Posts Tagged ‘gmail’

Oct16

Using GMail filters to make company email addresses intelligent [Google Apps]

Many online businesses provide generic email addresses on their ‘contact us’ page for their customers to use – sales@, admin@, press@, etc.  While they may be easy to set up they can become difficult to manage which is why including a little business logic may help ease the pain.  If you’re using Google Apps to run your back-end office operations you’re in luck.  We’re profiling how to set up those generic email addresses with a little workflow to make those in to dollar producing assets.

The Setup:

For the purposes of this post, I’ve created a generic ‘sales’ address and an address for a fake employee – Johnny.  Johnny is so good, I want my big-dollar product leads going straight to him for quick conversion.  Every sales organization is structured differently, but we’re working under the assumption that our sales reps are product and territory based.  Our high-dollar product lines are the XY9500 and the YZ9900.  Johnny handles sales for MD, DC, VA, TN, NC, SC and GA.

The Approach:

GMail has a very advanced set of search operators built-in that happen to work with filters when included in the ‘Has The Words:’ text box during filter creation.  We’re going to create a set of filters in the ‘sales’ inbox that will forward matching emails to the appropriate sales rep, label the message as ‘forwarded’ and then archive it.  Labeling and archiving the email keeps the inbox clean so that the generic address ‘manager’ only has to review and react to those messages that our logic doesn’t recognize.

The Execution:

Here is an email from a potential customer that found us on the web.  They’re interested in setting up a contract to purchase 100 of our XY9500 products.

Dear Sales Team:

My name is Phil and I’m the purchaser for Acme Associates based in Washington, DC.  We are in the market for 100 of your XY9500 products and would like to speak with a sales associate to obtain some additional information.

The best way to get in touch with me is via email or at 123-123-1234.

Thank you,

Phil

Acme Associates

Washington, DC 12345

For the state determination we’re relying on the fact that people use a full signature with the address.  You could also include area/zip code in an ‘or’ condition.  You can create another filter for just products that goes to an individual to distribute accordingly or to a distribution list of all the reps that handle that product.  Google Apps allows you to easily create distribution lists.

Within the ‘sales’ email account enter the ‘settings’ and create a new filter.  We’re going to leave everything but the ‘Has the words:’ field blank.  If you’re using a web form to capture the data you may be able to use the ‘subject’ field but I think it’s a little more robust and easier to maintain if it’s all in one field.  One of the more important aspects of the operators to understand is that parenthesis “( )” equate to ‘AND’ and brackets “{ }” equate to ‘OR’.

The filter rule we’re going to use is: “({XY9500 YZ9900} {MD DC VA TN NC SC GA})”  This means that the email has to contain both a product of XY9500 or YZ9900 and a state of MD, DC, VA, TN, NC, SC or GA.  If it passes our filter, we’ll send it to Johnny, mark it as ‘forwarded’ and archive the email.  You could expand the list of states to include area codes since most people include at least one phone number in their signature.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Once you come up with a filter you want to use, test it by emailing yourself a few emails and entering the filter in the search field.  You know your customers best and if the email is caught (either included or excluded) as you expected then you should be good to go.  Here are a couple screenshots of the search – one note, the search feature will highlight pieces of the email that fit your criteria.

Search results from Sales inbox

Search results from Sales inbox

Email with highlighted search results

Email with highlighted search results

The Debrief:

While this is in no way an exhaustive list of the advanced search operators, I think it is a good introduction and should get you started.  From a maintenance perspective, it would be best to create one filter per employee (sales person, PR agent, etc) so that in the unlikely event that they leave, you only need to adjust the forwarding email in one label to the interim employee.

If your website uses a contact form that potential customers fill out you have a little more opportunity for drilling into the data.  If you know how the data will be formatted when it hits your inbox that allows you to create more advanced filters and get things to exactly the right employee.  Maybe, your contact form has a ‘budget’ field with preset amounts and anything over a certain dollar figure gets sent to an urgent-response team.  There are so many applications for the search operators that spending some time to familiarize yourself with them will pay off in the long run.

One thing to experiment with is the ‘exclusion’ operator.  If you include the “-” symbol before one of your clauses it excludes items that meet that statement.  For example, if your filter criteria was “({XY9500 YZ9900} -{MD DC VA TN NC SC GA})” and you used the email above, your search results would return 0 results because it contains ‘DC’.

Don’t forget to have the office manager login and check those inboxes and forward those leads to the appropriate person.

If you have some other ideas that you use to make things easier, let me know in the comments.

