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The Encore Entrepreneur



Episode 33: Your Inbox is One of The Best Business Strategy Tools You Own

Your inbox is a treasure trove of business growth goodness. There are four very important aspects of business building. These are:

  1. Marketing
  2. Qualifying prospects
  3. Sales
  4. Network-building

You can optimize all four of these if you pay attention to the emails in your inbox, and we'll share how to review your email for each of these in this episode of The Encore Entrepreneur Podcast.

Episode Transcript:

[01:06] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Are you ready to get the guidance you need to optimize your online business? We help ambitious female entrepreneurs cut through the online noise of too many options, too many tactics, and too many shoulds. Through our encore business incubator. Group program and our Empire Builder two-on-one laser coaching program, we teach you the right steps to take and in what order, so there's no more guesswork. And we teach you how to measure and track your progress so you can clearly see what's working and what's not. You are cordially invited to hop on a complimentary consultation call to discover if working with us is the next right step for you. Head over to encoreempire.com/consult to schedule your call. 

Now, whether you avoid your inbox or not, you're most likely missing out on the powerful business growth opportunities it provides.

[02:06] Deirdre Harter: We watch people curse their inboxes and do everything they can to get to inbox zero, all the while sending emails to their own list. Do you recognize the disconnect here?

[02:20] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: If you hate receiving emails, how can you possibly expect to send emails that are worthy of your audience's time and attention? You can't.

[02:30] Deirdre Harter: Now, your inbox is a treasure trove of opportunity, and we're going to dive into exactly how to use it to your advantage. Now, there are four very important aspects of business building. These are marketing, qualifying prospects, sales, and network building. Now, you can optimize all four of these if you pay attention to the emails in your inbox. And intentionally reviewing emails for each of these looks something like what we're going to show you today.

[03:08] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: So, let's talk about the marketing aspect. Whether you're building a sales page, writing an email, or drafting a social media post, writer's block can strike at the most inopportune times, right? You're on a deadline. You've got to get this thing out. You're trying to figure out what to write, and you're staring at a blank page. Everyone's been there, and it's miserable. Well, you don't have to worry about writer's block any longer because your inbox holds the key to getting started. And it's really interesting how people just don't look at it this way. We really want you guys to look at your inbox through the eyes of a CEO. That's what this whole episode is about. 

So when we're talking about marketing, you should be subscribing to email lists with content that is relevant to you or your business. And you should be reading the emails that you receive. We don't want to just subscribe and then have 5000 emails that are unread, and I raise my hand and say, this happens to me sometimes, but we actually have to read them. And why is that? Because if you've been intentional about what lists you're subscribed to, they will be speaking on topics that matter to you and your clients. Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to read emails can jumpstart your creative juices and give you ideas for not only how to state something but possibly what your next promotion will be. So you might be looking for ideas for your social media posts or your own email. This happened to me. I received an email back in December, and the topic was so good, I was like, oh my gosh. So I took that topic idea and turned it into my own. And that was one of the emails that we sent out to our list, and we got compliments and replies to that. And it's because if it resonates with you, most likely, it resonates with your audience. 

So your email inbox is full of all of these marketing ideas and copywriting terms. If you read an email and the way someone says something makes you go, oh my gosh, that's so good, well, write it down. We're big advocates of having an ideal client language bank but also having a marketing language bank or a copywriting bank. We subscribe to that, and we think that you should as well because we can't remember everything. And when something good comes along, you want to save it. And so by reading your emails, actually opening them, and reading them, you start learning who to pay more attention to, who you really resonate with and why. And then you can keep track of those statements, you can keep track of those ideas, and they might even spark ideas for your next promotion.

[05:43] Deirdre Harter: And that reminds me, Carmen, of something that I started this a long time ago when I first started building a list and sending an email to my list. This was before you and I met. This was like version one of business coaching. And even then, I always had a folder set up in my Gmail account that was called Marketing Examples or Copy I Love or something like that. And not only did it give me something to go back to to get inspired, but it helped me clear the inbox. Because what would happen is maybe I was coming up on the end of my 15 or 20 minutes for email that day, and I hadn't gotten through all of them. So what I do is I would just open, and I would like read the first paragraph, and if it caught my attention in the first paragraph, I knew it was good, and so then I could just send it on over into that folder. And so then, when it came time for me to need some inspiration, then I could go there. And so it allowed me not to have to read every single email, but at least I had been able to curate the ones that were really good.

