Email Productivity Tips for Marketers

July 26, 2011

A recent article on LifeHacker talks about tips to get faster email responses. They talk about:

  1. Write shorter emails
  2. Write fewer emails
  3. Ask for a response
  4. Start with a deadline
  5. Only email one person at a time

Those are good, but I’d like to expand a bit on them and also put it in the perspective of a marketing manager.

Five Email Productivity Tips for Marketing Managers

Email Subject Line1. Make subject lines work for you: Use subject lines with deadlines and action verb in order to help people spot your email easily in their inbox and to get them to act. Examples of subject lines might be:

“Webinar Email – Review Copy by Wed 10am”

“eBook Copy Approved with Changes – Finalize by Thursday”

“For review and approval – deadline is Wed 9am”

I like using either a campaign name or something that will help immediately identify the task at hand. If you start showing good use of this tactic and encourage your team to do the same, spotting the useful emails from the junk or from the typical corporate communication will be much easier.

Bonus tip: Transform your email into an action item! If using MS Outlook, just click and drag the email to the Tasks panel to create a task. Or you can also flag the email for later follow up. Other email clients have similar options.

2. Write with a purpose: Short, clear, and action oriented (what do you want to happen?) emails will get faster and better responses. So cut to the chase and get down to what you want as a result of your email. Examples are:

“Here’s the revised copy for the email invitation to the July 16 webinar. Please a) edit copy; b) send to Mark for design by Wed, c) email me the final email for approval”

or

“Jen, I have reviewed the presentation for the webinar and here’s what you need to do: a) add the company logo to the master slide (upper left corner); b) replace slides 3 and 5 with the new ones I mention in my notes; c) review once more for grammar and style; d) send to John for formatting by Tues noon.”

Replace paragraphs with bullet points and you’ll get people to actually do what you asked them to do. Keep each email related to a separate subject, this way is easier for the recipient to focus on one thing at a time and for you to follow up later.

Bonus tip: Need to follow up on an email you just sent a few days later? In MS Outlook you can “flag” the message before sending so it reminds you of the message later (you can also flag the message for the recipient, so if they have Outlook as well, they will be reminded of the message until they clear the flag).

Making deadlines clear3.  Make the deadline clear: If you don’t say when you need it by, usually you won’t get it done. Make sure to add a deadline and action required (eg. Make changes and send back to me by EOD friday) in the beginning of the email. This way the first thing the person sees is the deadline and he or she can plan accordingly. For example, you can start the email like this:

“Jen, I need this by EOD Thursday! See below.”

or

“Edited and approved copy for eBook below. Please finalize by 07/15/11 at 12:00pm ET!”

Avoid using “urgent” and “ASAP” type words. They don’t mean anything. Is ASAP something due today or by tomorrow morning? Also avoid saying “send it back to me tomorrow” without giving some kind of time reference. Otherwise it becomes a debate of what “morning” means (8am or 11am?).

Assigning email to multiple people4. Assign an owner: Send the email to only one person, or make sure each person has an action. You may be tempted to email the whole team after a meeting outlining what was decided. Or, there’s a task involving two people (editing the new banner artwork and sending to the printer, for example) and you want them both to see the same message. OK, but make sure each person listed on the “to” or “cc” lines have some kind of action item associated to their names. It could, for example, be like this:

“Team, I need you all to read and add the following to your to-do lists based on our earlier meeting today:

Jen: Review web analytics and report back to me by Friday 11am;

Bob: Edit the latest spec sheet design as discussed, send reviewed design to Mary by Thursday 9am.. ”

Multiple attachments can cause confusion5. If you attach, then make it clear: At my previous company we had a policy of never attaching a file to an email if the email was being sent internally. This was to avoid two problems, the always precious server space being eaten by files attachments in our Exchange server and to keep the latest files always in the network where it would be easier to find. Whether you have a policy like that or not, if you need to add files to your email then list and describe attachments (and name them appropriately). It could be something like this:

“… and I’m attaching the following files:

7-16-Webinar-Preso.PPT: Final version of the webinar presentation

Alpha-Prod-Whitepaper-CopyV2.doc: Whitepaper draft, please review this copy ”

Especially useful if you have many attachments, it helps ensure all attachments are accounted for when you send out the email and helps the receiver sort through all the files coming towards him/her.

