Cold Email vs. Spam: The Salt Test

Make sure your cold emails don’t have any lingering briny aftertaste.

Do you get a lot of cold emails and spam emails offering services? I sure do!

Do you send cold emails offering services to others? I have!

(I haven’t been lately, but I probably will be in the future. Hello everyone. I’m barely available in March-April 2019, but hit me up for copywriting and editing services after that.)

Unfortunately, when they hit my inbox, sometimes it’s hard to know the difference.

If you send cold emails, how do you make sure your message is seen as legitimate?

To be honest, I’ve gotten cold emails that were so vague that I had to spend ten minutes googling the writer to make sure they were real people. 

Let’s use this recent email I got to illustrate better ways to make your case to someone you’ve never met.

(BTW, I’m not here to make fun of anyone’s grammatical or semantic errors — no one’s perfect, and not everyone grew up speaking English. That being said, it comes across as more professional if your emails are free of mistakes and unnecessary jargon.)


Hi,           

Not addressing me by name? That’s spammy. Even bots can figure out my name from my website. It’s not a good sign if you leave it off.

I am David        Marketing Executive (iPhone & Android Apps)

This could very well go in your signature. And why the bold? It’s like using jazz hands as you introduce yourself, which could be fun in real life but only in very limited circumstances.

I don’t need to know your title right away, either. Why is it pertinent that you’re a marketer? It kind of makes me want to run away, to be honest. And I do marketing.

This is a place to tell me why you’re emailing me or why I should care, and I haven’t gotten that yet.

We are a Mobile Application Development company specializing in development of iPhone and Android applications. We have more than 1 years of experience in developing custom mobile applications. Each application is reviewed and designed especially for each customer to fit the specific requirements and objectives.

Well, David, Marketing Executive of unnamed company, I’d hope that each application gets reviewed and designed.

I still have absolutely no idea why a copywriter would need a mobile app, but maybe we’ll find out.

(If you have just a year of experience, you can just leave that off. When you’re just starting out, focus on quality, not quantity.)

We help your business combine two modern business directions: wireless devices with web-based applications. High quality and customer-oriented approach are guaranteed.

I’m pretty sure that wireless devices and web-based applications are pretty well combined as is? I’m not sure what an app would do for my business, because you don’t have any idea, either.

Am I the customer in this customer-oriented approach, or is my customer?

Why iPhone Apps?

  •         Instant gratification

  •         Ease of use as it can be accessed anywhere

  •         Attracting new customers

  •         Increasing Revenue

This sounds good if you don’t take any time to think about it. Hmm, yes, all good things! Half of them are for the customer, and half of the benefits are for me, which is a little confusing. 

I like the pink, though I wouldn’t recommend it to others.

For business, finding the right iPhone apps developer could be a key factor to adapting their product to the marketplace and for the right audience.

Hold up. What’s my product? I sell a service. It’s adapted to the marketplace just fine, thanks.

Give us an opportunity to serve you. I assure you would like our solution and services

Direct or bossy? Depends on one’s mood.

It looks like you’re saying my problem is that I need to attract more clients and generate more revenue — which, hey, fair enough, most people are looking for that — but what’s the proposed solution? “Apps are good” is not enough of a hook to get me interested.

Truly,

David,

Marketing Executive (iPhone & Android Apps)

Country: India

David, I already know your name and title. It’s fine with me if your company is based in India, but there’s no need to say so in your introductory email.

What would be good: the heck what your company is. Any additional information, like a website. What I’m supposed to do next, other than give you my business. 


Okay, yes, that was clearly a spam email. But what can we learn from it?

Who you are is not as important as what you do.

I’m Kelley, and I want potential clients to get to know me. What they need to know first, though, is that I’m a copywriter who creates clarity and impact. I help you get through to your perfect client.

Personalize.

Direct the email to a particular person if you can. Better, personalize the pitch. Show that you understand their needs before jumping into how you can serve them.

Create trust.

What’s your website? LinkedIn? Portfolio? Any way to follow up other than a sketchy email address? (I know *you* are not sketchy. Just saying.)

Provide a strong call to action.

“Give us an opportunity to serve you” ain’t it. Depending on your goal, you’ll ask someone to schedule a free call, answer a question, buy your stuff, come to your event, etc.

