4 Email Productivity Tips

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!

Avoid False Guru Status to Boost Credibility

Want to know what one of the fastest ways to kill your credibility is? To pretend to have it when you don’t.

It’s an unfortunate reality, but the landscape of online marketing has been invaded over the past decade by those claiming to be experts in things that they, to put it politely, aren’t. The ‘fake it ’til you make it’ bravado approach was actually wildly effective for a number of years, but the reality now is one in which potential customers are much more skeptical.

Not only are they wary of falling victim to people pretending to be something that they aren’t, they’re also realizing that much of the information that false gurus put behind a paywall is available free elsewhere on the web (indeed, the expertise of fakers doesn’t allow them to create much exclusivity based on genuine, helpful content that no one else is providing).

Enter: The transparency trend. Believe it or not, there are some people out there who are up and coming and have been killing it with their audiences even though they haven’t done a whole lot yet. Instead of pretending they’ve executed in one market or another before they really have, these players are instead simply sharing exactly what they’re going through at the time to their audiences. In a way, this approach levels the playing field and makes communications more genuine.

Over the past half decade, there has been an enormous shift from consumers wanting to be told what to do by brands, or at least being convinced that’s what they want, and their realizing that they can lead the discussion more than just have it fed to them. As a result, personal communications win, and honesty is an often sought but less often delivered trait when people go looking to something from someone else online.

For an example of the effectiveness of this approach, the Groove blog, the blog of a small remotely managed helpdesk software, has openly admitted that the number one driver of sales and awareness for their product has been their blog; the Groove blog epitomized transparency.

The company began under the premise of writing out everything they do to try and reach $500,000 in monthly recurring revenue. Ultimately, they’re a couple of years into their project, haven’t yet breached even half of their goal, and yet their posts are wildly popular. Why is this? Because the folks at Groove simply write about what they’ve done and a lesson they’ve learned each week, good or bad, success or failure.

They’re not pretending they have the software as a service game figured out, their not padding the numbers (or downright falsifying them), and they’re certainly not renting expensive cars for the day in order to take pictures with them in front of a mansion they don’t own – I’m looking at you, mid 2000’s internet marketing ‘gurus’.

So keep it honest, keep it open, and you might be surprised to find out that you actually end up making more with, well, less.

How To Use “Help A Reporter Out” For Your Blog Or Brand

Ever heard of popular PR and journalism tool “Help A Reporter Out”? If you’re not acquainted but you have a brand or expertise to market, this quickstart guide will give you the basics.

At its core, Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, is a platform to help connect journalists with sources. Users can register as either sources or media outlets – or both. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be talking about using it as a source.

As a source, you’ll be able to sign up to HARO’s emails, which are sent out multiple times per day and include upwards of 100 stories that media outlets, from international news sites down to niche blogs, are working on.

The descriptions will call for specific experts or those with certain experiences to weigh in and share their advice, stories, and/or experiences. Clicking the reply link within HARO’s email will open up a new message window that, upon completion, will be sent off to the media outlet.

Responding to a call for sources is basically a pitch in which you can sell your brand’s story to someone who will publish a story about it. For example, you might find someone looking for B2B marketing experts for an interview. If you know about B2B products and write a great pitch to an outlet, they may publish your advice in their final piece. If this happens on a larger outlet, you can score some major exposure and credibility by being featured.

The great thing is that calls to action come in a number of categories, so even if you’re outside of the business and tech circles, there will be relevant lifestyle, fitness, travel, etc. prompts that you can respond to. You might not find anything in every email blast, but it’s easy to respond to a few relevant prompts per week.

A couple of tips:

1. Always be sure to deliver value in your pitch, and explain why the outlet’s readers are going to learn something from you. Never mention wanting your own exposure, instead focus on giving the journalist or outlet the best story and more useful information possible.

2. If a publication is listed as anonymous, try and feel out some details about the project in your first email to them to assess the value of being featured. That said, don’t be afraid of being featured in smaller projects, because these outlets are probably going to hustle to promote and squeeze every readership they can out of anything they publish.

