Email management for overloaded email boxes circa 2008

I have noticed I spend a lot of time sifting through email these days. I have several accounts for different purposes and they fill up quickly with both subscriptions I have started and a lot of spam I never requested. I know that spam is just the price we pay right now for an app like email, but I hope that someday the spammers are put out of business because of the awful things they do stealing identities and personal information.

Anyway, my post wasn’t supposed to be about spam. It was about email volume circa 2008. I do get a lot of spam, and because one email address I have dates back to 1996 that one gets about 50% spam.  The spam filter I have does catch about 80% of it but the other 20% is annoying and dangerous.

The other 60% of that old email address mail is a lot of subscriptions since I am more likely to read an email than go find a bookmark of a blog every few days. The web based email is about 25% spam and the work email is maybe 1% spam, they are pretty good at blocking it.

I found this feedblitz and email update technology immensely helpful in the beginning since I check email anyway and it was a way to kill 2 tasks with one stone. Now though, things have gotten out of hand. I estimate that I get about 200 emails per day between 3 accounts. That is a bit more than I intended. True, it may be time to unsubscribe to some newsletters and updates but then it might go down to 150. Knowing this, you might understand why I gave up on RSS feeds in 2004.

Email is just too ingrained into our business and consumer culture as a communication medium. Or at least it is for Gen-Xers like myself. I do feel the pressure of the millennials and Gen-Yers to go to a social networking communication platform and I have profiles on all the major sites with plenty of contacts/friends but it’s just not home base for me. For a while one circle of people I knew were using MySpace as a hub for communication, but they were in the Arts, as many MySpacers are. Now that I no longer have time for extra cirricular activities I have lost touch with them and my MySpace page. I also have an online client email I use for personal stuff and of course the ubiquitous work email. I also have a 4th email that I don’t use because 3 is really enough.

I was reading this article today about how people manage their emails and BAM it was exactly how I managed them without me even really thinking about how I categorize things. Literally things just evolved the way they worked best over the past 10 years. The old old email became a place for all the sign ups you had to complete for one reason or another, login info for registrations and updates and such but not time sensitive stuff because I moved my most critical emails over to the web based email when it got too cluttered and I wanted to be able to access it anywhere rather than just at home on my computer in outlook. The second web based email also became a place to move personal communication off the work email account since in the beginning there was no line between them and then there suddenly was one day in about 2004. The work account also gets some alerts and such but only work related. (yes, that’s a blurry line since its online media and marketing that I work in)

Overall, I was surprised that I fit their archetype “to a tee” and that I evolved this way without even thinking of it. The gen-x and gen-y people have a hard time separating work from personal (especially if you work in onlinemedia, its all online anyway at the click of a mouse, it only takes a second!) and this will only provide harder in the future as more is expected of us as we balance family and work all in less time. I hope this setup satisfies the need for different urgencies, disclosures and personalizations of emails as well as productivity and time management. All this digital overload is consuming in a very empty way really. I feel like I must look through all this and read it every day yet very little is really going to impact my work or my life. I am mostly off email on weekends and I find it not that different but I have more time suddenly. Hmmm…must pare down email newsletters soon.

I have a compulsion to keep my email boxes cleaned out once a day and reply to anything that needs it from work or personal in 24 hours. I wonder if I will be able to keep that up in the future and if I will have to integrate more mandatory social networking at some point to keep up with those 10 years younger than me? 

I also recently started using the rescue time application to log and review where I am in a day and how much is actually spent on email and work. I have since cut my work email time in 1/2 and ditto for the personal email also. It’s a good application for self time management, but I wouldn’t want to use it for work purposes officially. I like that I have control over it and am not evaluated based on it since I have my days where I am not as productive. But the application helps me get back on track and out of the funk quicker.

As a consumer do I like being emailed by companies? Sometimes yes. If I opt in to your email I may be marginally or really interested in hearing from you depending on how much your product fits my life and work. If the emails provide no help or relevance whatsoever, they will get deleted and unsubscribed within a few months. If you send me discounts, new product info or other locally relevant information or content I am really into that helps me do my job, I am happy to read and click to help your ROI. I think email is better than direct mail because of the targeting and the lack of paper it uses. (save the trees) I would much rather an email from most companies than a flyer in the mail box. Plus it gives me the control to turn it off when it’s no longer relevant. Trust me, I will re-subscribe if the situation changes, I am a newsletter nut, that is for sure. And I think my generation is in general. But don’t expect us to buy-buy-buy stuff just because you emailed it to us. If we don’t need or want it we just consider the offer and decide no this time. It’s ok, we will find you when we need it, even if it is a month or two from now. And frequency is an issue. I am annoyed by some weekly emails because how often do you really need to know about the same product over and over again? Monthly is fine, or how about every other week?  

So, all of this is kind of my unwritten rules of email, work and business, and I hope that we continue to figure things out to make communication and information finding more efficient and less time consuming while still productive. Now if I could only find a way to maintain 3 blogs more efficiently too.

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New Email Marketing Social Network Site

I am always interested in what other marketers have to say and are working on. There is always a lively debate about theory and practice of any marketing medium or method going on. Email marketing is also a huge success area for marketers and they debate heavily on what is best, worst and the new latest thing. Yes the email newsletter has still remained on top for providing push marketing messages out to consumers and creating conversions to purchase when there are sales goals to be met. We all get the “limited time only”, “huge sale” and “new product” emails from retailers and some of them actually work.

icontact logoThere is a new online social networking community just for email marketers now. It is from iContact. They are an email marketing management company. Someone you buy email management and sending services from to manage your email marketing process. They want marketers to not only use their management solutions, but to also log on and chat with other marketers. I think this will give both the marketers and iContact insight into what works and doesn’t work and what innovations are needed. The new iContact community is a lot like other social networks allowing people to rate and “digg” stories and content. There are also a lot of blogs and newsletters about email marketing that contribute there too. I have not done any email marketing for a while so I might go check it out just to keep up my knowledge up on this topic.

The web community service already has 120,000 registered members (so it is going strong) that are logged in and because it is a professional service they charge $9.95 per month. (this is something your company would most likely reimburse you for) Check it out to see what is new and working in email marketing right now. http://community.icontact.com

Email Marketing and Newsletters How To

emailI am a huge fan of email marketing in general for it’s success in bringing in site traffic and conversions, but I am also a huge fan of email newsletters as a consumer. I subscribe to everything from google news alerts to newsletters about every service and site I use. I think they are just as great of a way to stay informed as they are to reach customers about news your company has to share and products you would like to sell.

email newsletter Email Marketing is still one of the best way to cultivate an audience for your company, product or service. It is the original online relationship marketing method and it has been working well for all types of businesses since the beginning of the internet. Even Craigslist started as an email newsletter, the possiblities for your business could be endless. Two things you will need to get in order to start a newsletter for your customers: An email marketing service provider (like iContact, which has a free 15 day trial on now that I got an email about) and some content and an editorial calendar for your writing. Your email solution provider is of utmost importance because they are the one that will be storing all the email messages, dealing with bounce receipts, helping revise email lists, archiving your emails, helping you design the format and layout of the email and sending them out for you through the service. That is a lot of stuff from a company and it is best to use them rather than trying to manage this all out of a Yahoo account on your own. Plus they make it easier to manage, that is why it justifies the cost.

Your content is also very important. Try and tailor the  content seasonally or around products and services that have genuine news or fresh article content about them. If you have different sales every year updates and news about them is great. Also try and give email subscribers an incentive to sign up. Maybe a email entry box on the home page with the incentive to receive special email notices of new products before they are released to the public? The possibilities are endless as long as it is tailored to your business and your customer’s needs.