Questions? Cold email me! hello@kelleygardiner.com

Also let me know if you want more posts like this, because they’re fun for me.


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How Do I Find a Copywriter?

Because drawing straws is not environmentally friendly.

Notebook writing

How do I find the right writer to work with my business? I’ve worked with freelancers before, and it’s been hit-or-miss. It’s such hard work to find the right fit, that it seems easier to sit on this project (which, to be honest, has been on the to-do list for waaaay too long anyway). How can I make this happen so it’s worth the time and effort?

Professionals Get the Job Done

There’s a lot of apprehension when it comes to hiring freelancers. We work on our own terms! We call our own shots! We’re our own bosses, and no one can tell us what to do! That can be a bit difficult for business owners who’re used to having control.

Having control over the big picture is why a lot of us got into business in the first place.

But when we need to fill holes in our expertise, or when we don’t have the time, training, or inclination to complete a particular task, it’s time to hire out.

I don’t take my own headshots or do my taxes, and you don’t have to do your own writing.

How do you find a copywriter? 

The ABBA Method

Ask for Referrals. Get a few names of people your friends like and trust.
Budget. How much do you have to spend? It can be flexible and you can be vague about it, but “$200-300” is going to be a different project than “$2000-3000.”
Brand. Think about what you want your brand voice to be. What kind of client are you appealing to?
Affinity. Read some writing from the writers you’ve been referred to. Do you feel drawn to any of them? That’s your best place to start.

Now, let’s talk details.

How to Find a Copywriter

When you hire a plumber, there are Yelp reviews. You can call and ask when they’re available, and what the job might cost. With a copywriter, you might have to do a little more legwork, but you’ll get an awesome result when you use the Dancing Queen method (AKA the Take a Chance on Me Technique, Waterloo Way, etc.).

Ask for referrals

Designers, marketers, coaches agencies, and any of your particularly well-connected business pals should know some writers. Ask around, and try to get 3-4 recommendations — more if your project timelines or budgets are tight.

Budget

How much does it cost?

How much ya got?

Kidding, kidding. 

Kind of.

Like any other professional service, it varies, and most writers get scared when you lead with “what’s it going to cost?” First, we don’t know, because we don’t have an idea of the scale of your project. Secondly, it makes us think that maybe you’re looking for a bargain. Red flag.

If your budget is $500, you won’t be able to get a website written from scratch from a professional copywriter. That’s just too much work and time. If you want a professional result, you need to budget for a professional rate.

My rates, for example, start at $150/page for simple rewrites. New copy starts at $250/page.

Projects can be done in stages, but in most cases, you’ll want to redo your entire website at one time. Strategy is hard to implement piecemeal.

Brand

You’re gathering information from your network and taking a close look at your annual budget. Now it’s time to take a close look at your current communications, and how you’d like them to change.

What kind of writing are you looking for? Is your brand voice quirky, calming, or conversational?

Before you start talking to people about how to reach your goals, know what you want your result to look like.

Affinity

Writing is not an exact science, and it’s not one-size-fits-all. You might not like my writing, and that’s okay! (If not, it’s kind of weird that you’re reading my blog anyway, but you’re very welcome.) But when you read something in a style that resonates, you’ll know. You’ll just like it more.

A copywriter’s website will probably give you enough information to go on by itself — they must’ve written it themselves, after all.

Some writers will click, and some won’t. Pay attention to that first feeling. Writers can write in different styles, some more than others. They’ll want to meet you in the middle to create “your” voice in their words. Make sure your middle ground isn’t a long journey.

What’s next?

Find one or two people whose style you like? Get in touch! See if your budget and timeline will work for them. Get a feel for how they work and communicate.

Okay, you found a couple of people you might be interested in. Cool! Contact them! It might be an email or a phone call where you can feel each other out and get an idea if it makes sense to move forward with a longer introductory meeting.

When you like their writing style, the budget and timeline work for you, they’re enthusiastic about the work you need done, they seem like good people, congratulations. You found a copywriter. Hold on to them!


What issues have you had with hiring communications professionals?

Let us know in the comments, or email me questions at hello@kelleygardiner.com.

I’m always happy to make referrals to other copywriters who fit your project needs and style.

Like this information? I have so much more for my email buddies every month. Get on the list.

6 Reasons to Pay for Professional Website Copy

Anyone can write.

…well, pretty much anyone.

Most people, given the time and access to a laptop, could write their own website copy, it’s true.

It would be fine.

You learned to read and write at school. It’s not like flying your own plane; you don’t need advanced training in order to make words appear on the page.

(Many of you would rather fly a plane into an active volcano rather than spend an hour writing, but that’s beside the point.)

Why should you hire a professional writer to do something that you could technically do yourself?

Why it pays to pay for professional copywriting

To Get it Done

You’ve been saying that you’re going to redo your website copy… for how long now?

Even if you had the know-how and the inclination, does it make sense to spend your work time doing it? Or does it make sense to delegate it to a professional?

If you’re spending more than an hour a week keeping your books, you should probably hire an accountant. If you’ve put off an important writing project for more than a month, you should probably hire a writer.

To Get a New Perspective

Many people do a proficient job with their website copy, but there’s something missing.

Something super important.

Most of us have our blind spots, and they pop up most often when we look at ourselves.

It’s extremely obvious to you what you do, but is it obvious to everyone who reads your website?

A few times a month I’ll click to someone’s business site and wonder, “What the heck does this person even sell?”

When I worked in coffee shops in college, people would ask every day where the lids were. Over time, it because astounding, especially when the customer couldn’t figure it out from a simple direction like “over by the door.” It was information that was painfully obvious to me, someone who refilled the lids 20 times every week. It was not clear to someone who was taking in large amounts of new information about the coffee shop—where to order, what to order, where to pick up their drink, who was this stunning young woman behind the counter and why was she so intriguing, etc.

Hiring a writer puts a fresh set of eyes on you and your work.

To Let Someone Else Do the Bragging For You

Sometimes, we’ll forget how important it is to talk about how awesome we are.

I find this a lot with women entrepreneurs, to be honest.

Sometimes, when a client sends me a testimonial for their work, I’m blown away. They’re getting fantastic results, their clients love them for it, yet none of that is reflected in their website copy.

I met with an acupuncturist last year who told me an amazing success story for her client. When she was done, I looked at her and said, “That is an amazing. Why is NONE of it on your website?”

A professional writer doesn’t hype you up. They reflect your light.

To Feed Sales with Confidence

You want your website to be a killer marketing piece.

Is it?

I talk to a lot of business owners who aren’t excited to direct leads to their website, because it’s out of date or was never up to their standards.

Sound familiar?

What would it feel like to know that your website would work for you instead of against you?

To Get a Professional Result

Now, not to brag, but I read a lot. I read about writing. I read about copywriting.

And SEO.

And marketing.

I use all of that information, along with my experience in freelance writing, copywriting, and editing, to bring you a professional result.

That’s my job!

You’re the expert in your business, but copywriters are the experts in writing copy. Hiring a professional means you’ll get a strong scaffold of strategy to hang their beautiful words on. And strategy is all about creating a path that leads to sales.

Speaking of which…

To Support the Bottom Line

Look, we’re all in business to make money, right? I know it’s hard to say goodbye to cash dollars to get professional writing done, but good writing will support your goals. Do you want more traffic? More qualified leads?

What do you need that’ll increase the bottom line at the end of the month?

We’re talking about an investment in your business. You pay for plenty of intangibles that help your business: conferences, networking, training, sponsorships.

Put professional copywriting on your list.


What’s keeping you from paying for professional website copy? I want to hear from you!

hello@kelleygardiner.com

 


Dog with sunglasses, link to email newsletter

Wonderful USP: Unique Selling Proposition

You down with USP? YEAH, YOU KNOW ME!

Now that I’ve shown my age (38, if anyone’s counting), let’s talk about what makes you the best person to serve your dream client.

White dog with text overlay

USP = Unique Selling Proposition

What makes you and your product unique? Why are you the best person to buy from?

What makes you special?

This is not a rhetorical question, and I don’t want you to shrug it off. There is something inherent about you, and your product or service, that serves your clients in a different way than your competition.

Yes, you.

What is it?

And is that clear in your website copy?

If someone takes five minutes to read your home and about page, they should come away knowing what sets you apart.

Try this: ask a buddy to take five minutes to read your home and about page, then just ask. “After reading that, what would you say sets me apart from my competitors?”

Definitions Across the Internet

Entrepreneur defines USP as: “The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.”