Assigning Tasks Marketing Technology for Workflow and Productivity

Unless you have a system like what my company offers [shameless plug!] for Marketing Resource Management or Marketing Project Management, odds are you rely on email to keep your team in check. You use email to exchange files, to communicate, and get things done. That’s ok, and by using some productivity tips I hope you can at least make good use of the tools at your disposal and spend less time chasing down people and deadlines, and more time actually doing marketing.

Additional Outlook Productivity Tips

Additional outlook tipsIf you’re using MS Outlook, then check out additional productivity tips I have for Outlook users in this other blog post.

Advertisements

Getting the most out of conferences and events

April 29, 2011

Photo by BillPellowe at Flickr

If you feel like you keep going to conferences and events but don’t have time to apply what you learned when you get back to the office, you’re not alone. Once you’re back and the emails pile up, the phone rings, and people walk into your office there’s not much you can do. All the good intentions you had of applying what you learned when you were out end up being nothing but notes in a drawer.

Making the Conference Count

If you really want to make the most out of your trade show, conference, or other learning event you attended, you have to be prepared to act when you get back to the office. And the best way is to use a systematic approach to attending conferences. I know, it sounds like work but unless you are prepared to approach it as a project, you won’t be able to really take adavantage of the learning experience after the event is over.

How to Take Notes for Learning

I suggest you take a piece of paper (or use MS Word, Evernote, our iPad, it doesn’t matter) and create a template to use at every single session you plan on attending. It doesn’t need to be a full 8.5 x 11 letter size paper, some small 3×5 index cards can do the trick. The goal is to make sure you take the same style of notes at all sessions. Here’s what your template needs to have:

CONFERENCE NAME: [name of the conference]

Session: [title of the session]

Date: [date of the session]
Presenter(s): [name of the presenter, and contact info]

Key Insights: [bullet points on things you’d like to learn more about, research online, or that were just interesting or insightful]

Action Items: [ what will you or your team do once you get back]

The most important part of note taking is the “action items” block. The easiest is to just put down bullet points of what you or your team will do once you get back. Could be as simple as “Review our home page meta tags to improve SEO” or a bit more complex like “Create a project to select a CMS system for our website”. The objective is to write short, very direct items that you will later translate into more details to your team.

As you take notes of each session, an interesting thing will happen. You will suddenly realize not all sessions are really good. If you walk out of a session with a blank page (i.e. no insights or action items) then you know it was just a waste of time. If most sessions end up with blank pages, then that’s a conference you shouldn’t attend next time around.

Acting On Your Learning

Before you leave to the conference there’s two things you need to do. One, is schedule a 30 minutes meeting with your team for the very first day when you arrive back in the office. The second is schedule a one hour slot for yourself either on the very first day or the very next day when you get back.

When you return, you already have a meeting scheduled with your team. Is 30 minutes long, so all those emails and fires can wait 30 mins for you to brief the team. That’s right, you’ll use that time to talk to them about the conference, the good, the bad, etc. And you will also show them your notes and give them an overview of what you’ve learned and what’s coming (action items) to each of them. This serves two purposes. First, with the conference still fresh in your mind you can accurately tell your staff what happened at the show and prepare them for what’s going to come their way, and second it helps you solidify what you learned during the show.

When you get to the second meeting you scheduled prior to leaving the office for that conference, you will then stop whatever you are doing and get all your notes out. Since all of them have an “action items” section at the bottom you can quickly go through your list and start identifying what needs to get done, prioritizing the tasks, and assigning them to appropriate team members (or to yourself).

I think you should also create one ‘master list’ of action items (add the conference name and date to the top) and save it somewhere you can find. If you need to refer back to the list or after 1 year don’t remember how good the conference was, just look at the list.

Sharing the Knowledge

If this process works for you, it is a good idea to show your team what you’ve done. Next time anyone from your group attends a conference or event that’s worth sharing with the team, it will be easier and more productive. As you go through your notes and action-items you are also deciding if this is an event you should go again next time around.

