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Building Relationships! Are you sending the right emails?

We all know that email has revolutionized communication, both for business and in our personal lives.

While applications like Skype and MSN Chat, Twitter and Facebook are providing new channels with which to connect with people around the world, for most of us email is still the primary means of communication.

The language and presentation of your emails gives the reader a very strong impression of your professionalism and general abilities.

Even if you’re not the world’s greatest writer, you should still learn how to write effective emails. It’s absolutely essential if you want people to take you seriously. The most successful affiliate marketers spend a great deal of time engaging in communication and building relationships with affiliate managers, merchants, online marketers and other affiliates. They did not build these relationships and their success with “Hi There!!!!” emails.

Here are four really simple tips that will go a long way to increase the overall professionalism of your emails. They may seem rather obvious, but I can’t tell you how many emails I get that fail to achieve them.

1. The subject line is for what it says it’s for!

If I can’t tell what your email is about from the subject line, then why am I going to waste my time looking at it when even you don’t appear to take it seriously? The more specific and concise your subject, the better: “Phone call” is okay, but “JV Skype call meeting time and agenda” is best. If you’re covering multiple points in an email, your subject should state the overriding theme of the message. Don’t forget too that a good subject line also makes it easier for people to search and locate your email in the future.

2. Use a signature

Virtually every email program I know of allows you to create an email signature – a small block of text that appears at the bottom of all your email messages and replies. Why is this important? It immediately gives the reader the impression that you are a professional – and people like dealing with professionals. What’s more, a comprehensive signature includes lots of useful information that the reader can use to either contact you or find out more about you (this is really important if you are approaching someone you’ve never met or talked to before). Your signature should include your full name, company name, position (if applicable), website, and email address. Depending on your preference, you can also include phone number(s) and fax. I’ve also seen signatures with Twitter or Linkedin links. These are OK if they suit your style of business, but it’s best not to make your signature too long – 5 or 6 lines at most. Some people use graphics and HTML in their signatures, but this is not something I recommend because many email clients still block HTML, which means it’ll just look a mess.

3. Know who you’re talking to

I admit, this can be easier said than done. Some businesses just use generic info@… email addresses, which makes addressing your message to someone difficult. However, I have found that taking the extra time to poke around and find a person’s email address always pays off – provided I write them a professional and worthwhile email. I once had a big debate with my business communications professor about using first or last names and the upshot is: I think it’s an individual call. Personally, I’ve always started messages with “Hi First-name”. I might use title and last name if they have a distinguished title – for example a doctor or elected official. In this case I’ll write the email more like a traditional formal letter, with “Dear Mr/Doctor/Rt Hon/etc. Last-name”. That said, some people will disagree (including my comms teacher). It depends on who you are emailing, what you are emailing about and where you are emailing to – cultural norms can vary between countries.

Under certain circumstances I have guessed people’s email addresses, as most companies use the same email format across all addresses. However I must advise extreme caution when using this technique – most people who don’t have their email address easily accessible have done so for a reason. If you genuinely have something important or of interest to this person, then it can be worth a try, but whatever you do, do not just send them a generic email that you’ve sent to a dozen other people. If you take the time to find someone’s email, then take the time to write them an individual message.

If you can’t find someone’s direct address, I advise sending a message to the generic website address with the first line of the email reading “Attention: Name of person you want to talk to”. If you don’t know the name of the person you need to talk to, then there’s the old fall-back: “To whom it may concern”. It might be a bit old fashioned, but it tends to go down better than “Hi There”.

4. Write like it’s your only chance – usually it is

The problem with the ease and immediacy of email is that it’s all too easy to whip up a quick email and send it off without thinking too hard about what you’ve written. This is very dangerous. Taking a little bit extra time to read over what you’ve just written can save you from some embarrassing mistakes. Recently I was sending out emails to some important contacts – the message to each was pretty much the same, and after writing about 6 individually, I started to copy and paste the message and change the name. I was in a hurry and didn’t read over it again and as a result, I sent a message to an important contact addressed to the wrong name. Fortunately the contact was very understanding when I apologized, but you can’t count on being that lucky. Sometimes that can be all it takes to lose a potential lead/client/partnership.