The results of having your brand featured in a larger piece can be a huge boon for a small boon, and also help build credibility in your niche, as your input on a topic has now been published. Consistency is key with HARO; respond to every prompt that seems like a good fit, and eventually you’ll match up with someone who needs exactly what you have to offer.

Now get to pitching, good luck!

Using “Help A Reporter Out” To Find Experts

Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, is a PR and journalism platform. Journalists or users registered as media outlets can submit calls for sources for their story ideas, and experts and brands can pick and choose to email various prompts via an email newsletter that HARO sends out several times per day.

The platform is a powerful tool for journalists, but often ignored is its enormous potential for up and coming bloggers and content producers. For example, instead of faking your expertise on a topic and risking losing credibility, you can submit a call for sources to HARO’s newsletter and have external experts weigh in with their advice and stories.

Not only can you use this to write engaging profiles of one particular brand, you can also aggregate many responses to create a large, varied, content-rich posts that offer a range of perspectives and information that would be hard to replicate with your own knowledge or independent research.

If that’s not enough of a reason to convince you to reach out to sources via HARO for your next post, consider this: Recruiting just one source to be part of your story doubles your promotion team. Get another source involved? Boom, your promotional force just went up again.

Most of the time, anyone reaching out to be featured in a story will be looking for exposure, which means they will also be happy to tweet, share, and shout out about your post once it goes live and you send them a follow-up email with a link to it.

Sounds pretty great, right?

To get started, you’ll need to make an account on HARO and register as a media outlet. At this point, you’ll be able to submit a request for sources through their online form. In this form, you’ll be able to put your contact information, along with a title and description of the project, where you can list out any special requirements, exclusions of what types of pitches you do not want, etc. Be detailed here, so that you can pre-filter the responses you receive and not have to worry about being flooded with irrelevant information.

At the same time, leave your request open and general enough that people won’t be afraid to get ahold of you if they think they can offer an interesting twist on your topic – you never know what great story you might get the exclusive scoop on.

Above, be polite to those you interact with, and always follow up with requests. If you are known to ignore incoming pitches, people might start to ignore your requests when they see them in the HARO newsletter email, effectively shutting you out of sources who may not have been right for one post, but have something great to offer down the road.

When following up with offers that you are interested in using, make sure you’re clear in your expectations and ask for any clarifications or details that may have been left out of someone’s original pitch. Other than that, enjoy your newfound blogging resource!

Why You Should Break Away From Title Conventions In 2016

How many times have you read a lame “5 Ways to Improve Your Bottom Line!” title, clicked through, and the been disappointed to find the same old generic, rehashed information on the other side?

If you roll your eyes whenever these titles come up in your Facebook feed or from some marketer’s Twitter account, you’re not alone. Unfortunately for marketers looking to take the easy way out, millions of other people are feeling the same way and are becoming immune to the type of clickbait titles that have dominated marketing communications for way too long now.

In the near future (actually, now), no one is going to be clicking on cheesy, cringe-worthy headlines that mask lackluster, uninspired content. Instead, you should be working to standout with your titles in other ways to help draw people in without misleading them. Of course, step one is to make sure your content is up to par; no great title or thumbnail image can lead to the conversions you’re after if you don’t have great words waiting for readers on the other side. Be valuable, be useful.

Next, consider tossing out additional hyped up adjectives and adverbs for statistics. Many of the most successful content marketing triumphs to pop up in 2015 were case study types which could boast a specific change in a variable in their title.

For example, the popular Groove blog wrote an article with a title along the lines of “How we raised our traffic by 12,267% with zero advertising.” It’s just about as enticing as a marketing blog post title could possibly be because it gives you an exact statistic that you can hold the author to.

By the way, that blog post really is excellent and outlines a bunch of free traffic generation methods that the company used to, no kidding, give an insane multiple-thousand percent increase to their traffic numbers in an impressive amount of time.

You should consider also making your titles platform specific. For example, WordPress has plugins which allow you to display different title and description tags for certain social networks. For example, if you know that Facebook shows only the first 70 characters of a link title and LinkedIn shows 110, you can create custom titles that fit those exact lengths and make the most of you allotted characters on each platform.

