BLOG. SMART PRACTICAL BUSINESS ADVICE

Email Needs to Do More or Die

Email has changed communication as we know it, but not always for the better. It needs to do more to be truly effective, but until that happens, the WORKetc add-ins for Gmail and Outlook will pick up the slack.

WORKetc Effective Email CRM for Gmail

I used to do this thing with new email that I’m sure at least some of you have also done before. Whenever a new email arrives in my inbox, I’d read it and, if it’s something that doesn’t require an immediate answer, I’d mark it as unread.

Those unread emails acted as a sort of to-do list. At the start of the next day, I’d go over them again and reply, delete, or mark unread as necessary.

I was all kinds of pleased with myself when I thought of that little trick, although I didn’t realize back then that it was already a pretty prevalent tip for email management.

It worked for a while, too. That is, until I realized that by doing it, I myself was actively helping make my inbox flooded without actually getting anything done.

This was well before Gmail introduced the current tabbed UI, so all the new emails I got—marketing spam, notifications, etc.—were getting mixed in with those emails that I had specifically added to my virtual to-do list.

It got harder and harder to keep track of the important ones—plus, leaving them as unread was basically the same as just putting them off. I wasn’t actively doing anything to address them; just tricking myself into thinking that I was still being productive.

It was, in other words, entirely useless for me.

Now, I love email. It’s hard to imagine how, in a world without it, a small business like WORKetc would have the same kind of global reach it has right now.

A good 99% of our support interactions are conducted over email, for example, and a sizeable percentage of the new users we get each month heard of us by way of our newsletter.

So yes, it’s pretty safe to say that WORKetc wouldn’t be what it is without email acting as one of its strongest foundations.

Still… as useful as it is, my experience with email management has made me not quite able to shake the idea that email, as it is, really needs to die.

The Death of Email

Email has been around for well over 40 years now, almost twice longer than the internet. And throughout those 40-odd years, people would regularly proclaim that email is either dying or just outright dead.

None of those doom-and-gloom predictions ever came to pass. In fact, the total number of worldwide email accounts has actually grown steadily year after year.

The Radicati Group even predicts that in 2017 alone, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day will reach 269 billion. The research firm expects that number to balloon to 319.6 billion by
the end of 2021.

So email is definitely alive and well. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to die, however.

When Your Inbox Is Not Your Friend

WORKetc Gmail CRM

As it is, email has become a double-edged sword. It’s one of the easiest and quickest ways to communicate, even with somewhere halfway round the globe.

That fact, however, can quickly lead to email ping-pong. You email someone, they reply, you reply, they reply, you cc in another person, that person replies, you reply, the other person from before replies…

Just one email can very easily start snowballing into a massive, unwieldy, and frankly useless thread cluttering up your inbox alongside the couple of hundred unread business and marketing emails already in it.

At that point, you’re stuck trying to get to that near-mythical “inbox zero” state instead of actually doing something more productive.

That time’s not insubstantial, either. According to research from McKinsey, the average worker spends 28% of their work week just dealing with their email.

Do you get paid for checking email? No—not unless you’re in customer service, anyway.

And that’s why I believe email needs to die. It needs to go through a rebirth that will turn it into a collaboration / communication tool that actually helps people be productive, instead of decreasing productivity.

But, as the numbers I mentioned before show, that’s not likely going to happen anytime soon. What we can do right now is make use of the many email productivity tools available online.

And since this is the WORKetc blog, after all, I’m taking that right there as my segue to talking about our Gmail CRM gadget and Outlook plugin.

Email Needs to Do More

Not counting mobile clients, Gmail and Outlook remain giants when it comes to email client usage. We’ve already established that people spent way too much time in their email inboxes–time that would be better spent doing something actually productive.

What the WORKetc Gmail add-on and Outlook plugin do is let you turn that wasted time into highly productive time. These gadgets let you manage pretty much your entire business without you having to ever leave your inbox.