Summary of Conference Note Taking

1. Schedule a 30 mins meeting w/ your team to share what you learned from the show, and to talk about the action items

2. Schedule a 1 hour slot of ‘quiet time’ for you to go through your notes and assign tasks to your team

3. At the conference, write down at each session action items for you or your team to do based on the info provided

4. Back in the office, hold the meetings you have scheduled and share what you’ve learned, assign action items

5. Save the ‘master list’ for reference


Web Prototyping With PowerPoint

September 27, 2010

Prototyping with PowerpointWebsite re-designs are a common project on the hands of marketers at companies of all sizes. From quick home page makeovers to complete re-design and re-branding,there’s a lot of communication between the marketing team and web developers and designers, a process that involves lots of meetings, the developers spending hours on photoshop mockups that don’t look like what you asked, and a lot of scribbling on paper and on whiteboards.

How can we improve this process? The answer may lie in a tool most people already have… MS PowerPoint!

PowerPoint Prototypes

What I’ve successfully done in the past to help the communication between the marketing team and the designers is to use PowerPoint as a way to visually communicate with the how the new design and functionality will work. Instead of waiting for the designer to come up with a Photoshop or HTML mockup of something that doesn’t resemble what I asked for, the PowerPoint slide can serve as a guideline and visual discussion tool for everyone involved.

Marketers are good at visual communication, but not necessarily experts with the design tools. PowerPoint is something everyone knows how to use, though. So why not take advantage of this free (your company is likely using MS Office suite which comes with PowerPoint) tool and use it for some brainstorming? Mockups or prototypes created w/ PowerPoint are not supposed to replace professional wireframing tools such as Balsamiq, Justinmind, or Sketchflow, but should rather be used to help non-programmers and non-designers communicate their ideas. Plus, if you are discussing elements of the website design with other management team members or the CEO, the ability of quickly changing something on the slide will help you get approval faster.

Although you can make interactive prototypes using PowerPoint, my suggestion is to keep it simple and focus on key elements you’d like to communicate to the designers such as overall layout, placement of objects, and so on. You can get so deep into making sure your animations work if you’re going for a full interactive prototype that it will cost you many hours that will be just thrown away since it won’t be used again.

The key is to keep it nice and clean. A good starting point on how to do this is Travis Isaacs presentation “How to Wireframe Like a Ninja“. It talks about Keynote (a presentation tool for the Mac), but 99% is transferable to PowerPoint.

It also helps if you download something like this PowerPoint Prototyping Toolkit from Long Zheng, which gives you some nice tools you can start using right away.

So what are you waiting for? Start prototyping today! 🙂


Best Companies Don’t Need Marketing

August 5, 2010

Interesting set of articles on Inc’s Magazine June Edition “Inside America’s Best Run Companies”, showing how the best small business companies run and the perks and benefits they have to attract and retain top talent. Take for example the following stats mentioned in the magazine:

  • 75% of companies offer educational assistance to its employees
  • 83% of companies practice open-book management
  • 28% of companies pay 100% of employees costs for health insurance
  • 95% of companies offer flexible work arrangements

On top of that, they highlight some of the nicest perks some companies offer, like:

  • On-site pickup and return of clothes that need laundering (McGraw Wentworth)
  • Subsidized meals delivered at employee’s desk (Dealer.com)
  • Two weeks of full-paid leave to work for a nonprofit (Patagonia)
  • $5,000 spending money if you travel abroad plus one extra week vacation (LoadSpring)
  • Professional cleaners go to your home every two weeks, at no cost to employee (Akraya)

If you come from the typical 9 to 5 job where being there is what is expected and you look forward to vacations like a prisoner eager for his 1 hour outside in the patio, then the list above is nothing short of a paradise. The reality is, more and more companies are adopting practices like these (especially telecommuting and flex hours) because technology is such that not only allows you to do it, but makes you more productive.

But companies don’t offer these nice perks just because they are run by nice people. They offer them because the market for talent is fierce. Finding and retaining the best people has always been a challenge, no matter your industry. When you have a little bit extra to offer, being that the free lunch or whatever, you are a step above the competition. And the word gets around and your hiring costs are reduced because people are now finding you for a change.

The best marketing ends up being what the employees tell their friends about their companies. How they like (or don’t like) the perks, and when magazines like Inc pick that up and write a story.


