Five Ways To Survive Your Inbox

Email email email

Below is a great blog post. What are your best strategies for overcoming your inbox?

5 Ways To Survive Your Inbox

Six Pixels of Separation – Marketing and Communications Insights – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image byMitchJoel on6/7/11

I love email. I hate email.

Most people probably have a similar love/hate relationship with email as they grapple daily with their inbox. In fact, I hate email… I just hate not getting email more. And, that’s the dilemma that most professionals face when it comes to their inbox. It’s gotten worse over time. Now, it’s not just emails. We get messages from FacebookLinkedInTwitter and beyond. Most of us are managing multiple inboxes across multiple platforms and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better or easier to manage. My inbox has become a never-ending game of Tetris, where emails continue to flow in and stack up to the breaking point. Many professionals have declared email bankruptcy (where they simply delete every single email from their inbox with the hopes that if the contents were truly critical, the sender will reach out them or call as a follow-up).

Most of us rely on email for critical business communications and email bankruptcy is not a legitimate option, so let’s look at five ways to master the inbox.

  1. Create folders. Some of the newer Web-based email clients do not have folders (like Gmail), but they do have “tags” (words you can use to associate multiple messages to), either way creating tags or folders are critical to getting organized. My general strategy is to create a folder for every client or project. On top of that, I create folders for each member of our team at Twist Image (in case it’s a conversation related to an individual instead of a specific project). I also have folders for HR, business development, interesting news items that may wind up becoming content fodder for my newspaper columns, Blog post, or an idea for a book. I also track trends using my inbox. If something interesting happens with Facebook, I email the link to myself and file it under Facebook in my trends folder. Using sub-folders is another way to keep your emails organized.
  2. Create rules. I set-up a lot of email alerts from places like Google Alerts or when somebody new is following me on Twitter or requesting to connect on Facebook or LinkedIn. With a couple of simple clicks on the “rules” button, you can have emails sent from a specific email address or emails that have a similar piece of content in the body of the message to redirect automatically to a pre-defined folder. This avoids inbox clutter and clog-ups. This tactic works great if you subscribe to a lot of e-newsletters as well.
  3. Get it done. In 2001, David Allen wrote the groundbreaking business book, Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. While I’m not a sworn devotee ofAllen and his techniques (I’ve managed to develop my own coping mechanisms over time), one gem of productivity insight is culled from this masterful tome: if you can get it done in 60 seconds or less, do it right away. Emails that don’t require more than a few sentences to respond to get done as soon as possible and then get filed in their specific folders (or deleted). The longer emails are attended to in-between meetings, but I will set aside one hour – every day – to deal with the emails that require more writing/thinking. Lastly, I don’t beat myself up if every email doesn’t get responded to on the same day that it was received. The non-critical messages get dealt with in due process, but I do respond to every email that requires a response.
  4. Create a hierarchy of response. During the day, clients or potential new business get responded to first, then staff, then requests for media or writing, and then family and friends (unless it’s an obvious emergency). It doesn’t matter if that rule gets broken from time to time, but it’s the spirit of: clients first, team second and everything else after that, which allows me to look at my inbox with a different perspective. Create a hierarchy of who gets responded to and in what order.
  5. Tell people – in your emails – how to work better with you. Most people have no idea how to use email. They respond to everyone on an email with a bunch of people who were only cc’d and they’ll do things like send back an email that says, “ok,” as if that adds any value to the chain of communication. You can set the ground rules by putting some insights into your signature file. I’ve seen people with signature files that not only have their contact information, but say things like, “please only respond back to me, the other people who are listed on this email are just there to be kept in the loop,” or, “there’s no need to respond to back me, I just wanted you to see this so that you are kept in the loop.” A little clarity on how you like to interact via email will help keep your inbox clutter down to a dull roar and it will also teach other people new ways that they can use their email with more efficacy.

Most people are in email hell.

It’s on their smartphones and it’s on their screens for most of their waking moments. Many people look at their email before going to the bathroom as their first act of the day and many people look at their email right before they close their eyes for the night. Some may see this as an indictment on our society’s inability to find a peaceful balance in our work-centric lives. Ultimately, the only way to really survive your inbox is to make a personal promise that you are going to better manage your technology, instead of letting your technology manage you.

What are your best strategies for overcoming your inbox?

Win Customer Loyalty By Supporting Your Community

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...
Image via Wikipedia

Below is an article from Open Forum. Are you using social media to support your community?

Win Customer Loyalty By Supporting Your Community

via OPEN Forum Articles by ShelIsrael on5/3/11

From ShelIsrael:

A few weeks ago I wrote about United Linen, a professional laundry service. Looking back, I think there are some valuable lessons small businesses should learn from they way United embraces and supports their community.

United shows a commitment to its physical community in various ways. For example, they began posting hometown team sports scores through their social media channels, and more recently, they started promoting the local symphony orchestra. During winter, United gets road conditions from their truck drivers and reports back to residents.

In short, United uses social media to report on and champion their local community. They’ve chosen a wise and valuable strategy—one that you might consider taking with your business.

Small business has clearly embraced social media. We see all sorts of cases of how little guys in corner stores or home offices have defied geographic boundaries by going global. But most small business is not going to go global. They depend upon people who live within a few miles of their store or office.

The question becomes: what should you talk about? Because let’s face it, there’s only so much you can say about your dry cleaning service or your homemade pie.

However, your customers and you probably share many topics of interest. Every town, city or neighborhood has all sorts of local events, issues, problems or reasons to celebrate. Your neighbors and customers talk about them over the counter in your shop, in coffee shops, dog parks or over backyard fences.

These issues are what make your community special—they are the community passion points. A century ago, most communities created town commons, where people gathered to discuss, debate and occasionally brawl over local issues.

People like to do business with people who share their interests. They would rather have an easy conversation then get bombarded with marketing offers and a few very large companies have figured this all out.

Dell Computer, for example, has 8000 employees who use social media as part of their jobs. They are discouraged from using the conversational tools to be overly promotional, and instead are encouraged to mix in mentions of their hobbies and personal interests.

“We discourage shilling,” Richard Binhammer, a senior member to the Dell social media team, told me.

Binhammer’s approach make sense. A smart sales person almost never starts a customer conversation with, “Hey, are you going to buy something? They are more likely to discuss weather and ease in to any possible transactions.”

In social media, you will almost always do better by conversing than by aggressive selling, and you will probably sell more goods and services if your team talks with people about what interests them rather than what you want to sell.

There are local passion spots wherever you do business. And the ability of your hometown to have a public, accessible venue for discussion has been in atrophy in recent years.

Local newspapers and broadcast stations have been on the wane. Those that have survived have very often cut staff and local coverage. The result has been that many communities suffer a local information void waiting to be filled.

Thanks to social media, local merchant or professional can fill this void in local community information and promotion at low cost and with a little investment of time. The result may have more lasting value to your business position than any e-coupon. The result may also increase the number of people who use e-coupons when you post them as well.

You have the opportunity to provide your community with an online commons—a venue where local news is shared and issues can be discussed or debated.

Here are four ways to do it:

1. Be the local media company

Online journalist Tom Foremski has been talking a lot about every company becoming a media company. But his examples are usually about huge enterprises such as Dell Computer, Cisco, Ford Motors, etc.

Why can’t a small business do this for its hometown? Your customers are already telling you what they care about—why not report on what their local passion points are? Your loyalty to your community will spawn their loyalty to you.

2. Use video and pictures

Your community is filled with wonderful and provocative visuals and sounds. Take pictures at local events. Post them (note: if kids are involved get permission).

3.  Listen and report

Use basic tools such as Google Blog Alerts to monitor topics that interest your community. Use Twitter and Facebook to be the first to report on them. If it is a complex subject, blog on it—or ask someone in your community to do a guest blog on your site.

4.  Be a polster

When issues arise in your community, poll your audience. Ask for a yes or no response, but also host a venue for people who want to leave longer comments. I constantly ask questions on Twitter and Facebook, but I also set up a space for blog comments, where people can post long comments and perhaps debate each other’s ideas.

By becoming a community booster, you build loyalty and establish thought leadership. This can be devastating to a competitor.

I call the strategy ‘Lethal Generosity.’ Here’s how it works:

Start a campaign for safe streets, sending the local team to a post-season tournament or whatever is a passion point you share with your neighbors.

Next, invite your competitors to join the campaign to match—or exceed—any financial contributions you make. Do it online or in public.

What can your competitor do? There’s only two options:

Ignore you. But then it appears they don’t care about safe streets or the local team.

Match or exceed your donation. In either case, they are following your lead. You will get some of the credit for your competitor’s generosity.

And, in either case, you win.

Try it. I bet it will increase customer loyalty, bring in new business, devastate your competition and make you feel better about yourself.

Using Evernote as a Customer Relationship Management(CRM) Tool

Using Evernote as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM)  Tool                  

Evernote is an excellent example of cloud computing where files are stored online. Evernote users can create and save notes and notebooks online, where they can be later accessed through the internet from any computer or smartphone. To access Evernote click on the word: Evernote

New Construction

Evernote’s organizing structure is very simple:

Notes are Evernote’s primary building blocks. Think of notes as individual ideas, resources, or topics. For example, quotes, estimates, pictures, emails, and websites. Notes can contain text, graphics, and/or pictures w/ GPS coordinates. Notes can also contain keyword identifiers—tags. Tags are words that allow your notes to be found again by browsing or searching.

