Email is a major time sink. We’re talking multiple hours per day for many busy individuals, and as much as half their workdays can be spent on email for those among us with high rates of communication with clients, contacts, and colleagues.
What’s worse, people often feel like they’re being way more productive than they actually are as well when they’re working out of their inboxes. Sure, you might be wheeling and dealing on your keyboard, but the effective hours of solid work achieved when constantly checking email starts to get diminished quickly.
And even still worse than that is the fact that it’s a necessity. Regardless of where you are or what you do, email is a near universally expected communication tool and those you work with will expect you to consistently check and respond to any incoming messages.
So, how can you make your email time more productive and stop it from leaking into your day? Here are a few tips for getting started:
1) Because email is not a live messenger (though some people use it like one!), it is OK if responses are generally put off a few hours. For this reason, email productivity experts often recommend that you set 3 times throughout the day to check your email, and then stick to those times, never checking in between.
2) During your designated email check-in times, respond to every message you’ve received, right when you read it. Often, we read something, think “that’s going to take a bit to fully address!”, and then mentally note that we’ll get back to it later when we have more time. However, this forces you to read such emails twice instead of one time, and the procrastinating generally serves no helpful purpose. When you read an email, decide if it requires a response. If the answer is yes, write it then, on the spot.
3) Use shortcuts. Many email productivity add-ons (Boomerang is a popular one right now, by the way), allow you to setup shortcuts that will automatically fill in words or sentences when you begin typing a certain key sequence. If you have an opening greeting you always use, or other information that doesn’t make sense to save as a standard email signature, you can use these shortcuts to save you time. Got a long company name you have to type out constantly? Set a shortcut so that you can trigger it by just hitting two letters in a row that normally wouldn’t follow each other. You get the idea.
4) Turn off push notifications. Of course, we receive email on much more than just our PC’s these days, and the constant buzzing of a phone or dinging of an iPad can pull you out of what you’re working on and cause you to lose focus and time, even if you just check your lock screen to see who or what it was. Instead, put these items in do not disturb mode or at least turn off email client notifications when you’re in between your designated email checking times.
Stick to these, and you’ll be well on your way to shaving off minutes or even hours from your workday!
Ten years ago, and certainly 15, this discussion would have been laughable. It’s the ‘debate’ between building a business and just raising money. Of course, anyone raising money will tell you that they’re actually building a business, and much of the time it’s true, but there’s still an important distinction to be made.
These days, everyone has an idea. And, at least up until relatively recently, there were a plethora of investors with money who wanted to eagerly hand it over to any young person they thought had an idea that was going to be the next Facebook or the next Uber. Now, with several years of this madness behind it, purses are being tightened, and we’re face with the need for some evaluation as to what exactly entrepreneurship actually is.
Over the past few years, anyone developing an app has likely at least had the thought pass that they might seek out investment in order to help them grow quicker and build a company much more rapidly than they could do on their own (or at all). That said, there are many of these companies who were never going to reach a point of revenue generation, nor would reach the user volume critical mass that has kept giants like Snapchat alive right up until they finally started generating a few bucks after nearly four years of being on the market.
That kind of run time without making a cent from your company was unheard of just a couple short decades ago, but now it’s commonplace. The problem isn’t that that market dynamic exists, it’s that it’s all many young entrepreneurs are banking on. They want to make something that so many people use that they can make a well-compensated exit, without having to worry about such business-related inconveniences as actually making money.
Soon, however, people will start to realize that everyone’s grandson isn’t Zuckerberg, and we’ll probably see a regression to something a little bit hybrid between how things were and how they are now… what will happen to your business when that occurs?
Answering this question before you have a real, pressing need to do so might be a smart place to start. Much like politicians on their last term with no prospect of reelection, business owners who find themselves in the position of having built a meaningful business that’s bringing in profit in that you are no longer scrambling for the next round, the next investment.
Some of the best business advice now lies in books from the 80’s and 90’s that will go largely untouched for many young entrepreneurs whose mistake is thinking that just because the execution has change, the fundamentals have too. In reality, the people who work the hardest and can make real numbers work, incoming vs outgoing, are the ones who tend to win in the end. Unless of course you really do have the next Facebook under your hat, in which case you and only you can ignore everything here… but still.
But no mater if your business is profitable right now or not, you need to be focusing on building your email list NOW as that is a real asset for your business that can pay you for many years to come.
Were you involved in the online marketing world back in 2010? Earlier? Ever as recently as a couple of years ago, actually, the strategies that were considered surefire paths to SEO domination were completely different from what they are today.
Interestingly enough, however, Google was saying the exact same things about how you should try and rank a website then as they are now: Provide detailed, relevant, helpful content, network naturally with others, and Google would notice.
Unfortunately, their desired reality just wasn’t the case for most marketers. Hitting the top of search results meant putting in the hours to create backlinks, make sure the anchor text of your links matched the phrases you wanted to rank for, etc. These practices were considered spammy by Google, but they worked… and so people kept right on doing them.
Now, however, Google has finally caught up with its own mantra, and since early 2014 those adhering to old school link building practices are probably walking away a little disappointed.
For Google, it’s a win.
For us marketers, it makes things more complicated, but it’s a win as well.
Right now, SEO is actually simpler than it has ever been, but it’s not easier. That is to say, there’s a lot of work involved, but the work you put in is more valuable to all parties involved now.
In fact, pages are ranking fairly easily for many website owners now, provided they do a great job of providing content. A key component now is Google’s paying attention to social media cues when determining how much of a buzz a page is creating, and therefore how many people find it interesting and useful.
Right now, you can create a page and be ranking on Google within a couple of hours, provided your piece catches social media fire and gets shared around.
