Top Gmail Productivity Tools

Top Gmail Productivity Tools

Having access to all of your information from your tablet, iPad, smartphone, laptop, desktop etc. is the norm these days.

So you need to find a simple way to easily access this information and streamline the process.

As an Android/PC gal, I love Google Tools to help me stay organized and on top of all my emails, documents, workflows etc. and having access to this information from wherever I am makes it a whole lot easier to be more efficient.

Several years ago I was a die-hard Outlook user. But it was only accessible from my desktop PC … in my office.

Then I started to travel more and more (both for business and personal) and found I needed something that was more efficient (this was even before smartphones became the norm).

Enter Gmail … and Google’s various tools.

Making the switch was a big learning curve for me and, initially I got frustrated that I couldn’t do some of the things in Gmail that I used to easily be able to do in Outlook. However with a bit of perseverance and re-thinking the way I worked, I found some great Gmail productivity tools that allow me to do pretty much the same things as I used to do in Outlook. And today I’m going to share them with you!

1. Email Signatures

Problem: One of my biggest frustrations at first was that Gmail didn’t put my email signature at the bottom of my messages; instead it put it at the bottom of the conversation thread. If there were several emails within the conversation thread, this meant that my signature appeared way down at the bottom.

Solution: If you go to your Gmail settings and click on Labs, scroll down until you find the Signature Tweaks Lab and enable it. This means that my email signature now appears at the bottom of my email message instead at the bottom of the conversation thread. I also have different email signatures set up for different email accounts, and Gmail automatically puts the right signature for the right account.

Also check out Wise Stamp for professional looking signatures — works great with Gmail (I use it).

2. Email Templates

Problem: For those repetitive emails I used to have email templates created in Outlook, so I just chose the template I wanted and away I went. I couldn’t find this same functionality in Gmail initially, so was copying and pasting from Outlook into Gmail each time I wanted to use an email template.

Solution: Again, if you go to your Gmail settings and click on Labs, scroll down until you find the Canned Responses Lab and enable it. Voila! I can now create email templates in Gmail in the same way I used to create email templates in Outlook. So I simply took all my Outlook templates and copied and pasted them into new canned responses in my Gmail account.

3. Mail Merge

Problem: One of the things I loved about Outlook was the ability to create mail merges, i.e. send personalized emails to a group of people by using the Mail Merge feature in Word. It would automatically send them to my Outlook as emails.

Solution: This was a harder one to solve and took quite a bit of digging around to find the solution … but I felt sure it had to be there. And it was! Here’s a link to a video tutorial that shows you exactly how to create mail merges using Gmail. It requires you download a spreadsheet and save it in your Google docs, but it’s such a huge timesaver.

Click Here to watch the Mail Merge Video

So there you go … my top three favorite Gmail tools to increase my productivity. And if you know of any others do let me know. I love new gadgets!

4. Boomerang

Another of my favorites is Boomerang for Gmail.  If you’ve ever wanted to send your emails on a specific day/time (rather than the send immediately option that you currently have with Gmail); or you want emails to return to the top of your inbox on a specified date so that you can be reminded to do something, Boomerang will do just that!  It’s a great find, and makes my Gmail feel more like my Outlook used to be.

5. Drag

Another great tool that I’ve just discovered is called Drag. It transforms your Gmail into organized Task Lists. It’s a free Chrome extension that turns your inbox into a manageable workspace (just like Trello, but for Gmail).

Which of these Gmail productivity tools are you going to enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.

(c) 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Register for the FREE Online Training From CHAOS To CALM TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

Systems: This Is What Happens When You Have The RIGHT Systems But In The WRONG Order

Systems: This Is What Happens When You Have The RIGHT Systems But In The WRONG Order

Systems are the cornerstone of your business.  Without the right office organization systems in place, you’ll very quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated.

I recently held a virtual workshop where I talked about the three biggest mistakes I see many business owners making in their business, and all of these mistakes had one thing in common: a lack of SYSTEMS.

