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April 6, 2016

Training: Sending Business Emails and Bulk Emails.

By Mike Hampson, owner, Helicopter Links

(San Diego, California, USA): Have you ever attended a class on how to send an email? How to set up your email? Or have you ever researched and read articles online about email best practices? If you have, in my book, you are one step ahead of most people.

Here's another thought: Have you ever thought that due to the massive amount of SPAM we receive on a daily basis, that it makes it necessary to adjust the way we need to send emails? Yes? No? (Hopefully you answered: Yes.) Have you ever thought how people who read your email, assess your professionalism and credibility with the way you format the emails you send and by what information you provide the sender?

Email. Are there better ways to send emails?Some people might say there are better ways to send an email, some say it not might matter, some have never thought about it and some simply don't care. While there might be no official procedure how the general public, businesses and organizations should send an email, there are certainly excellent classes teaching how to send emails and there are well-written articles online with excellent tips for sending business emails and sending bulk emails.

While this subject is so vast that it probably could be turned into a book, my goal is to try to give you some highlights of some of the best information I have learned from the email and marketing classes I've attended and from my own experiences. In addition, at the bottom of this article, I've listed some links to articles discussing "Email Best Practices".

If you've read this far, I feel that simply being aware there are better ways to send emails, is the first step in better communication and being more professional - on the job.

I'd like to start by discussing what preceded emails: Printed business letters. The horror! Does anyone remember how to correctly format a business letter? (Examples: Block, Modified Block, Semi-Block, Indented Form, and more.) Is this important? Do you know why standard formats for business letters were created and why there are so few? Readability. The reason why set formats were established for the business letter, is by having key information in the same area of each business letter, this helps with better communication between business people. It also shows that your company employees an educated work force. If you have an an employee who can write a business letter, correctly formatted to a standard business letter look, that person is most likely worth their weight in gold.

Interestingly, a standard printed business letter would have most of the following items.

  • Using pre-printed company letterhead.
  • Adding the date of the letter.
  • Full address of the company you are writing to.
  • Reference line. (Example: REF: Purchase Order #56-893)
  • Adding a salutation. (Example: Dear Jane,)
  • The body of the letter, with paragraph(s).
  • Closure line. (Example: Sincerely,)
  • Signature line. (Your name and title)
  • Enclosure line. (Did you add something else to the envelope, besides the letter, like a picture, a form, a free sample or something else? That is an "enclosure".)
  • Address the envelope, add postage and mail the letter.

Do you have an email check list?What about emails? Do emails seem easier, simpler and have less steps than a printed business letter? Or not? Let's take a look.

First, you need to set up your email.

  • Set up your email.
  • If it is a business or personal email, remember to put your full name in the "From" Field.
  • Create folders by subject, person's name or business name for the emails you want to keep. (A business might have email folders for all orders, folder's per client, folders for each vendor, an attorney folder, a tax folder, magazine folders by magazine name, association folders by name of association and things of this nature.)
  • By setting up multiple folders for your email list, you can easily go back later that month, year or 4 years in the future and easily find important emails by subject.
  • When you receive an email, after it's read, if it should be saved, save it in an appropriate folder.
  • When you read an email and you know for sure, you don't need it. Then delete it right away.
  • I remember that one company I worked for. They never deleted emails from clients. They were all saved. That they they always had a history of emails from all their clients.

Here are some things to think about when sending an email.