Notebooks are collections of notes that are related to each other in some way. For example, I’ve created separate notebooks for prospecting customer, building permits, current customers, competition, and follow-up.

When I want to capture an idea, I can send an email to Evernote. I can take a picture or voicemail with my smartphone. And lastly, I can clip–or take a screen shot of–a web page by using the Add–to–Evernote feature that may be added to your browser toolbar.

Sharing Notebooks is a great way to communicate with your customers. You can share checklists, post problems, brainstorming, voice memos, maps, and  pictures.

If you want to subscribe to the LumberTribe notebook, please leave a comment.

The Proper Way to Write a Business Letter

Below is a blog post from WorkAwesome.

The Proper Way to Write a Business Letter.Typewriter...

Even in this world of Twitter, email, and Facebook updates, you’d be remiss to think that the standard rules for composing a business letter have gone the way of the carrier pigeon.

A properly formatted business letter not only shows off your level of professionalism, it also shows character, tact, and maturity. Sure, anyone can send anyone an email…but when you need a more formal way to communicate, like when you’re applying for a job, writing to a customer, or seeking funding for a project, a business letter is the way to go.

It’s been years (15 to be exact) since I took business typing at Orono High School. To this day I still think that what I learned in that class has helped me in college, grad school, and in my professional life. Not only do I type at lightening speeds (not to brag) but I know how to format any business letter or resume.

There are several formats for a business letter, but they generally fall into two categories: block and indented. The difference? The block format has no indentations and the indented format does. Simple, really.

The first thing on the page should be your return address. If you are writing this on company letterhead that already has the address on it somewhere, you can leave this off.

The next thing that should appear is the date. It’s important to include it because correspondence is frequently filed in date order. Plus, if you are sending a follow-up, it’s easy to mention “…in my letter dated February 1…”

The date is followed by the complete name, title, and address of the recipient. In many cases the person who opens the mail is not the same person you are addressing it to. Including the name and address on your letter ensures it’s being sent to the right person, even if it gets separated from the envelope.

If you don’t know if a female recipient is married or not, it’s perfectly acceptable to use “Ms.” If you don’t know the title or correct spelling of a persons name, find out. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to get a letter with my name spelled wrong. Especially when it is so easy to find out. Go online or better yet, call and ask the receptionist.

Next comes the salutation. You can either use a comma or a colon after their name.

Now it’s time to write your actual letter. If you are using the block format type every line flush with the left margin. If you are using the indented format, indent the first line of each paragraph. Don’t get all fancy-schmancy and use some hard-to-read font. Use Times New Roman or Georgia. The letter should be single spaced, too, and a single line should separate each paragraph.

The most common closing is “Sincerely”, and I suggest you keep it simple and use it followed by a comma and your name. You will leave space after your typed name so that there is room for you to sign it with a pen.

Are you enclosing a resume or other materials with your letter? Be sure to indicate it with “Enclosure” or “Enclosures” under your name. This way the recipient will be sure to acknowledge what you have included with your letter.

If you are emailing this letter, it’s wise to use it as the body of your email and including it as an attachment. Note that some computers can’t open certain documents (like .docx). It’s best to attach it as a .doc or .rtf – or even as a .pdf file.

Here’s a map to more clearly show you the formatting:

(top margin)
101 Main Street
Anywhereville, NY 12345    (hit return four times) 

 

February 1, 2011    (hit return twice)

Ms. Melanie Brooks, Editor
National Magazine
1001 State Street
Anywhereville, NY 12345    (hit return twice)

Dear Ms. Brooks:    (hit return twice)

I am writing to inquire about a job opportunity I saw posted on http://www.job.com. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a master’s degree in marketing, and five years of experience as a staff writer at Regional Magazine.

My resume along with three published clips and a list of people to call for recommendations are enclosed with this letter.    (hit return twice)

Sincerely,    (hit return four times)

(sign your name in ink here)

Eloise Garfinkle    (hit return twice)

Enclosures

(Image courtesy of HeavenlyCabins under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)

Cultivate Eccentrics

Cover of "Marketing Lessons from the Grat...
Cover via Amazon

Here’s a lesson from the book: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History by David Meerman Scott

Cultivate eccentrics

Have you noticed that people who are passionate about something are eager to talk it up, just like fans of the Grateful Dead want to talk up their favorite band? Your job is to create an experience that’s unique, one that eccentrics will gravitate to, and one that they want to talk up.

ACTION: Build personality into your web site. Remove any content that looks similar to your competitors’. Delete what’s boring. Make sure your web site, blog posts, newsletters, and e-mails are unlike all others in the marketplace. Being unique will make you stand out. Build up the information (videos, blog posts, e-books, and photos) that appeals to eccentrics in your marketplace.