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If you travel to visit clients, interview portfolio managers and attend CE, you’ll likely miss important messages and calls while on the road. But, there’s a technology called unified messaging that could solve that problem. What is unified messaging? It means integrating electronic messaging and communications into a single interface.

One way to do this is to consolidate all of your correspondence so that it arrives at one email address. For instance, you can have all faxes, voice messages, text messages, and Facebook or LinkedIn messages delivered directly to your email. Here’s how.

Unified messaging strategy

Set up a virtual fax service.

There are many different services that let faxes arrive as a PDF attachment, such as and The set-up happens online and, once it’s done, you have a number people can fax to, just as they would to a landline. The cost is $10 to $12 a month, depending on how often you send and receive faxes.

Get voice mail/text messages sent to your inbox with desktop texting.

I looked at the wide ranges of cellphone service providers, along with other services like Skype, Google Voice/Hangouts and iMessenger. However, there are various limitations tied to each company or service. For example, using a Samsung phone on Rogers gives you different options than using an iPhone on Bell.

The simplest, most comprehensive option is Google Voice. It’s also free, but you need to set it up when you are in the U.S., using U.S. phone numbers.

If you have American or snowbird clients, this could work for you. When someone calls or texts your number, you can receive the call or text at your computer. You can also send and receive texts via email.

If someone leaves a voicemail, transcribed messages come to your email. If you have multiple U.S. numbers, you can have incoming calls to one number ring on the others simultaneously.

Google Voice also has a feature called Hangouts, which facilitates free group calling, web meeting and desktop sharing over an Internet connection. For Canadian numbers, the best option is to set up Line2. For $10 a month, it gives you a new local or 1-800 number that you can pass out to contacts. (Or, you can have your existing number forwarded automatically to the new Line2 number.)

Once set up, you use the app via Windows or Mac on a desktop, or on your Android or iPhone, to make and receive calls and texts (so clients need never see your actual cellphone number). You can also review voicemails, which are forwarded to your email. You can even set up a Line2 fax line for the same convenience. You cannot respond to text messages in email, but you can use the desktop app to send and receive text messages, and to copy and paste the text history into your CRM or document.

If you’re determined to send and receive SMS/text messages inside Outlook, you need to subscribe to a third-party service like RedOxygen, which is approximately $30 a month, depending on which Outlook version you use.

Have Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn send you an email when someone messages you.

Each service offers an option to receive messages or not. I set up each to send me an email specifically when someone messages or Tweets me.

Too unified?

As I have immersed myself into the modern world of a mobile-workspace, always-connected lifestyle, I’ve found it’s possible to be too unified. So I have all of the above services come, not to my main email, but to a secondary Gmail account inside Outlook. That way, they’re all in one spot—
and I feel connected, but not overwhelmed.

by Kevin Cork, CFP, president of and a best-selling author