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Updated Apr 18, 2024

Email Etiquette: 10 Ways to Respect Your Customers’ Time

Keep them subscribed and interested in your messages.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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When it comes to digital marketing, it’s hard to beat the power of email to connect with customers and gain significant value from your marketing dollars. However, customer and prospect emails require careful thought and planning. Your recipients don’t want rude, tone-deaf or inconsiderate emails and won’t hesitate to hit the unsubscribe button.  

To ensure your email subscribers stay attuned to your messages, you need proper email etiquette that shows how much you value your customers’ preferences, time and attention. 

Email etiquette for customer emails

While all email marketers must abide by broad guidelines like anti-spam regulations, excellent email etiquette means paying attention to more subtleties. Consider the following email marketing best practices to ensure professionalism and show subscribers how much you respect them. 

1. Reread your emails before sending them.

The first principle of email etiquette is to reread your emails before sending them. Rereading your emails isn’t just about correcting typos, although grammatical errors can be embarrassing public relations mistakes that send the wrong message. It’s about ensuring clarity and politeness in your messaging. 

Sometimes, we write messages others perceive as rude when rudeness is the last thing we intended. No one wants to alienate customers and prospects. Give your outgoing emails a read-through and consider whether your recipients could be confused or offended by anything you included. If possible, have a trusted colleague read your message to ensure it’s clear, accurate and sent in the right tone. 

Ensuring clarity and the right tone are also crucial when sending emails to colleagues, vendors or anyone else you communicate with. Taking the time to reread your emails is an excellent way to respect your recipients’ time. If you can’t understand your message or tone, neither can your recipients.

TipBottom line
Put your recipient's email address in the To field after you've written and perfected your email marketing message. This way, you can't send a message accidentally before it's ready.

2. Understand (and cater to) your audience.

Proper etiquette measures can fluctuate by the recipient. Various audiences have unique preferences and perceptions. For example, cultural differences, recipient ages and more can impact significantly what is and isn’t considered rude. 

A “professional” tone can vary greatly by target audience. If your business has a fun and sassy brand voice, your email marketing subscribers would expect this attitude in your messaging. A stilted tone would feel out of place. But if you email a corporate chief financial officer about finances, you’d stick with clear and succinct and avoid frivolities like emojis in these business communications

Informality has its place in email marketing when your target audience expects friendly messages. However, the same informal tone would be inappropriate in other communication circumstances. 

3. Train new employees to communicate with proper etiquette.

While your new employees will learn many skills on the job, investing in employee training is critical when it comes to email etiquette. Communication training is particularly important when managing a multigenerational workforce with various ideas about what is acceptable. 

Because communication platforms, styles and methods change frequently, you may need to update and refresh your training periodically to address texting, phone calls and social media messages as well as email. For example, you may want your representatives to incorporate a casual text message marketing style and a relaxed social media marketing tone.  

4. Respond to emails promptly.

You may be busy, but responding to customer and prospect emails promptly is critical ― especially if successful lead conversion is your goal. If you know you won’t be able to address a lengthy email for a while, send a quick reply to let them know you’ve received their request and will get back to them at a specific time. If the matter is urgent, consider delegating the query to another team member to ensure a timely response. 

Like many of the tips on this list, prompt email responses should be your goal in all email communications ― not just customers and prospects. Responding promptly to emails from vendors, co-workers, industry peers and more is a best practice that shows competence and respect. Even if you receive an email that wasn’t meant for you, replying with that information and helping the sender find the right contact demonstrates professionalism. 

TipBottom line
Automate customer email responses to common questions to save time and provide efficient customer service.

5. Don’t write emails when you’re upset.

There may be times when customer emails are upsetting and rude and you’re tempted to fire back a response that puts them in their place. You may feel justified in saying what’s on your mind and handling the matter immediately. 

While writing emails when you’re upset can feel cathartic, it’s almost always a bad idea when dealing with customers, prospects or anyone you’re communicating with via email. Take some time to cool off and calm down and write a more measured response when you have a clear head. Consult a co-worker or manager and refresh your understanding of company policies to ensure you approach your response with accurate information and a professional tone. 

Your email communications ― as well as social media comments, business texts and more ― represent your company and can affect its brand reputation. Staying cool and measured is always a good idea.

