Internet Etiquette

All good sales people know that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression. We have a long history of learning to make a good impression in person or on the phone, and there have been entire volumes written on business etiquette in these situations. But with the growth of information technology, and specifically the Internet, it is more difficult to learn and grasp the intricacies of "netiquette".

This article summarizes the rules of the road for Internet users who hope to make a good first impression on those with whom you do business.

Using E-Mail

- Know your e-mail address. How often do we all meet people who have e-mail, but cannot remember their address? It is easy for the "newbies" among us to mix up our email address and our website. Putting your email address on your business card is a modern necessity.

- Beware of long or complex email addresses. Some businesses will have a long email domain, and require you to use long user names. For example, nathangwinterbottom@ is a little overwhelming. If this is your plight, consider using an e-mail forwarding service like or , and getting a shorter and more memorable email, such as It can also shrink the size of your business card!

- Get permission before sending cutesy-mail. While many people enjoy and actually look forward to emailed photos, jokes, inspirational quotes, etc., not all enjoy it and some are actually forbidden by company policy from receiving them. Make sure you check first with a recipient before adding them to your email list for such mailings. It is just common courtesy.

- Verify mails before sending them. Make sure that your email program has a spell checker and use it. You would never want to send out a resume with an obvious misspelling--how would you feel if you were the potential employer? Be sure that your email is professional and accurate. Also, employ a virus scanner on your computer. Even if it is inadvertent, an infected attachment can spell doom for a recipient.

Your Website

- Remember the purpose of your site. While the coolest colors and the niftiest animated GIF's are fun, they may or may not convey your message. Always develop your site with an emphasis on content, and less on the bells and whistles. Be careful to keep colors balanced so that text can be read. Light blue text on a light green background may be tasteful, but not readable.

- Keep content fresh and links live. Nothing communicates more poorly about a business than a site that is not properly maintained. Add new content periodically to encourage return visits. Have a news page that lists current accomplishments, projects and recognitions. Check your links regularly to make sure that they still work and lead you to the right site. Sometimes the difference between and can be like night and day.

- Be prepared to sell your site. Could you tell a potential customer or client what is on your site right now? Keep up to date with your site's content and offerings, and be conversant about it.

Using the Internet to market your services can be a low cost and effective way to share information and to make a good first impression. Using the basic skills of online etiquette will help you do this with style and good taste.