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3 Easy Tricks: A Journalist’s Guide To Email

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Is there anything more anathema to the intrepid entrepreneurial soul than the bureaucratic rigours of email?

No one began a business saying ‘ damn, I’ma do me some emails’.

Alas, there’s still a long way to go before the email is consigned to the spam folder of history. But if we can’t get rid of it now, there are a few ways to do email better.

Strictly no circumlocutions (and pick up the damn phone!)

In a recent email correspondence, an entrepreneur replied: “I don’t write, I do.” It was hard to fault her response.

Although her point wasn’t  explicitly referring to email, her short replies suggest her maxim had been neatly repurposed for the age of email.

The structure of email still retains the vestigial limbs of handwritten correspondence.

The structure usually follows: greeting, small talk, what you really want, closing line, salutation and name.

Lost in this performative dance is the kernel of what you wanted. But how necessary are these accoutrements?

Traditional etiquette coaches would gasp if you eschewed the subtleties of 19th century written correspondence.

But it’s worth asking, why does an entrepreneur send an email and why does a modern consumer open and read email? Both parties want something.

Modern entrepreneurs could learn a thing or two from the 17th-century French polymath Blaise Pascal. “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter,” he famously apologised. “I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

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What Pascal understood was to craft a disciplined, thoughtful letter was a matter of respect. Of course, Pascal’s remark was delivered in the context of his time, it’s not completely true in the era of 200 emails-a-day.

But what he understood even then was that communication is initiated to serve a purpose.

Brevity isn’t a matter of saving time. It’s effectively communicating your point. If you are going to send emails then at least make it a results-driven enterprise.

Modern entrepreneurs could learn a thing or two from the 17th-century French polymath Blaise Pascal

James Hamblin, a senior editor at The Atlantic, has taken this to the next level. Hamblin doesn’t do salutations or sign-offs and strictly keeps emails to three sentences or less.

Don’t have time to synthesise your point into a neatly packaged email? Pick up the phone and call them.

Check less = reduce email stress

Okay, but if brevity isn’t necessarily brief then doesn’t that just take us back to square one? Well, if you’re constantly knee-deep in your inbox then yeah.

Brevity on its own isn’t enough: it should be combined with a disciplined approach to checking email.

Many entrepreneurs feel an immense pressure to reply immediately. But in the course of your business’s daily life, you’ll never outrun your emails; you will always tread water.

Not only does this rush to reply affect the quality of your correspondence (refer back to point one), it is also unproductive and actually bad for your health.

A study by the British Psychological Society found half of the subjects had emails automatically sent to their inbox (push notifications) and 62% left their email on all day.

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These habits were linked to higher levels of stress (which, if you didn’t know, will kill you).

“The habits we develop, the emotional reactions we have to messages and the unwritten organisational etiquette around email,” said the research lead Dr Richard MacKinnon, “combine into a toxic source of stress which could be negatively impacting our productivity and well-being.”

A healthier – and more productive solution – is scheduled checks. Marc Wileman, the founder of Sublime Science, only checks his email every few days. To compensate, an email to Wileman is immediately met with an auto-reply alerting the person to this and asked to contact him directly if it’s urgent.

Wileman’s approach might be a tad extreme for some, but a more disciplined, routinised check of the email will save you a lot of stress.

And as for push notifications: no, absolutely not, get rid of them, kill them dead.

Chat more

In a recent Guardian article, Slack’s user researcher Dr Leah Reich argued email is an outmoded way of communicating. “Email,” Reich said, “is hierarchical and compartmentalised and great for political manoeuvring.”

Slack is arguably the leading light in the modern workplace’s chat revolution. It is, though, certainly not the only one: there’s Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, Salesforce’s Chatter.

A more disciplined, routinised check of email will save you a lot of stress.

Whatever the platform, they would all argue inter-employee email is unnecessary and not conducive to creativity.

“How often is there deep collaboration and sharing on email?” Reich told the Guardian.”That weird overlapping feeling of ideas and iteration and design thinking? That’s still new to a lot of people. It’s radical collaboration, a different way of working and thinking.”

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Especially in an idea-driven workspace, the new wave of chat apps opens up new channels of collaboration. Their instantaneousness engenders an informality that drives right-to-the-point; it’s certainly preferable to the staid email and sneaky BCCs.

Alex likes to write about anything related to technology, marketing and gadgets. He sometimes reviews the latest tech and also writes on other blogs.