Also attempt to write clearly, concisely and in a professional but friendly tone. Don’t be demanding or arrogant – this can be really easy to do accidentally. What might seem business-like and matter-of-fact to you may come across as irritating and belligerent to the reader. If it’s an especially important email, it may be worth forwarding it to a friend or colleague first just to be sure. You just can’t count on the reader being in the same state of mind as you are when you write it. Most important of all, use your manners! If you’re asking someone for something, then say “thank you” in advance. If you’re telling them about a problem, be polite – understand that it probably wasn’t the person or company’s intention to cause your difficulty. A bit of empathy goes a long way to making people go that little bit further to help you out. Even if you have to be firm, you can still be respectful.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. I’d be really interested in what you think of my ideas about email. Do you agree or disagree? Have you got any email horror stories? (They’re always fun!)

Let me know in the comments.

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Affiliate Marketing! A dollar today or 10 tomorrow?

If I said that I’d give you $1 right now, or $10 tomorrow, what would you choose?

Many of you might immediately say “Well the $10 obviously! It’s more money and I only have to wait a day!” That might be a simple decision, but what about $100 today and $1000 in 6 months? Sometimes the thought of immediate reward is just to enticing to pass up – and if you need $100 right now, it’s somewhat of a different equation all together.

But that is exactly the decision you have to make when you build an affiliate site – are you going to focus on short term or long term gains? One of the simplest illustrations of this is the process of building an email list. An email list is an investment in future sales. It takes work to build and maintain a list, as well as work to create new and interesting content to send out to a list. But run a list well and it can become one of your biggest assets as an affiliate marketer.

Instead of bringing in a single visitor, selling something to them, and then never hearing from them again, strategies like building an email list allow you to make multiple sales to the same customers. And if you want to know where that $10 tomorrow is coming from, that’s it – repeat sales. Newsletter series, regularly updated blogs and even ebooks can all be very effective ways of turning a single visit into an long-term income stream – one which cannot be turned off overnight by a Google algorithm change or Adwords slap. By building up multiple, long-term income streams, you will ensure far greater security in your business.

But, it is a trade off. Just like giving up the $1 today, you have to decide what your current goals are, and what’s of most value to you now. If you are just starting out, then perhaps focusing on short-term sales could be in your best interest. Focus on learning the process of site building and monetization. Build up capital that you can use to develop a more sustainable business in future. But, if you do go this direction, my advice is to set a strict time frame. Do this for a couple of months while you’re learning the ropes, but be sure to move onto the phase of creating long-term sustainable profit after that time.

Whether it’s adding to your existing site, or moving onto a completely different niche altogether, start thinking of ways that you can focus on long-term sales to the same people, rather than just selling whatever you can to whoever walks in the door of your site, so to speak. Because, while the first sale might be a big buzz, once you start making your second or even your hundredth, the novelty wears off and things get serious: You’re in business. And in business, the $10 tomorrow is worth more than the $1 today.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

Thank you!

Heide Holtz

SmarterSites.net

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Elance Online Work Index: The Need For Killer Content

One of the larger overarching trends we’ve noticed since the inception of the Elance Online Work Index several months ago was the steadily rising increase in the need for written content in a number of forms.

The data speaks for itself. Article Writing has moved up three out of the past four months all the way to the number two spot, while Web Content has maintained a footing in the top 10 for the past four months. Online Writing, Content Writing, Copywriting, and Academic Writing have hung around in the top 50 for the past four months as well.

But why the sudden gold rush for high-quality written content? As someone who obviously spends a lot of time stringing a few words together in an online fashion, I can break down the sudden thirst for internet content in three main points:

1. Community Building: Having a noticeable presence online is almost as important as having a noticeable presence in the real world. Publishing online content in the form of blogs, newsletters, and more gives your customers, patrons, and readers a humanizing perspective of your business and also provides a channel for you to build a relationship with current and prospective customers. Online content also offers something for your client base to discuss with each other, creating a buzz that can reach even farthest corners of the web.

Read the rest of this entry »

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