Managing Your Email Without Losing Your Mind
Most small business owners are already overwhelmed with a variety of tasks. You likely do a little bit of everything, from organizing office staff to going on appointments to being the face of the company. Answering emails from potential and current customers is just one more checkbox on the long list of to-dos you’re already facing.
According to a survey by Custora, an Internet analytics company, Between 2009 and 2013, the number of customers acquired via email quadrupled. With statistics like that, it’s important that you read through those hundreds of emails arriving in your inbox. To save time, there are some things you can do to organize your email and manage it effectively so that you still have time to see to the other necessary functions required to run your company.
Specific Business Email Addresses
Mary White, founder of MTI Business Solutions, a corporate training/consulting firm based in Alabama, works with clients all over the United States to help them get organized. When it comes to dealing with email, she recommends utilizing your website’s email servers to help you get organized.
For example, one might set up an email of email@example.com for customer questions, an email of firstname.lastname@example.org for newsletter subscriptions, and an email of email@example.com for customer complaints. Those emails can be forwarded to any inbox the customer wishes, but makes filtering easier (see below). In addition, you can set up autoresponders for these separate emails to let the customer know you’ll get back to them soon. For example, a new client sends an email firstname.lastname@example.org. The autoresponder sends an email immediately thanking them for their inquiry and letting them know someone will get back to them within 24 hours. The email address is then forwarded to your regular inbox where you can access it from your computer or mobile device.
Folders and Filters
Email filters are your best friend as a business owner. First, email should be categorized into:
- Deal with now
- Deal with later You’ll find that many emails can be deleted (spam or information you don’t really need) or dealt with immediately and then deleted. However, the emails that fall into the “Deal with later” category need to be filed somewhere. Your main inbox is not the best place to store these emails. They could be accidentally deleted or lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other emails.
Instead, decide on some broad categories where you can file these emails away until you are ready to deal with them. Some examples of categories might be:
Reading material: Newsletters, certification changes, building code changes, or new advances in HVAC.
Customer Complaints: Complaint letters, items to deal with, things to look at later to improve overall customer service
Customer Praise: Testimonials, praise letters
Client Specific Folders: White teaches her clients to set up filters for each client, so that the email files into the folder for that client. “If you do work for a company with abcdomain.com in the email address, filter all messages with that domain to a client-specific folder.” In addition, White suggests unless your email is already on a cloud-based environment, it’s probably a good idea to back up your email folders in case your email client loses an important email or you accidentally delete it.
Make DropBox Your Friend
Have you ever saved an email with an attachment thinking you’ll go back later and file the attachment in a safe place? There are times when you can no longer download that attachment. Instead of filing the email, send the attachment to DropBox for a quick storage solution and then delete the original email.
The types of files you can save on DropBox include:
If This Then That is a platform that allows you to set up specific commands. You can utilize IFTTT with email in several ways that will save you time and help you organize your emails more easily. The IFTTT commands are called “recipes.” You can use one or several together to accomplish your purpose. Your first step is to link your email account to IFTTT. Then, you can do things like:
- Set up a recipe to automatically send email attachments to DropBox
- Set up a recipe with a filter that if an email is from a specific client, it is stored in a specific folder on DropBox
- Set up a recipe to save emails as text files and send them to DropBox another online storage provider for safe keeping.
Final Step – Clear What is Currently There to Zero
Your final step once you get all your filters, folders, and organization in place is to go through your inbox and clear it to zero. When you next sign into your account, you should have only brand new emails. To accomplish this, you will delete anything that you don’t need and file anything that you need to keep in the appropriate place. From this point forward, your filters, automated processes, and new email practices should keep you organized so that you don’t get that overwhelmed by email feeling again.
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