Titles which are native (made for) a platform will without a doubt perform better in terms of clickthrough and reader interest. Futhermore, platform specific titles can help you create clever synergies between the titles and preview images shown on each network, which can go a long way toward making your homegrown marketing efforts look more professional and thought out – and that’s never a bad thing!

Basically, titles still need to deliver clickthroughs and intrigue readers, but the way in which they accomplish these goals is going to need to be more genuine and helpful going forward. Working together to eliminate crappy content and titling is just one way to make audiences less skeptical of content marketing, which makes things easier on the rest of us, doesn’t it?

What It Means To Be An Entrepreneur In 2016

In the online marketing space, there seems to be a false equivalency between the “freedom of quitting your 9 to 5” and “being an entrepreneur.”

More appropriately, there’s the misunderstanding that becoming an entrepreneur won’t mean putting in many, many more hours than 40 per week; this is especially true if you’re hoping to ever be able to replace, let alone exceed, the salary you made in your previous ‘normal’ job.

Not everyone’s cut out for it, and that’s ok.

If you are one of the brave few who’s going to go it alone or has already started working from home or on your own business full time, well, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

#1) Being an entrepreneur means more discipline than ever before.

Working for yourself, “being your own boss,” etc. all sound pretty sweet, but they also mean that you’ve got to really be on top of things.

Organization and discipline need to be far above average to succeed as an entrepreneur.

You will spend long hours starting at a computer screen, even on the activities you aren’t that excited about doing, so make sure you can keep yourself in line.

#2) Being an entrepreneur means sacrificing ‘you’ time.

Not only will you need the discipline to keep hacking away at important tasks, you’ll also need to change your mindset to include less ‘you’ time. As you look at people who have become famous for their entrepreneurial spirit and success, you’ll notice they don’t often subscribe to the same personal reward system that the rest of us do.

For example, you’re worked 9 hours today already, so you should reward yourself with a beer and an hour of your favorite show, right? It sounds great to me, but top tier entrepreneurs are going to shun that time in favor of getting more done.

#3) Being an entrepreneur means managing others.

Whether you’re after “work from home” freedom or want to build a company that someday hits the Fortune 500, you will need to interact with and manage others. Whether their regular employees in an office, or freelancers completing online contracts, smart entrepreneurs know that the biggest key to their own success is the people that they associate themselves with.

Not only that, it’s how they interact with those people. Make sure you’re ready to make the swap from being the one who asks questions to being the one who is constantly asked for direction. Can you keep sane balancing your own tasks with the needs of others?

#4) Finally, being an entrepreneur means leveraging.

Starting out on your own is scary, and so the quickest (and most comfortable) way of growing fast is learning to network with other people who have already been through what you’re going through.

Find out what you’re good at that others aren’t and use that skill to barter early on. Maybe you evaluate someone’s website for SEO for them, and they give you advice on your marketing funnel, etc.

Whatever you have to do, be scrappy and don’t stop working until you’re where you want to be (then build something new).

How to Stay True to Your IM Vision

Remember when you first made the decision to pour yourself into internet marketing? Maybe you’ve felt the rush of quitting your 9-to-5 in favor of starting off on a venture where success or failure rest squarely on your shoulders and yours alone, where earning potential is virtually unlimited and the possibilities seem endless. It’s an exciting moment, to be sure… but are you still excited?

Far too many marketers find themselves ambling down a boring dirt road that started out as a gold-paved promenade. In other words, they burn out. They get discouraged as they hit a ceiling, or maybe they just get bored in their routine. Whatever the reason, it’s always important to have a few tools for getting out of a rut on hand.

For starters, the biggest obstacles are always mental: While you want to be constantly learning and getting smarter from your experiences, you don’t want to lose sight of your original vision and mindset. There’s a talent to learning from experiences without letting them make you overly cynical or discouraged. Remember how excited you were to be your own boss? Remember how excited you were to bring your business/product/vision to the world? Good. Now be that person again.

