How to avoid email overload


Email has been one of the most popular forms of communication for many years now. With the rise of chatbots, instant messaging and social media, you may be forgiven for thinking that It isn’t quite as important as it once was, but this isn’t the case. In fact, a recent American study found that over 50% of respondents check their emails more than 10 times a day. Not to mention, the number of active email accounts worldwide is expected to pass 5.6 billion by the end of this decade. Clearly email is as popular as it ever was- even when facing fierce competition.

One of the main problems with email is that it’s too popular. With the advent of smart phones, the email app is literally a click away and the compulsion to check and respond to messages is constant. Many people are swamped with hundreds of unanswered emails which require substantial time and effort to process. The problem is that new emails are generated each and every day, so the backlog grows and individuals can often feel overwhelmed. Email is not going away any time soon, so the question becomes how can we deal with this growing epidemic of email overload.

Organise

There’s no problem that didn’t get at least a little bit better with some organisation and this applies here. Most email accounts do some sort of basic organising for you, for example priority and spam, however this isn’t usually enough. There are so many types of messages which hit our accounts every day, whether promotional, work, news or social. Creating dedicated folders will allow you to have a clearer picture of your emails and therefore the constant stream won’t be as overwhelming. Folders also allow you prioritise your messages.

Prioritise

It can be easy to fall into the trap of treating all emails equally and attempting to respond to everything as you receive it. However, this can often just exacerbate the frustration of not being able to keep on top of everything. The truth is that the majority of emails that we receive can be placed on the back burner, at least for a short time. Therefore, the next step after organising should be prioritising. Reserve your time for the most important emails that require immediate attention and then work backwards. This means that even if you don’t have a lot of time dedicated to your emails, the time you do have will be prioritised, ensuring greater overall efficiency.

Compartmentalise

One of the reasons why emails can very quickly take over daily life is because they’re ever present. We are notified with every new message, which immediately puts pressure on people to respond. The outcome of this cycle is continual interruption of the day and a feeling that the job is never done. One way to combat this is to allot a specific portion of time each day which is dedicated to processing emails. Outside of these times, you should be in an email free zone, either by blocking notifications or simply resisting temptation. This approach may be difficult at first but after a while the routine becomes second nature and you can successful compartmentalise this aspect of your life and stop is taking over.

Revolutionise

With email overload becoming such a problem, some individuals and organisations are attempting more drastic changes to combat the issue. For example, this idea of unnecessary messaging and reducing this to bring down the overall amount. So, if you’re replying to an email with a single word answer or a simple “thanks”, this often just adds to the general bulk of messages and is often not needed. Follow up emails may be polite but they just tend to add to the mass.

Building on this concept, there is a discussion happening about whether email is always better when compared with other forms of communication. There are discussions, agreements or deals that would take countless back and forth messages over email but could be completed in a single phone call or face to face meeting. This is easier said than done, especially when considering that millennials will soon make up the largest proportion of the workforce and as a group, they tend favour email above all else. In fact, a massive 73% of millennials prefer business communication to come via email.

It’s clear that the overload problem will take some creative thinking and that is exactly what company owner Tony Hsieh has done. He is known for out of the box, unconventional ideas, for example abolishing managers. His approach towards email is a concept called “Yesterbox”, the idea being that we only reply to emails that we received the previous day- unless you get an urgent message that can’t wait. It may not seem that exciting at first but many people have tried it to get success. Whilst today’s emails are continual, yesterdays are fixed and therefore there’s a clear, finite target to aim for. This technique doesn’t actually change the amount of emails that we deal with but its changes our perception of them. The difference between a set amount and non-stop, continual stream can be huge when it comes to stress and management.

One thing that is for certain, emails are not going anywhere so the emphasis needs to be on how we interact with this form of communication. With the right approach and boundaries, we can enjoy all the benefits of email, without the stress.

Building a Successful Online Advertising Strategy

Marketing has always been an important – even back when it was adverts in the newspaper or billboards. However, we now live in an online world in which the vast majority of consumers are permanently plugged in to the internet via smart devices. The online sphere has completely changed the way in which businesses approach marketing, offering an incredibly powerful tool at their discretion. However, online advertising involves so many different factors and it can be daunting to know where to begin.

