5 Email Hacks

So we’ve talked about emails you can send in no time at all. Now let’s up the ante and talk about five ways you can save time and get ANY email out the door faster.

Yay! Time!

1. Kill your images.

If you have images, that’s wonderful. Who doesn’t love a pretty, pretty picture? But if you’re struggling to get your email out, and pictures are a part of your personal torture, kill the image. Nobody cares.

When I have given this advice in the past, I’ve heard two types of reply. One, an incredulous “I can DO that?!?!” with an accompanying sigh of relief. Two, “But people say they really love my images!”

If you are in the latter camp, that’s great. Bring the image back next time. But just because people love an element of what you do doesn’t mean they’ll leave in a rage if you stop. It’s your picture, you can kill it if you want to.

2. Kill the template.

For the better part of 10 years I sent email in text-only. Every now and again I lusted after somebody’s gorgeous email template, but I realized that as a small business owner, I had better things to do.

It’s difficult for me to imagine somebody saying, “Well, I would read IttyBiz, but there’s no fancy formatting in the newsletter, you know?”

If you’ve got a great template that’s easy to use and takes virtually no time to format, fantastic. Keep it. But if the template is part of the problem, kill it, even only for today. When people see that it’s different, they’ll assume something went wrong with the formatting and they’ll just read the text.

3. Steal a subject line.

The subject line for my last email came from the cover of this month’s InStyle magazine. It was originally “Style Your Hair In Half The Time.” I changed it to “Email Your List In Half The Time” and as such, put all of three seconds of thought into the entire affair.

This also works if you don’t know what to write about. Go look at a magazine. Find a headline you like well enough. Change it to something that works for your list or blog. Now write the piece.

Be ready for the gym in half the time?
Make your bed in half the time?
Clean your desk in half the time?
Calm down in half the time?
Choose your dress in half the time?

No, they’re not going to win the Pulitzer, but they’ll keep your list warm and get you a bit of traffic. To quote Colin Firth from Love, Actually, “This isn’t bloody Shakespeare.”

4. Ditch the intro.

If you have ever said to yourself, “I don’t know where to start”, this one’s for you. The amount of time people spend on their introductions is often greater than the rest of the email combined. It’s shocking. If you don’t know where or how to start… don’t.

Truly, there is nothing wrong with starting your email with a reworded version of your title.

Go read the intro for this piece. See what I did there? Took eight seconds.

5. Kill unnecessary formatting.

Most formatting in emails does not need to be there, and making sure it looks “right” takes forever.

If you’re writing a short piece (less than 750 words?) you really don’t need much formatting at all.

Formatting exists to add emphasis and give the reader’s eyes a chance to rest in the midst of big blocks of text. So…

If you want to emphasize something, put it in all-caps. And give the eye a rest by breaking up your paragraphs – one or two sentences max. Bam. Formatting’s done.

(Incidentally, in a world where everybody’s reading on their phone, you want to break up your paragraphs anyway. Something that qualified as a perfectly reasonable paragraph when you were in college takes up more than a whole screen on an iPhone 5. Start getting used to shorter sections of text – your readers will thank you for it.)

(That last paragraph? A little too long for mobile. The ones right before it? A lot easier to read on a phone.)

So that’s it!

Five ways to eliminate the unnecessary and save precious time that you COULD be using to interact with us on Facebook. I’m just saying.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

7 Emails You Can Send In 10 Minutes Or LessRaise your hand if you’ve ever had this thought:

“I know I should email my list, but OMG, it’s going to take sooooo loooong.”

(Now that everybody’s hand is up, perhaps we should all do the hokey pokey. Or ride a bull!)

Emailing your list doesn’t have to take forever. It can be quick. Today, I’ve got some ideas for you.

1. A really good or unusual quote.

Go to a quotes website (I like brainyquotes.com) and plug in something tangentially related to what you do and scroll around for a while. Find something you haven’t seen 4000 times already.

A good way to find quotes that haven’t already entered cliche status is to head on over to the trusty thesaurus.com and put in the first word you would think to use. “Courage”, let’s say, or “happiness”. Find synonyms of your word, and search for quotes using them. You’ll get stuff that’s a little off the beaten path.

Use a subject line like “A little quote I love” and you don’t even need an introduction. Just dump the quote in the email, attribute it, maybe throw in a date if you’re feeling ambitious. Click send.

(Incidentally, this one from Po Bronson actually came in our top 10 favorite posts of 2008.)