One of those mistakes I shared was having the right systems in place, but in the wrong order.

Let me explain a bit more…

Over the 16 years I have been in business, I have become aware that there is a very specific order in which to build your business, and if you do any of this out of order, then at some point you’re going to cause some problems for yourself.

So, I took these steps and created a 3-step business management model. I refer to these three steps at the 3 “Ms” to Online Business Management Success, and it is this business model I follow and teach my private clients to follow too.

Put simply, the three steps in the 3 Ms model are:

  • Step 1: Manage – build the foundations for your business by creating your core systems
  • Step 2: Market – create visibility so that your target market knows who you are and what you do, and then build your database of potential clients and customers
  • Step 3: Create Multiple Streams – when you get to the “bursting point” in your business repackage your expertise into various products and programs to leverage your time

I’ve written and talked about this specific business management model a lot previously, so I don’t want to focus on the process today. Instead, I’d like to share with you the results you get (or don’t get) when you do things in the WRONG order.

Scenario #1: Creating & Launching an Info Product Without Having a List in Place

Rather than focusing on building your list (step 2: market), you spend time creating a product (step 3: multiple streams) because that’s what you’ve been led to believe works … create a passive product that people can buy on your website and you become an overnight success!

So you create and launch your product, but you don’t get any sales!

Why? Because you don’t have anyone to sell to!

This is a classic case of going straight to Step 3 and completely missing out Step 2.

Scenario #2: Running an Advertising Campaign to Get New Subscribers/Leads

Let’s say you run a Facebook ad for your ezine, and it’s a huge success and you get a ton of new subscribers (step 2: marketing). If one (or more) of these new subscribers are then interested in working with you, what processes do you have in place to turn that subscriber from a potential client into a paying client? I.e. your client conversion system – and this is actually a part of your contact management system (step 1: manage).

So if you don’t have this system in place before the marketing, you’re going to have to scramble to get this set up and you could actually lose the potential client in the process.

This is an example of marketing your business (step 2) before managing your business (step 1).

So even though in the two scenarios above, you had the right systems in place, you were implementing them in the wrong order. The result is that both of these scenarios will have a very real impact on your bottom line:

Scenario 1: You put in hours of YOUR time creating an info product with no sales. What is your hourly rate? Multiply that by how many hours it took you to create the product and there is the cost of your lost revenue opportunity. That time would have been better spent focusing on getting new ideal clients so that you can fill your business and generate consistent revenues.

Scenario 2: You lose the sale because you don’t have your systems in place. The client goes elsewhere. What has that lack of systems just cost you in terms of business revenue?

Where are you struggling to get the right systems in place? Share in the comments below; I’d love to help.

© 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Register for the FREE Online Training From CHAOS To CALM TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

Using Payment Plan to Increase Your Cash Flow: Your 5-Step Guide

Using Payment Plan to Increase Your Cash Flow: Your 5-Step Guide

You’ve done it! You’re generating consistent cash flow month after month — you can predict exactly what’s coming in and exactly what’s going out.

For many business owners though, this is still a dream.

But, with a few tweaks to your current set up you can start to turn that dream into a reality.

Maintaining a consistent cash flow is a critical element of running a successful business — you need to be able to pay your bills and, more importantly, pay yourself! I come across too many business owners who do not have this crucial foundational system in place. As a result they’re on a constant feast or famine cycle … you know, some months they have a massive surge in income, and the following month they hardly have two pennies to rub together.

As well as being an inefficient way to run a business, it’s also very stressful.

You never know if you’re going to have a good month this month, and be able to pay your bills, or barely scrape by.

For these reasons I am huge fan of payment plans, both for making my own purchases in my business and for clients to pay me.

Why? 

Because it helps enormously with cash flow – which is crucial when it comes to the smooth running, and long-term success, of your business.

On the expenses side, I can easily budget for expenses. As a business owner you too want to be able to manage your own cash flow, i.e. the money going out of your business, not just the money coming in.  By taking advantage of payment plans when you sign up for any kind of business development program, you’ll know exactly how much is going out of your business each and every month. You’ll be able to manage your expenses much better — rather than a big lump sum going out in one month, you can spread the payments out over several months.

And on the income side, you can easily anticipate how much is going to come into your business every month, and make plans accordingly. And you’ll also be able to grab opportunities as they present themselves because you know your financial situation.

So know that you understand a little more how payment plans can help you, both as a business owner and service provider, today I’d like to share with you my five steps to increasing cash flow in your own business by utilizling payment plans.

1. Get a merchant account. I consider this a must-have for any business owner wishing to do business online or providing one-on-one services with clients. With a merchant account you can very easily accept all major credit cards without your clients and customers having to go via Paypal (this is a great option for a secondary payment processor). And, most importantly, you can set your client payments up for automatic recurring billing. Doesn’t that sound fabulous?

2. Offer payment plans. Again, this is a must-have for anything you sell costing more than $150. So this would apply to your products, programs, and mostly your one-on-one client services. How you choose to set up your payment plans is entirely up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to add between 10-20% onto the full pay price and divide that number by the required number of payments. For private client payment plans, you may want to approach that slightly differently, depending on the program and investment level.

3. Don’t stretch payment plans out too far. This is especially important for your group programs and one-on-one client programs. You want to ensure that when the end of the program is reached the client has made all of their payments. There is the danger that if you let payments go beyond the end of the program the client will feel that they’re paying for a program they are no longer a part of, and this can result in higher credit card declines.

4. Have clear payment policies in place. Talking of declines and other ‘uncomfortable’ payment issues, make sure you have a clear policy in place for how you’re going to collect on non-payers. How do you contact them, i.e. phone, email, certified letter, and how long do you leave it before making contact with them? Are you willing to go as far as handing things over to a collections agency?

5. Be aware of all the fees involved. Many business owners get stung by unforeseen merchant and shopping cart fees. Check out what fees are involved on your merchant account – there is usually a monthly account fee, a monthly gateway fee, and per transaction fees (which are usually a percentage of the transaction). And if you’re using recurring billing through your shopping cart, check out their recurring transaction fees too. If you’re using Paypal also be aware of their fees; on the surface it may seem a better deal than having your own merchant account, but dig a little deeper, and understand exactly what’s involved.

Increasing your cash flow by offering payments options is definitely a good way forward, both for you as the business owner and your clients. But do be fully aware of any costs and pitfalls involved so that you can plan and budget accordingly.

What questions do you have about setting up payment plans? Post in the comments below; I’d love to help.

(c) 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Get your free Systems Checklist TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

3 Simple Steps To Manage Your Budget And Cashflow

3 Simple Steps To Manage Your Budget And Cashflow

Along with paper piles, budget and Cashflow is another area that can be a huge source of overwhelm and frustration! 

And I bet the very title of this article made you think twice about reading it 🙂

In your corporate days you would have had a bookkeeping/accounting department that took care of all of this for you – they paid the invoices, they tracked the receivables, they tracked the income, and they told you the bottom line!

Now that you’re running your own business you are also the Chief Financial Officer, and it can be very overwhelming.  However, it needn’t be… let me share with you three simple steps that you can put in place to manage your budget and Cashflow.

But first, let’s start with what is a Cashflow projection?

One important area of your Financial Management System is that of a Cashflow projection.  Put simply, a Cashflow projection shows whether your anticipated income will be able to cover your expected (projected) expenses and this report is very beneficial to you in your business.

It is an annual report and, if set up correctly, will show you how cash will flow through your business throughout the current financial year.  I’ve been using a Cashflow report in my business for many years and find it invaluable.  Just recently the chance to participate in a high-profile teleclass series came up, and because I have my financial systems in place, I knew straightaway that it was something I could take part in!

Step 1 – Create Your Cashflow Report

This is very easy to do using a spreadsheet.  Create a column that lists all of your expenses, i.e. office supplies, legal & professional fees, membership, advertising etc. and a column for each month of the year.  You will need to create formulae that will tell you your total income, total expenses, and subtracts the expenses from the income, and also carries forward any amounts from month-to-month.  This is so you can see how your finances are ‘flowing’ throughout the year.

Step 2 – Input Your Data

Taking your financial data from your bookkeeping system input your actual income and expenses, and list any projected expenses in the appropriate row/column.  Your Cashflow report will now show you at-a-glance any time periods for which you will need to be especially aware of.  For example you may have a lot of expenses in one particular month so you’ll know that the previous month you’ll need to make sure that you have the funds kept back in your bank account to take care of those upcoming expenses.

It will also show you if you can afford to make an investment in your business, whether that’s signing up for a new service or membership club, taking out an advertisement, or buying new equipment.

Your Cashflow projection can also be used as a budget planner.  You can plan out when annual memberships are due and put those in ahead of time.  You can also add in an amount for when your taxes are due.  This will provide you with a really good feel of how cash is flowing through your business, month after month, throughout the year, and you can also tell how much you can take off for owners draw, but still leave enough to cover the anticipated expenses.

Step 3 – Schedule In The Time

Now that you have your Cashflow report in place, it’s important that you update it regularly so that you can stay aware of how cash is flowing through your business, and take any actions necessary so that you have enough to cover all of your anticipated expenses.

I recommend scheduling in at least 30 minutes once a month to update this critical financial management report.

A Final Thought…

Having an annual Cashflow projection will provide you with all of the information you need so that you can keep on top of your business financially and know where you are.

If you have a bookkeeper taking care of all your financial records for you, ask them to prepare your monthly Cashflow report for you.

Where do you need help with your financial management system? Post in the comments below; I’d love to help.

© 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Get your free Systems Checklist TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

Test, Analyze, Course-Correct

Test, Analyze, Course-Correct

The month of January has just flown by — I feel we were just celebrating Christmas and poof! it’s the end of January!

One of the reasons I think is that (as well as a trip to San Diego) I’ve been knee-deep in a client’s launch campaign for one of her online training programs.

We’ve also been testing several different marketing strategies too to see what works best.

That’s one of the big advantages of an online business … if something isn’t working out as you’d hoped, you can easily course-correct.

This is some of my favorite work to do, and I love to help my clients figure out the system they need to get set up to make a launch campaign run smoothly.

So, as you’re busy planning out your next big launch, keep these three stages in mind:

  • Pre-launch: this is where you do all the major planning and strategizing and usually takes several weeks.
  • Launch: this is where you launch your event/program and is a relatively short time-frame.
  • Post-launch: once the initial launch phase is over, you want to ensure that you continue to get more sales, especially if it’s for a product that will be available over the long-term.

You can read more about these different stages here.

And, as always, if you have questions or comments please post below.

Why It’s A Good Thing To Delete Your Subscribers

Why It’s A Good Thing To Delete Your Subscribers

Over the past few weeks I’ve been going through my subscriber database and cleaning it up — deleting subscribers, products, and autoresponders.

I ended up deleting over 3,000 subscribers!

While that might sound a little scary (after all, why would I want to delete subscribers that I’ve worked so hard to get?) it’s actually a very good exercise to do.

If you’re at all familiar with your own email open rates, you know that only a certain percentage of your subscribers open your emails, yet you continue to send emails to this same group of people.

Did you know that you when you continually send email broadcasts to people who NEVER open your emails it affects your email deliverability?

So, for that reason it’s a good idea to really take the time — at least three times a year — and segment your subscribers between those who open your emails and those who don’t.

For those who don’t, you can pop them into a re-engagement campaign to try and reactivate them. And if they don’t open your emails after that, simply delete them.

By regularly taking the time to clean up your list you’re emailing to a high quality group of subscribers who do open your emails. Plus your open rates will increase, which makes you feel like you’re not emailing to crickets!

There a couple of others areas where you can clean up your client database too, and you can read about them here.

And, as always, if you have questions or comments please post below; I’d love to help.

Photo: flickr, sammynetbook