Goals

One of the main pitfalls when creating an online marketing strategy from scratch is attempting to do everything and, in the process achieving nothing. There are many avenues to choose from- SEO, brand recognition, Google, viral marketing, content, lead generation and the list goes on. Going in to the process without setting out a plan isn’t likely to garner success. Preparation is key and deciding which aspect or aspects of advertising that you’d like to employ will not only streamline the overall process but will also help to save time and resources. Map out the campaign ahead of time and this will offer a clear roadmap to follow.

Target Market

Who are you selling to? That is a vital question when designing an online marketing campaign. The vast majority of businesses will have some sort of idea on their target audience but precision is important. Relying on broad categories such as gender, age or location are unlikely to focus marketing in the way that is required. A much clearer, more detailed insight in to the target customer is required and this can only be achieved through research. Whether it’s the use of surveys, test products, analytics or ideally a combination of everything, research is paramount. Interestingly, companies are often surprised to find out that their actual customers differ from their target customers and have to adapt accordingly.

In-House or Contracted?

Choosing whether between in-house marketing and outsourcing to a dedicated agency will depend on different factors, namely the scale of the campaign and the budget. If you’re looking for a multi-pronged approach that will require a heavy investment of time and effort, it may make more sense to employ a third-party marketing agency. They will have the experience and resources required but this will obviously require a hefty budget. If budget is an issue or if your project is smaller, then in-house is best. A dedicated marketing team is a massive advantage but not always tenable, especially with smaller companies. Tailor the project to you and the resources available to you.

Search Engines

Search engine results are an important aspect of marketing, whether it’s through the use of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. The overall aim of the majority of companies is to rank high on search results- namely Google. The organic way of accomplishing this is to encourage searching through high quality content or brand awareness. This isn’t always easy so many opt for SEO, which involves the use of keyword rich content in a way to boost your ranking in results. This is a viable approach but takes time and effort. Conversely, you have PPC adverts which are bumped up in search results but obviously these are paid for. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that businesses only pay for the advert when a consumer clicks on it. Both techniques have been very popular in recent years but there’s definitely a shift happening towards more modern, organic approaches.

Social Media

Social media is the single most valuable tool for marketers. This is because it provides a direct connection between the business and the potential consumer. It’s also a platform that allows for a variety of marketing techniques- whether it’s traditional PPC adverts, content publishing, viral posts or just brand awareness, social media is incredibly versatile. However you choose to utilise sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, a continual and vocal presence is paramount. Post often and engage with visitors and this will boost your overall social media strategy.

Review

Planning and launching a marketing campaign is only half the battle, continual assessment ensures long-term success. Not everything is going to work and that’s fine but evolution needs to happen in real-time. Utilise analytics, customer data and feedback in order to gauge which aspects of your marketing campaign are hitting the mark and which aren’t and change accordingly.

Is it true that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers?

The 80/20 rule has been a part of the business world for many years but it actually goes back much further than that. It originated with an economist called Vilfredo Pareto in the late 19th Century, which is why it’s often labelled ass the Pareto Principle.

The idea behind this rule is fairly simple, stating that 80% of something good is generated by only 20% of something else. Back when Pareto came up with this theory, he was talking about land- more specifically that 80% of the land was owned by only 20% of the people. This idea was born from a socialist perspective and was objectively correct. In fact, it’s common knowledge in today’s society that the vast majority of wealth is owned by a small percentage of people.

Conversely, the 80/20 Principle jumped over to the business sphere- an irony that wouldn’t have been lost on Pareto. The idea has been applied to a variety of relationships but the one that gets talked about the most is the theory that 80% of sales comes from only 20% of customers.

It’s clear to see why this idea has become so popular amongst those within the business sector- it’s music to their ears. If the majority of a company’s sales is only coming from a relatively small section of customers then promotion becomes infinitely easier and cheaper. Aiming all of your resources at a select few is always going to be an attractive option- especially compared with the alternative which is casting a wide net, taking extra time, money and effort.

So, is the 80/20 rule valid or is it an urban myth that won’t go away? Short answer is- it’s a myth. Yes, there are examples in which companies receive the majority of their sales from a small number of customers but it’s rare. Not to mention that sales fluctuate constantly, with some customers leaving and new customers joining. Therefore, it would be next to impossible for this 80/20 ratio to be a hard and fast rule.

One of the ways in which this idea has been able to take hold is because companies refuse to actually sit down and work out their numbers. Having a real-time view of sales and customers can be invaluable as it gives businesses an advantage when it comes to marketing.