Let’s say you own a mobile software development studio, for example. You’re checking your inbox one day and notice a massive sales opportunity.

Normally, what you’d do is reply to that email, switch to your CRM, create a new contact and a sales lead, and then assign that lead to your sales team so they can work towards locking it down.

You may also have to copy and paste the email text to your new lead’s description just so whoever handles it next knows what the potential client wants.

That’s multiple steps across at least two separate apps. There’s a better and easier way to do it, however.

Making Email Effective and Productive

The WORKetc Gmail and Outlook plugins let you do all of the above from right inside your email inbox. No need to switch to the CRM at all.

So in our mobile app development scenario above, all you’d have to do is reply and then turn that email into a person contact, a company contact, and a sales lead in one go–plus assign it to your top salesperson and attach the original email to the new lead at the same time, while you’re at it.

This means you shave precious minutes off of the whole process, and when you’re running a small business, every minute counts. It may seem inconsequential at first glance, but the time you save adds up; that’s time you’re free to spend further growing your business.

Turning an email into a contact and a sales lead in one go is just the tip of the iceberg. The Gmail add-on and Outlook plugin also let you:

  • update a project by attaching an email plus any attachments it has,
  • create a new project from scratch and attach the email to it,
  • create a new support ticket and assign to someone in your team to resolve,
  • log a timesheet from an email or enter a new invoice item,
  • simply attach the email and attachments to a contact record.

Making use of the Gmail and Outlook plugins is one of the very first things we advise new users to do. You can enable either (or both) of them in your WORKetc account by going to Settings > Apps & Integrations.

Email may be one of the biggest time and productivity wasters you have in your small business, but with the Gmail and Outlook plugins you can start turning that wasted time into highly productive hours.

Which feature of the Gmail and Outlook plugins have you found most useful? Do you use it to turn emails into leads, new contacts, or projects?

  • Thanks for the informative post, Dan. I love how my Gmail Gadget interacts with WORKetc. This functionality just helped me address a typical work situation.

    A few weeks ago, one of my specialists said he’d like to create a one-day workshop similar to what was described in several emails he’d sent me. I immediately created a Project in WORKetc and attached his emails to the project. This wasn’t just any Project though; it was a Project/Workshop Template that includes a Gantt Chart of all the steps needed to build, run & support one of our workshops.

    Today, when I decided to begin building the workshop, I went right to the WORK etc project I’d created where his previous emails were listed in the Activity Stream. I was quickly able to access those emails and begin building the workshop.

    A team of five people in four different locations will manage every step of our workshop process using the WORKetc project I created. Emails, attendees, expenses, invoices, income, notes, discussions and more will all be attached to this project.

    This is just one example of how I use the WORKetc Gmail Gadget to put emails in their place!

  • Donna Grindle

    I totally agree with the “marking it unread” theory that used to work – or I thought it did! Now, each of my emails are handled either by connecting it to something in WORKetc and/or using my other email add-on app, ActiveInbox.

    My emails now work like a to-do list but only through using those tools that work WITH the emails. Occasionally, the day gets away from me and I can’t keep up but I still have things organized enough to get control again fairly quickly.

    You are so right that the email of the past is no longer a working tool. It was created to duplicate the old school paper memos in a mailroom inbox. I am one of those old enough to remember that way of doing things. Even then, those memos were not used to actually manage tasks properly. No wonder it didn’t work when tried to duplicate those stacks of paper on your desk.

    Tools, like WORKetc, are the way we make those old memo concepts useful and powerful in a digital world.

  • Depending on what you use, some email programs now allow you to snooze email, which is like marking as unread on steroids (you hide it from your inbox, and it ‘resends’ at a future time of your choosing). It’s helpful for those ‘important, but not important this second’ emails.

    That all being said, if it’s easy enough to do everything right now, and get it all into WORK[etc] with no fuss, why not do it?

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