Someone asked me today when it was more advantageous to call someone, email or pay them a visit. This is one of those things you think you know but is difficult to quantify. What are some of your guidelines for to email, when to call and when to show up in person?
Notice that I did not include text messaging, twitter or pokes.
I would use the following guidelines
As a general rule of thumb, you should strive for the most personable method reasonable and appropriate. Business is built on relationships, and the more "face time" you can get with your contacts, the stronger those relationships will be.
anup gives some good guidelines on what's reasonable and appropriate, but I think it's important to note that this is not a place to follow the golden rule. What's right for you is not right for everyone else.
For example, just because your day is booked to the minute doesn't mean that your client is too busy for visitors; sometimes having some comapny can be fun. On the same token, if you have a client who never leaves the office, he may not even want to hear your voice on the phone.
Your best bet is to feel them out: how much resistance is there to an in person? What about a phone call? You also need to balance this against your time as, generally, your contact will send signals if you're spending too much "bs" time with them.
I guess it will depend on "volume" and "importance" of task at hand.
Like if you have to reach out to a large number of people, emails, postcards and may be phone works well. For example finding beta testers for a web app.
But when I'm looking for say a letter of recommendation, or looking for an imp. employee, I would first send them an email asking for an appointment/permission. And then call them up in a day or two and fix a meeting.
Advantageous for you or advantageous to them? :-)
If it isn't a cold call, it's best to communicate with them in the way that they feel most comfortable. For example, some people prefer conversations by phone to messages in email. Ask your business contacts for their contact preferences.
If you're contacting an individual that you haven't spoken with before, the polite thing to do is to choose the communication method that interrupts them the least. That usually means email since they can respond on their own schedule.