Another point to consider is Sharp’s “Law of Buyer Moderation” – which basically states that you can’t extrapolate buyer behaviour using limited date. For example, there is no guarantee that a customer who makes many purchases one year will repeat this in the next. The marketplace can be volatile and customers are often unpredictable, especially when you’re trying to fit them in to a strict ratio.

Furthermore, whilst the 80/40 Principle is attractive in some respects, it may not be something to aim for. If a business is relying on a small number of customers for the majority of their revenue, that’s a very precarious place to be in. The company would only have to lose a small percentage of customers in order to notice a dramatic dip in sales. When the customer base is larger, the risk is spread out further and the likelihood of crashes is reduced.

Whilst it’s clear that the Pareto Principle was never a great fit with business- there are circumstances in which companies rely on smaller pools of customers for the majority of their revenue. For example, high end fashion and other luxury items. In situations such as these, it would make sense to target these particular customers. However, even in these rare cases, businesses would be foolish to ignore the vast majority of customers who make smaller purchases.

To summarise, whilst it may be an interesting concept, the 80/20 law is far too rigid to apply to the diverse and ever-changing world of business. It may be costly and time consuming but reaching out to a wide range of customers and potential customers, regardless of how much they buy is still a tried and tested roadmap to success.

How can remarketing help my business?

Companies invest huge amounts of time and money in to marketing in the hope of directing new customers to their website. Whether its banner ads, viral marketing or social media, the eventual goal is to convert leads in to sales. However, whilst many forms of marketing will be successful in getting people on to a website- that doesn’t automatically lead to a sale. There’s a whole host of reasons why this may be the case, but the overall outcome is the same. In situations such as these, remarketing may be the ideal solution.

When a customer leaves your site without making a sale, they could potentially never return. In fact, a whopping 96% of visitors will leave without making a purchase and on average, it will take 9.5 visits before a person will actually complete a transaction. Therefore, the time, resources and money that was invested in to attracting the visitor could be potentially wasted. This is where remarketing comes in. It’s a technique in which companies will follow visitors who have left their website, showcasing their own banner ads on other websites and apps that the customer visits. Often the ad will be specific, advertising the individual product that the customer was viewing.

Some of the most popular vehicles for remarketing are Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Whilst the majority of remarketing is done using cookies, user IDs and mobile advertising IDs, you can also utilise email addresses, phone numbers and physical addresses. It’s also worth noting that many companies are now utilising social media and apps more as they receive so much traffic.

The remarketing process falls in to two different camps, self-service and 3rd party platforms. Self-service tools such as those offered by Google and Facebook, are cheaper and offer more control but require more time, effort and skill. 3rd party platforms are more expensive and offer less control but are easier to use. Both routes offer their own advantages and disadvantages but it’s worth noting that self-service platforms tend to be more popular.

There are many benefits to remarketing with the obvious one being that it can lead to an increase in sales. People get distracted when surfing the web and the gentle reminders provided by banner ads can lead to visitors returning to your site and making a purchase. This is especially likely if the visitor was close to making a sale before leaving the site. Another often overlooked benefit to this type of marketing is the effect it has on overall brand awareness. Building a brand identity using traditional methods can be time consuming and expensive. Remarketing allows companies to push certain products or services, but it also helps in showcasing the business as a whole. With banner ads continually in the periphery of potential customers, it’s a very subtle but effective approach to boosting overall awareness.

When discussing remarketing, the focus tends to be on traditional banner ads but there are other techniques at hand. Another form of remarketing which tends to be particularly successful for generating sales is to remind customers that they have items within their basket and then offer them an incentive in order to complete the sale. This usually comes in the form of a discount offer or free delivery, sent via an email. An offer which has been specifically targeted in such a way can make all the difference for customers who are on the fence.

Clearly, there are many upsides to remarketing but there are some disadvantages to consider. One of the major pitfalls is the “creep factor” – as many customers dislike the idea that brands will follow them to other websites. It’s all part of the growing unease with companies collecting so much of our data, often without us noticing. The best way to combat this idea is through moderation. For example, don’t be too aggressive with remarketing in terms of the frequency of ads. Also, don’t remarket to customers who have already made a purchase, instead aim at potential customers who are close to converting.

It’s also worth noting that many experts believe that the “creep factor” is overblown and the numbers back this up. Remarketing is still a very powerful tool, and this wouldn’t be the case if customers were being alienated by the technique.

As marketing become more sophisticated and companies have even more access to customer data, it’s likely remarketing will evolve further, offering even more benefits in the future.