Kissmetrics rolls its eyes a bit about Entrepreneur’s definition and says: “A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from others because of what your business makes a stand about.”

Copyblogger has a 60-second video on the subject, but those who prefer to read: “In essence, a unique selling proposition (USP) is something that you offer customers or clients that your competitors do not offer. It’s also known as a ‘remarkable benefit.'”

Let’s talk about how to find your USP, and then how to communicate it through the language on your website. First, we’ll look at an easy example, then we’ll delve a little deeper with some help from coaches who work with business owners like you.

A USP in the Wild

Let’s use a blaring example. If you have a coffee shop, why should someone come to your place instead of the Starbucks one block over?

What does your business stand for? What are you known for? What are you about?

Let’s look at my local hang. My neighborhood coffee shop is 100% vegan, and their tagline is “Drink coffee. Take care.” They are known for being a vegan coffee shop in East Portland. You can buy records there, but that’s not why they exist.

Starbucks, on the other hand, is known for a consistent gourmet coffee experience. You can buy bananas there, but that’s not why they exist.

Both coffee shops have other offers, and other marketing messages, but they’re not trying to be the cheapest coffee in town. They’re not trying to sell the most breakfast sandwiches.

Of course, you don’t have to be a vegan coffee shop or Starbucks to be successful. There’s room for you to have your unique niche in the marketplace.

Finding Your USP

If you’ve been wondering what the heck your USP might be, you’re not alone! It’s not necessarily going to be 100% crystal clear right out of the gate. It might take some thinking and refining, and it might change as time goes on.

Lucky for you, this isn’t something you have to come up with right this moment. It might take a little musing and shaping. It might take a couple of passes, and a long walk on the beach. I tend to get my “aha” moments while zoning out to NPR in the car.

Danielle Ewalt is a business coach who specializes in working with parent entrepreneurs, and she knows a thing or two about crystallizing your abilities and communicating them succinctly.

As Danielle says, “Your USP isn’t one thing. There are many competitors that will share one, or maybe even two of our unique traits. It is the synergy created when three or four traits combine that make you (or your company) truly unique and stand out in the crowd.”

Deer stands out of the group at the zoo

Try this: make a short list right now of what makes your business product unique. Then list the top two or three things you do really well. What does the intersection look like?

USP and Impostor Syndrome

I have to be honest with you. When I started thinking through my own USP, I found some internal resistance pretty quickly. “What, me? I don’t know anything!” part of my brain wanted to tell me.

Brain, please. I’m good at what I do, and I’m constantly trying to learn more and improve myself. I’m funny when I want to be, and I have a knack for simplifying complex concepts. OKAY, BRAIN? Can I live?

Plenty of other women and non-binary entrepreneurs struggle with this as well. How do we position ourselves as the best, especially when we don’t feel like the best?

I asked the wonderful Selena Maestas from the Love YOU More Project to share her perspective as a coach who helps people see and be their best selves.


Says Selena:

Our minds are our biggest obstacles. When we believe what our inner critic tells us, we stay small. We question our knowledge, our success, and our worth.

It’s a vicious cycle that requires a LOT of work to overcome, especially if you don’t have the right tools.

First, it’s important that you think about your thoughts. You hear them and understand that those thoughts are NOT YOU, it is your survival brain trying to keep you “safe.” You write all of the thoughts down, without editing. Then, you go back to the top of your list and question your own thinking. Ask:

  • Is this true?
  • How does this make me feel?
  • Do I want to feel this way?
  • How would I rather feel?
  • What thought must I have to feel differently?

To be fair, this doesn’t fix the problem right away. There are other pieces necessary to override your survival mind; however, it is a good start to see your thoughts for what they are and to notice how those thoughts are affecting your results.


Thanks, Selena! I’m going to write down my negative thoughts for a few days. And by “write down,” I mean on my phone or in a notebook, not “tweet jokes about.”

USP in Your Website Copy

Okay, you say. I’ve figured out my unique selling proposition. But how do I express that in my website copy?

Well, I’m so glad you asked!

