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10 5 Tools to Make Your Email Smarter, Faster, Better

I believe that email is with us for a while longer. Despite the attempts of well meaning app makers and social networks, email is not dead. In fact, I get a ton of email from those same social networks that were going to kill email off.

email

photo credit: tompagenet via photopin cc

Email, like it or not, is the one tool that pretty much everyone has, everyone uses and everyone checks on a daily basis, so business use of email isn’t going anywhere soon as an external communication tool.

I say external, because I believe some tools like Basecamp, Yammer and Quip do allow you to replace some internal email and work better in teams that need to collaborate, discuss and track frequent iterations of conversations.

The key to making email flow externally is to find tools that make it smarter, faster and better with the way you work.

Below are five such tools that I’ve worked into my email toolkit.

Contactualy – I suppose you could call Contactually a light CRM tool, but it really shines when it comes to managing relationships that happen via email. It features lots of email functionality such as scheduled sending and open tracking but it also helps you prioritize your most important relationships and put them in “buckets” that prompt you to stay in touch if you have not communicated with someone within a designated amount of time.

Rapportive – This is a pretty simple browser plugin that keeps contact and social details from anyone that sends you an email in the sidebar of your email reading pane. That way when you get an email from someone your know or don’t know, you’ve got some pretty handy information at your fingertips.

HubSpot Sales – This email addon from Hubspot does one thing very well – it tracks your emails and lets you know when someone has opened it. To me this helps in a couple areas – you know someone got your email and you know when they might be most receptive to a follow-up nudge or question.

Assitant.to – If you’re like me you’ve wasted a lot of time going back and forth with people trying to schedule meetings and phone calls. I don’t like those scheduling apps that make people go to a page, pick a time and add all their contact info. Assistint.to taps your calendar and allows you to send someone up to 3 times – they just pick one and it automatically creates calendar invites for both parties.

Gmail screenshot with Assistant.to meeting scheduling

Gmail screenshot with Assistant.to meeting scheduling

Boomerang – This add on allows you to get reminders when you want to resurface an email thread or if someone hasn’t responded in a set number of days. You can also write a bunch of emails in the evening and have them scheduled to send around coffee break time the next day.

I have all five of these services connected to my gmail account and rely on parts of each for my email workflow. I currently use Google Apps for Gmail and Chrome browser as each of these integrates with Gmail and all have Chrome support and extensions.

6 5 Meaningful Shifts Shaping Marketing Right Now

Trends are funny. In some cases they jump up out of nowhere and demand to be noticed. In other cases, in fact in most cases, they bubble up over a long period, kick around in other industries and finally get realized by a larger group as relevant to their current way of life.

Orbiter7 via Flickr

But trends are also terribly misleading because they are often overstated and simplified and tend to focus on a tool rather than the underlying behavior. Think about when Twitter got hot. Everyone talked about the tool, but few realized that it was simply the embodiment of a way to communicate that people were looking for. Understanding that shift allowed some to take advantage of the behavior rather than the tool and this put them miles ahead of the trend.

Today I want to talk about five shifts that I see making an impact right now on both the way we go to market and the way the market comes to us.

1) Little Commitments

Generic information overload is causing a real bottleneck for marketers. We’ve been told over and over again to produce content, but now the competition for content is choking, rather than informing, our prospects.

Our prospects don’t have or won’t take the time to learn all about our great solutions even if it’s in their best interest to do so. Our job now is to offer them little pieces of information that move them ever so slightly in the direction of personalizing their experience with us.

Tools like the pop up survey from Kiss Insights, a guided content path created by using WordPress plugin Survey Funnel, a guided tour using a tool like WalkMe or the ability to present dynamically relevant content through a tool like GetSmartContent will become increasingly important as ways to filter our own content and create more personalized trust building experiences.

2) Video SEO

One of the most dramatic changes in Google’s indexing of local business pertains to video. Right now a local business has a better chance of ranking for highly relevant search terms using YouTube hosted, highly optimized videos than any other approach.

Smart marketers are serializing their most important keyword phrases and frequently asked questions using video and optimizing these videos through specific file names, descriptions, keywords and transcripts.

Using a tool like Traffic Geyser also makes it easier to spread these videos to other video sharing sites in order to garner further traffic and links.

3) Visual Scanning

One needs looks no further than the current hype of Pinterest or the $1Billion dollar sale of photo sharing site Instagram to witness the visual scanning behavior impact. These sites soared in popularity in large part due to information overload and the stimulation caused by visual interest.