Now, what about longer quotes? Once a quote gets long, it becomes…

2. An excerpt!

Some of the best feedback we get is from carefully curated excerpts of other writers’ longer works. (We’ve done a few that were particularly popular – see an example of a Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up excerpt here and a The Obstacle is the Way excerpt here.)

Short excerpts with attribution fall under Fair Use copyright, so as long as you’re not uploading whole tomes or calling them your own, you’re generally okay. Nobody’s going to call you a thief.

3. An excerpt of your own.

Also qualifying as the easiest email blasts to ever send are excerpts of things you’ve already written. This is particularly popular with writers who have both an active blog and an email list. What do you send where?

Find a good chunk – let’s say a couple paragraphs – of something that’s up on your blog and send it to your list. Provide a link to the full piece. Bam. Email written. That’s what I did with this post. I cut the first four paragraphs of this piece (the tiny ones at the top) and plonked them into an email with a link sending them here. Hey, look! We’re done.

(You can also do this with excerpts of your books, if you have them. This has been known to sell a lot of books. Keep it to a page or less, and cut or move or modify stuff if it seems prudent. It’s your book, you can cut whole paragraphs if you want to.)

4. Blast from the past.

Kind of like an excerpt, but longer, we have a blast from the past.

Just yank something from the archives.

Seriously. Take an old post. Put it in an email. Send the email. Aaaaaaand, we’re done!

(If you can go way back, this gives you implied social proof. See what I did with the Po Bronson thing? A top 10 from 2008? Cool, right?)

5. Round-up.

While you’re stumbling around in your archives, you could make a whole LIST of pieces. Then you could put them in an email. Then you could send than email to your mailing list.

What to make a list of? Pretty much anything. Your favorites. Other people’s favorites. Most popular posts throughout the months. Most popular posts throughout the years. Your favorite posts that nobody ever reads. The post that gets your highest search traffic. The posts that have the stupidest pictures. Honestly, anything will work here.

Stick them in a list of links. If you have some time, cut a few lines from each as a little teaser. If you have no time, a plain old list is fine.

This is AMAZING for traffic. Seriously.

6. Found on the web.

Basically? Things you found on the internet.

These can be on topic, but they don’t have to be. If you don’t know what to send, or you don’t have anything cool you’ve found, sign up for Pocket. They’ll send cool stuff to you, and then you can send it to your list.

If your list is social media positive, then they’ll tend to love posts like this. It gives them fodder for sharing so they can look interesting and in-the-know.  Your readers will get cred in their social circle, and privately remember that you are the source of the goodness.

(Bonus?  If you’re concerned you talk about the same thing all the time, this will be a breath of fresh air for your list.)

7. Ask a question.

Last (and certainly) not least, you always have the option of asking a question via your email.  You can ask a direct question (“Hey, can I get your opinion?”) or a more rhetorical question that your readers will ask themselves (“What one thing could you do today to increase your Facebook engagement?”)

A few things to take note of:

One! – If you ask a question, people will answer it. If you have a large or responsive list, a lot of people will answer it. You’re going to have to respond to their answers, so no sending before you go on a weekend, or a bender, or a weekend bender.  People expect a reply. (I did this a few years ago and got over 700 replies in less than 24 hours.  I answered more than 400 until I basically died.  If I didn’t get back to you, mea culpa.)

Two! –  The “question” email is often a staple of a launch sequence, so be prepared for people thinking you are about to hit them up for money.  You can allay this concern by giving a little bit of context.  Tell them this topic came up last night at dinner, or you’ll make a post later with the most interesting answers, or anything else that communicates THIS IS NOT A PRE-SALE BLITZ.

That’s it. Easy peasy.

You can do any of these emails in less than 10 minutes.

If you’re the printerly type, print this post out and keep it handy for those moments when you’re strapped for time, grappling with writers’ block, or recovering from that weekend bender.

And share this post while you’re at it. Consider it your first “Found on the web”.  :)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

How To Use This List:

Pick 10-15 questions.

Answer them as honestly and expansively as you can.

Follow your intuition. Trust the answers to lead you to make the right decisions.

Come back in three months and do it again, with the same or different questions.

Do that and you’ll have a better marketing plan than anybody I know. Including me.

