How to manage your email inbox

Like all working professionals, I get bombarded with emails every day. Its that dreaded feeling in the morning, when you open up your inbox, and there’s a bunch of emails waiting for you already. Before you get started at work, you are dealing with these new emails. Not to mention the ones that constantly keep coming into your inbox. At the end of the day, you feel that all you’ve done is answer emails and have done nothing productive. I found a great set of tips from NY Times on how to manage your inbox. 

Check it out here.

Their tips were: 

  • Archive
  • Check your inbox 3 times in the hour (i.e. every 20mins). I try to do it every 30 mins, but sometimes i just can’t help but keep it open
  • Turn off auto-notifications (this is the worst feature! keeps you hooked into email)
  • Respond immediately, if the response is going to be less than 2 mins
  • Longer than 2 mins response, flag it and come back later

I’m out like letting your inbox control you!

Matt

How to improve your email marketing: Part 1

One of the hats I wear at work is email marketing, amongst other talents I possess – SMS, Promotions, Microsites, Basketballer manager, Chocolate Scotch Finger connosieur.  On a regular basis, I speak with customers of all shapes and sizes about email marketing. I was talking today to one of my colleagues about some email marketing tips, some of which I want to share with you. I have decided to break these posts down into parts, since there is so much I can discuss about email marketing.

Some of these tips I’ve picked up along the way, from general observation, actual practice, from reading email marketing articles and a lot simply from being a recipient of email newsletters!

1.Plan your email marketing strategy

You must plan! You can’t be sending out random emails whenever you feel like it. There’s gotta be an email strategy in place in line with your overrall marketing and communication strategy. Plan for regular communication with your customers, stakeholders and subscribers. Because a failure to plan is a plan to fail!

You can take a longer term view and look at it on annual basis. Think about your peak periods, events, specific times where you need to ramp up communication. If you are a retailer, consider sales periods, downtimes, etc… If you plan to hold a major sale, what better way to drive people to the store then to send a quick email to your mailing list. Perhaps in periods of  expected quieter activity, send out more emails to drive sales and visits to your website.

Do not send out random emails in the dark. A lot of people actually do this, and you can only expect mixed results.

2. Aim to send a regular email

When someone knocks on your door, when do you open it? If its in the middle of the night, and you don’t know the person, are you going to open it? Probably not.

The same applies to email marketing. If you send a regular email on an expected day, you are more likely to get opens and clicks. It’s because I know its coming in and its a friendly party. If something random turns up, or on irregular basis, I’m more likely to ignore it or even opt out.

3. Test your email to an internal test list with different email clients

I can’t emphasise this enough. You may think you’ve done an absolute bang up job and created the perfect newsletter. But when you send it out, one of the pictures look funny or the text is distorted. Customer’s will laugh at you, your brand gets tarnished, it looks sloppy. In two seconds, your subscriber realises you stuffed up.

I suggest that you test extensively to a small group of people. Having more than one person means that you are less likely to miss something. Like a painter deeply involved in his artwork or a student engaged in his year long thesis, these people rarely see the flaws in their work. Because they are so deeply involved. You need a fresh pair of eyes to review it.

Ensure you send to a variety of email clients. Email clients are hotmail, gmail, yahoo, etc….. the reason you do this is because emails can render differently in hotmail as opposed to gmail. You need to ensure the email has been designed to look the same.

4. Keep your subject line short and simple, yet catchy

Sounds easy right? Some people recommend 6 words or less. There’s no hard or fast rule. But remember this: you only have a few seconds to impress someone to read an email in their inbox. An unattractive subject line means delete button.

5. People don’t read emails , they scan

I rarely read online articles in full online. The same applies to emails. Online attention spans are just really short. I look at the top, scroll to the bottom and read the ending. If something catches my eye, I’ll look deeper into it. That is why you cannot have large slabs of text in an email. You CANNOT expect people to read emails in full. Intrepid, puts out the longest email ever and I don’t even bother reading it. (I do not see how they won an email marketing award).

