Monthly Archives: October 2014

E-Mail Etiquette

We’re going to share some thoughts about Electronic Mail, commonly known as E-mail.  It’s been around for a long time, in Internet terms, and it’s been the subject of controversy about it’s impact on the U.S. Postal Service and regulation of the Internet, among other topics.  Not long ago it was thought to be doomed and relegated to the scrap pile.

It’s still here!  Some thoughts on E-mail correspondence from the perspective of marketing your business and branding your products … along with some other thoughts.

Send E-mail button

Keep it short.  The nature of E-mail is the message should be brief.  Although wider bandwidth is now available to transfer larger files, the reader of your E-mail is expecting it to be a message that can be quickly read, digested, and responded to, if necessary.  If you have to elaborate, do it in the attachment and capsulize what is attached in a short message in the body of your E-mail.

If you find you’re exchanging E-mails back and forth with someone in a short period of time, pick up the phone and call them.  You can convey some emotion on the phone.

Identify the subject.  You undoubtedly have certain people – like family and friends – whose E-mails you open automatically, whatever the subject.  For everyone else, put the content of the E-mail in the Subject line.  Granted, it may mean they won’t open it if they believe it has no relevance but the odds increase if that subject line catches their attention.

Be proper.  All capitals indicate swearing or yelling in text and E-mail correspondence.  Take the time to use correct grammar and punctuation in your E-mails.  Think of it as though you were sending the recipient an actual printed letter mailed in an envelope – but also think of it as a reflection of your brand and your business.  Avoid run-on sentence structures.  Keep sentences short and readable.  Separate major points in paragraphs, so your E-mail is easy to read.  Recipients rarely read the entire E-mail.  Remember that.

It’s your image.  Create and use a signature for your E-mails that reflects the brand you want to create in people’s minds.  Provide contact information so they know how to reach you, including links to your websites and blogs and perhaps a phone number.  Add a disclaimer if you’re relaying confidential information, which means you may want more than one signature unless every E-mail you send contains confidential information.

If you’re upset and want to send a nasty reply to someone, we advise that you write your response but wait a day before you hit the “Send” button.  If you still feel the same way the next day and don’t need or want to re-write the E-mail, go ahead and hit “Send.”

Be careful.  E-mail correspondence may be used against you in a court of law, so caution is urged when using it in personnel issues, contracts, or other potentially legally damaging areas.  You should have an E-mail policy for your company and employees, and if you do, get it reviewed by your legal counsel or human relations consultant.  You can also use E-mail to market your products and/or services, and consultants can be engaged to help with this, too, but be wary of getting branded as a spammer.  Get permission first, if you can.

Keep in mind that hitting the “Send” button doesn’t always mean the recipient receives your E-mail.  Check your Spam filter every once in a while to see what we mean.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 


Trade Shows Revisited

Back in April 2014, we offered five tips for trade shows in a blog post.  We recently participated in another business expo and noticed a few faux pas by exhibitors that are worth bringing to your attention as we revisit trade shows.

Trade Show Taboos

1.  Remember why you and/or your company are there.  If the person staffing your booth is responding to text messages or eating in the back of the booth or talking to someone on their phone, a prospective customer is going to walk right by.  That prospect will also have a negative impression of your company and brand because of a perceived lack of interest in them by your staff and in your company actually participating in the trade show.


You are exhibiting for prospective consumers to see your business and to learn more about your brand.  You are also participating to create potential leads and referrals for your sales force or to build brand awareness.

While a seemingly disinterested staff person can cause consternation with expo guests, the over-eager staffer can also turn people off.  Greeting guests as they pass your exhibit should be natural and not forced.  Standing out in the aisle trying to coerce people to come in and check you out usually gets them to step to the other side of the aisle.

Remember, people don’t like to be sold!  They prefer to make their own decisions without pressure from a sales person.

2.  Be positive.  Even though the traffic by your exhibit space may be less than you would like, griping about it to passers-by or other exhibitors can create a negative impression of  you and your business.  If you’re frustrated, find a replacement to staff the space and take a break.  Go have lunch or take a walk until you can come back with a better attitude.  That doesn’t mean an attitude adjustment at the bar!

