Sweat the details

The smallest things can make the biggest differences. This column uses e-mail messages as its example but what I'm saying applies just as well to any aspect of your business.

Many moons ago, a coworker at one of my many consulting jobs exhorted me to spell-check and proofread the e-mails I sent to team members. I didn't think much of that advice at the time because all I was doing was firing off quick messages to people who knew me and the quality of my work. While I would never release a document sans thorough editing, who really cares about an e-mail?

Fast forward to a more recent client where I tracked the development process and the total number of defects in the product over time. Two things soon became very apparent: Actual work performed did not equal the planned work for any given release cycle and the total backlog of unresolved defects kept growing and growing. Even worse, the numbers I tracked did not reflect reality because people did not consistently update the tracking tool. Coincidentally (or not), the CEO consistently sent out e-mails rife with spelling, punctuation, and grammatical problems, to the point where someone who didn't know him might be tempted to question his literacy. I'm not saying that he was illiterate or unintelligent. I am saying that one could be forgiven for wondering.

It suddenly dawned on me that my coworker had been absolutely correct. My longtime readers know that great marketing for a shoddy product is a quick path to ruin. Shoddy marketing for a great product is better but not by much. The simple truth is that every typo or other mistake in any of your messaging to any of your audiences lessens their opinion of you. After all, how can you hope to deliver a quality product if you can't even send a clear, coherent, and well-built e-mail? Granted, most people may notice the difference but there are many who do.

I believe that the values established and reinforced by the leaders of any organization will permeate that entire organization. I'm not talking about the occasional typo. I'm talking about consistently demonstrating through action that quality just isn't that important. This devil-may-care attitude may initially come off as pioneering and risk-taking and may drive some initial sales. But as customer after customer starts to realize that the product is just as buggy as the message. I have grave concerns about the long-term viability of that client.

When it comes to e-mail messages or any written communications, my biggest pet peeves include:


162; Its (possessive, meaning "belonging to it") vs. it's (contraction for "it is")


162; There (place) vs. they're (contraction for "they are") vs. their (possessive, meaning belonging to "them")


162; Capitalization (at the beginning of sentences and for proper names only, not because You Feel Like It)


162; Punctuation (use some!)


162; Sentence structure (fragments, run-ons, etc.)


162; Word choice (no buzzwords and keep the jargon to a minimum)

I could go on and on but I think you get the general idea.

Assume for just a moment that you and your company are the best at what you do. Your products, services, customer service, marketing, and management are all top-notch. Don't you deserve to portray that excellence in the best possible light while encouraging everyone in your company to do the same?

Sweat the details. Edit and proofread your e-mails before sending them out, especially to anyone outside the company. Ask for help if you need it.

While you're at it, give every little detail in your business that same attention to detail. You may never notice any tangible effect from these efforts but trust me when I promise you that any effect, no matter how subtle, will be profound indeed. Besides, you've worked too hard to lose any ground to something as silly as typos, dust in the corners, or any other tiny detail.

Learn how ancient survival instincts guide everything you do and how to use those instincts to your advantage. My book The Enlightened Savage: Using Primal Instincts for Personal and Business Success is available from or your favorite bookseller.

My new book, Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets, is now available at your favorite bookseller or from .

Anthony Hernandez is a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Association Business Coach with over 20 years of business and marketing experience. He lives in Ashland with his wife Robyn, son Logan, and their two dogs.

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