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Important client e-mails can be lost in the daily deluge of information. Here are three inexpensive ways to help you manage messages.

1. Basic: Get a junk e-mail address

Reduce how much comes in. Not every e-mail has to be read or responded to right away. And an e-mail from a client is far more pressing than one offering 50% off hot stone massages.

Set up a junk e-mail address for all non-client, non-head office e-mail. I suggest Gmail for this secondary address because of the many features it offers:

  • You can flag selected e-mail addresses as priority, which moves them to the top of the list. This enhances control and sortability.
  • It can retrieve e-mail from all your old e-mail addresses.
  • Additional Gmail sub-addresses can be set up inside your current mailbox. For example, if your current address is cleveradvisor@gmail.com, you can sign up for a notification service from a fund company with the e-mail address cleveradvisor+notifications@gmail.com. The + allows you to add any additional word to any of your Gmail addresses, adding a layer to your filtering. There is no limit to the number of + e-mail addresses you can have under your main Gmail account.
  • Beta features and other plug-ins allow you to manage Gmail easily. For example, the free plug-in Boomerang for Gmail can be used to schedule e-mails to be sent at a later date, provide reminders, resend e-mail to you at a later date, and more. Some of the beta Gmail features allow you to turn an e-mail into a document or a calendar item.

2. Intermediate: Use rules

The Outlook system you use at work also has some custom features. Set up rules to deliver certain e-mails to a specific folder. For example, all e-mails from your assistant could go to an “urgent” folder, or all e-mails mentioning your dealer’s name could go to a certain folder.

This requires a fair bit of work to set up and also needs constant updating. But putting in the time in advance will reap rewards later. To set this up:

  1. Open ‘Tools’
  2. Click on ‘Rules and Alerts’
  3. Click the ‘New Rules’ Tab

You then proceed to walk through the process of teaching Outlook how to handle e-mail from certain addresses. (Apple’s Mail uses Mail>Preferences>Rule, Thunderbird calls its rules ‘Filters’)

3. Advanced: Set up your own IMAP e-mail server

Google Apps is Google’s web-based business platform. It’s good for boutique shops and self-branded advisory firms. The basic service offers domain-based e-mail, document creation, scheduling and other capabilities. It can also be set up to run a client database, and do project management, invoicing, cloud-based file storage, and other functionalities. For just $10/year, you’ll get 10 e-mail accounts under your chosen domain.

You can have your e-mail set up on an IMAP server, which allows you to access e-mail from any device that connects to the Internet. What’s more, e-mail you’ve read will be marked ‘Read’ and any replies will appear in the Sent folder on all devices. All other e-mail addresses you use can be set up under this service.

The instructions to set up this service are clearly outlined on Google’s app website. The process only takes 10 minutes.

Kevin Cork, CFP, is President of TheAbsoluteGroup.com and a best-selling author.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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