Courtesy is Cool!
by John Dimick

In a professional offline business environment, if you send a proposition letter to another company, you can at the very least expect a response - whether it is positive or negative. It's a question of courtesy.

However, if you send a "proposition email" to an online company that is offering a service you are interested in, it seems that courtesy is not an issue. I have recently distributed a large number of articles to various e-zines. Those who were interested sent a reply within a few days. I didn't receive a single e-mail from the hundreds who turned us down.

I realize that many companies receive thousands of submissions everyday, but I didn't even receive an auto-responder that at least confirmed the article had reached them.

For some reason, online communication is not held with as much regard as a letter. This may be because the letter is such a well-established communication. It could also be because it is easy to delete large quantities of emails with a simple click of a button.

Personally, I believe there are no excuses.

Our company has always sent courtesy letters to everyone that contacts us, and this applies both in an offline and online environment. I think that to call yourself a professional, yet simply ignore genuine business propositions, is hypocritical.

Of course, I'm not suggesting you reply to unsolicited email, but if a company has taken the time to approach you with a genuine proposal, then I think it's polite to give a reply.

The main reason people don't bother replying is because either the propositions are from unknown companies, or, at that particular time, the proposition is not of interest. But isn't it about time that Web marketers thought long term?

A great true story that relates to this topic concerns a Porsche Dealership situated in the South West of England.

One day, a farmer drove up to the Dealership in a 25-year old Land Rover, walked into the showroom with manure-caked boots, and enquired about a Porsche for his wife.

Because the farmer was emitting some rather odious substances that he'd picked up from his farm, he received a cold welcome, both from the sales staff and the management. He was told bluntly that he'd need a lot of money to buy a Porsche. Consequently, he walked out, never to return.

A month later, the Dealership was bought by a new owner - the farmer. This time he turned up in a brand new Rolls Royce, and sacked all the staff.

Now, I'm not saying you'll receive email propositions from odorous farmers, but isn't it about time marketers thought long term rather than of short term gain?

Who is to say that this unknown company that approached you won't grow into something huge, and one day dominate the Web? Just a little measure of politeness could be remembered and turned into a blossoming partnership.

Impoliteness is just another example of companies striving to maintain an image of professionalism, but without actually putting professional actions into practice.

Surely the Netiquette codes of conduct should stretch to responding to every genuine email?

To maintain a true sense of professionalism, and rise above the majority of business sites on the Web, when you receive an email, remember the following points:

1. Always reply to any genuine enquiry rapidly. Most people will assume you are not going to respond if you leave it more than a few days. If you send a belated email, then apologize for the wait - don't fob them off with a standard letter. If you are overwhelmed with submissions, then use an autoresponder. Even if it's a note stating you've received their email, and that you will contact them within the next few days if you are interested.

2. Answer all queries fully. Again, don't send them standard letters that only answer half of their questions. If you need time to research a difficult subject, send them an email saying "We are currently researching your query, and we will follow with an answer within X amount of days."

3. If someone sends you an article, and you decide to run it, tell the author. You'd be surprised how many businesses fail to do this. They think that, because submitting to e-zines isn't an activity that is executed for financial gain, then they have no need to respond.

If you bear these points in mind, then you will be far more respected in the business world. It may take time, but you will maintain a true image of professionalism.

John Dimick
Internet Marketing Programs plc
"The Most Comprehensive Business and Marketing Program on the Internet"

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