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Email Etiquette

How do you differentiate your emails from spam emails? Using your email database with respect is key for any business these days. Though, it’s difficult to find that balance between personal communication that drives business your way and unwanted spam which drives people away. So how do you make your email communication work for your business?

Getting data from the right places

From a consumer point of view, opt in emails are the best form of email management. If you’re new to using email then opt in means that emailees submit their email address and opt in by replying to a confirmation to accept emails from you.

From a business point of view this system has the advantage that emailees will need to check their spam filter there and then in order to receive updates from you, though it has the disadvantage that it can reduce how many sign ups you get.

Buying data is a possibility, but be aware that these lists can be sold to various companies several times over and therefore your message will be fighting through lots of other emails.

Personally, aside from people who sign up to our updates, we prefer sending emails to people we’ve had contact with – either by calling them and asking permission, or through face to face networking. That way you’re dealing with people who are receptive – it’s all about quality after all isn’t it?

How often is too often?

The most popular question from people who are about to embark on email newsletters and campaigns is how often should I email my customers? I’ve not yet found a simple answer, but you can start by asking yourself 2 questions:

How often does the average customer contact you/visit your website/premises?

How often do they want to hear from you?

Here’s an example. It could be acceptable for a supermarket to send out emails once a week as their customers are likely to need to shop once a week or more. On the other hand, a car dealer sending out emails weekly would probably get a lot of unsubscribers (more on that later) considering most customers are only likely to buy from them bi-annually.

For most companies once a month is more than sufficient. Any less than that and you might get forgotten. Any more than that and people can start to feel pestered.


Then there’s the question of what do you send out? This one is a bit simpler: only relevant information. And it must be what your customers consider relevant – not what you consider relevant.

The kings of relevant emails are Amazon. They use information gathered from how each specific customer searches and buys products to send out emails tailored to them. They also use email to send out offers and delivery notifications so their customers are always kept up to date. Because their product range is so varied Amazon can get away with this kind of communication.

Us mere mortals in business probably don’t have those kinds of facilities, though you can use customer surveys to help make things as relevant as possible.

Beware of falling into the trap of just sending out your latest offers. Use a combination of offers, new products, events, press releases and a wide variety of information to keep readers interested and get them clicking through to your website.

Opt outs

As a small business, you might not like to include an unsubscribe option, but this is where you can really stand out from the spammers.

You probably hate those sales calls where a telemarketer calls you, reels off a long speech and won’t take no for an answer… Well, not including the opt out option is just as bad. You’re not allowing people to say no, so their only resort is to mark you as junk. This leads to bad feeling on their part and you not being able to properly measure your response rate.

Constant Contact, Mail chimp and other email software

I really recommend using some kind of email management system. The most popular online ones are Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. There are also a variety of downloaded software packages which are less restrictive.

The advantage of using an online or software system is that as your email list grows you are able to manage unsubscribes, check spam scoring, track how many people receive and read your information and a whole host of other essential facilities.

One of the main considerations for any email software that you use should be that it allows you to send both HTML and text only versions at the same time. This means that when someone picks up their emails via a smartphone they will be able to read it.


Beware of including high resolution pictures in your email. A lot of spam filters rate junk mail by the amount of picture content to text content. Plus on most email programmes, such as Outlook and Thunderbird, the emailee will not see any images unless they click to show remote content. This means that your email could be a mess of blank boxes which really doesn’t look very appealing.

Also beware of including company headers at the top for the same reason. A better option is to include logos and images further down the email so that the text and titles are read first.

Email should be something that improves the relationship between you and your prospective and current customers. If you treat them with the same respect that you would someone calling with an enquiry, you can’t go far wrong.

As Mike Southon says about all sales “Be liked. Qualify. Close” and that means even on email.