Make your email into bite sized chunks. Consider it as an appetiser, inviting people to find out more information. Have a lead in, a few paragraphs, and the rest on your website. Or just keep the content short.

6. Please, please do not write headings sideways

I’ve seen a few powerpoint slides and email newsletter with vertical headings. I’m sorry, but it looks very bad because they are not clear. Anything that makes me require extra effort to interpret, I don’t like – if it means I have to tilt my head sideways, fuggetaboutit!

7. Have a very clear understanding about email marketing prices

Some email marketing platforms charge access fees, record upload feed, monthly subscription fees. So understand how it works. The thing I like about the email marketing platform I support is that the pricing is pretty clear to the public. You know what you are paying.

Enquire about increased or decreased capacity. Most of the email marketing platforms work have some kind of per email volume basis i.e 1,000 email cost $x dollars. However, what happens when you require extra emails? If you want to send 5,000 more for your January specials, are you able to do so? And how much will it cost?

That is why you need to plan ahead. Understand if you are locked into a specific amount per month or if you can change your capacity.

8. Segmenting your email database to deliver relevant communication

Email marketers and advertisers always talk about segmenting your database. Why is this important? Well the more you know about your customers, the more you can personalise the communication and serve them relevant content.

If you can, break up your database into groups. For example, if I am working for a sports store, I might be able to split the database into people interested in soccer, basketball, football and rugby union. I don’t want to send basketball fans sales about soccer shinpads, because they are probably not interested. You have to gather information about them, through sales data, membership drives, instore and online promotions, inviting people to give you more details. You have to give people an incentive to provide their details. If they feel that they are getting a benefit from it, and also continue to recieve relevant communication from you, then that will build a healthy relationship with your customer.

9. Integrate other digital marketing efforts with your email marketing

Again, this feeds back into point 1. Email marketing cannot be considered in isolation to other marketing efforts. Online display advertising (ODA), search, websites, offline advertising, all tie in together.

10. Have a valid reply address

I abhor email communication which says “noreply@company.com”. It’s annoying because sometimes you DO want to reply to them. And if you do and do not realise it, it bounces back. You should have a valid email address. There may be customer complaints, sales inquiries, unsubscriptions, who knows. You will lose that opportunity of subscriber communication if have no return address. Why should you be able to send emails to them and they can’t send emails back to you?!!!

That’s all for now. I hope that will be helpful to your email marketing efforts. In times like now, it’s all about maximising your dollar spend and getting the best ROI (Return on Investment). Email marketing typically for every $1 spent, has an ROI of $57. Which is fantastic for a budget conscious time.

I’m out like spam,

Matthew Ho.

MC Yammer: Can’t Touch This

At work, I’ve been given a new responsibility – Yammer Evangelist. Yes, I know you are thinking, what is Yammer? And what the heck is an evangelist.

In short, Yammer is a text messaging application similar to Twitter or Facebook status updates. I’ve spoken about Yammer previously on this blog. It is geared more towards organisations / corporates because it allows for closed networks. Whereas Twitter is open to the world.

Much like Twitter, it allows you to write a short message and have a profile page. But the advantages of Yammer is that it is a closed group only open to those you invite or on your company’s email domain. For example, our Yammer is only open to Sydney employees of Next Digital. The advantage of Yammer is that you can broadcast to the group and get responses immediately. You can obviously do this over email as well but often there are too many emails flying around and some people are included and some are not. Also, its hard to keep track of conversations. Yammer groups the conversations together, and you can see the replies in a threaded view.

You can call me MC Yammer

You can call me MC Yammer

Yammer kicks ass because it reduces email clutter. It enables conversations to develop and it keeps responses short (KISS principle in full effect). While twitter only allows for 140 characters, Yammer has no limitation. You can also add attachments to Yammer posts, using browse function or you can drag and drop.

