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Outsourcing: How to “Let it Go”

Outsource Definition Closeup Showing SubcontractingCopyrights probably forbid me from adding the lyrics, but I’m sure if I use the phrase “Let it Go” and suggest you think about recent Disney movies — well the song will be stuck in your head (see below).

I’ve written about outsourcing in the past (see Related Articles), but I think this is a good time for areview.

Today we’ll talk about why to outsource, next time we’ll talk about finding good people to work with, and after that, we’ll talk about costs.Stress. Woman stressed
Most of my readers are busy solopreneurs or small business owners, and most of then can define their life using one word — BUSY!!!

I know the feeling. Somewhat overwhelmed, somewhat confused (what do I do NEXT).

(more…)

How to clean up your inbox

Mailboxes On Monitors Showing Emails Inbox And Online Communication

Mailboxes On Monitors Showing Emails Inbox And Online Communication

An email in box seems innocent enough. It’s just bits and bytes in a digital format that you look at a few times a day to see if anything important has popped up.

  • BUT — did you ever open your inbox and realize that you haven’t really cleaned it in a while (like years)?
  • Did you ever open your inbox and realize you have no clue how to prioritize, not the 50 new messages you’ve received today, but the 50 new messages you’ve received today plus the 50 new you’ve received each day for the last 50 days?

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to muddle through way too many messages.

One idea (developed by Merlin Mann) that has taken hold over the past few years is Inbox Zero:

This is probably a great goal to aspire to, but realistically speaking, there are people I know (heck I’m one of them) that might give up on something if it seems unattainable. So I’ve always been about actually DOING 85% instead of procrastinating if I think 100% is too difficult or time consuming.
evie quote
With that in mind, what are some TIPS for attaining Inbox Manageable:
  • Limit the time you spend reading email. Check email a few times a day (for longer periods of time) instead of many times a day. Perhaps pick 3 or 4 times a day you’ll just muddle through your mail instead of checking every 5 minutes. (Though I’ll admit to doing that at times – perhaps if a friend has run off to the hospital because a new grand-baby is about to appear).
  • Turn off notifications. Even if you don’t instantly jump to check what’s happening when you hear a “ding” or a “buzz,” you are still slightly distracted by it.
  • Your Inbox is NOT your To-Do list. You can make a separate folder for ToDo – or “Items Needing Action,” but don’t keep these “front and center”
  • Touch it once. Many organizational gurus suggest “touching it once” for paper that comes into your home (file it or toss it or act on it). The same works for electronic communication. Look at it and decide where it needs to go. If it’s something that needs to go on your schedule, put it on your calendar and delete the email.
  • User folders. Using filters you can create folders, and send mail from certain parties directly to a folder. In Gmail (and I assume in other email applications), if you have a folder with something “new” in it, you can look at it when you have the time.
  • Don’t use folders. One suggestion I’ve run across is to only use “inbox,” “trash,” “draft,” “sent,” and “archive.” With current search engines, you’re often able to find a message if you can use the proper search parameters.
    (Yes – I know that’s the exact opposite of what I said above – but your mileage may vary on any of these points, so take what works and leave the rest).
  • Make subject lines clear. This helps if you’re looking for something later, because it makes things easier to identify.
  • PICK UP THE PHONE. Sometimes you can be more productive by spending a few minutes talking to someone than going back and forth by email.
  • Print – or print to PDF. For myself, for information I need to retain from clients, I will “print” an email to PDF, and save the email in my client folder. Sometimes that’s the best place for me to find it.
  • Kill ’em while you’re killing time. Two years ago Gmail rolled out the tabs. (I wrote this at the time about the Gmail changes). I love the “new” (is it “new” if it’s two years old?) Gmail tabs, but sometimes I ignore things in my tabs. Sometimes you really need to go through and remove things, but this is great use for down time, for instance while you’re in the cell phone lot at the airport or while you’re waiting in line at the DMV.
Gain control of your email and don’t let other people prioritize your day.

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 8 – the Resources

Things found while looking for other things   

Mail Box On Notebook Shows Email Inbox And New Messages

Mail Box On Notebook Shows Email Inbox And New Messages

A review of the previous posts on this topic. Click on any of these links to read previous posts.

  1. Build your list — define your target email audience
  2. Create Freebie Offer
  3. Promoting your sign-up form
  4. Remember CAN-Spam
  5. Set up your program
  6. Create your email
  7. Test and Track

Yes, this is number 8 of a 7 part series. (Think of it this way – if I give 8 posts for a 7 part series, I might end up doing 75 minutes of work and charging for 60 – it’s been known to happen).

The main purpose of this post is so that all the resources I’ve found while doing this series are in one place. (I tend to do a great deal of research for my blog – Google is my “bestie”)

Review and Resource Link

1. Build your list — define your target email audience. We started by pointing out that (despite reports to the contrary) email is NOT dead. We had you think about who you want to be sending email to. Before you start, you need to think about your WHY — why are you sending mail, and who are you sending it to.

Balloons With Free Shows Freebies and Promotions Online

Balloons With Free Shows Freebies and Promotions Online

2. Create Freebie Offer Many people have a valuable free offer when you sign up for their email list. I listed some examples of what people I know are doing. You want to give something that showcases your products and services but you ALSO want to give something that addresses a pain point for your clients. The Hubspot article listed below had some great ideas for your free offer.

ARTICLES

3. Promoting your sign-up form There was discussion of some of the places you could put your sign up form, and a reminder that if you are collecting names for your email list (say through a drawing or speaking engagement or a sign-up sheet at a trade show) you are REQUIRED to mention that you will be adding someone to your mailing list.

ARTICLES

Computer generated 3D photo rendering.

Computer generated 3D photo rendering.

4. Remember CAN-Spam While we were reading the CAM-SPAM rules, we took a nap. (Seriously – just typing CAN-SPAM makes me want to nap). This is probably the most boring post of this series, but it’s highly important (if you don’t have a lawyer on retainer). Anti-spam laws protect us (somewhat) from unwanted emails. If you are using any of the major email services, they automatically help with compliance to CAN-SPAM in the setup (where you’re required to give a physical address) and allowing people to opt-out. You are still responsible for complying with correct header information, not using deceptive subject lines, and monitoring what others are doing on your behalf.

ARTICLES

5. Set up your program This is a part that I consider great fun. I do offer this as a separate “one off” service for clients that are not retainer clients (because I love doing this so much). I compared some of the email services (and not ONCE did I mention a preference for MailChimp – no, I mentioned a preference for MailChimp more than once). I also added my affiliate link for MailChimp just in case you want to set it up through MailChimp. I mention that it is an affiliate because, well one I am basically an honest and transparent person, but ALSO because it’s required by CAN-Spam (see step 4). There were some bullet points on template design and links to some tutorial pages. I also took a few digs at iContact, which I don’t much care for, but I’ll now state that they have had some recent changes making it slightly less annoying.

ARTICLES

OTHER

MailChimp tutorial page

Constant Contact tutorial page

6. Create your email We reviewed some high points for successful email campaigns (including short concise paragraphs, mentioning special offers, and adding personal stories). I also gave 4 examples of some newsletters I am working on or have worked on.

ARTICLES

Analytics

Analytics

7. Test and Track We reviewed what you should be measuring and what industry reports say might not match your ideal clients. Check your open rates, your click through rates, your bounce rates, and your unsubscribe rates. (As a side note, I’d like to point out that not all unsubscribes are a bad thing – some people just might not be your ideal client.)

ARTICLES

8. Finally –

Your main goal is consistent, clear, concise, customer-focused communication. 

If you’re looking for someone to help you set up and maintain an email list, or if you’re just looking for someone to coach you through one or two steps, feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation session.

MeetWithMe_blue

 

Tuesday Tip – New Gmail Features

Tuesday Tip – New Gmail features

Anyone that follows this blog knows that I’m a Google Girl – if Google has made it, at some point in time I’ve used it. While it can be difficult to keep track, I try to keep up with what’s new in Gmail, so naturally my GGG (Google Geek Girl) got all excited when I ran across the first article listed in Related Articles below.  The new things discussed (and you can read the article for details) include:
  • Emojis (cute – but not necessary)
  • No More Attachment Limits (well – it’s a Google Drive integration)
  • Pinterest in your Inbox (which I haven’t played with yet – but it sounds like it would be great for visual people)
  • New Google Contacts (which MERGES contacts so you can have ALL of someone’s information in ONE file – instead of duplicates – I’ve used it to clean my contact list)
  • Revert to Old Chat (instead of Hangout — YAY – sometimes I’m just not up for visual conversation)
    And last (on my list, not theirs) but NOT least,
  • UNDO SENT EMAILS a 30-second window in which to recall an email. (Not that I’ve EVER noticed a tyop two laet)

  Related articles:

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 7 – the penultimate

Test and Track    

ID-10050644Yes – I know the title says “penultimate” and penultimate means “last but one in a series.” I plan to follow up in the next post with a complete list of resources so even though this is #7 of 7, it’s still the penultimate.

We’ve come an incredibly long way – from defining your target audience to remembering not to Spam people to actually writing email. Testing and tracking is an important last step because you need to see how things are working.

What should you be measuring?

  • Open rates (the % of subscribers that open an email)
  • Click through rates (the % of subscribers that click through to a webpage)
  • Conversion rates (% of unique visitors that convert to a desired action – sale, membership, event registration)
  • Bounce rates (% of undelivered emails)
  • Unsubscribe rates (% of users that apt out).

One way of testing is to do an A/B split test where you send different segments of your list almost the same email with slight differences (perhaps a subject heating, or perhaps a day or week or time of day sent) to see which produces more open rates (this is detailed below in the “Related articles” section.)

While I can’t give exact statistics and industry averages on the following, I’ve noticed two things from personal observation:

  • From lists I’ve managed, I’ve noticed that the more consistently email is sent, the better the open rates.
  • INDIVIDUAL lists do not necessarily follow industry averages.

So even if some industry rag says to send messages at a “best time,” this might not necessarily hold true on your specific list.

Test – test subject headings, test different send times – or not, but REMEMBER

Consistent, clear, and customer focused communication is always a good option. 

Related articles

Finally, a review of the previous posts on this topic.

  1. Build your list — define your target email audience.
  2. Create Freebie Offer
  3. Promoting your sign-up form
  4. Remember CAN-Spam
  5. Set up your program
  6. Create your email
  7. Test and Track
Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 6

Create Your Email   

Girl Asleep On Her Notebook ComputerI think this is where most people have difficulty. Looking for ideas to write about, looking for images, trying to make sure that the spelling and grammar are correct.

Since I don’t believe anyone could cover all the aspects of great email campaigns in one blog post (best practices recommend that blog posts aren’t too long), I’ll try to hit on a few high points.

  • Grab their attention at the start – have an attention grabbing first sentence.
  • Have short concise paragraphs
  • Remember to add some interesting personal stories when appropriate
  • Have a clear call to action (best practices recommend buttons)
  • Include links – to your blog, to your social media, and to your website.
  • Include events, webinars, new offerings, specials on old offerings.
  • Write TO YOUR CLIENTS. Pay more attention to what your audience wants to HEAR and less attention to what YOU want to SAY.

Finally, I understand that some businesses are cash strapped, and I understand that some people are highly independent and want to do it all, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out for help when you need it (heck, I only get paid if people need help so I’m a big fan here.) If you need some names of some great copywriters, feel free to contact me. If you have any recommendations you’d like to make, please leave them in the comments.

At the VERY VERY end of this post (if you care to keep scrolling down) I have some “recipes” from some newsletters that I edit and that I read.

Related articles

Finally, a review of the previous (and upcoming) posts on this topic.

  1. Build your list — define your target email audience.
  2. Create Freebie Offer
  3. Promoting your sign-up form
  4. Remember CAN-Spam
  5. Set up your program
  6. Create your email
  7. Test and Track

What others are doing

Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant – Typically, my newsletter consists of a short paragraph of a personal nature, an excerpt from a recent blog post (with an invitation to continue reading and a link to my blog post – to drive traffic back to my website), a segment I call “Other Great Reads” that are articles related to my “topic of the week” (or as the spirit moves me), and sometimes a promotion about a package.

Michelle Smith, Z and B Consulting – Michelle will typically have a short personal paragraph, an excerpt from a recent blog post, promotional information (when she has a promotion going on), she sometimes includes a “where’s Michelle” segment, where she talks about different networking events she’s attending. Michelle regularly tries to spotlight a client or business partner.

Evie Burke, One Insight Closer – Has a very similar plan, with a short personal paragraph, she will often post an entire blog post (but with a link if you wish to comment), promotional information (when she has a promotion going on), a “where’s Evie” segment, where she shares thedifferent networking events she’s attending. Evie typically will have a segment called “Evie Recommends” where she promotes a colleague or client. (She’s really good about that).

International Coach Federation Chicago – Has a “letter from the president” that spells out information going on in any given month (Murray will often lead with a quote). The next month’s Chapter Meeting is listed, with a short excerpt about the meeting and a link to the eventbrite page so people can register for the meeting. In the sidebar we list all of the small group meetings and the ICF Core Competency Call, and there is an area called “Coach Chat” where there might be a reminder if dues are due and articles of interest to coaches.

(Transparency — I edit my newsletter, also the newsletter for Z and B Consulting, and also the ICF Chicago newsletter)

All of the above have links to social media and websites, and social share buttons. (If you look at last week’s article I talked about templates, the “links” and “shares” can be set up with the template).

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 5

Setting up the Program  

One of the reasons I’ve decided to start focusing more on communication in my own business is because THIS is what I would call

THE FUN PART!!!!!!!!

ID-10050644Okay — the first part of this might not be fun because you will need to decide where you’re going to be setting this up.

You have to choose which mail platform you should use. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of them (MailChimp), so it might be difficult to decide which one to use (MailChimp).

I’ve worked with AWeber, iContact, and Mailchimp. When I was using AWeber (over a year ago), I found it rather clunky to use (there’s a technical term for you, “clunky”). It seemed as though it would be easier to work with for people who have strong html skills. I’ve heard that it’s gotten more user-friendly, and AWeber does have a 24-hour support team, so if you’re struggling, there is help at hand. MailChimp does not have 24-hour support, but personally I find it much more intuitive. I use iContact on a regular basis, but since my mother told me, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”* I won’t say another word about iContact. (I’m not mentioning Constant Contact because I do not have any hands-on experience with it).

Once you’ve determined which email service you will go with (MailChimp), you can log in and start setting up your service.

mctemplatesThere are differences between each of the applications, but the basic steps are the same. You’ll create a template. THIS is where you actually go back and look at information you look at in Step 1 (remember that homework I gave you?) You started thinking about your ideal client. When you are building your template, keep that person in mind. While you want this to be something that appeals to YOU you also want it to appeal to YOUR CLIENT (and that person is more important.

From personal experience and from seeing what others have done, you want to get your FIRST template right the FIRST time (because once you’ve sent that first email – you might use the same template over and over for months or years). Luckily, for the first template, you have as much time as you choose to allow yourself. (But don’t wait until it’s perfect, or it may never get done).

A few bullet points on the template design:

  • Branding – you’ll want to use your logo, you’ll also want to plan to have your template go with your branding colors.
  • Social Follow – you’ll want to make it easy for your readers to follow you on the various social media platforms on which you are ACTIVE. (Yes, I have a Pinterest page; no it’s not listed in my email because I look at it maybe once every few months if I’m trying to hunt a recipe)
  • Social Shares – in case people want to SHARE your email (because your mailings will include content that people WANT to share)
  • Contact Information – yes, they can hit reply – but you might want them to be able to phone you or find you in other ways.
  • Website – you ALWAYS want to drive traffic to your website (after all, this is where there’s a lot more great information about YOU and YOUR products and services — make it EASY to find).

Call me a geek, but I LOVE to do platform setups, even when I’m fighting to figure out how and where to fit everything (maybe even especially when I’m trying to figure out how and where to fit everything).

Once you’ve got your first template set up – make some kind of short, draft email and test drive it. Send it to yourself, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your coach, your accountability partner and anyone you know who will be non-judgmental AND honest (but gentle). Once you get that set up … well we’ll talk about that next time.

Both MailChimp and Constant Contact have tutorial pages that you can access even if you do not have an account. You can look at these pages and get some ideas about setting things up.

MailChimp tutorial page

Constant Contact tutorial page

In the “Related articles” section, I’ve included a few articles that compare various email marketing services. If you’re thinking of getting started, I’d suggest reading the articles. Since these are opinion articles, I’d ever encourage reading the comments section as sometimes people will disagree in the comments (and you want a wide range of opinions).

ON THE OTHER HAND – I was reading an article by Tania Lombrozo at NPR about how we store information in other people’s brains (Storing Information in Other People’s Heads) and I find this is very common. If I have a question about jazz music, I might call my friend Deb. If I have an obscure law, question I might ask my friend Brian or my friend Linda. Once I needed a new camera and I bought the same one that my friend Tim had just bought. So if you want to take advantage of the information in MY brain – I’d say MailChimp. I find it easier to use, easier to track, and it’s really easy to “share” if you want to add a user. There are 4 different levels, viewer (can access reports) author (can edit but not send campaigns), manager (full access except user management and list exports), and admin (full access), and if you ever want to remove one of these people, you don’t even need to figure out a new password.

Since I’ve made it clear that I favor MailChimp, here is my affiliate link. Powered by MailChimp

Related articles

Finally, a review of the previous (and upcoming) posts on this topic.

  1. Build your list — define your target email audience.
  2. Create Freebie Offer
  3. Promoting your sign-up form
  4. Remember CAN-Spam
  5. Set up your program
  6. Create your email
  7. Test and Track

*Actually that quote is from Thumper’s mother in the movie Bambi, but let’s not split “hares”.

Female looking at envelope icons image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net