It’s a lot like what we talked about the features and benefits:

  • Figure out your USP
  • Keep it in mind when you’re writing your first draft
  • Go take a walk (have a cup of tea, etc.)
  • Tease it out on your second draft
  • Ask a friend if they can figure it out in 30 seconds
  • Walk away from it for two days
  • Edit it again, etc., etc.
  • *OR* hire a writer to do the above for you

Home: Is your USP communicated clearly? Why would that prospect want to learn more about you?
About: How does your story highlight your USP?
Services: Are the services you offer truly your best work? Or are you offering services you think you “should” for your industry? (If you offer those “should be” services, are they making you more money?)
Work/Portfolio: Amplify your skills and expertise by being super specific and showing examples.
Tagline: Your brand, including a tagline if you use one, should work toward communicating your special talent.
Elevator pitch: Can you tell me in ten seconds what sets you apart?

What’s Your USP?

As Danielle says, “It is so powerful when you find it—but it is a process. Sometimes people put so much pressure on themselves. But keep testing things out, listening to your customers and you will find the reasons they choose you!”

Have you found your USP? Feel free to brag on yourself in the comments.

Let’s talk about what you have to offer: hello@kelleygardiner.com


If you liked that blog post, you would looooove my email newsletter.

It goes out once a month or so, and it’s a short and sweet way to keep up with the latest in business communications.

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Target Pain Points to Make the Sale

Hold on to your butts, because today we’re kicking off a special blog series.

Do you have your copy of 18 Must-Haves for Website Copy That Converts? You can get it for free. FREE! Just for signing up for my email newsletter. Go ahead.  Sign up now. My newsletters are fun, useful, and not too frequent. You’ll like them.

Now that you’ve grabbed that, this blog series will be doing a deep dive into each item on the checklist.

leaping white dog, with text overlay

 


We start with research. All the data you ferret out now will go directly into writing your killer web and sales copy.

Identify Customer Needs and Pains. Target Pain Points to Make a Sale.

We’ve reached the first stop on our website copy checklist train.

Needs are pretty simple. That’s stuff that your ideal customer needs to have. Or thinks they need.

Got it.

Pains are a little more complex. You can think of them as a problem that that your product can solve.

So, what does that look like applied?

For the sake of this blog post, let’s say you’re a cat photographer. You specialize in boudoir cat photography. JUST KIDDING. You’re a cat portrait photographer.

How do you find out what your clients want and need, and how do you communicate your ability to solve their problems?

How do you suss out their pain points, and then communicate how you’ll make all those pains fade away?

Instead of telling them what you do, tell them how you can enrich their lives.

Instead of being too to the point:

Cat and dog, with title "Photos of your cat"

You can sell by getting to the pain point:

Let’s get into the nitty gritty.

Step One: Research, baby.

You could guess what your client base’s problems are. That would be a lot less work, but it’s not going to be as effective.

Talk (and listen) to your clients.

Talk to them. Easy as pie, right? All you need is a little time.

What do you mean you don’t have any time? I know. It’ll be worth it.

Talking, and listening, should be at the core of your business communications.

That looks like sitting down for coffee and having a long conversation with a past client.  “Social listening” on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Gritting your teeth and reading Yelp reviews.

Ask your Facebook fans questions, and pay attention to the answers.

Create a survey.

Surveys can be incredibly powerful… if you can get anyone to respond.

Make your survey short and easy to complete, and give your customers a reason to spend the time. A chance to win a $20 gift card is not worth 20 minutes of my time, people. Five minutes for a chance win a $100 gift card? Now we’re talking.

If you’ve never written a survey before, start simple. Nedra at Blue Deer Forest has some good advice. I’d also recommend giving a test survey to a few friends or a beta group in your network. Sometimes you don’t realize how your questions will be interpreted until the answers start coming back.

The wonderful thing about creating polls and surveys is that you can mirror the responses right back to your client base. We’ll talk about that a bit more below.

More research

Almost there! Just need to gather a little more intel.

Chat with your front line customer service staff.

If you have them, they’re a great resource for what your clients are wanting or not wanting.

Chat with other people in your network.

People who do exactly the same thing as you—your competition.

People in the same niche or industry—your network.

People who might hire other people with your skills—your potential clientele.

Go to a few networking events and get down on some shop talk.

Pay attention to complaints.

A handful of people are in a bad mood, like to complain about everything, and will not be happy until they get your product or service at 80% off.

However. Real talk, here.

If you hear the same complaint over and over, the common thread is you. Set aside your ego and figure out a solution.

(Often, if the common complaint is price, the solution is targeting your ideal client who will pay your prices. NOT lowering them. You’re worth it, you capable unicorn of professionalism.)

Ask the question at least three times.

What do my customers need?

  • They need photos of their cats. Why?
  • They want to have photos to remember how cute they are. Why?
  • Because animals are only in our lives for a short time, and they’re dearly loved. Why?
  • Because they love us unconditionally and add peace and joy to our lives.

See what happens when you dig a little deeper? Use that language in your copy. Instead of: “Obtain a professional photograph of your cat,” you might say, “Your cat adds peace and joy to your life. Capture your love today!


Whew! You’ve talked to your customers, completed a survey, and talked to your front line staff and other key players in your network. Now you have the information about what your customer wants, and why. Maybe you even know some of the reasons that keep them from buying.

You have so much info, friend. And information is power.

Now comes the next step: distilling that information into compelling copy that gets your customers to buy what you’re selling.

Stretching kitten

Step two: Rethink your products and positioning

Eep! This seems like a step back. I know. But if you learn in your market research that what you’re offering isn’t exactly what people want to buy… well, isn’t it good to learn that sooner than later?

Maybe you thought people wanted formal portraits, but they really want candids. Start playing up the candids! You can still do the posed pillow portraits for anyone who asks about it, after all. You’re just highlighting the candids now.

Don’t be afraid to tweak your packages and products from time to time. Times change. You change, your interests change, and the demographics around you change, too. Your strategy and product mix has to move with fashion, technology, and the economy.

Yes, okay, you knew that already. Or you did on some level. Now’s the time to make sure that carries over to your website copy.

Got it?

Good. Let’s move on.

Cat reflected in glass

Step Three: Start Writing or Rewriting

All that work and we haven’t even deleted one word yet. That’s okay. No one said this would be easy.

Hiring someone to do it for you is much easier. Did I mention that? Wink.

Start a list of words and phrases to use.

Pull out words and phrases—the ones your customers have already given you in conversation, on Facebook, and in surveys—to use in your marketing and website copy.

Maybe a cat photographer wants to use word and phrases like:

  • Those delectable toe beans
  • Memories
  • Forever
  • Better holiday card than your ex-boyfriend
  • Love
  • Instagram famous

Keep a file of those words, and don’t worry about them too much on your first draft. Sprinkle them in on the rewrite.

Surprised cat with "record scratch" text overlay

“HOLD UP, Kelley. You want me to do TWO DRAFTS? This is like high school all over again! And not the good part!”

I know. This is why I started a writing business. So I can have fun doing it, and you can take pictures of cats.

Yes, you have to do several drafts, or hire someone to do it for you.

Remind your customer of the pain point.

And, of course, we’re keeping in mind those “pain points.” The problems you’re trying to solve.

You’ve seen a million ads that play this up.

SCRUBBING THE SHOWER… AGAIN?

Why, yes, I am tired of scrubbing my tub, and I hardly ever even do it! If only some product could help me out with that…

Tell them how you’ll relieve this particular pain.

Be clear about how your services scratch that particular itch. Do you have happy clients who cried when they saw their cat photos? Say so!

Do you have testimonials? Bring ’em on, and don’t save them for the testimonial page. (We’ll talk about this one in a later post for sure.)

You hear people say, “Show, don’t tell,” and that’s partially true. Proposed solutions to a client’s pain point should be super clear after a quick glance at your page. But once you have them hooked, try telling a story.

What’s more compelling:

“Hire me, because I have 53 years of experience.”

“Over 53 years of cat photography, it’s hard to choose a favorite client, but one memorable kitty was Chester the polydactyl lynx.”

Solve the client’s problem.

If clients keep telling you, “My kittens are growing so fast,” you say, “Your kittens are growing up fast. Get your portraits taken now, and preserve those memories forever!” “Our photographers know how to capture those quick kitten pounces.”

If they tell you, “My iPhone camera is actually great, but the background is always messy,” you say, “Your cat will lounge in luxury as she enjoys fresh tuna and a whisker stylist in our exclusive locations.”

Fluffy kitty


Need help with this? Let’s talk! I can walk you through some simple steps, or refer you to someone who does more in-depth marketing.

Craft your message today. 

 


Like this post? Check out the next installment of the series.

Solving the Email Problem

Are you drowning?

When you’re crunched for time, is email one of the first things that gets neglected?

We can get through this.

Control thy emails

Today’s the day to take a few concrete steps to get this under control for the long term.

First, we’ll look that inbox right in the face and show it who’s boss. Then, we’ll talk about how to keep things from spiraling out of control next time.

Set aside an hour. Get a beverage and some high-tempo music. Roll up your sleeves. We’re diving in.

Step One: Clean Out Your Inbox

352 unread email icon

There’s a good chance you need to clean out your inbox. You know who you are out there, friends.

Unread messages distract from the important stuff.

If you’re like most of us, most of your unread messages are basically junk that you are never, ever going to read. Get rid of them!

Wave goodbye to the junk.

Feel free to use your “delete all from” feature to say goodbye to all those ads you get from ReallyCuteShoes.com. Bye emails.

Next, unsubscribe from all the lists you never touch. Every legit marketing email has an unsubscribe button at the bottom, required by law. If it doesn’t, mark it as spam. Bye emails! (Please don’t mark legit, opt-in email newsletters as spam. It unnecessarily penalizes the sender.)

There are services that will unsubscribe you from a bunch of newsletters at once, but at a price. Usually, the price is that after you give them access to your email, they sell your information.

Get yourself a beverage and power through the rest.

Now—and this might be the hard part—go through that inbox and answer or file everything.

Everything.

If you can’t answer or file it yet, flag it.

Do it all in one go, or take a week to chip away at it.

You can do it! No need to apologize for late responses. You’re doing great. Starting is the hardest part.

Step Two: Organize Whatcha Got

Organized work space

Once you get your email under control, you’ll need to find and stick to a system to keep it under control.

Consider checking your email one or two times a day. Answer everything right away. If a message needs more than five minutes of your time, you can put that task on your calendar, and update the sender on your progress.

Some people say not to do email first thing in the morning. As a writer, I find it easier to start with something “easy,” rather than creative. And I’m on the West Coast, so I don’t want to feel behind the times. Your choice!

Keep it Simple, Stunner.

This is a personal preference thing, but I like to keep my inbox management extremely simple. The inbox is for unread messages and anything you need to reference today.

For unread messages:

  • Reply if needed, and file or delete the message.
  • Delete everything you won’t need to reference later.
  • Flag messages that you need to reference immediately (meeting confirmations, electronic tickets, etc.).

That’s it.

If there is more than one page in my inbox, something has gone seriously off the rails.

This is low-key and works very well for me, with my relatively low volume of messages.

Maybe you’d like to implement some more technology to file, reply, and organize automatically? Please share with the group if you have a favorite app or plugin that automates your email responses. There are also experts in this stuff who will help you streamline your business communications—well worth the investment if you’re so busy you’re missing money-making opportunities.

Folders? No Biggie.

Don’t get too worked up over folders. Search works pretty well.

Sometimes I set up temporary folders for research, and delete them later, including all the messages. No muss, no fuss.

One folder I am fastidious about is my “To Read” folder. Everything that’s just for information, that I don’t want to take the time to peruse during email time? “To Read.” It gives me something productive to do when the baby falls asleep in the car. Everything over a week old in that folder gets deleted. No mercy! Again, unsubscribe when you find yourself deleting the same messages over and over without opening.

Take Charge of Notifications.

Do you need your Facebook notifications to be sent to your email, or do you already check Facebook too much?

I’m not judging. Just saying.

Change your settings if needed. I, for one, need notifications if someone sends me an Instagram direct message, because I never check that. Anything else? I’ll see it.

Canned Responses

Find yourself sending the same message over and over? Create a template and save some typing.

Managing Multiple Email Addresses

Phew. I don’t know about you, but with a quick count, I have… at least seven email addresses.

Yikes.

Now, here’s the thing. I don’t know how many emails you have, what you use them for, etc. What I do know, is that you’ve got to find your system and stick to it.

Logging in to “check” seven email addresses would take a long time. Longer than I have. So, I have notifications for some on my phone, and forwarding for others.

Forwarding can be convenient, but potentially confusing. Let’s say you have info@mywebsite.com forwarded to iamsogreat@gmail.com. When a client sends a message to info@mywebsite.com, you see it in your gmail account. And when you reply to that client, it comes from iamsogreat@gmail.com. This may or may not be what you want.