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Oct06

Gmail Adds Mail Goggles Lab Feature

Gmail just launched a new labs feature by the name of ‘Mail Goggles’.  Yes, you read that right…Mail Goggles.  It’s tasked with the job of making it more difficult to actually send those embarrassing emails when you’re sitting behind your monitor inebriated.  I don’t know about you but if I’m out enjoying a beverage (or few) I’m not carrying a computer with me and as far as I know the Labs features don’t work with IMAP.

I guess for those few (maybe there is actually a lot) that have problems with drunk-mailing this could be a good fix but I’d much prefer Gmail spend the time to come up with ‘mailbox rules’ similar to Outlook.  Before people start screaming, yes, I know you can use Outlook with Gmail but I don’t want to have to use it.  With rules, I can easily setup a 1 minute delay on outbound emails.  This allows me to catch that last sentence or add that last recipient that may have slipped my mind as I clicked ‘send’.

You can configure the settings on the ‘general’ tab after enabling the feature.  It’s a pretty quick configuration and let’s you tell Google when your preferred drinking times are and allows you to make it as easy or as difficult as you want.

As I found while I was testing, once you ‘pass the test’ once you can send as many emails as you want without being prompted to take the quiz again.  Apparently, you have to logout and then login again to re-prompt the ‘Mail Goggles’.  At least I had to logout, even when I tried sending messages to a different address.  Maybe it only asks you to verify once every set amount of time?!?

Verdict: Leave this one disabled.

Settings:

Gmail Adds Mail Goggles - Settings

Gmail Adds Mail Goggles - Settings

Easy: 

Gmail Mail Goggles Easy Settings

Gmail Mail Goggles Easy Settings

 

 

Difficult: 

Gmail Mail Goggles Difficult Settings

Gmail Mail Goggles Difficult Settings

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Sep26

Managing Subscription Content [How To]

Wow – once again, it’s been longer between posts than I had ever planned.  Everytime I feel like I’m about to turn the corner something else comes up and turns life back into a ridiculous time-crunch.  Anyways…

I consider myself an early adopter.  I’m currently using Google Chrome (the newest web browser), I’ve been using web-based email for years (I own Outlook and it’s not even setup), I blog, I have a Twitter account, I’ve had Facebook since it was first launched at my school and I read almost all my news online (I’m a fan of Google Reader).  Those are the best examples I could come up with…it’s been a long week.  Bare with me.  But sometimes, it’s nice to have a copy in hand and get your eyes off the computer screen.  With my travel schedule (around 120-140 segments a year) sometimes it just isn’t efficient to turn on the PC and use Google Reader offline with Gears.

The biggest problem I have with my magazine subscriptions is managing the content for reference later.  One of the best features (in my humble opinion) of Google Reader is the ability to tag and ‘Star’ posts.  I currently have 222 starred posts organized under 252 tags…I read a lot.  But, I can’t really do that with an article in a magazine can I?!?  It would be a little inefficient to award an article a gold star (think back to elementary school people) but have to look through each page to find it.

Here are a couple things I do to keep this information at my fingertips:

Summary Emails 

I send summary emails to myself for each issue if there is something worth remembering.  For example, I just finished reading the October issue of Money.  I sent myself an email with the subject “Money Magazine – October 2008″ and included key words such as “retirement locations”, “Roth Advantages”, “Social Security Taxation Formula”, etc.

I have a general tag (SUBSCRIPTIONS) that I apply to each of these emails for easy location later and if an issue is particularly heavy on something I may assign it additional tags.  For example, Money tends to have issues packed with retirement information.  So, at times, I label a whole issue with the ‘RETIREMENT’ tag.

The tags are great but it’s inefficient to create a tag for every possible key word.  By entering meaningful words in the body of the email I can search for them later with GMails built in search functionality and figure out which issue(s) I need to pull for additional information.

Scanned Articles

Sometimes an article just jumps out at me as amazing or there’s just one article from an issue that I’m interested in saving for later.  In this case I’ll scan the article and send it to myself as an image.  Nothing too fancy here folks, my $150 All-in-One handles the workload nicely.  Attach the image, label it ‘subscriptions’, add some key words and an appropriate subject and I’m sure to find it later.  For articles that fall into this category, I often star the conversation as well just to make it that much easier to find.

This allows me to trash the issue (there’s only so much space for storing subscriptions these days) but retain the information.  I don’t even know how many times I’ve pulled up previously read articles for quotes or references. 

The only real downside I’m facing right now is that I have to search twice.  With as much as I read, I can’t always remember where exactly I read something…I have to search.  In order to get the proper results I have to search Google Reader/sort through tags and search GMail.

It’s cumbersome at times, but I’ve found it to be a great way to manage print information so that it’s easy to find when you need it.  Hope this helps!

 

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Apr01

Gmail Custom Time…April Fools!