Of course, it also helps if you’ve got the concrete routines and systems in place to help foster such mindsets. Often, the hardest part about working for yourself is, well, making yourself work. Having a strict daily schedule in place can help you stay on task. Many pros use their first few actions of the day as a psychological trigger and launching pad for the rest of the day. For example, you might begin each day by doing a 30 second speed organizing of your workplace, then a 5 minute email blitz, followed by brewing your morning cup of coffee. Repeating your process each day can get you in the mood to work.

Don’t be afraid to expand. Sometimes, you’re starting off with next to nothing and have to do the grunt work for a while, but even someone with the smallest of starting capital (or none at all) should be looking to move to delegation and expansion as soon as possible. A couple of years ago, article/content marketing was huge. The people who made a substantial living off of it, however, weren’t those writing articles day in and day out. Instead, these people quickly hired a writing and website team under them to allow for rapid growth. Or perhaps they started a large writing outfit to cater to the marketers working with content volume. Either way, they were running a business, not a self-employment hobby.

In a business, you would work toward hiring and expanding, and that’s exactly what you should do. Take stock of your resources, and look at which tasks can be quickly contracted to someone else to help give you more time to plan company growth. For many, the first task to go is content creation. For others, it might be SEO efforts. Whatever isn’t exciting to you and is within budget to hire out, do it.

Finally, don’t be afraid to adapt. You may have started your IM venture two years ago, and a lot changes in two years these days. Constantly be learning, researching, and ensuring that your own methods are still considered the best practice today; never mistake comfort with effectiveness.

What’s New for Internet Marketing in 2015?

So, right about now your newsfeed is probably littered with predictions for internet marketing in 2015, ringing in the New Year with “insider knowledge” in your pocket, blah, blah, baitclick. What a drastic change from each one of the past ten New Years blog trends, no? Do you want to know what is going to happen with internet marketing next year in no uncertain terms: the same thing that is happening right now.

The Most Exciting Prediction in the World

Here it is: trends are going to continue; they are not going to reverse. Things that are working right now are going to continue to work and slightly change as the weeks turn into months. Things that are not working any more will stop being used. If something new comes out that works, people will start to move towards that tool/technique.

Brilliant, no? Actually, what I’m really trying to get at here is that the current trends are only going to get more in-depth. And as for new trends, you’re going to have to keep your ear to the ground and your eyes to blogs to follow them. Don’t rely on a once a year prediction blog to set your internet marketing strategy for 2015, this is the age of real time pivoting and actionable metrics. If you aren’t plugged in 24/7, you’re run the risk of missing out on something big and falling behind.

If Marketing Trends Were Ponies Which Would I Bet On?

But if you are really dying to know what I think about the marketing trends that will be the hottest in this upcoming year, I guess I can put in some picks for you, but as I said, your best gauge for next year’s success is your own intuition and your own research. After all, isn’t it your money and livelihood on the line?

– Mobile marketing will continue to be on the top of everyone’s “must” list but honestly, unless you’re running a huge website, I’m going to go ahead and tell the truth: every one has been predicting this trend for the past four or five years. When are we “there” and not “striving for there” already? If your site isn’t mobile-friendly by now, chances are you’re not in business.

– SEO will continue to be blurred along with content creation and social media. What we have now is a digital marketing operation that is focused on driving traffic and sales. Or conversions. Or whatever you want to call them. The point is, the once finely delineated departments of internet marketing are all lumped together. Watch for this mixed cauldron to continue to be stirred until unrecognizable as separate entities.

– Content will still be king. SEO will still be dead. Everybody will continue to say it and argue about it, but the fact remains that the more quality content you have that is written for your customers and not for search engines the better ranking and sales you will have.

– Metrics and analytics will continue to be super-important as well real-time pivoting, so if you aren’t paying attention to what customer behavior yet, your time is rapidly drawing near to being “too late.”

Now, before you say there was nothing of value there, remember what I said earlier. You are the only one who can bring value to your internet marketing and it’s not going to come from the predictions of a quick email on 2015 internet marketing trends. I don’t care who writes it, the fact of the matter is, you have to pay attention year round if you want to get to the heart of the matter.