If you currently work alone or have a small office, you have probably decided it’s not worth the cost and time of setting up and maintaining a separate mail server and just use the email service your internet provider or website host provides.

The default type of service is “POP3″…a little bit later I’ll explain why you should care.

This works fine if you only need to access your email from one place, such as your office. But more and more, many advisors and business owners have discovered this is too limiting and doesn’t make much business sense.

Most of us conduct business from many different email ‘portals’ such our office computers, home computers, laptops, cellphones and tablets. With the usual POP3 email services, once you download the message to your office computer – as most of us do – it is not accessible from anywhere else.

A simple but more effective solution is to use an IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) server to access your email. The advantage of this system is it functions with two-way communication. This means if you open an email on your Blackberry it will show as ‘read’ later when you open Outlook on your office computer. And an email replied to and deleted at home will not show up in your Inbox still at the office but the Sent Folder is available from anywhere. This makes handling email so much more efficient.

Trying BEFORE Buying

Now, being a lazy-assed, harassed, cheap advisor, I immediately know all of you lazy-assed, harassed and cheap advisors reading this are thinking:

“Will the Germans bail out Greece and Ireland after all the posturing?”

But more relevantly, you are also thinking:

“The IMAP idea sounds cool and will save me time and cash but I don’t have the time and cash to sort all of this crap out when I need to think about the Germans.”

So, here is the magic…

Gmail offers free IMAP services for its email accounts. This means you can set up a trial gmail account, play with the IMAP services for your existing accounts and THEN decide if you want to move fully to this sort of system.

Best of all, it takes maybe ten minutes to set up and can be reversed in five.

Here’s the process:


  • 1. Set up a gmail account. Call it something technical sounding like: Mailserver.yourcompany@gmail.com
  • 2. Set up Gmail to check your work/personal email using the POP3 option. (see below)
  • 3. Set up Outlook to use the Gmail IMAP service to collect your messages from the email addresses you give it.
  • 4. Set up each computer, phone, tablet to access the gmail account.
  • 5. Done.

Essentially, you direct GMail to collect all your email from the various accounts to one big ‘pool’ and then you set up IMAP on Gmail to make the ‘pooled email’ available to all your devices and places. This creates a ‘mail server-like’ experience for you that is invisible to your clients and no-cost and hassle-free for you.

Plus, the default settings in Google’s Gmail allow you to store piles and piles of old emails so that if you ever need them, they haven’t been deleted.

The steps required

Step One
http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&ctx=mail&answer=75725

Step Two: Setting up GMail
http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=77695

Step Three: Setting up your Outlook and devices
http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=75726

Notes:

  • Now personally, my ACT database is connected directly to my Outlook/Office so I need to continue to leave my business email to set up to SEND email, I just make sure it is not retrieving any. That way my ACT/Outlook continues to function automatically.

  • Related, all emails show my business email as the reply-to email in the emails I send. When they reply it appears they are emailing my business email but they are actually, emailing my business email and its getting scooped up by Gmail and repositioned to be scooped by any of my connected devices or systems. Use this option to make sure Gmail shows as my work email: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&ctx=mail&answer=22370

  • More generally, you can use the newly created gmail also as your junk email folder and have all non-client email be Filtered away from the Inbox into a less important folder (I call mine ‘Review’) to be read at a later date. You do not want to use your business email address for all the services and subscriptions and website feeds you sign up for.

  • If you want to get fancy, additional Gmail addresses can be set up instantly inside your current Gmail mailbox, for example. If your current Gmail address was cleveradvisor@Gmail.com you can sign up for a notification service from a fund company, for example by giving the fund company the following e-mail address: “cleveradvisor+notifications@Gmail.com”. The + allows you to add any additional word to any address or signing up for, which then gives you the ability to further Filter e-mail down the road. There is no limit to the number of plus sign e-mail addresses you can have.

  • It is possible to set up a complete cloud-based office using the Gmail business services, called Google Apps (for less than 10 staff) or Google Apps for Business (for more than 10). Both of these services allow you to set up your own domain name for $10 a year. This includes online document collaborative creation and editing software, private online groups, public website hosting, GTalk chat software, sync software, etc. The Business version has an annual fee per employee.

    One of the standard tools in the modern advisor’s toolbox is the e-mail message. This is a double-edged tool, because it can very easily overwhelm you with a daily deluge of electronic information and important client email can be lost. The services and strategies outlined above are simple, cost effective ways to ramp up the efficiency of your system without requiring massive changes or large costs.

    It is easy to forget that email is not the work itself. It is a service allowing work to be done more quickly and efficiently. Learning how to take that next step will mean you spend less time and money setting up an email system and more time talking to clients.

    Kevin Cork, CFP, is President of TheAbsoluteGroup.com and a best-selling author.
    Originally published on Advisor.ca