This blogger uses a “master” account to manage messages from several blogs. That might work well if you have several accounts that don’t get a ton of traffic.

I’ll let the pros tell you how to merge a bunch of addresses into one gmail account.

 

Step Three: Increase Communication

Women using phone

Plenty of messages clogging up inboxes come from misunderstandings and missing information.

To increase understanding, keep your messages relatively short and simple. Put important information in bold or add bullet points. Use descriptive subject lines. Start a new subject when beginning a new conversation.

Reduce Back-and-Forth.

Hey Everyone, Can you meet on Monday at 4? Warm Regards, Angela

I can! Does that work for everyone else? Lu *~Live your dream~*

Hello, No, not me. How’s Wednesday looking? Best Wishes, Stevesie

NEVER AGAIN. Those three emails will become six, seven, or seventeen.

This kind of back-and-forth is an inbox killer, especially when more than two people are involved. Use a scheduling program like Calendly or Acuity to schedule one-on-ones. Do a Doodle to figure out a group meeting time. Work groups can share calendars to avoid all that Doodling.

When scheduling a phone call, I’ll just go ahead and write, “You can call me at 555-867-5309.” Maybe that’s not the epitome of etiquette, depending on the situation, but it helps us avoid Should I call you, or should you call me? and What’s the best number to reach you? emails.

Speaking of Phone Calls…

Sometimes—and I know this is frightening to many of you—it’s better to call than to email. I KNOW. Talking on the phone is not always our idea of fun depending on your personality and generation, but it’s more appropriate when you need a quick back-and-forth conversation.

Ask yourself before emailing: is this information best given in a meeting, phone call, or email?

(Hint: email is great when you need documentation later.)

Set Boundaries.

It’s okay to turn your work email off at the end of the day.

It’s okay to ask people who contact you via Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or with message sent via St. Bernard, to follow up via email. You don’t need twenty places with different messages to remember and follow up on.

It’s okay to wait several hours before answering non-urgent emails. Email is not an instant message service. As long as you get back to someone within a business day, that’s fine. Yep, if they email you at 4 pm, you can email back at 3 pm the next day. (If they want to talk immediately, they can call you!)

It’s okay to put a vacation email out-of-office message and to really ignore everything when you’re on vacation.

Step Four: Make Your Website Work for You

Getting emails from your customers is a good thing! However, sometimes businesses get messages that are not from their true customer. Let’s try to cut down on those.

Your Marketing Should Tell Your Story.

Sometimes we’re so focused on one aspect of branding or sales that we forget the storytelling aspect of our website marketing. Your website should give clear impression of what you do, and why you’re the best person to do it.

A clear, accessible story will help cut down on questions from people who want a service that you don’t perform, or who aren’t the customer you’re hoping to land—including those who aren’t ready to pay your price point.

Clarify Frequently Asked Questions.

If you’re answering the same questions over and over via email, it might be time to clarify language on your website or add a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

Cut down on your busy work, so you can put your energy into work that creates wealth.

Sound good to you? Let’s talk about clarifying the messages on your website.

Schedule a consultation today.

Step Five (Optional): When You Just Can’t Handle It…

Look. Maybe there’s just more email than you are able to, or want to, handle.

Declare Email Bankruptcy.

I had a (wonderful) boss once who looked at all the files from my predecessor in my new-to-me office, and told me, “If there were a fire tomorrow, you wouldn’t miss any of this.”

If you haven’t read those 5,000 emails, would you really miss them if they were gone?

It’s nothing to take lightly, but there’s no law against just deleting large swaths of emails.

Hire Out Some Help.

Let’s do some math.

You’re spending 10 hours a week on email, earning you… zero dollars. Boo. So, you hire a virtual assistant, paying $15 an hour. Now you have the time to do the work you really love, earning $50 an hour.

You’ve just made an extra $350 in a week.

You can’t afford NOT to hire out a little help.

Virtual assistants can help with social media, SEO, email, data entry… anything you don’t love and are ready to say goodbye to.

Do it already, you successful job creator!


How do you manage your emails? Any awesome ideas that work for you? Let us know in the comments!

Can I help you clarify your message, so you can get more of the GOOD emails? hello@kelleygardiner.com



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