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7 Reasons Why Its Important to Have a Niche

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A niche is a focused, targetable segment of the market. You are a specialist providing a product or service that focuses on the specific needs of an identified client group, which cannot or are not being addressed in such detail by the dominant providers in your industry.

But it is important to understand that there is, in fact, a difference between your identified niche and your target market.

Your target market is a specific identifiable group of people you work with, e.g. women in the city, technology start-ups, creative agency owners, small and medium businesses in a particular revenue range.

Your niche is the service you specialise in offering to your target market.

For example, standing desks are aimed at professionals who work in front of a computer for long periods of time. This is a well-defined niche.

Here are 7 reasons why it is important to have a niche:

To avoid spreading yourself too thin

Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin in saying that ‘everyone’ is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus on a specific grouping of people, and particularly on what their needs and wants are.

You will unlikely to be able to serve everybody, so it is important to focus on what you do best and aim it at a specific group of people who will likely buy what you offer.

It is important to find out what is important to them, what blogs they read, their beliefs and attitudes, who the main influencers in that network are.

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Having these insights means that you can develop products or services specifically aimed at this group, based on your thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are interested in.

It’s easier to identify and target potential clients and partners to work with

As the pool of people that exists for a niche is smaller than its mainstream equivalent, it will be easier to identify potential clients and partners to work with, as you can be much more targeted and laser-focused with your marketing efforts.

It’s easier to become an expert and well known in your niche

Niching means it will be much easier for others to understand ‘what you do’ and ‘for whom’, which will make it easier to position you as an expert in your field. As this group is more targeted and of a smaller size, you can rapidly become well known within this group of people.

Your profile and overall visibility will increase within this group. It is a small world after all!

More and better referrals

Since it will be easier for others to understand what you do and for whom, it, in turn, becomes much easier for them to refer more and better quality clients to you that fit the profile of your ideal client, as you have built up trust, credibility, visibility, and it is very clear as to what your specialism is.

The more unique you are, the less competition you will have

There will be less competition, as you will provide the specific services or create the specific products for the specific people you are seeking to help in a specific way that meets their needs. The BIG advantage of becoming more unique is that usually it can’t be easily replicated by your competition!

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Marketing becomes much easier

Effective niche marketing should really help with your marketing, positioning and branding as you will attract the ‘right people’ much more easily and quickly. People with similar interests tend to behave and are attracted to similar things. This means that many of your clients will do all the hard work for you as they will refer you more and more because your profile, credibility and influence are readily apparent within your tribe.

More repeat business

As you are able to provide an increasingly better service or product, based on your specific client’s needs, it is likely that you will get more repeat business – people will come back for more, and as an added benefit will often start spending more with you as your relationship grows with them.

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4 Things That Are Slowing Down Everyday Business Processes

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A modern business needs a lot of things to be successful. 

High-quality products that capture the attention of your target market are an excellent first start. However, you also need robust marketing strategies, a strong team of dedicated workers, and a plan for continued growth and evolution. 

A good company is like a well-oiled machine. One cog turning out of time could bring your entire enterprise grinding to a halt. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the things that are slowing down your crucial processes and preventing your company from reaching its true potential. 

Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the things that could be hampering your everyday business processes, so that you can make a valuable change. 

#1 Multitasking

How many people in your business are wearing multiple hats? 

The chances are that if you’re a small and growing company, you have endless executives and employees rushing from one task to another. You may even be asking your team members to take part in activities that aren’t closely connected to their job roles. 

While it’s fine for everyone in your organization to pitch in a little extra at times, it’s important to make sure that this doesn’t give way to constant multitasking. 

Research proves that multitasking kills productivity and reduces the quality of the work produced. That’s because when you’re multitasking, you’re continually forcing your brain to switch from one thing to another, so you can’t truly focus on anything. 

If multitasking is a common problem in your organization, then it might be time to reassess your workflow and see where you can create more focused teams. Try to give the right task to the right people to prevent inefficiencies. 

Maybe allowing your senior leaders to delegate more of their work will make them more successful. Perhaps taking extra jobs away from lower employees and keeping everyone focused on their areas of expertise will help. 

The last thing you want for your business is that your employees don’t have time to do the job they were hired for.

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If you have to switch employees between different tasks frequently and it’s slowing down work progress, maybe it’s time to add a new employee to your team. Alternatively, look if some processes can be outsourced to a company or a freelancer.