1. What do I love to do so much that it doesn’t feel like work?

2. What parts of that activity are my favorite parts?

3. Is there anybody else on earth who might really dig doing the parts I don’t really dig?

4. Why are you different than all the other bozos who do stuff sort of similar to what you do?

5. Why are you BETTER than all the other bozos who do stuff sort of similar to what you do?

6. What’s wrong with your industry?

7. Can you fix it, even in a little way, even for only a handful of people?

8. Who really, really needs my product or service?

9. Who really, really WANTS my product or service?

10. What kind of person would I absolutely love to help?

11. How is that person different from the other people who are sort of similar to that person? (On this blog, I help people with really small businesses, yes. But I actually help people with really small businesses who aren’t jazzed by “normal” business advice. Go to the SBA! Fill out forms! Buy filing cabinets!)

12. How are the other bozos failing this person?

13. What, specifically, could I make or do that would blow this person’s mind?

14. More specifically, what would be their definition of perfection?

15. How could I let them know about it?

16. How can I offer it in a way they’d be crazy to refuse? How can I position what I’m offering concretely, so they know EXACTLY how their life will be better once they’ve sent me some money?

17. What could I write in my subject line that would make that person desperate to open my email?

18. What could I write in my signature line that would make that person desperate to click my link or call my

19. What very, very thoughtful thing could I do for that person to let them know I really like them? (Hint: contact management software comes in really handy here.)

20. What kind of sale could I offer that would make that person stop and pay attention? (Hint: Think of both the details of the sale — 50% off leather corsets until Thursday only — and the reason for the sale. A happy birthday sale might be more popular than a Black Friday one.)

21. What people could help me reach the people that I help?

22. What might people be typing into Google if they were looking for someone like me?

23. What might people be typing into Google if they DIDN’T KNOW they were looking for somebody like me? (People who need marketing consultants rarely know they want one until they meet one they like.)

24. What personality traits do I have going for me in my quest to help my right people?

25. What human resources do I have that will help me in my quest to help my right people?

26. What assets do I have that will help me in my quest to find my right people?

27. Where do my right people hang out online?

28. Where do my right people hang out offline?

29. What nice stuff might other people say about me if only I asked them to say it?
(Hint: You’ll get more testimonials if you ask for them.)

30. What could I do for the people who already dig me so that they’ll tell their friends about me? (Hint: Forget about money. Think niceness. And gestures.)

31. How could I use coupons for my product or service?

32. How could I use a time sensitive offer for my product or service?

33. How could I incorporate some kind of “buy one, get one” offer for my product or service? (Hint: It doesn’t have to be “buy Y, get another Y”. It can be “buy Y, get (much cheaper) X”.)

34. How could I say thank you to my buyers, referrers and chief champions?

35. Who could I team up with to create even more awesome stuff?

36. What can I give away for free that will make me look like the rockstar I am?
(Hint: Think stuff you do on the internet AND stuff you can hold in your hands.)

37. How can I get the people I’ve already got more involved in the process? (Maybe they’ll retweet you. Maybe they’ll stay up all night stuffing envelopes. You never know until you try.)

38. How can I improve my website so people will be more likely to go where I’d like them to go instead of wandering around aimlessly?

39. What could I do to be interesting to the media? (Hint: you’re probably already doing it. You just have to position it right.)

40. How can I encourage my current customers/clients/tribe members to give me their suggestions? (They’re really smart. Ask them stuff.)

41. How can I make my touch more personal?
(Handwriting instead of photocopying. Custom instead of auto DMs.)

42. How can I show everyone they’re important to me? (You know the dude with three Twitter followers? His money’s as good as anybody’s.)

43. What can I do now to get ready for the next 6-12 months? (It’s never too early to start thinking of your Boxing Day Sale.)

44. Where can I free up a little bit of money so I can put it back into marketing my ittybiz?

45. Why might my right people be afraid to buy what I sell?

46. Why might my right people be afraid to buy FROM ME?

47. What can I do to ease their fears?

48. What is my customer thinking about? (Hint: it’s probably not you. It’s probably whether they look good in that color of lip gloss or whether the funeral home will let them split the cost of their father’s wake over two credit cards.)

49. What is my customer worried about?

50. What does someone get when they buy from me? (Like, what do they actually get? Physically. In the box. Or the download. Or the consultation.)

51. What does that thing give them emotionally?

52. What does that something give them quantifiably?

53. How can I add to my product lineup so I can start offering products or services that are cheaper than my current ones?

54. How can I add to my product lineup so I can start offering products or services that are pricier than my current ones?

