Email is one of the most ubiquitous business communication tools in recent years. Uses of email in business include communicating with coworkers and customers, scheduling meetings, dispatching automated notifications and sharing newsletters with customers old and new. One of the advantages of email in business communication is that it's so ubiquitous that everyone assumes anyone who has Internet access can send and receive email. Email has also been used by some scammers and hackers in recent years, so it's important to be vigilant for fraudulent messages.
Uses of Email in Offices
A major role of email in business communication is connecting people within the same company or organization. Emails are very frequently used to ask questions of coworkers without having to disturb them with a phone call or a tap on the shoulder. They're used to send out meeting announcements and minutes, to distribute important forms and to conduct workplace surveys.
Many offices have various internal mailing lists that people can send messages to in order to get them to a particular unit of the company, whether that's everyone working in human resources who might need to see a vacation policy update or everyone working on a particular floor who should know it's a coworker's birthday. Email is also frequently used with integrated calendar tools from providers like Microsoft and Google to schedule meetings and other events.
Email attachments are commonly used as a way to share files, from Microsoft Word documents to samples of advertising materials like logos or jingles.
People increasingly check company email on personal devices like smartphones, which enables them to stay in touch with coworkers outside the office. This can be both positive and negative: People can more easily work from home or quickly check in during a morning commute, but they also may have fewer true off-hours when not in the office.
Workplace Email Etiquette
The vital role of email in business communication makes it unsurprising that there have evolved formal and informal rules of etiquette around email.
People generally try to address emails with a certain degree of professionalism, making sure to have a clear and concise subject line that makes emails easy to spot in the inbox and paying at least some attention to grammar, spelling and capitalization. Most people try to avoid making any kind of off-color comments in company emails, including jokes in questionable taste, references to politics and religion or any jabs at their employers.
Some people also try to appear cheerful in company emails, since it's hard to determine tone looking solely at a written message. This can be done with the use of exclamation points or emoji, although overdoing it can seem unprofessional. Generally, you'll want to follow the lead of others in your organization when it comes to how to draft emails to coworkers or customers.
Many organizations have their own policies about email, such as requiring that a particular signature format be appended to each outgoing email. Some workplaces have policies about when, if ever, company email can be used for personal reasons. Many also have policies on when emails should be retained or deleted for security's sake.
Automated Email Messages
Receiving automated email messages from organizations you do business with has become commonplace. Online shopping outlets send notifications of sales, purchase confirmations and updates about shipping schedules. Newspapers and other media organizations send out automated emails with headlines and story updates.
There are a variety of companies that can send automated emails for businesses, including marketing emails and those triggered by a purchase, sometimes called transactional emails. Certain laws govern when companies can store people's email addresses, when they're required to enable people to opt out of emails and when they can send marketing messages. Make sure you're in compliance with the rules in your jurisdiction and, potentially, in places where people you're emailing work or reside.
Some commercial email providers can help you manage opt-outs, subscription lists and other information. Shop around to find one that meets your needs at a price you like.
The World of Email Newsletters
Email newsletters have become increasingly popular in recent years. Some businesses use them to reach out to customers and let them know about sales, new products or existing services. For example, a pool cleaning business might send out a newsletter reminding people of its services as the summer approaches, or a podcast studio might send out email newsletters announcing a new series or new season of an existing show.
In other cases, the newsletter itself is the product. Some media organizations and other groups have had success with paid newsletters that contain information not available anywhere else. Some of these are created with specialized platforms or through crowdfunding tools such as Patreon.
As with other commercial emails, if you're sending an email newsletter, you should make sure you have explicit consent from people you're sending messages to and that they have an easy way to unsubscribe. You might invite people to sign up for a newsletter when they visit your site or when they complete a transaction, for example. Naturally, if you're offering a paid newsletter, you'll need to make sure people have an easy way to cancel their subscriptions and stop being billed.
Risks of Email Fraud
Email fraud, often known as phishing, has become prevalent in recent years. Scammers send emails to people impersonating trusted institutions or even individual coworkers, seeking to trick the recipients into sending money or providing valuable information such as usernames and passwords. In some cases, these emails are sent en masse to huge numbers of recipients, but in other cases they're specifically targeted to particular recipients.
Malware is also sometimes distributed by email, usually through attachments or links to shady sites included in the email messages. In some cases, if the suspect file is opened, it will infect the recipient's computer and use his or her email software to send out more copies of itself to the original recipient's contacts.
To avoid falling victim to email scams, take a close look at the addresses that messages come from and make sure they actually match up with the people or institutions they claim to be from. Check that any links in email go to the sites they claim to link to. If you receive an unexpected email with an attachment, check that it's actually from the person it claims to be from, even if you need to call or otherwise message that person to confirm identity.
Many companies have antivirus software to scan incoming and outgoing email for malware, but it's still good to be vigilant to avoid scams.
Alternatives to Email
In some offices, email is increasingly being replaced by instant messaging software, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. Companies are also using messaging tools and social networking software to talk to customers, often through automated chat boxes or links placed on company websites.
These real-time platforms can often be faster and more convenient than using email. Many also make it easy to share files or even set up voice and video conference sessions, something that can't be directly done through email.
Still, it's unlikely these platforms will entirely replace email any time soon.
- Entrepreneur: The Do's and Don'ts of Email Etiquette
- The Muse: A Friendly Person's Guide to Using Exclamation Marks Correctly! And Incorrectly!
- Intradyn: Comprehensive Guide to Email Retention Policy [with template]
- Mailchimp: Collect Consent with GDPR Forms
- Business 2 Community: 5 Compelling Reasons Small Businesses Benefit From Sending Email Newsletters
- Nieman Lab: Here’s What You Need to Know to Build Successful Paid Newsletters, Popup Newsletters, Morning Digests and Community Newsletters
- Patreon: Successful Business Models and Letting Your Fans Pay You
- Avast: What Is Phishing?
- CMS Wire: Forget Slack vs. Email: Think Slack Plus Email