If you’re a sales person staffing the booth, use the opportunity to create quality leads for yourself or, if nothing else, practice your people skills.  Work on listening to people and actually hearing what they say.  Ask open-ended questions instead of trying to pitch your wares.  Find out if the people you’re talking to have any interest at all in what your brand is all about.  Use it as a learning experience.  Try different closing techniques, but be gentle.

3.  Evaluate your success.  If the event fails to meet your established expectations, weigh whether it’s worth participating in.  If it’s been successful in the past, but isn’t this time, analyze why it failed.  Were there significant changes in the location, your booth space, or the format of the event?  Was there something you did different, including who staffed the booth?

Before you drop participation in the future, think about what you can do to replace the exposure and potential revenue this trade show has meant in the past.  Think, too, about how good it might be to engage a professional to help make your trade shows awesome.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 


Forgotten Art: Writing Business Letters

Does anyone write business letters any more?

The kind of letters that go out in envelopes with the company’s logo and address in the upper left hand corner and with a first-class stamp in the upper right?  Or that are neatly printed on company stationery, signed with a person’s actual signature, and folded correctly?

Business Letter

Odds are that today’s preference is to send an E-mail to the intended recipient and wait for a response.  One of the problems we’ve discovered with E-mail correspondence is that the sender assumes, when he/she hits “Send,” that the E-mail will be received by the recipient.  Unless the sender gets some form of confirmation, he/she never knows.

We’re not saying we should abandon E-mail correspondence.  There was a time not long ago when it was proposed that E-mail was a dinosaur and would not be around for long.  Then it was realized how valuable a tool it was and here we are.

What we are standing up for is the good, old-fashioned business letter as a method of correspondence and means of enhancing a corporate brand.  Quality paper displaying a crisp logo with a clean typed message (no typographical or grammatical errors) can be an impressive way of demonstrating the power of a company’s brand image.

The first step is to make sure the information about the person receiving the correspondence is accurate.  Sending a letter with the person’s name misspelled or calling a male Ms conveys a negative impression right from the start and, in most cases, sends the letter to the recycling bin without being read.

The second step is to be concise.  Know the reason you’re sending the letter and what response you intend or would like to receive.  If it’s a congratulatory note, it’s probably best if it’s hand-written and brief.  If it’s a bid or something similar, short bullet points are likely to get the best response.  Keep in mind that even though it’s a somewhat personal letter, people rarely have time to go through their mail and read every piece in detail.  Much of it is junk mail, so your letter needs to stand out when it arrives in the snail mail box.

Write the letter as if you were the person receiving it.  What would you like to see or read if this piece came to you?  How would you respond, based on what was in the letter?

Start with a cordial greeting, and end with your call to action.  No one likes a letter that concludes with the recipient wondering why they even got it.  Make sure the stationery has contact information on it so the person receiving it knows where to send a reply or to call.

It’s also a good idea to include two of your business cards in the envelope.  Why two?  One for the recipient to keep and the other for them to give to someone else to refer your services.  Writing a good business letter can boost your brand identity with customers and prospective clients.

Brand  Your Work – Work Your Brand



A Positive Spin

It is easy to head down the road of negativity.  It is an element of our human nature to want to bring other people down, especially if they have better looks or more money or whatever else irritates us about something or someone.  When it comes to marketing your business, however, take the high road because a positive spin brightens your image with prospects and customers and with your overall corporate culture.

Putting a positive spin on your business builds brand loyalty.

Putting a positive spin on your business builds brand loyalty.

Being in the midst of political campaign ads as we are, the mud-slinging is rampant.  What the candidates hope is that their negative ads ripping their opponent will have an impact in a positive fashion (by getting the electorate to vote for them) and not backfire because the message is a slam on their adversary and they’re seen as bullies.  The more effective message has a positive spin and focuses either on their record of service or what their plans are once they’ve been elected.

