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Five Ways to Prevent Email Overload

This guest posts is by Yael Grauer of http://yaelwrites.com.

One sure sign that your blog is getting more successful arises when you find yourself barraged with email from readers. The down-side to this attention is that it can take a very long time to answer individual requests for help.

Bogged down in too much email? Here are some suggestions for helping you find your way to a clear inbox sooner rather than later.

1. It’s all about the FAQ.

If you get asked the same questions over and over again, it’s a good idea to include it—along with any other common queries—in a comprehensive, well-written FAQ page. You can direct people to the FAQ in your contact page, cut and paste from your own FAQ as needed or, if you use Gmail, use your FAQ to take advantage of the tool’s canned responses feature.

2. Keep it short and sweet.

Who says a good email response has to be a novel? Seth Godin, who I’m sure gets more email than most of us could ever imagine, does a great job of responding to everyone who writes to him—often in a sentence or two. Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing fame took this a step further. “If this message is brief, it’s because I care,” his sig file reads, along with a link to a blog post explaining just that. Timely and concise emails may be just the trick you need to plow through that inbox.

3. Give answers for the masses.

Find a way to answer common questions publicly. Whether you schedule a free introductory conference call, have regular “open office” hours or twitterchats, answer questions in a podcast or video, or use reader questions as blogging or newsletter fodder, use techniques that allow you to spend time crafting an answer that reaches more of your audience. Others may well have the same question.

4. I have an ebook about that.

Develop or promote a product that will help answer your readers’ questions. This could be an ebook, paid consultation offer, or any of a number of products that will allow your readers to explore their questions in depth—and get the help they need. Don’t hesitate to mention the product if you think it would be helpful.

5. Make a referral.

If you’re too slammed to do consulting, you’re getting asked questions outside of your area of expertise, or you otherwise don’t have the type of product or service available that would really help your readers, be sure to pass them along to someone else who can help them. Your reader—and the person you refer them to—will likely be grateful for your recommendation.

What email management techniques have worked best for you and your blog?

Yael Grauer is a freelance writer and blogger who was thrust into the world of independent media when she started self-publishing at the age of 12. Find her at http://yaelwrites.com.

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Comments

  1. Brook R says:

    I have been working on a very interesting solution to the “email overload” issue. Darren, I’m hoping we can chat about it some time soon. :)

    I’d really love some input from your readers as well. I have a short (4 min) survey where I’m looking for some early-stage feedback to really nail the solution.

    Could you all (especially those of you with swamped inboxes) help me out and take the survey: http://www.inboxexpr.es ?

    (early beta-access for survey respondents!)

  2. Joshua Noerr says:

    I have found a good FAQ is huge. I also use autoresponders to set response expectations. Good post, cheers

  3. Gloson says:

    Short and sweet post! Indeed, when you get well-known in the blogosphere you risk having email overload and these are great tips to help overcome them!

    One more tip is: respond to your emails as soon as possible, otherwise you might forget about it and become late in responding. :)

  4. Great suggestions. I find that having a FAQ or something like it is great because not only will that cut down on the emails you get, a lot of emails can be answered with a simple link to the FAQ.

    I find that using your email to create posts is also a great way to get the info people are looking for out to the masses.

  5. Yael Grauer says:

    Gloson, that’s definitely a great tip to keep in mind! I archive e-mails I’ve responded to; this prevents new ones from getting lost.

  6. Moon Hussain says:

    Ooo, there’s some sweet suggestions here. I love the faq or ebook suggestions, especially. Serves both parties!

  7. The FAQ idea is a good one. I also have a range of stock answers saved in notepad which I can copy and paste to some of the email enquiries I get.

    Although I don’t use an auto-responder I can definitely see the benefit of this as the blog grows larger.

  8. Very good post. Though I am not sure how the idea of referring someone to answers the questions asked to you will work. Sometimes the referred person may not feel obliged or ready to spend time on answering questions that were asked to someone else. Well if you have buddies who can help you out you are lucky.

    Thanks for the good post Yael.

  9. Liss says:

    This post has come at a perfect time for me, this week I removed my email address from my blog front page because I couldn’t keep up with my emails.

  10. I love the straighforwardness of your writing style — the best way to teach (and learn) is to break the issues at hand down to simple ideas / principles

  11. Jhay says:

    One trick I do to keep my school mates from asking me the same questions about school work is point them to my formspring.me profile.

    It saves me from repeating the same answer for each similar email and it saves the rest of the class time because they can just visit my profile instead of sending me an email about it.

    Though an FAQ page is just brilliant. I’ll go work on it right away.

  12. Trinity says:

    This is really helpful and so as the tips provided by your readers.

  13. Mike says:

    very short and to the point email responses is a must to survive

  14. Good ideas to keep in mind. Especially the FAQ thing and keeping answers very short. I agree with Moon Hussain that this serves both parties because it saves time.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Take care

    Oliver

  15. Great post. In this day and age where people are so busy, it makes sense to manage your emails in an effective way.

  16. Ramona says:

    I am far from being so successful, but I did get quite some emails about things I’ve written in my sites. These ideas will help me build a “faq” section that would answer to many of these questions and also be able to make my contact management more effective.

  17. Mel says:

    I have yet to come to a stage that lots of email is a problem! We tend to respond to worthy emails same day either by email or mostly by calling the sender!
    Maybe building a F.A.Q section will help when companies want us to free work for them!

  18. wasim Ismail says:

    Great tips on keeping ontop of your emails, as they can catch up with you very easily if your not careful

  19. Perla says:

    Yep, great suggestion, been applying some of these myself and can handle my email much better now. Also try the new Priority Inbox on gmail, it works great.

  20. Fables says:

    My system is that I would spend 1 to 1.5 hours on emails each day. I try to answer all emails as possible. The replies will be very short because I only include the important stuffs in the replies. I would clear the emails I received the previous day and do not check the emails until the next morning. This way, I don’t have to worry about emails throughout the day but people can still receive the replies as soon as possible. I don’t want to let the emails building up, it’s too stressful for me looking at the inbox like that.

  21. Yael Grauer says:

    Fables, that sounds like a great system!

  22. Peggy Duncan says:

    Excellent post. Let people know upfront that you might not be able to answer all emails, but give them your alternatives. I’ve always had the FAQ. I also had an Ask Peggy and would post relevant questions with answers in the archives. People were asking the same basic questions and this reduced my messages significantly.

    For messages answered via email, in Outlook 2003, I had multiples signatures with detailed answers (a signature can be about anything…not just your contact info). In Outlook 2007, I use Quick Parts. Works great.

    Having a useless autoresponder serves no purpose. Your computer telling me that my email has been received did not answer my question. You just contributed to my email overload. I’m grateful that most people DO NOT do this.

  23. Yael Grauer says:

    Peggy, how do you feel about autoresponders when people are out of the office for the weekend or for a set period of time? I personally don’t mind receiving those because they stop me from obsessing about why someone hasn’t gotten back to me yet. Curious what your thoughts are.

  24. Carolee says:

    I haven’t thought about an “ask Carolee” section….I’m still working on a FAQ………and a few other things for my biz site.