It is far easier to look at a thousand pictures than to consume a thousand words.

To me this doesn’t simply mean jump on the Pinterest bandwagon. It signals a behavior that must be adopted rather than a tool. We must start offering visual scanning of our brands by using images in all that we do.

Get in the habit of taking photos of your world and your customer’s world each and every day.

When we post a status update or amplify a recent blog post on Facebook upload an image and describe the image rather than simply using the blog post thumbnail. In addition to added visual impact, Facebook favors images over most other content and will show your post to more followers.

Use a tool like Postagram that allows you to turn Instragram photos into higher quality photo postcards. Imagine the impact of meeting with a client, snapping a photo and sending them a personalized photo thank you card. Or what about sending your client a postcard of the product you’re building just for them?

4) The Digital Persona

Market research folks have long talked about uncovering the rare combination of factors that lead to fully understanding what a market needs, wants, and believes. Much of this information can be gleaned from demographic and psychographic research, but few things have produced more relevant research into the actual demonstrated behavior of a market than the trail of clues our prospects leave every day online.

In many cases researches now have verified proof that what markets say and what they do online are not always the same thing and this important digital aspect must be one that is considered in the make up of our ideal customer profile.

At the very least we must add browser plugins like Rapportive that give us social media data on the people we interact with to our communication toolset.

We must make our CRM systems understand social behavior and score, nurture and move our leads forward using this data.

We must start to create prospect and client personas that include digital behavior clues.

5) ROBO

Few things have had a more dramatic impact on local business than the behavior to research online to buy offline (ROBO) that is practiced by an approaching 90% of all adults as a way to find local products and services.

What this means is that we must expand the way we think about our website far beyond the means to provide information. Our website must become a tool to drive online searchers and visitors offline into our stores, into our presentation and into our Meetups.

Our websites must feature local call to action tools such as downloadable coupons, samples and trials. We must add and use click to call, schedule or chat functionality that allows for instant engagement.

We must think of ways to create our own offline communities and build these communities with online tools such as LinkedIn Groups, MeetUps or even creating our own leads and referral groups using a tool like LocalBase.

Each new and accepted tactic brings with it corresponding changes in behavior and impact that can only be seen by paying close attention to the underlying shifts rather than focusing on the latest hype.

9 5 Ways to Use Social Media and Your Online Presence to Drive People Offline

No matter what your business sells, how it sells it or how and where people buy you it, people are going online to find it, pure and simple. That’s as true for those one of kind hand made earrings as it is for the spa and auto repair shop in their neighborhood.

Explore The Bruce via Flickr

And, it’s increasingly true for the local insurance provider, landscaper, plumber, attorney and tax professional.

So, what does this mean for the local small business? You’ve got to start thinking about your online presence as a central tool for driving people offline and into your store, sales presentation, meeting, demonstration, appointment or evaluation.

Below are five ways to think about your online activity as an offline opportunity generator.

1) Online calls to action

When people do find and visit your site make it easy for them to use your website to get a free pass, coupon or trial product.

Enable tools like click to call or chat from Olark, so they can get in touch right now and get their burning questions asked

Put a tool like GenBook on your site they can find a time and schedule appointment without needing to call.

Make sure that you have turn by turn directions and links to maps so they can find your business and even send the directions to their smart phone.

2) O2O advertising

Most people run ads to get people buy, what if you thought about your online advertising as a way to simple drive people offline – O2O?

Create local campaigns using Google Adwords that drive people to your website to take advantage of the calls to action, such a the free pass or coupon, that I discussed in the previous point.

Make sure that your Google Places page is complete and compelling and consider the coupon and advertising options available for this tool.

Look into Facebook targeted ads for your calls to action. You can target local Facebook folks all the way down to targeting fans of your competitors.

To make your O2O advertising even more effective create local landing pages for each campaign or even neighborhood you are targeting.

3) Networked networking

Offline networking is still a great way to create and build potential relationships, but you can really amplify this tactic when you add some simple online tactics to your networking efforts.

When you connect offline with a prospect at say a Chamber event, move to also connect online and watch how much faster you can build a relationship.

Employ Social CRM tools like Rapportive or Nimble so you can easily connect the social profiles of anyone you meet to their record. This will make it much easier to learn how to connect.

Look at tools like MeetUp that make it easy to create offline events and gatherings using an online marketing system.