Enough about politics.  We had a client that had a small, easily-contained fire at their place of business.  They wondered whether they should notify their customers about the fire.  When asked about the damage and the impact on clients, our initial response was that letting customers know didn’t matter since damage was minimal and the fire had no impact on the level of service provided to customers.

On reflection, though, a positive spin emerged that we shared with the client.  The idea was to notify clients about the fire in a positive manner.  We suggested the company advise clients to update internal safety procedures such as checking fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, teaching staff how to use fire extinguishers, reviewing emergency evacuation procedures, assessing computer system back-ups, and other steps to keep the business operating should something like a fire occur.

The suggestion came from being pro-active and the concept it’s much easier to prevent a fire than to fight one.

Think about your business for a minute or two.  What’s the worst thing that could happen besides a fire or other natural disaster?  Will it have a negative impact on your business?  Do you have a plan for dealing with that catastrophe or a strategy that can put a positive spin on it so your company survives and/or thrives?

Those steps are important, and it’s also a good idea to have a positive approach to marketing your products and/or services.

This strategy comes down to knowing what it is you’re marketing to potential customers and what those consumers are buying.

For instance, selling life insurance has a negative connotation with most people.  Providing peace of mind or the ability to sleep well at night has a positive spin.

Another common example:  Consumers have a negative impression of used car sales people.  The positive spin would be to let people know you provide reliable or economical transportation options.

Business and marketing consultants exist to provide business owners with the clarity they need to ensure that their business and its products and/or services are portrayed in as positive a light as possible.  This perpetuates the corporate culture and builds brand loyalty.  We like the adage that a pat on the back goes further than a kick in the pants.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Image Is Important

There was a time when you would see a shop owner sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store before opening for the day.  The reason was simple:  Image.

Customers care about the image of the businesses they patronize.  Why would they purchase the same jeans from a discount store when there’s a certain prestige in saying you got them at a higher end store?  Image.  The owners of a business should also care about their image for that same reason – because it’s important to their customers and prospective customers.  Think about it.

Would you eat at this restaurant if you saw how the kitchen looked?

Would you eat at this restaurant if you saw how the kitchen looked?

Would you patronize a fast food restaurant if wrappers, napkins, and straws littered the floor whenever you stopped in?  Would you be a regular at a grocery store where the produce section displayed rotten tomatoes or moldy fruit?  How about a machine shop where it looked like the floor hadn’t been swept in a month?

The inside appearance of a business is important for building brand loyalty.

Would you feel more confident if the kitchen looked like this one?

Would you feel more confident if the kitchen looked like this one?

The image your business conveys to the public on the outside, including in your brand identity, logo, and your advertising, is even more critical to the long-term success of your business and your brand.

If you have  a delivery or service vehicle with signage that advertises your business, how does it look?  Is the paint or decal faded?  Is the vehicle showing some rust or have a few dents?  What does that tell your customers?  Any lights out in your neon sign?  Are you flying a faded, tattered American flag?  Are veterans one of your market segments?

Do you showcase your location in your ads?  Are you proud of what your building looks like?  Take an objective look at your website.  Does it convey the kind of image you want people to have of your products and/or services?  Think about the last time it was updated.

Your website, like your place of business, should convey an image that gives your customers the confidence to send their family, friends, and referrals to you so they can become customers as well.

It’s often the little things that make a huge difference when it comes to the image your business conveys to the public and your customers.  What message does it convey to shoppers coming to your grocery store if there are no carts available because they’re scattered around the parking lot?  Yes, rounding up the carts and returning them to the corral is a menial task for some employee, especially if it’s raining, but those carts are usually the first contact those consumers have with your business.

If you’re not sure what the first impression is that people have of your business, try first to visit it impartially – as though you were a client yourself.  What’s the feeling you get?  Think about engaging a consulting firm such as Brand Irons to find that out.  First blush is one measure, but that impression may go much deeper and require talking to your customers about why they patronize your business.

Something as simple as sweeping the floors could enhance business.  Think about it.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand