How to write a business email from start to finish

The topic of sending business emails might sound very simple and mundane, but if you get it wrong, it can stop your business from moving forward. Why? Because businesses survive on creating and maintaining great customer, supplier, and partner relationships. So when you need to communicate important information, it’s equally important you do it the right way.  

Email may have been invented over fifty years ago, but with over four billion users, it is still the world’s best-loved business tool. In this article, we outline the basics of business emails, from start to finish, and cover some tips and tricks to make sure you get the reply you need.

There are, of course, different types of business email that can fit specific business needs, such as newsletters, promo announcements, etc. We’ll simply be covering the basics of good business email communications in general. The things you really need to know when composing your emails from scratch. Let’s start at the beginning: 

Why are you sending this message? 

The best strategy before ever writing a single word is to ask yourself why you need to communicate with this particular person. What is the reason for your message? What type of goal do you have in mind? Just some of the reasons for sending a business email can range from:

  • An overdue invoice
  • Input on a new product or service before bringing it to market
  • Details and advice on shipping and receiving
  • Scheduling a meeting
  • Important technical details such as downloading or updating instructions

Setting your intention at the very start of this process will help you to stay focused on the goal of getting a response to your concerns, whatever they may be.

Subject line

This is the first text your colleague or customer will see. Think of it as a newspaper headline. Composing a well-read subject line is crucial as a good first impression. Be as accurate as possible in your subject line. Being vague will not get your message read in a timely manner, nor will too much text. 

Be short and to the point, and always remain professional.  Keep in your mind that shorter and to the point is the best strategy. While you may want to write something catchy to show off your creative skills, you could be reaching a very busy person on the other end. That colleague or client has things to do, meetings to attend, and errands to run. Make it as easy as possible for them to read and respond to your message.

You don’t want the reader to stress out, so don’t make it all caps, as you’ll seem like you’re shouting at them before they even open it. Or worse, it will be seen as spam and deleted. 

Subject lines also need to feel authentic, there’s no point overpromising, exaggerating, or trying to trick the reader into opening the email. All that will do is create distrust once they discover your true intention. Overall things to avoid are:

X The emergency: URGENT information

X The fake reply: Re: Catch up on Monday?

X The sneak: Everything’s FREE for the next 24 hours… just kidding

X The yell: BE FIRST TO REGISTER A .INC DOMAIN!!!

X The cry wolf: Last 50% Sale Ever... No Really Ever! EVER!

Preview text

Consider the possibility that the recipient may have preview text when starting your message as well. Preview text is the first line or two of the body of your message that can be viewed in addition to the subject line. It’s one more opportunity to influence the reader to open your message as soon as they receive it. Whilst more useful in marketing email blasts, it should also be taken into account when sending business emails to colleagues and regular clients. Not all email providers offer preview text, but taking this visibility into account is a wise decision.

Go into further detail referencing your main subject line. Reinforce the subject line idea with a line of text between 50 - 130 characters.

A good example of how preview text compliments the subject line:

  • Subject line: “Be first to register a .INC domain”
  • Preview: “Beat the competition through our .INC early access program”

Salutations: Making the right introduction

Compose your greeting in a friendly, professional manner. If you are not yet on a first-name basis, begin with a ‘Hello Dr/Ms./Mr.’. Defaulting to  ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ if you really don’t know who you’re reaching is an option, but a last-ditch one. This type of formality can be useful in communicating with official offices or a more traditional environment where English is not the first language. However, in native English-speaking countries, it is a little outdated ‘To whom it may concern’ can be useful but proceed with caution since it may read as too impersonal. 

The trick is to avoid being vague when composing a salutation. Try to find out the surname of the person you are contacting. Research via professional websites such as LinkedIn, the company’s website team directory, or Google. If you’ve exhausted your resources, then default to Sir / Madam, but only as a last resort. 

Once you’re on a first-name basis, and depending on how they sign their emails back to you, you may use their first names. You should defer to formality with new contacts if you are writing for the first time instead of using a nickname. This is not an email to friends or family so keep that in mind when composing. Eventually, you can be on first-name terms with your network, email list of interested subscribers to a newsletter, or perhaps VIP customers.

Here are some basic opening salutations guaranteed to be useful in universal, multi-lingual communicated formats

  • Hello 
  • Hi (obviously a bit more informal but still universal)
  • Dear
  • Greetings
  • Hello Everyone or Greetings Everyone
  • To whom it may concern (useful if writing a legal letter, however too impersonal for a business letter with specific information being sent to a professional individual)

The main body of your email

Opening lines

How to begin a business email? After your proper salutation to your recipient, keep your opener short and to the point. Remember that people have very busy schedules these days, so small talk should be kept to a minimum. A proper email greeting is key to framing the tone of voice. 

Remember that your communication is not all about you. Take the cliche out of the messaging by avoiding blanket statements such as “Here at XYZ Company, we….”. Also avoid the temptation to simply introduce yourself: you have a signature for that, and you need to be getting to the point fast. Instead, speak directly to your recipient and honor their time and energy by addressing something that is of benefit and interest to them. They want to know exactly why you are sending the email, and what’s in it for them, in your opening paragraph.

If you’ve met before, or have spoken online either in a conference or a brief text exchange, remind them of this so they can place you in their own professional context. Begin with a pleasant sentence such as ‘I hope this message finds you well’, and then get right to it! State your purpose and be direct while being polite. In formal business correspondence, the key is to stay on message. Remember the reason why you’re reaching out in the first place, and be mindful of the recipient’s time.

Making it scannable

Remember that some people will read their email on their phone, therefore you should keep the email as short as possible to make the information you want to convey easily readable. Writing an email is still writing for the web, where patience is a rare virtue. If someone has to scroll through dozens of paragraphs to get to the point, you will lose the attention of your reader — and you almost certainly won’t get it back. 

If your message requires more than one or two paragraphs, you may want to number the important points, or add bullet points so the reader can easily go back and reference the content. You can even use sub-headers to visually break up and highlight the pertinent information you wish to convey. This makes it easier on the other end to craft a response, which will be appreciated by the receiver!

Staying secure

A very important caveat to note is that your email should not be considered a secure, or proprietary message. The possibility of your email being forwarded, shared, or published should always be taken into account. Therefore, avoid the oversharing of personal data or sensitive business information. 

Most people will assume that if you share information with them, that it can be shared with anyone. That company data you used to show business growth could end up in someone else's presentation or blog. So consider what you do or do not want to be public knowledge. Also, consider that personal data is a goldmine for fraudsters in the murky world of social engineering

The key takeaway from this is that you never truly know where your message will end up. So be smart with what you share — especially to new contacts. 

How to end an email

It is much better to wrap up your email with a kind, yet formal conclusion than an abrupt email closing. Thank the recipient for their time and attention. If you have not included a call to action within the main body of the email, add something easy to convey such as ‘looking forward to connecting soon’ or ‘thanks and looking forward to your reply’. Make sure you acknowledge their time as important.

There are numerous ways to sign off on a business email such as these basics:

  • Best regards,
  • Sincerely,
  • All the best,
  • Many thanks,
  • Looking forward to hearing from you,

Signoff and signature

Sign your email off with something that doesn’t get too personal but maintains a professional relationship such as ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Best regards’. Avoid anything that hints at a close friendship like ‘Cheers’.

Your email signature should convey the basic information and ways you can be reached. Include your specific job title, the company you work for and are representing in this email, and your contact information. Even if it is obvious within the email address being sent, adding your email address to your signature adds a clear level of professionalism like you would have on a physical business card.

An easy format to follow:

         Full name

         Job Title

         Company

         Contact information

         Link to company website

         Small logo *make sure your logo doesn’t take up too much real estate on the page!*

When it comes to where your email is being sent from, there are many types of services that provide business emails. To take your email to the next level, consider choosing a package that makes it easy to send messages from a professional address. Last but not least, don’t forget to proofread before clicking send.

Look legit with professional email addresses

Give your email an air of legitimacy before your recipient even opens the message. By going pro, you’ll want to have your business name in the address of your email. This serves two purposes. It will not only convey your legitimacy but will also give a clear reminder from a marketing standpoint of the name and address of your website. 

When you register your domain with a hosting provider, an email option is usually available for an extra small fee on top of this service. Namecheap, for example, offers email services as standard with its shared hosting plans through the cPanel dashboard. They also go further with more professional email services that have extra features, such as exchange accounts to synchronize tasks, share data, control access to specific files, and much more. Easy to set up, this kind of managed email hosting lets you keep your email and domain services all in one place as well as take advantage of extra perks like customer support. 

Conclusion

Writing formal correspondence is a different type of communication than chatting online with friends and family. Sending business emails doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking writing experience. Once you get the hang of business correspondence, it’ll be like second nature. Services such as Namecheap's professional email hosting make it easier to maintain a solid workflow for your business too, so you could also manage your emails as professionally as you write them! 


Ruth Gonzalez

Ruth Gonzalez

More articles written by Ruth.

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