4) Local social groups

Most social networks give you the ability to create groups. Some organizations have had tremendous success by creating and facilitating local, special interest groups on networks like LinkedIn.

The key here is to think “interest group” and not something that’s clearly a promotional tool for your business. If you can create an industry group or some other niche topic that allows your customers to explore and expand an interest they have, you’ve hit on a formula that’s very potent.

5) Online and on the go

Increasingly, our prospects are not only online they are mobile while doing so. There are some very creative ways to take advantage of this fact and drive people with great buying intent offline.

First off make sure you claim your location on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter. This way you can enhance the details and make sure people using geo location services can check in at the right place.

Create and test an offer on a service like Foursquare that can help highlight your business when someone checks in at another nearby business.

Look into the group coupon tools like Groupon, Google Offers or Living Social, but make sure you’re ready to capture the leads these programs produce in a way that allows you to turn a low profit sale into a long term customer.

Think about ways to create check-in games that you could use as part of a promotion. Get a group of strategic partners to participate and offers special deals for people that have checked in at a number of your partners on Foursquare of that take a photo of their purchases at a number of partners and posted it to Twitter or Instagram.

As you can see, the way you can employ this kind of thinking is limited only to your imagination, but there’s no denying the importance and effectiveness of this strategy.

29 Using Gmail as a Simple CRM Tool

CRM systems are great and powerful marketing workhorses capable of funneling leads into campaigns, automating nurturing routines, tracking conversion metrics and interfacing with ordering and accounting systems to create a complete sales machine, but sometimes you just need to keep track of who you contacted and when.

Using Google’s free suite of tools you can create a nice lightweight CRM system with just a few tweak along the way. Since email has become one of the primary forms of contact, and particularly if you’re already using Gmail, exploring options that allow you expand on the tool you use the most might be the fastest route to creating a useable CRM like option.

Contacts

Gmail comes with a contact database that will automatically store information on anyone you add or correspond with. You can add lots of information beyond email and name and upload contact information from other systems and files.

This isn’t the prettiest interface, but it has just enough functionality to work. Once you add a contact your email exchanges will be searchable and you can add them to a task or appointment in Google Calendar to create even more searchable data for the record.

Groups

One of the keys to using the Gmail contact database as a mini CRM tool is to use the contact groups function. By creating groups in your contacts page for things like customers, prospects, journalists, vendors and strategic partners you can effectively sort your contact list by function and even create mail campaigns to these groups.

Nested Folders

Another way to keep track of key information in Gmail is to use email folders for your key contact groups and add the nested folders function found in labs to create subfolders. So, if you have a client folder, then you can create a folder specifically for each key client underneath the client folder.

Then when you have email come in from a client you can use the move to function to store the email in the appropriate folder so you can access it more easily. You can also pull up any contact record and see recent emails to and from the contact.

Rapportive

Free 3rd party add-ons can also help beef up your new CRM system. Browser plugin Rapportive is a tool that adds social media data to your contact records. With this plugin added you automatically see LinkedIn or Facebook information on you contacts or anyone that sends you an email in the right sidebar of the Gmail screen.

You can also follow and connect with contacts on Twitter or LinkedIn directly from the Gmail interface. This is a great way to get a bigger picture of what your contacts are doing and have instant information on people that send you emails.

Boomerang

Another 3rd party plugin you might consider adding is Boomerang. This handy plugin gives your emails some smarts. When you send an email, for example, you set it remind you if you don’t hear back from the recipient in a set number of days. Or you set an email in your inbox to go away and put itself back in on a certain day.

Many of the functions in Boomerang allow you to set-up and operate your own little tickler file system based entirely on emails sent and received.

App Marketplace

Of course there are lots of additional apps that integrate with Gmail and the entire suite Google Apps found in the App Marketplace. For example, the Mavenlink app turns the system described here into a full collaboration and project and task management suite.

Full-featured tools are great, but sometimes a simple solution you can master and use in the way you’re already working is just the ticket.

13 Weekend Favs June Nineteen

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr.

Canyonlands National Park
Image credit: fry_theonly – Canyonlands National Park

Good stuff I found this week

Rapportive – Simple CRM that bundles into Google’s Gmail. Allows you to add social network information and customer information right into your Gmail contact database.

Entrepreneur’s Annual 100 Brilliant Ideas – Great list of innovations and ideas from Entrepreneur magazine.

Elevator Pitch Builder – Interesting tool from Harvard Business School that walks you through the process of creating a compelling pitch for your business.