  • Did you send the email to the correct email address?
  • Do you need to send the email to multiple email addresses?
  • Do you need to CC or BCC the email to anyone else?
  • CC: Carbon Copy. This means you are sending the email to someone else to read.
  • BCC: Blind Carbon Copy: Means you are sending it to other people but the main recipient and everyone else do not know that the BCC people are receiving the email.
  • Note: The date of the email is added by the email program.
  • Good subject lines are important. Make sure the subject line is clear, clear, clear. Explain in the least amount of words what the email is about but be specific.
  • Please remember, a vague subject line looks like SPAM and might be deleted.
  • Are you aware that you should try to make sure your subject line DOES NOT look like SPAM?
  • Avoid one or two worded subject lines, they look like SPAM. Email subject lines with one word such as, "Hi.", "Hello", "Quote" or "RFQ" or "Order" or "Purchase Order" look like SPAM.
  • Good subject links look like this, "Tom Jones from Johnson Associates", "RFQ from Tom Jones at Johnson Associates." Or "Purchase Order From Tom at Johnson Associates, USA."
  • Do you have an appropriate salutation? (Example, "Dear Jane" or "Hi Tom".)Several good articles on appropriate salutations are at the bottom of this article.
  • If you don't use a salutation, the recipient might not be certain if the email is actually for them or not.
  • Does the salutation match the email address? Did you write, "Dear Tom" but you actually wanted the salutation to be "Dear Jane"?
  • Did you use paragraphs to make the email more readable? If you don't use paragraphs, your email will be more difficult for people to comprehend. Not using paragraphs is bad communication.
  • Did you re-read your email to make sure it makes sense?
  • Is the email written so it's easy to understand?
  • Did you include everything in the email that needs to be there?
  • Is the email grammatically correct?
  • Did you spell check the email?
  • Do you have a closure line? (Examples: Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Regards, Best regards, etc.)
  • There is a good online article listed at the bottom of this article which includes many good examples of closure lines and examples of closure words not to use.
  • At the end of the email, did you include your first and last name, title, phone number, email address, website, social media links, company name, full company mailing address including zip or postal codes and your country?
  • There are about 196 countries in the world, plus islands, territories, etc. Some people live on ships. Including your country is important. What if one of your customers (in the USA) forwards your email to a potential client who lives in France of India. Don't you think it would be helpful if you included what country your company is based?
  • Did you want to send attachment? Did you write in the text of the email that you sent an attachment? And did you send the attachment or did you forget to send the attachment?
  • Do you know that anyone from your own IT department or any recipient of the email can forward it to anyone they want? That what you think might be a "private email" is not actually that private?
  • Did you send sensitive material in your email? Are you certain that sensitive material can be sent by an email?

While it seems that writing a printed letter and mailing it is more complicated and has more steps than sending an email, one can see that sending an email could have as many steps or more, if good communication is the goal, than writing a printed letter. In my book, sending an email shouldn't be taken lightly and having a mental or written check list will help professionals from sending out unprofessional or incomplete emails.

One other thought. A well written email takes time for clear communication. Can a phone call clear up a problem with less time and effort than a dozen back and forth emails? And if you need a record of the phone call, you then follow-up the phone call with an email recounting the phone call. One phone call and one follow-up email is probably more effective than a dozen back and forth emails!

Bulk emails are best with a trained team.Sending Bulk emails.