What Trigonometry Has to Do With Marketing?

July 23, 2010

A recent post by Chris Brogan talking about Typing Classes reminded me of my own experience. I too had to go to typing classes when I was young (13 I think) and when computers were just starting to come out. I had classes on those old typewriters and you had to press each key really hard. When you made a mistake, there was no ‘backspace’ to fix it… and sometimes you ran out of ink and have to replace the ribbon! Wow, how those classes were horribly long, the minutes passed by slowly and I kept looking at my watch. And then something happened. I started to become faster. I could type without looking at the keys, and speed increased greatly.

It was only after a while that I was really able to put my skill to good use, when I started working in an office environment, and I didn’t have to look at the keys of the computer in order to type something. I was fast, people were amazed. It’s funny how certain things don’t seem to have any value when you’re doing/learning them and you only realize how important they are/were years later.

One day in high school, our math teacher was going over trigonometry and stopped to see if anyone had any questions. I raised my hand and asked “what is this for and how will it help me in the future?”. People turned their heads at me, there was an uncomfortable 2 seconds silence, and then she ignored me and moved on. I still haven’t had a need for trigonometry in my life, but who knows what the future holds?


The Enemy of Productivity

November 4, 2009

Did you get anything done today? OK, maybe is still too early in the morning, but how about yesterday? If you are anything like the typical worker, you can probably list a few things you’ve accomplished such as:

  • read emails
  • responded to emails
  • sent emails
  • deleted emails

See a trend here? If sometimes it feels like email is running your day, then you are not alone. The BBC reported that one third of office workers suffer from email stress, which I find interesting because email doesn’t really cause stress. It is how you deal with it that is the root cause.

On a previous post, I discussed some productivity boosters for those trying to manage the daily flood of emails, and this amusing chart (below) from HR Management reminded me of the constant struggle we all have when it comes to increasing our productivity while keeping our stress level low.

Email Stress and Productivity

Stress vs. Productivity from http://www.hrmreport.com

If your office is anything like mine, your colleagues send you Youtube videos, web links, and other stuff that although very entertaining doesn’t help you get your projects done on time. Have you ever tried simply not checking email? The chart above shows in a funny way that you sometimes feel more productive when you are checking email, and that you may turn to it if you get bored, and from personal experience I have felt the same way.

Think back to your daily activities. When are you usually checking email? Is it the first thing you do in the morning? Right after lunch before you decide to finally tackle that week-old project? Are you using email to get your adrenaline up like a junkie?

Just close, shut down, disconnect and ignore your email for about 1 hour. If you are feeling extremely brave, then try going for 2 straight hours. That’s right, and no peaking! Ignore the email and focus on work. I bet you can get some stuff done today.

Some of my favorite tips on email productivity are:

What is your stress level today? Close the email and ask yourself again in 1 hour.


The Networker’s Dream

October 14, 2009

Ever been in a situation where you are trying to get a hold of someone or get introduced to another person but just can’t figure out how? This is the reality for most salespeople. How do you get pass that low level gatekeeper and get an introduction to the real decision maker at the company?

Give your network a boost with PeopleMaps

Give your network a boost with PeopleMaps

The answer is in PeopleMaps.

This really cool tool I read about on Laura Ramos’ blog, shows the path between you and your desired target. By gathering information from your LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo, Gmail (not Hotmail, mind you), and other social media sites you belong, it maps out your connections and the connections of your connections.

There is a free version that is worth trying out just so you see the power of undcovering a strong connection between you and another person you may want to befriend. Is like LinkedIn on steroids, because not only you can see who’s connected to whom, but also HOW they are connected.

And here is where some caution is necessary. I saw that in some cases it showed me a path to a person via a friend of mine just because they both worked at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. And PWC is a company with thousands of people from all over the world, so although the fact that they worked for the same company is good, it doesn’t really ensure they know each other. A call to this friend could solve the mystery, though, and is better than no clue at all.

Sales reps should look into this tool as a potential route for getting in direct contact with those hard-to-reach contacts, and also to expand their networks. And if you are looking for a job, this may be a great way to find a way to get a personal introduction to the hiring manager on that company you want to interview for.


%d bloggers like this: