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.

 

3 Simple Strategies to Get New Clients Over the Next 30 Days

3 Simple Strategies to Get New Clients Over the Next 30 Days

If you’re struggling to get more clients, there are three simple strategies that you can implement that will help.

But, more importantly, taking consistent, daily action is the real answer to getting more clients.

I’ve had many conversations with business owners these past few months who are, quite frankly, really struggling with their businesses:

  • They have little to no clients.
  • They’re not making the income they need just to pay the bills.
  • They’re barely keeping their heads above water.

When faced with this situation, there’s really only one thing they can do – and that is focus on getting new paying clients.

Maintaining a good cash flow is at the heart of building a successful business; therefore your focus needs to be on getting more clients who are willing to pay for your services.

The only way you can do that is to work with clients who will pay you for your one-on-one services.

Therefore you should forget about:

  • Updating your website.
  • Spending your time on launching a new product or program (if you’re struggling to fill your practice with one-on-one clients, you will struggle to fill your programs).
  • Putting together a telesummit or other major list building event.

Yes, these are all great things to do, but short-term, the focus really has to be on getting more paying clients – this is the single, fastest way to improve your cash flow.

So put all of that “busy” stuff aside, and instead focus on these three simple strategies to get more clients.  You can easily implement each of these strategies so that you can get new clients in the next 30 days — aim for a goal of 3 new clients:

1.  Follow-up with past clients. If you’ve had some success in your business and have worked with a few clients over the past 12-18 months, then take some time to:

  • Check back in with them and see how they’re doing.
  • Ask them if there’s anything they need any help with.
  • Update them on what’s happening in your business.
  • If they’re local, offer to reconnect over coffee.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your business is to forget your past clients and not touch base with them again.

2.  Connect with “warm” leads. How about those conversations you had with potential clients that said “no” or “maybe” to your services? Go back to them and, following the example above, reconnect with them.

Chances are they’re in a different place than they were when you last spoke and they may be ready to work with you this time around.

3. Attend in-person networking events. Connecting with people face-to-face is one of the best ways to meet new clients/potential clients.  Whilst the person you may be speaking with may not be an ideal client you never know who they know.

So when you meet someone at a networking event, never try to sell to them. Get to know them first, build the relationship, and make sure the conversation is about them. And ask them, “who do you know who…” and see if they can offer you any referrals.

When you take consistent steps, day in day out, that’s when you’ll start to see results in your business, i.e. getting more clients.

And these steps I’ve shared with you are all very simple to implement – no complicated technology involved!

Action Step: Create a daily action plan outlining exactly what you’re going to do every day for the next 30 days to get three new clients.

And work that plan!

Where are you struggling to get more clients? Share 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.

 

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.

 

Gmail Email Management: Create Filters and Labels for Quick and Easy Email Organization

Gmail Email Management: Create Filters and Labels for Quick and Easy Email Organization

Sometimes it’s the simple tweaks that can make all the difference!

And your “tweaking” your email system by automating and organizing is where you can see the biggest difference in your day-to-day productivity.

It’s time to ditch the email overwhelm and get organized!

We all know that email is a huge source of overwhelm for many solopreneurs, and also one of the biggest time drains. However, email is essential to a solopreneur’s success, so you have to find a way of organizing your emails. If organized properly you’ll quickly and easily be able to:

  • Focus on the top priority emails first
  • Skim your emails and see which ones need your attention
  • Get quick and easy access

Now, I’m a huge Outlook fan and have written about how you can organize your Outlook inbox through setting up Rules and Filters. But recently, due to a LOT of business and personal travel which has taken me away from my office, I’ve had to work off my laptop, which posed the question of …

How do I access my emails?

Gmail was the obvious answer – I simply forward all of my email accounts on to my Gmail account and voila! I have access to all of my emails!


But…

All of a sudden all the wonderful rules and filters I’d created in Outlook didn’t  transfer to Gmail (obviously!), and so I ended up with this huge glob of emails in my Gmail account … and I mean there were hundreds. So, the Queen of Office Organization suddenly found herself overwhelmed by emails!

Enter…

Gmail Filters and Labels.

With a bit of research I found I could easily recreate the rules and filters I’d set up in my Outlook account to also work in my Gmail account – they’re just called Filters and Labels in Gmail. And once I knew how to do this organizing my emails became a cinch!

So, here’s how you can do this in your own Gmail account too:

1: In your Gmail account, click on Options > Mail Settings.

2: Click on the Filters link.

3: Click on Create a New Filter link.

4: At this screen you can now specify your filter criteria. It can be anything:

  • From a specific email address
  • To a specific email address
  • With certain words in the subject line
  • Specify certain words etc.

5: Once you’ve specified your criteria click on Next Step.

6: On your next screen you then say what you want to happen with your email:

  • Skip the Inbox – this is an essential part of the filtering process. If you want to actually Move your email as it arrives so it ends up in an alternate folder (which is another name for a Label) then you want to make sure this box is ticked. If you don’t tick it you’ll end up with two copies of your email – one in your Inbox and the other assigned to your Label.
  • Apply the Label – this is also another essential part of the filtering process. This is where you automatically assign a Label to an email and, if you’ve selected Skip the Inbox, your email will be assigned directly to this Label. From here you can also create a new Label.

There are also other options you can choose here too, but the ones I use the most are Skip the Inbox and Apply the Label.

7: You can also apply your newly created filter to other emails that meet your criteria. Simply check the box that says Also apply filter to X message below.

8: Click on Create Filter and you’re done!

You can create as many Filters and Labels as you want. Some examples of different Filters/Labels you may want to create are for:

  • Individual clients
  • Newsletters/Ezines
  • Networking Groups
  • Social media notifications
  • New subscriber notifications
  • New order notifications

This is just one of the many systems that are simple to create and yet make a HUGE difference in the overall success of your business. Once you’ve taken control of your emails you’ll become much more productive and efficient.

Where are you struggling to manage your inbox? 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.

 

Email Newsletter: 3 Alternatives to an Ezine

Email Newsletter: 3 Alternatives to an Ezine

This article was inspired by a conversation I had recently with a client; in fact this isn’t the first time I’ve had a similar conversation with clients, so I thought I’d share my response to them with you. This client basically said to me,

“Tracey, please tell me I don’t have to send a weekly ezine!”

Note: An ezine is another name for a newsletter or electronic newsletter.

I know that for many business owners the thought of sitting down every week/month to write and prepare their ezine is really quite a daunting prospect. And, of course, you can get a VA (Virtual Assistant) to pull it all together, upload it to your list management service, and send it out. But that still doesn’t alter the fact that you have to WRITE it!  And this is why many business owners don’t follow through with this very effective marketing strategy.

A few years ago, it was all the rage to send out a “pretty” weekly/bi-weekly/monthly electronic newsletter.  And by “pretty” I mean lots of colorful graphics, headers, different sections etc. etc.  But now there are two major factors that come into play that makes this method of communication a little outdated and unnecessary:

  1. People’s inboxes are overflowing.  They don’t want a lengthy, pretty-looking newsletter. What they want to be able to do is scan their emails quickly and pick out any tidbits of relevant information. This means that you, as the publisher, need to make your communications quick and to-the-point.
  2. People are no longer reading their emails on just their desktop PCs/laptops.  They’re now reading them on their tablets, iPads, and the majority of your readers are reading their emails on their smartphones while they’re out and about, which means that the smaller screen is going to make viewing of your nicely laid-out newsletter more difficult to read.  And if your layout isn’t responsive to different types of media, then your newsletter will be almost impossible to read on a smartphone.

So, given these changes in both society and technology, what’s the answer to this?

Create shorter, to-the-point, and as plain as possible, communications for your subscribers that just have a single call-to-action embedded in them. And this means streamlining the information that you send out.

You do have options!

So with that in mind, here are three alternatives to the standard, long-form newsletter:

1. Send a Tip of the Week. I’m sure if you sat down you could easily come up with a whole series of quick tips around your area of expertise. If you came up with 52 you’d have a whole years’ worth of tips in one sitting.

2. Send an Article of the Week. Instead of a quick tip, send out an article instead.  And rather than include the whole article in your email communication, provide an overview with a link to read the full article on your blog (this is what I do — and it works very well!). And, again, if you can come up with 52 different articles you’d have a whole year’s worth.

3.  Host a weekly free teleclass. I’ve seen several business owners do this with huge success. If speaking is more your thing, invite your list to a free weekly teleclass. Share a popular topic and then open it up for Q&A. What a great way for your audience to get to know you better! You email communication then would be a very simple invitation to your weekly teleclass and, as your subscribers have already opted in to your list, no need to make them optin again for your teleclass — simply provide all the call-in information in your email.

As you can see, there are several alternatives to the standard ezine/newsletter approach. And in today’s fast-paced, overwhelmed society, it makes sense to come up with something much more streamlined.  Pick whichever one works best for you. The important thing is that you have a stay-in-touch strategy in place and that you are consistent on your delivery.

What’s your alternative to an ezine? Share in the comments below.  And if you’re struggling with this, ask your question 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.