Email is an easy way to keep in touch and connect with customers, but it has to be used properly to be effective. In addition to grooming your list for qualified leads, you need to keep email etiquette front and center.

Keeping an eye on how, when and why you’re in contact with customers can make all the difference in achieving your goals. Here are some questions we ask:

How often, and when should you send? How often you send emails depends on a combination of your line of business and customer expectations. If they explicitly signed up for a weekly newsletter, then it's a good idea to keep that obligation. Otherwise, once or twice a month may be enough. You certainly don’t want to spam them. Sending too many messages not only disturbs customers, it makes them blind to your messages so they end up hitting delete.

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What's your message? Hand-in-hand with frequency is the actual content of your message. A good policy is to only send an email if you have something to say. Did you add a new product or service to your offering? Are you holding a seasonal sale? Was your business featured in the news? These are all email-worthy topics. If nothing new is going on, and you essentially just want to send out a reminder that “Hey, I’m around," you may want to consider how to do this more elegantly. For example, if you’re a gardener, you could wish customers a happy first day of spring, and highlight your services.

What's your call to action? Like having a purpose to your message, you need what is referred to as a call to action. That is, customers need to know what do with the information they’ve received; what’s expected of them next. Examples for emails might be “Use this promotional code for a 10 percent discount” or, “Call us now for a free consultation." The CTA should tell them what to do with a verb. "Call," "sign up" or "click here" are examples. 

Is your tone right? Gone are the days of “Sir” and “Ma’am,” but in most cases, your customers are not your friends. Unless they’re teenagers, greetings like “Hey” may be a bit too casual. In other words, keep things friendly and professional. Use language appropriately, avoid slang and jargon, and don’t forget to spellcheck before you send.

Is it short enough? When it comes to emailing customers, it is crucial that you keep it short. Many people these days are checking promotional mailers from their mobile phone, or on the job (or both). They don’t have the time, or energy, to figure out what you want. Get to the point as fast as you can, and make your message as clear as possible. A good graphic can always help.

Can you deliver what you promise? You need to be able to provide what you offer. If you’re offering a “buy one, get one free” offer, you’ll need to give customers exactly that. If this offer is limited to the first 10 customers who call, or those who live within a certain radius, make sure you’re covered by adding the properly worded terms and conditions to your email. Providing a solid customer experience is critical. 

Did you talk about only yourself? You may think your competitor’s business isn’t up to par, but email is not the place to mention that. In fact, you may end up needing to file an insurance claim if you go around saying things like that! Instead of comparing yourself to competitors, focus on your own excellent qualities, and leave the judgements up to customers themselves.

Is there an unsubscribe option? Customers may no longer want to hear from you for any number of reasons. That’s their right, and why you must always add an opt-out button or link to every email you send. More than simply polite, it’s also part of the law.

Remember, email is a form of communication. It is an important face to your business, and if done well, an easy way to stay in touch with customers. While there’s no formula for absolute success, keeping good etiquette is always a good start. Use it wisely, keep an eye on your statistics, and be willing to try new things. In time, you should be able to come up with the winning email standards for your customers – and you.

Read more: business.com