I just got off the phone with a new client who will be coming onboard for our Monthly Marketing Package this month. At the end of our phone call, he confessed that the real reason he was signing on was so we could deal with his compliance department on his behalf. He mentioned that he had recently spent 20 minutes searching for an email to prove to his compliance department that they had previously approved the term “impeccable service” on one of his marketing pieces.
While we are happy to have him as a client and we love to interface directly with compliance to save time, I felt bad when I got off the phone. No one should spend 20 minutes trying to locate an email. Yet, I often see advisors inefficiently struggling with their emails, so I wanted to share a few tips to save time and develop good email habits.
Searching through your emails to find the one you need should never take more than 30 seconds. I’ll give you my top search tips below so you can quickly access the information you need, but first, let’s review proper email habits to help set you up for search success.
Creating Good Email Habits
1. Never Delete an Email
I work with one advisor who loves the feeling of having zero emails in his inbox, so he habitually deletes emails as soon as he’s done dealing with them. He also has a false sense that this practice somehow improves security. The downside is that he can’t ever go back and find information he’s looking for and often asks clients to resend emails. How embarrassing!
If your email system is secure (which I’m sure it is if you have a compliance department), that means your emails are automatically archived as soon as they’re sent or received. Deleting them will not make your email system any more secure, since they’re still saved by your archive system. There’s no reason to delete an email and leaving all of your emails in your inbox will allow you to easily search for the information you need.
2. Keep One Email to One Subject Line
One of the most important email habits to develop for good organization is to keep each email to one subject line. This way, you can easily search for and find the information you need. If you pile multiple topics into one email thread, it can be confusing, impossible to search, and important action items can fall through the cracks.
3. Keep One Email Thread for the Same Subject
My mom and I have horses and we try to get together to ride together once or twice a week. I’ll often email her with the subject line “Ride at 4:30 pm on Thursday?” Instead of replying to that email, she’ll start a new email thread with a new subject line like “I can’t go until 5pm Thursday, will that work for you?”
The next day, she might start another new email thread saying “Actually, I can go at 4:30, so I will see you then!” This may not seem like a big deal, but if I can’t remember what time we agreed to go and I find her second email, I will think we planned to go at 5pm. If I don’t recall that she started a third email string with a new subject line, I will have no way of verifying what time we plan to meet.
This can cause big confusion and headaches if repeated as a habit in business emails. It’s best practice to keep the same email string for each subject so you can quickly review the thread and have the most up-to-date information on that topic.
4. Title Your Subject Lines to Be Searchable
In order to be able to quickly search your emails and find what you need, it’s helpful to develop a consistent practice for titling your email subject lines. As long as you use the same format over time, you’ll know what to search for.
For example, if you use “Meeting Date X/X Follow Up Action Items” after every meeting with clients, it will be easy to review your notes and find the email you need. You would simply search for “Meeting Follow Up” and your client’s email address to find all of your follow up emails from the meetings you’ve had with them. The date listed would be helpful to quickly find the specific meeting notes you’re looking for.
How to Search Your Emails
Now that you have some ground rules for good email habits, let’s review the top ways to search for the information you need.
1. Understand Search Parameters
Did you know that email systems like Outlook are built for search? It’s helpful to gain a basic understanding of how to use their search parameters. For example, by typing in an email address in the main search field, you will return all emails that have that email address listed somewhere (including if the person was copied). If you’d like to only return emails from that particular sender, search for “from:firstname.lastname@example.org”. Here’s a helpful list of other built-in search parameters.
2. Sort by Sender
One of the most effective ways to quickly find the email you’re looking for is to sort by sender. You can click on the email account field in Outlook to sort all of your emails by contact and quickly browse through the most recent emails from one of your clients.
Say you’re looking for an email from one of your clients that also included their attorney. You could sort by their email address then add a search parameter for the attorney’s name to bring up the emails that involved the three of you.
For example, for the advisor that was searching for the approval email from his compliance department, he could have searched for the compliance email address and one of the words in the name of the marketing piece to quickly bring it up.
3. Search by Keyword
Another quick way to search for a specific email is to use a keyword. Say you’re looking for a Social Security PowerPoint presentation that you created over a year ago. You could search for “Social Security Presentation” or “Social Security PowerPoint” as a keyword in quotes and return all emails that contain those words together. If you also add the email address of the person you emailed it to, you’ll easily find your information.
4. Search for Attachments
What if you can’t remember who you emailed about a certain subject or what the presentation was about? If you’re looking for a certain file, you can search your emails by attachment and even by file type. To find that presentation from a year ago, you could search for all emails with an attachment and use .pptx as a keyword to find PowerPoint file types. If you could remember who you copied on the email or one or two of the keywords in the file name, you can narrow it down even further. You can use the search by date filter to narrow the range if you get stuck.
Was this productivity tip helpful for you? Please let me know so I can create more time-saving blog posts in the future. To make sure you get all of my marketing tips for financial advisors, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
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Claire Akin runs Indigo Marketing Agency a marketing firm serving top independent financial advisors. Claire is a former Investment Advisor Representative who holds her MBA in Marketing from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego as well as a BA in Economics from UC Davis. It’s her goal to help specialist advisors target their ideal prospects with content marketing.