A Place For Each E-mail

An E-filing system helps you find online communications fast.

May 1, 2007

Like me, you probably get and send dozens of e-mails every day. Prospects want to see a house or get a price update; clients want a status report on their transactions; marketers want to help you sell more productively; friends want to meet for dinner. If you don’t get organized, you’ll spend half your working life looking for information you need in a clogged in-box. Here are a few strategies to keep yourself from an e-breakdown.

Receive it right.

Most salespeople opt for an e-mail address such as "joesmith@mydomain.com." But it’s difficult to manage and segregate communications if everything from friends, active clients, and business associates is going to the same address. Instead, set up distinct addresses for personal and business e-mail. Most e-mail accounts give you the option of multiple addresses at no extra charge. Also create distinctions for internal and external e-mails and for those from active clients. Another way to segment your e-correspondence is to set up separate addresses for each listing and also for forms on your Web site, such as "CMArequest@joesmith.com."

Access it right.

Next, you’ll want to decide which devices (such as a PDA, a cell phone with e-mail capability, or a BlackBerry) you want to use to access e-mail. Generally, if you receive your e-mail on a POP server (as most people do), the e-mail is downloaded to whatever device you use to access it. Then if you want to review the e-mail later on another device, it won’t be accessible. However, you can configure your POP service to leave messages on your e-mail server for two or three days so that you can download them to multiple devices.

An easier way is to use an e-mail service based on the Internet message access protocol, or IMAP. This option stores your messages on a remote server so that the same message can be accessed from multiple devices. One catch with IMAP: If you delete e-mail from the remote server, it’ll then be deleted from all devices.

Most of the widely used e-mail programs, including Microsoft’s Outlook and Mozilla’s Thunderbird, offer an IMAP option. It’s a little trickier to use with real estate–specific contact management programs, most of which don’t yet support IMAP. It also may be somewhat difficult to find an ISP that offers IMAP unless you have a business-level hosting plan that gives you a sizable amount of service space. ISPs don’t like IMAP because storing all the sent and received messages uses up a lot of server space./p>

Route it right.

You also need to decide what programs (such as Eudora, Outlook Express, or Pegasus for e-mail, and ACT! or Top Producer for contact management) and people (such as your assistant or seller clients) you’ll want to be able to transfer e-mail to. Filters—sometimes called rules—which are part of many e-mail programs, can be set to redirect mail to another mailbox based on keywords in the subject line or the body of the e-mail or based on the name or e-mail address of the sender. For example, you could set a filter in your office computer’s e-mail program to forward any e-mail with the word showing or contract to your PDA. You can also use filters to send certain types of inquiries to autoresponders that send prepared messages on a particular subject.

Filters can also be used to direct your e-mail to preassigned folders for easy follow-up. For example, CMA requests can be put in one folder and prospects for a particular listing in another. And because many e-mail programs highlight or boldface a folder when new mail has been added, you know when you need to open any particular one. Having an e-mail group of prospects also makes it easier to bring leads into your contact manager and then create a record for each e-mail.

In this Internet age, your e-mail system acts as the central nervous system of your business. Organizing your e-mail will help ensure it doesn’t fail.

In addition to instructing GRI programs, Stephen Canale has spoken at hundreds of seminars in 45 states, covering subjects relating to real estate sales and technology. For more information on his products, newsletter, and seminars, visit www.canale.com.