55. What other stuff could I offer to make me a one-stop-shop of awesome?

56. Is there anything about my buying process that’s a pain in the ass?

57. Is there anything about my lead generation process that’s a pain in the ass?

58. Is there anything about the actual exchange that’s a pain in the ass?

59. Is there anything about my after-sale process that’s a pain in the ass?

60. How can I make it even clearer how to buy from me?

61. How can I make it even clearer what customers or clients can expect?

62. How can I make my refund or exchange process even clearer?

63. How can I give a guarantee that makes my potential clients and customers feel completely safe?

64. Do I have too few options?

65. Do I have too many options?

66. What would make a really great bonus for my buyers? Blog readers? Referrers?

67. How can I suggest my customer or client buy something a little extra?

68. Can I afford to raise my price, even a little bit?

69. How could I give existing customers and clients a great deal on something extra?

70. What could I do to get over my fear of promoting myself and my awesome stuff?

71. What would I have to do to make my perfect customer say, “Holy ****, that was awesome service”?

72. How could I help out more in social media?

73. How can I make myself an indispensable resource?

74. What can I do that will make my perfect people want to thank me by buying my stuff?

75. How can I change my copy to make me a little more human?

76. What one thing could I do today to make one person like me more?

77. What mentor or peer could I thank today? Could I do it publicly?

78. Where can I eavesdrop to find out what problems my people might have that I could solve? (Hint: forums, blogs and magazines are good places to start.)

79. How can I make sure people don’t forget me? (Hint: People aren’t reading all your emails, direct mail pieces or tweets. Nothing wrong with saying it again.)

80. Where do the people I haven’t even thought of hang out? (Hint: Not everyone’s on Twitter or Facebook. Have we considered LinkedIn?)

81. Can I steal some tricks from my competition? (If they keep doing certain things, they’re probably working.)

82. Can I steal some tricks from businesses that AREN’T my competition? (Marketing and sales are marketing and sales. The person buying shoes is the same person who buys copywriting.)

83. What could my customer mean when they say they don’t have the money? (Hint: Just because they don’t have it now doesn’t mean they won’t have it later.)

84. Are there other methods of payment I could use to make buying easier? (PayPal. Credit cards. Checks. Dirty, filthy cash in an envelope. Payment plans. Discounts for not using payment plans.)

85. What’s the best thing I’m doing now, in terms of getting new leads, clients, or customers? Could I maybe be doing a little more of it?

86. What other groups of people might be interested in buying my stuff? (Ittybiz owners buy my books. So do my competitors. I make sure to market to both.)

87. Who has the money? (Hint: It’s just as easy to sell to rich people as it is to poor people.)

88. How can I make myself easier to get ahold of? (Hint: Not everybody likes email.)

89. How can I externally establish my expertise? (Hint: Think online AND offline.)

90. How can I stay in contact with my people more frequently without pissing them off? (A really, really good newsletter full of stuff they’re going to love is a nice choice here.)

91. How can I make my communication more personal? (Hint: People never want to be part of a group. Even in bulk mail, you can still write as if you’re only writing to one person.)

92. How can I make life easier for my customers?

93. Can I keep making their life easier, even after the sale?

94. What boring stuff haven’t I done yet? (Join the Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Association. Gone to a Meetup group. Put up flyers.)

95. How can I reduce my turnaround time? (This applies to shipping and deadlines, yes. It also applies to email and direct messages.)

96. What do I want to do by the end of today? This week? This month? This year? (Knowing what the hell you’re trying to do increases your chance of doing it, at least marginally?)

97. Is there anyone who could look over my marketing materials so I can get a second set of eyes without having to pay a pro?

98. Am I worth talking about?

99. What am I doing today that sabotages my success tomorrow? (There’s probably something you could be doing right now. Like, say, signing up for our Growth Guide?)

100. Are my colors, images and branding choices really doing their job? (It’s awful easy to go with pink just because you like it, but do your customers?)

101. How can I show my potential customers that other people dig me? (Social proof is good. It’s social. And proofy. Think: comments, testimonials, a high number of Twitter followers.)

102. How can I give people more than I promised?

What to do right now

A lot of people who read impossible-to-consume-all-in-one-chunk articles like these like to bookmark them so they can come back later. It’s not like you’re going to ask all 102 questions today, right? So don’t lose them!

Also, if you know anybody who’s thinking about starting a business or has a business but doesn’t really like the marketing part, forward this on to them. You might unlock something for them that changes everything.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.