#2 Inefficient Meetings

Increasingly, companies are beginning to feel as though most meetings are nothing more than a waste of time. For years, we relied on face-to-face interactions in boardrooms to make sure that everyone in our team remained on the same page. 

However, by now, we have learned that this kind of disruptive activity is no longer necessary. 

Although the occasional meeting can be useful to connect your employees and bring people together in a more intimate environment, most of the time, you can switch a meeting out for broadcast on a collaboration app. 

You could even consider allowing your employees to dial into a video meeting so that they don’t have to leave their office. 

Pulling your team members out of their workflow so that they can take part in meetings when you could have shared the same information in an email is a dangerous waste of time. 

The next time you’re planning a meeting, ask yourself whether it’s necessary to bring people together in a conventional sense. If it is, ensure that you’re only inviting the most relevant people to the room.

Once they leave the meeting room, everyone should know exactly why their input was required and what are the next steps they need to take

#3 Lack of Insights

Let’s face it – data makes the world go around. We’re living in an era where information is everywhere, and it’s crucial to making our companies more effective. 

The good news is that the majority of today’s companies have systems in place that allow them to capture intelligence information from everything from their sales calls to their marketing campaigns. 

The bad news is that most organizations simply don’t know how to use their insights to improve their business operations. If you’re not taking advantage of the benefits of real-time and historical data analysis yet, it could be the perfect time to get started. 

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Sit down with the other leaders in your team and figure out some goals that you want to accomplish. From there, you can determine what kind of information you need to reach your goals. 

For instance, if you want to make your marketing campaigns more successful, it makes sense to look at the marketing initiatives that have worked for you in the past. 

You might also want to tap into information about your target audiences and their pain points too. This data could help you identify areas that you can improve to offer your customers an excellent experience at every touchpoint with your business.

#4 Preventable IT Issues

Finally, another thing that we’ve come to recognize in the digital era is that IT can either be your friend or your enemy. In many cases, the right technology in your company’s landscape can accelerate growth and generate new opportunities. 

Knowing how to make the most of the assets at your disposal can significantly improve daily business operations. Implementing some new solutions can help you get there, too.

AI and machine learning are no longer terms out of science fiction novels. People have taught robots to interact with each other and with other people, and solve problems in the process. 

For a great example of how this achievement can speed up daily business operations, just look at chatbots. Chatbots can drastically reduce the time it takes to answer repeat customer questions and queries. Your employees could spend this time on more important tasks and projects. 

Also, chatbots can work around the clock. There’s no denying that having a 24/7 customer service is a great asset to your business. However, due to the high costs of maintaining a contact center, in most cases, it’s not a viable solution.

In such scenarios, chatbots can step in, respond to simple queries, and redirect more complicated issues to a human. 

Chatbots enable you to reduce time, money, and human labour, which you can then reallocate into growing your business.

If you have enough people on your team, offering live chat is another way to bypass long workflow procedures and ticketing systems that might be annoying to your customers. An agent can handle more than one chat at a time and still give the customer a personalized approach. 

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The list of benefits of a live chat for a business is long. It boosts customer convenience, satisfaction, and loyalty, helps your business respond to their pain points faster and opens another channel for upselling.

However, there’s also a chance that poorly-managed technology could slow your business down and stop your team from completing their goals. Remote working trends or bring your own device trend (BYOD) are especially sensitive to these issues.  

While it’s always possible that IT issues might happen in your workforce, you can put strategies in place to protect yourself from any major downtime or disruptions. 

For instance, teaching your team members how to manage work equipment on their own, and providing them with the knowledge to troubleshoot any issues they face means that you can keep your organization running smoothly. 

At the same time, this frees up time for your IT employees, who can focus on finding ways for you to use technology to accelerate your business growth, rather than just responding to the same old preventable problems. 

Time to Speed up Your Business Growth

A company is a dynamic and ever-changing thing. Unfortunately, it’s also very fragile. When something as small as a single process doesn’t work properly for your company, you begin to see negative repercussions everywhere. 

The good news is that taking the time to examine your business workflow and figure out areas where systems can be improved can make your venture more efficient and successful. 

From working on preventable IT issues to reducing the number of meaningless meetings your team members are exposed to, there are plenty of ways that you can make your company into the well-oiled machine that it needs to be. 

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