Other cool advantages of Yammer:

  • Ability to create subgroups: We have a group for basketball team, and this is where the real action happens. We discuss practice discussions, admin, jerseys, who’s playing, etc..It allows for collaboration and dynamic discussion.
  • Follow and unfollow people: Yammer actually will suggest to you who you should follow. You don’t have to follow everyone in your company’s network. By following certain people, those conversations will be prominent and reduces all the clutter/  spam out there in the Yammesphere. The suggestions from Yammer will get smarter over time, but they are supposedly based on the organisational hierarchy and reporting relationships, and who your colleagues are following.
  • Create a profile: similar to a company intranet, you can fill out your bio like education, career history, who you report to and who you work with. Not many people in my company have filled it out, but hopefully that will change.
  • Desktop app: Yammer is web service (like Twitter or facebook you can login). But those cool cats out there like myself have downloaded the desktop app and I keep it open all day. I guess its similar to Tweetdeck for Twitter or MSN browser. It uses Adobe Air, which is very slick.
  • The conversations are searchable and taggable. If you use a hashtag before a word e.g. #basketball , it will recognise that as a keyword and will tag that conversation. I can choose to follow all conversations that have #basketball. This is quite useful if you have a bunch of people talking about a specific client or an activity. Conversations are easily searchable using Yammer’s search engine.
  • Sync it with google chat in gmail. So if I’m using gmail, and I want to post something, I open the Yammer chat box and post from there.
  • Send posts & recieve posts via SMS – I have set it up but I don’t want to pay for it and I’m not sure if I want work stuff sent to my phone. But the option is there.
  • Creating a more open and collaborative culture within the workplace. People are posting one to many conversation points, and getting more opinions. I think its less inhibiting than sending out a group email. A lot of times, if I’m sending out an email to the whole office, I ‘ll look at it several times, edit and think will this be ok? Whereas a post on Yammer is a microblogging service, 140 characters is not going to kill me. I’m going to get a lot more useful suggestions asking an office of 30 people in the open then a small select group of people.
The Yammer Formula

The Yammer Formula

I believe that Yammer has taken Twitter’s model and corporatised it. It could be one of the few Twitter type services that actually can make money. I don’t see how Twitter itself can make money off the service it provides. But Yammer charges for customisation, secure domain access using https (hypertext transfer protocol over secure socket layer) thus encrypting it like a bank website, full admin access, etc…. It charges something like $1 per user, but larger groups are offered as a discount.

I think Yammer will work effectively in our office because its not that big. We have roughly 25-30 employees and only a 1/3 are active users. Once more people start getting more active, it will be even better. It will be interesting to see how it run in a much larger environment like say our Melbourne office which as 150 people. In general, experiments like this work better on a smaller scale and there is inherently less clutter to begin with and you know everyone on the network relatively well.

The role of the Yammer Evangelist

I’m still yet to get a really good definition of an evangelist that sticks in my mind. But I believe the purpose as described to me, is to encourage adoption of Yammer, become the guru/troubleshooter and answer people’s question, and lead in it use. I also have started sending out posts on how to optimise its use as well and to stay up to date with what’s happening by reading the blog/website/other sources and participating in external discussions.

Bringing the balloon pants into fashion

Bringing the balloon pants into fashion

I’ve actually read everything on the Yammer website as well as all the blog posts, so that part shouldn’t be hard. I’ve also commented on TechCrunch’s article on Yammer’s $5m capital raising as well as an article in the NY Times blog. You get a lot of interesting feedback from other users in external companies. For example, someone said you should encourage staff to post 2-3 times a day, and its a good way to see what everyone is up to. I might see someone working on a particular project which I read about last week, and then if I have a question I will shoot them a yammer post or IM (instant message them).

I’ll post another update in a month or so and discuss further developments.

I’m out like email clutter,

Matthew Ho.

p.s. Yammer also won TechCrunch top prize in 2008