good email marketing company gives you access to a full report on what happens after you tap “send.” You can see how many people opened your email, which links they clicked on, who shared it with friends, who subscribed, who unsubscribed and more. Learning what your retail services customers respond to will help you hone your marketing skills.

Great business email etiquette

Let’s do a quick recap on the things that make for phenomenal business email etiquette and well-received campaigns:

  1. Use professional email marketing platforms.
  2. Try to collect email addresses organically.
  3. Keep your end goal in mind.
  4. Show, don’t tell (especially with the use of photos).
  5. Speaking of photos, use images appropriately.
  6. Use font that’s easy to read.
  7. Lead your customers to the right part of your website.
  8. Test out your emails beforehand.
  9. Use a strong subject line.
  10. But avoid clickbait when possible.
  11. Always create a strong call to action.
  12. Create a consistent messaging schedule.
  13. Measure your results.

There you have it. Play with your email marketing to find the style and content that works best for you. And have fun. If you are excited about your email marketing, chances are your customers will be, too!

Georganne Bender
Georganne Bender is half of the team of Kizer & Bender. Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are retail strategists, speakers, authors and consultants. They are contributors to MSNBC’s Your Business, are included in Meetings & Conventions Magazine's list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers. They are included in the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers and the Top 50 Retail Influencers. Their Retail Adventures blog was named the Top Retail Blog by PR Newswire Media, and is included in the Top 50 Retail Blogs and the "7 Best Retail Publications." Kizer & Bender are experts on generational diversity, consumer trends and everything retail. They are widely referred to as consumer anthropologists because they stalk and study that most elusive of mammals: today's consumer.