6. Segment your email lists properly.

Market segmentation is an effective way to send relevant messages to your email subscribers. You can segment your email list by demographics, interests, past behavior, purchases and much more. This practice ensures your subscribers get helpful information relevant to their needs. 

However, sloppy email segmentation can backfire and render your email marketing campaign useless. For example, say you own a restaurant and have used your point-of-sale system to gather significant customer data, such as the meals they order and the time they tend to dine. If you were to send an email blast about your early-bird special to late-night diners, it would be, at best, ineffective and, at worst, intrusive and unhelpful. By the same token, sending kids’ coupons to customers who have never brought children to the restaurant would be a waste of time.

Segmentation can be a powerful tool, but you must ensure you’re doing it correctly.

7. Keep your email marketing communications simple.

Keeping your email messages simple is an excellent way to respect your customers. Your subscribers get dozens ― if not hundreds ― of daily emails. The last thing they need is a long, convoluted message without a clear point. 

You don’t want to waste your customers’ time. Create concise email marketing messages that offer valuable information or a helpful offer without extraneous verbiage.

8. Include accurate subject lines.

Accurate email subject lines are essential for respecting your customer’s time. If you write misleading, unclear or irrelevant subject lines, you’re wasting your subscribers’ time and you’re more likely to appear unprofessional. 

Ensure your subject lines are as clear and specific as possible.

Did You Know?Did you know
To increase your email open rate, try A/B testing various subject lines to discover which are the most compelling to your recipients.

9. Personalize your emails whenever possible.

Email personalization is a powerful tool that can increase recipient engagement, boost sales and help your customers realize how important they are to you. Personalization tactics can include using the subscriber’s name, referencing previous purchases, discussing products they’ve shown interest in previously and much more. 

Personalization is particularly crucial in follow-up emails ― more than one attempt is usually necessary to close a sale. Your personalized follow-ups can include promo codes and other incentives that speak to the potential customer. 

10. Know when to “reply all” ― and when not to.

Understanding proper “reply all” etiquette is critical for marketing emails and all email communications in a business or personal setting. Replying to everyone on a thread creates an infinite loop of useless messages that waste people’s time. This practice can needlessly fill up everyone’s inbox, causing frustration. 

The “reply all” function has its place in specific circumstances. However, use it sparingly to avoid annoying your recipients. 

FYIDid you know
Workplace communication tools like Slack have largely eliminated the need for interoffice reply-all messages. Slack channels allow everyone to participate in discussions and collaborate seamlessly.

The best email marketing services

Email marketing software is an excellent tool that can set you up for success in email etiquette while boosting website traffic, digital marketing return on investment and brand awareness. It’s an inexpensive way to automate and personalize communication with your leads and established customers.

The best email marketing software provides real-time analytics, helpful templates, segmentation tools and much more. Here are a few of our favorites for small businesses:

  • Campaigner: Campaigner is an excellent email marketing solution for businesses of all sizes. Its helpful workflow automation tools make message personalization a breeze. Our review of Campaigner explains how the platform can help you set up automated triggers for sending emails on specific dates, such as a customer’s birthday. 
  • monday.com: monday.com’s software is excellent for email marketing campaign management. We like its collaboration tools and responsive customer service options. Read our review of monday.com to learn about its robust integrations and workflow automation tools.
  • Benchmark: Benchmark is a uniquely user-friendly email marketing platform with affordable plans ― and even a free plan. Visit our in-depth review of Benchmark to learn about its automation features, responsive templates and detailed analytics. 
  • Constant Contact: Constant Contact is an intuitive and affordable email marketing solution for small businesses. It integrates with popular business software like Excel, Outlook and Salesforce to help you build email lists efficiently. Check out our review of Constant Contact to learn about its unique customization options. 
author image
Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a dedicated business professional who is especially passionate about human resources and digital marketing. For more than a decade, she has helped clients navigate the employee recruitment and customer acquisition processes, ensuring small business owners have the knowledge they need to succeed and grow their companies. In recent years, Schooley has enjoyed evaluating and comparing HR software and other human resources solutions to help businesses find the tools and services that best suit their needs. With a degree in business communications, she excels at simplifying complicated subjects and interviewing business vendors and entrepreneurs to gain new insights. Her guidance spans various formats, including newsletters, long-form videos and YouTube Shorts, reflecting her commitment to providing valuable expertise in accessible ways.
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