  • The best bulk emails are usually from a trained team of professionals. The ideal bulk email team includes a creative manager, writer, graphic designer and a web professional.
  • When setting up a bulk email list, please, use your COMPANY NAME in the "FROM" FIELD.
  • I see a trend that bulk emails are not being set-up correctly. Many businesses and organizations will use a person's name from their organization (a marketing manager or VIP) for the name in the "FROM" FIELD for their bulk email list. This is wrong.
  • Your "FROM" FIELD should be your business name. REMEMBER: People joining BULK EMAIL LISTS are joining an email list because they want to get information from a company or organization. The user is looking for and expecting to receive an email from the company's name or nonprofit's name, in the "FROM" FIELD.
  • When a company uses a employee's name from a company or organization (or uses a department name) in a bulk email, the recipient of the email does NOT know the bulk email sender's name (or the department name of that company) and the email looks like SPAM.
  • Email recipients remember business', association's and organization's NAMES. Most people DO NOT know the names of employees who work at these corporations or non-profit organizations!
  • Please remember, if you are sending out a bulk email, think like the person receiving the email. If a person receives an email from John Smith, the email does not sound important. Who is John Smith? If a person in the helicopter industry receives an email and the "From" field says, "Sikorsky", the recipient recognizes the name Sikorsky, and will most likely want to look at the email.
  • Good subject lines are important. Make sure the subject line is clear, clear, clear. Explain in the least amount of words what the email is about. Subject lines which are too clever (Example: Wow. Can you believe this?) or have a one word subject line, can be taken as SPAM or uninteresting to the email recipient and will likely be deleted.
  • One has to decide if your email will be in text or will look like a web page. If your email is going to look like a web page with picture, then it would be best to have a graphic designer and a web professional involved in your bulk email process.
  • I would always recommend to take have all people working on bulk emails to take formal training on the sending bulk emails. If your company can't afford to train you on bulk email best practices, then I'd get online and learn about it during your working hours.
  • There are many bulk email companies around the world. Find one that works for you. The one I have used in the USA is called Constant Contact. They are a very good company, they offer free training and have excellent customer service. Constant Contact also has very good statistics on how many people are opening your bulk emails, how many people are clicking on links in your email and things of this nature.
  • Remember, in general, bulk emails should be infrequent. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. If you are sending our press releases to the media or if you have a daily news feed, then that's appropriate for your bulk email. However, I would say that in general, a maximum number of emails per month would be one email a month.
  • Constant Contact can help you keep a legal email list. More about this several bullet point down.
  • At the beginning of ALL BULK EMAILS should be the statement, "You are receiving this email because you signed up for it. You may always unsubscribe. A link to unsubscribe is at the bottom of this email."
  • Also, forward this email to a friend link is always important to have at the top of the email.
  • Then at the bottom of your email you must always have an "Unsubscribe" link.
  • And remember, due to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (U.S. Government), you may NEVER add anyone to your email list without their permission, no matter if they are a good customer and "you know" they won't care. That means if you want your customers to join your email list, you may email them one at a time and or call them by phone and ask them to join your email list. You can ask them to join your email list on your brochures, website, invoices, packaging slips, instruction manuals, etc.
  • If you already added all your customers to an email list, then from what I understand, you need to send them an email stating that they must opt-in to your email list and if they don't, they'll be deleted from your email list. And once you do this, you'll have a legal email list. With a bulk email company such as Constant Contact, you can easily send a bulk email asking your customers to opt-in to your email list.
  • The content should be good content. What is happening with your company, industry trends, coupons, etc.
  • At the bottom of your email, I would always have your full company name spelled out in text, with your full company mailing address, email address, phone numbers and links to all your social media pages.
  • If you send too many emails from a company in a month, then people might not be interested in your emails any more and you'll start having an lower open rate. Sometimes if you send too many emails to people, they will begin to delete themselves from your email list.
  • One important thing to note, is that even if people don't open your bulk emails all the time, that there is value in branding your company name to each email recipient. For example, I am on an email list for coupons for several stores and restaurants. While I usually never open their emails, I keep all their emails in a coupon folder and when I'm ready to buy, I simply go to my coupon folder and look for their emails and find their recent discounts.
  • The rate of sending emails per week or per month depends upon your company and what you are offering them in your emails. While there are general rules to follow for the frequency of your emails, it all depends upon the content of the emails.
  • The industry standard for the open rate for bulk emails is about 20%. This is why excellent subject lines are important, the content of the email should be useful and you should limit the frequency of your emails.

I hope this article helps. And I've listed several links below to some articles which I like on tips and tricks on sending out better emails. Please remember, if you need more tips for email best practices, look up more article online!

Mindful Communication Tools: Email Best Practices
* 2013

The Art Of The Effective Business Email
* 2014

Employment-Related Email Message Examples
* 2017

Here is the perfect way to start an email — and 18 greetings you should usually avoid
* 2016

Letter Salutations and Greetings
* 2017

Professional Letter Greetings
* 2017

How to End a Letter (With Closing Examples)
* 2017

-End article.

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