Is Google creating a time machine? I logged into Gmail this evening (let’s be honest, it’s now morning) to do a little work and was greeted by a new link which is not live. Well, it’s visible but it doesn’t navigate anywhere but a 404, page not found. Great, no offense Google but it kind of kills the joke when it’s a dud after I find it.

Some of you may remember last year’s Gmail April Fools joke – Gmail Paper. Basically, they offered a free service for you to print all your email and they would send it to you on paper. Where do they come up with this stuff?!?

So how will Gmail Custom Time play out? I’m guessing a ‘service’ to let you set times emails will be sent (I can actually see a use for this) or when an email should have been sent.

Here’s a shot from my Gmail account.

Gmail Custom Time

UPDATE: The link in Gmail is now live and it’s pointing to a page with a similar format to last year’s April Fools. The joke this year is a feature that allows you to set the time emails are ‘sent’ as I predicted above. Now I can tell my boss that I sent him that email hours ago even though I didn’t. “Hey boss, refresh your inbox, I know I sent you that TPS report.” Obviously this wouldn’t really work (it’s like printing “hundred of thousands” of emails and having them delivered)…let’s hope they have something else for us when I wake up.

Gmail Custom Time Webpage

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Mar25

Needed Gmail Enhancements

As I’ve stated several times, I love the various Google products and use several of them on a daily basis. My Gmail is open almost all day long, I use Google Reader to sort, manage and read my news, I share photos and documents with Picasa and Google Docs and I communicate with people all over the world (literally) with Google Talk. When I start my own business I’ll probably use Google Apps to keep costs low and because it allows me the ability to use the Gmail web interface and it’s easy to install. Simply put, they have created an amazing suite of free services but as my usage grows, so does the need for a few enhancements to make things even better.

Since Gmail released the IMAP feature a few months ago I’ve been a pretty happy camper. While I’m pretty happy, there is always room for improvement. I think Gmail recognizes that since they’re continually releasing new features! Keep it up guys.

  • Tagging: The ability to label emails with several tags is great but having to select them from a drop down list is inefficient. It would be great if there was a type-ahead feature that auto-completed tags as I began typing them. It would also be great if you could apply multiple tags to filters.
  • Filtering: Gmail has a great filter set-up but there is one thing I’d like to see added. The ability to apply multiple tags to filtered messages. Some people may not use tags to quite the same extent I do but I like to keep an organized mailbox. With my travels for work I also like to make sure I keep as many records as possible and there are some emails that I get on a regular basis that I like filtered into two buckets. Hotel receipts are the main culprit (expense reporting can be such a pain). Currently, I just have to filter it with one tag and add the second manually. Not a huge deal, but it would definitely be a time saver.
  • Shortcut Keys: For those of us that use Outlook all day for corporate email, shortcut keys are where it’s at. I can successfully navigate almost all of Outlook (that I use at least) without touching the mouse. Google has done a pretty good job building out the shortcut keys but some of them are counter-intuitive. Maybe the problem is they just aren’t intuitive based on the Windows habits that we have all picked up. I’d like to see the ability to customize your shortcut keys or at least add a few more like ‘ALT+s’ to quickly send an email from compose mode.

If I new anything about writing GreaseMonkey scripts or had a couple hours of extra time I would consider writing a couple of these enhancements myself. But…since I don’t and I have no extra time I’m hoping the various Google teams go ahead and step-up.

These are obviously just my opinions but I think they’re enhancements that would benefit the masses.

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Feb26

Gmail = GoogleMail = Less Spam

Well, it had been a while since I had posted because things at work had been hectic. Oh, and I’m getting over a little flu. But my two posts recently were things I just couldn’t let go. What great productivity enhancers…soon enough I’ll be flying Southwest Airlines.

I get tons of email – between work and personal email I don’t know how I ever do anything but email (I’m working on implementing Tim Ferris’ recent email suggestions, but I’m not there yet). Anyways, I get a lot of email and I love hearing new methods for filtering message so that I know exactly what I have to read and what can wait until later. While reading my daily blogs today I stumbled on this little beauty – all Gmail users are given two email addresses.

In short – Google gives you two email addresses when you sign up for a Gmail account. youraccount@gmail.com and youraccount@googlemail.com both end up in your Gmail inbox. Lucky for you, this provides you with a simple way of filtering email from friends, family and coworkers differently than email from random places such as Amazon, Comcast, Cingular, etc.

All you have to do is continue using your Gmail address for the emails that you want to read immediately and start using your @googlemail.com address for all your other communication such as hotel reservations, bill notifications, online orders, news subscriptions, etc. Then create a filter in Gmail with youraccount@googlemail.com in the ‘to’ field. Have this filter apply a label to the email and archive for you to revisit later.

Give it a test and email yourself at youremail@googlemail.com.

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