The Happy Studio- Email.

Why on earth would a whole post in this series be devoted to email? Because quite honestly, it’s an enormous part of what we do these days. It has affected our workflow, our technology budget, our client list, and even our hiring practices.

Email survival
If you are responsible for a significant portion of your company’s communication (i.e. are an owner, a sales person, or account executive) you know that the effectiveness of your correspondence is tantamount to virtually all other attributes of your skill-set on a daily basis. If you’re like us, you started out being a good designer or programmer, or copywriter, and have (abruptly) evolved into a digital communicator.

Do you shy away from email? Do you excel because of it? Whatever the case, it’s an important part of your job. When it comes down to it, if we had to choose between corresponding and working, we’d choose the work. But obviously you can’t have one without the other. So even though we might not have the exact social attributes you’d be looking for if you were hiring specifically for a correspondence position, we communicate. We communicate well, and we have clients who love us.

We have evolved habits that make huge amounts of correspondence manageable, and sustainable. We like to think that if we can learn it, anyone can. Start with GTD. Start with whatever system you like, but eventually you can learn to survive in a continual onslaught of communication. Here are a few of our survival tips.

  • Respond quick to pacify, and explain that you received the email.
  • Triage! Learn to prioritize better than what’s at the top of the stack.
  • Use a great email client. We use of course- but learn all the tricks you can to make your flow more efficient.
  • Type. Type fast. When you think you type fast enough, type faster.
  • Get an assistive program like “typeitforme” or “textexpander” to make often-typed bits develop faster.
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts. Bold, italics, indention, fonts, and even size can all be done via the keyboard on most email applications. Do you know how? Check out these keyboard shortcuts for Windows, or these tips for a Mac.

The old A.E. is the new inbox manager
Never let your A.E. staff give up on real world communication. Continue encouraging them to buy drinks, lunch, and donuts, but make sure they can handle email.

We’ve started hiring, and making workflow rules based on inbound emails. New jobs are tagged with dates, and subject lines of inbound emails. Job ID’s are based off of the email they came in on. It’s a survival technique we’re evolving constantly.

Our workflow has always been digital, but is becoming increasingly so. Account executives must be able to survive and thrive in a digital communication world. If you don’t have staff that already do so, work on rules and tools that help them be more responsive (and accountable) to your clients who communicate through email.

My court, your court
The difference between a shrinking studio and a growing studio is how it anticipates client needs. If your studio is dying, you don’t have a workflow problem. If it’s growing, you’re continually evolving to meet the demands of the flow.

In the beginning, all you need to worry about is what you have in front of you. We call it “my court, your court.” If the ball is in our court, we are trying terribly hard to get it back into yours. If it’s already in yours, we could care less until it comes back into ours.

That being said, we must add that this works really well up to a certain size of company. Eventually, your workflow and your success depends on getting jobs done on a certain schedule, regardless of whose fault it is that the job is not yet complete. Passing-the-buck is something for amateurs.

So, despite the fact that you asked the client two weeks ago for the copy for their “about us” page, it’s still your responsibility to follow up.

You may be asking, “how is this relevant to email correspondence?”

The answer is that email is designed around getting a reply, not a resolution. Studios are contracted by clients to get more than a response- they want a problem solved.

Keep this in mind: if your workflow rapidly responds to clients, but does not produce the projects they contacted you for, you have a broken workflow, and email is not working for you.

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