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Thursday May 12, 2005 3:46 am

Make Email Work For You

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Productivity,

One thing that can get very overwhelming as far as business is concerned is email. Personally, I receive over 400 email messages per day. If I didn’t have a system in place to manage it all, I would quickly become a victim of information overload. Your email client can do a lot more than just display electronic messages sent to you from colleagues and friends. We take a look at a few ways to use email to save time, and bring you even more business, after the jump.

Now whether you are on a PC or Mac system, there are quite a few email clients available for you to choose from. On the PC side of things, you have the free Outlook Express, which functions minimally as far as email goes. Another free solution you can try is Mozilla Thunderbird. This is open source software that is feature-rich, and will remain free. If you want something with a lot of power which can be tied in to many other PC programs, Microsoft Outlook is the way to go. If you are on a Mac, Apple throws in their email client - Mail - with the operating system. Mail 2.0 is a great application which has Spotlight technology built-in. This allows you to find just about any email communication virtually an instant. Any search can be saved as a Smart Folder, which when clicked will only give you those emails pertinent to the original search query. Another strong Mac email client is Microsoft Entourage, which can also keep track of your tasks, calendar, and a few other items. One thing I didn’t like about Entourage was its poor handling of IMAP email accounts. There are other clients you can use on both platforms like Eudora and Lotus Notes, but I feel that they are very niche solutions.

Now that you have your mail client picked out, it is time to set it up correctly so that it works for you. Every one of the email clients mentioned above are able to do any of the following:

  • Signatures: A signature is a very valuable part of email branding. Be sure to find the signature setting in your client, and put in a simple close that will appear on any email that originates from your address. Include your name, title, URL, and phone number. Throw in a small logo if you are feeling fancy. It may seem simple, or even unimportant, but when someone wants to contact you after a few weeks they will likely check your email signature for the details.
  • Quoted Responses: Set up your email so that when you respond it displays the original email of the sender. It provides a point of reference as well as an easy way to answer questions. You can break the original email into sections, and type your responses beneath those sections. This beats trying to answer multiple questions in one jumbled paragraph and is easier on the eyes.
  • Autoresponders: Autoresponders are superb. You can set up a generic form response which will alert your visitors that you got their message, and provides a timeframe in which they can expect a response. This avoids a user from having to wonder whether you got their message, and if you will respond. Autoresponders are so versatile that you can program them to respond to people by sending them specific files. If you have a document you plan on making available, set up a dedicated email address to which people can write to request it. With a correctly configured response, your email client can attach the document to that response without you having to do any of the work.
  • Smart Folders: I think manually generated organizational folders may be going the way of the Dodo. The major email client providers now have an integrated Smart Folder / Search Folder feature that can give you anything you are looking for in an instant. One example of this is how I manage mail sent to me at Gear Live. I get such a vast array of topical messages each day, that it can be hard to sort through it all to find something. What I have done is created a search folder which will display to me only those emails sent to me from someone with gearlive.com in their email address. This allows me to quickly click on a folder which updates itself in realtime so that I can see what any Gear Live editors have sent me. This is scores better than the old method of setting up clumsy email rules to do the job.

As you can see, your email can be used in ways to make you a better business owner, time manager, and customer service representative. If you have any email tips to share, let us know about them in the comments.

- Andru Edwards

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