Of course, that means you’ve got to come up with something really good. Honestly, though, this can only serve to elevate the level of content that gets produced, as webmasters will be able to spend more time focusing on creating really useful, interesting content for their sites instead of focusing on the post-care SEO of creating countless backlinks.
In order to win, then, you need to be onboard with this new thinking. In fact, if you’re still working within the old framework of SEO, you’re likely going to see more problems than benefits. Sites are constantly being penalized and thrown into the SERPs abyss because they have tried to game a system that has always been about staying one step ahead of those trying to game it (and a goal they’ve finally achieved).
Will SEO professionals still have specific strategies you can take to give your site a leg up?
Will they work? Probably, but you need to think of SEO best practices these days as a side dish, because there is no longer a substitute for the main dish of hard work creating genuinely awesome pages for Google to crawl.
So now that the ice bucket challenge craze has died down, and we’ve had a few minutes to not be frightened by every video we see of our friends and family pouring water on their heads lest they say our names, it’s time to analyze the social phenomenon. As any successful internet marketer can tell you, everything that happens on social media is related to marketing, whether we choose to see it or not. So even if you think the ice bucket challenge has nothing to do with how you make your living, think again.
Here are some key points to take away from the ice bucket challenge while you’re setting up your next social media marketing campaign. These tips will help you achieve a higher level of virality, though probably not as high as seeing Hollywood’s celebrities dump your product over their heads!
Low Participation Barriers are Key
People want to participate in online challenges and events. They want to be part of the trend and they don’t want to have to buy any crazy ingredients to do so. What was so brilliant about the ice bucket challenge? It took ice, water, a bucket and a camera to participate. It’s safe to assume that the population of people who frequent social media has access to ice and water free of charge. It’s also fairly likely that they have a bucket around. And a camera? Name the last phone you saw that didn’t have a video camera.
Takeaway: If you want people to participate in your social media marketing campaign, make it easy for them to do so. The less friction there is between initial contact and participation, the more people will engage. Throw in some forms to fill out, specific sites to upload the videos to or an entry fee and the ice bucket challenge is a failure.
Self-Promoting Mechanisms Work via Social Invitations
The “challenge” aspect of the ice bucket event was brilliant. This plays right into peer pressure, with your friends and family looking “directly” at you from the camera and calling your name out. To drive the point home, they tag you in their post and everyone knows that you’ve been called out. You have to respond or you’re a horrible person who wants people to die! (Okay, not really, but that’s how it seems!)
Takeaway: Any marketing campaign where people are sharing the idea of their own free will, directly with other people is a winner. You don’t have to do anything to spread the campaign; it does it on its own. Keep in mind that the ice bucket challenge was initially only a three-person challenge, meaning you aren’t calling out a whole crowd of people. This makes it much harder to “hide” or get lost in a sea of tagged names. You’re in the spotlight and you must perform (or be shamed on social media), thus spreading the campaign once again.
Pay Attention to the Time Frame
There are two interesting factors built into the ice bucket challenge that have to do with time, both of which play directly into the success of the campaign. First, the urgency that is created through the issuing of the challenge, you have 24 hours to complete the challenge or you have to donate $100 to ALS. Now, forgetting the fact that people are dumping ice water over their head to avoid donating money to a good cause, focus on the fact that a deadline for action has been set, urgency created. Second, think about how short these videos are, 60 seconds was the longest one I saw and that was from a self-professed camera hog. Keep the content short and fun (yes, I do want to see some of my family members drenched in water and screaming, call me sadistic) and you’ll be successful.
Takeaway: Timing is important in that you:
1) Create a sense of urgency by building in a timetable during which the participants must act or face consequences AND
2) Keep the campaign short, sweet and fun.
So you’ve got your business up and running, whether that means freelance consulting, promoting affiliate products, or running a monetized online community, things are on the up and up. However, you know there’s lots of other, more established competitors in your space… so how do you stand out and convince customers that switching to you is a no-brainer? Well, here are a few proven ways to overdeliver in the digital age.
1. Collect feedback. With the amount of survey tools out there, or the ability to, you know, send an email message, it’s incredibly important that you start listening to what your customers are saying. Early on, this can be as simple as asking them in a post-sale or ideally post-service email what they thought of your service, and if they have anything they would improve.
This serves two purposes: First, it’s going to help you identify people who are really keen on your brand or product, and who might be good candidates to become your affiliates, etc. Starting out, you might just let them know that if they enjoyed working with you, you’d love to send some kind of reward their way if they find a few people to refer to you. These gifts don’t have to be anything expensive, but the gesture is often appreciated and the potential to help you grow is huge.
2. Have a personality. Seriously, for the same reason people vote for political candidates based on how they look, or how they generally “feel” about them, interactions and perception go a long way in purchase decisions. Plus, this is actually something you have a huge advantage at over your larger rivals: When a company has 37 different support agents to help with their massive customerbase, they can’t offer the same kind of repeat interactions or treatment that you can as an individual. Smart companies on the rise use the technique of overdelivering in the personalization and customer support department to win clients from their competitors. It’s not a bad strategy for entrepreneurs and online marketers, etiher.
3. Connect with them via social media as a person, not a brand. This is an interesting one. Now more than ever, people like to know who they’re doing business with, because they can. Social media has greatly raised expectations of interaction and transparency, to the point that even massive brands make sure they have a presence actively chat with those who mention them.
As an individual entrepreneur, you have the unique opportunity to let people know the person who wants to do business with them. This goes hand in hand with point number two about having a personality. Let people Snapchat with you in your off-hours, post Instagram pictures of your work days as they progress. The Facebook page for your freelancing or brand can be a place that people not only get to know you better through written posts, but when you can foster community through asking discussion questions and special offers.
Remember that your biggest weakness, being small and up against long-standing competition, is also your biggest asset, because it makes you more agile than anyone else (and your clients will remember that).