[06:50] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, that's great. And I think we hear about this a lot. I don't know if you've heard about it or you haven't heard about it, but I've heard about it many, many times, is to pay attention to sales pages and to website copy that you like, but guess what? You don't even have to go search the internet. You've got it in your inbox. So that's what we want you to start paying attention to.

[07:09] Deirdre Harter: Now, another way you can use your inbox to grow your business strategically is by using it to qualify prospects. Now, this might sound like, how in the world do you do that? But just stick with me here. Have you ever tried reaching out to a lead or a prospect on social media, let's say, and maybe they came to your event, and they were super engaged, or they were in your group, and they were really active? And so you started a conversation on social, and then you went to go follow up with them in a week or two. And then you're messaging, and you're getting nothing back. So this ever happened to you guys? I know it's happened to me quite a few times. So then you try again, and you're still getting nothing back but crickets? Well, that person, it doesn't mean that they're not interested in what you're doing, but they may have gotten busy, and maybe this is just not a social week for them, or maybe it's not a social month for them, and they're just not checking their messages. 

So rather than just kind of going, oh well, there's another way you can use email. And let's say that they're not on your list. Hopefully, they're on your list. They've opted in somehow. But even if they're not, what you can do is you can go find them. And if they are someone who is - now this works for business-to-business - let me clarify that. If they are someone who is sending emails out to their audience, then you can simply opt-in and get on their list. You can opt-in for their free thing. You can, whatever they're offering and go to their website, get on their list, and so then you have another way to be able to talk to them and keep that conversation going. So once you've opted into their newsletter, there's a second benefit to this. You're going to get a behind-the-scenes insight into what they're talking about and what they're offering to their audience. This gives you a touch point for conversation. Not only is it a way to keep the conversation going, but it gives you something to talk about. 

And here's a little trick. When they send out their email to their whole list, and you're on the list, so you're getting it, just reply back. Just hit reply and get that conversation going again. Because think about it, what is like the best thing that can happen to us after we've sent out an email to our audience? It's to get replies back, right? That's the whole point. We want people talking to us. And so that's an easy way for you to be able to have that conversation. Just a week or so ago, I had a connection call, and I was able to connect the next phase of this woman's business to what she might need and how we might be able to help her. Because she had made an announcement in an email, like on what was going on in her business and what was coming up next for her. And I realized this was an opportunity because the next stage of her business sounded to me like she was probably going to need some guidance on that. And so I was able to then take that, set up a connection call and then we were able to talk about that. These are some of the things that you're looking for, like looking for those opportunities on what can you have a conversation around that is near and dear to their heart. And this way, it's an authentic conversation that you're having, and it's one that they're going to welcome.

[10:33] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. And so another important aspect is that your email is a sales channel. So I think everyone thinks of this. We have a list because we want to get people on our list to bring them into our world and nurture them and have them make sales. And that's exactly what it can be. And it is the most important sales channel that you own as a business owner. Because you don't own your Facebook group or your LinkedIn group or whatever group you have. You don't own your social media accounts. I mean, you might own if you're on Circle or something like that, but when we're talking social media, we need to get out on social media. Social media is very important and integral in online businesses, and that's what we're focused on here because it allows you to reach more people, but you don't have control over those accounts. And you hear it all the time where someone's Instagram account got shut down, or their Facebook group disappeared, or whatever. If stuff like that happens and you have not created an email list, then you don't have that asset that you own which is a sales channel. 

So the people who sign up to be on your list are raising their hands to say they're interested in what you have to offer. They are your warmest leads, and it should be kind of an intimate, nurturing situation with them, right? When you're writing your emails, it should be providing value to your list and inviting them to things and what can they do next? And make it something fun and engaging and inspiring for them, and they'll stick around and be able to then learn how to know, like, and trust you. And that's what we want. 

And there should be many ways in which people can subscribe to your list, and you should be tracking which works best. For example, is it the free opt-in that gains the most subscribers, your podcast or YouTube channel, or something else? And once they're on your list, do you have a strategy that engages, nurtures, and leads them to take action? That's what your emails should do. And so if you don't have that strategy or you feel like, oh, I just don't do it as well as someone else, well, pay attention to that someone else who is in your inbox. Pay attention to the weekly emails or monthly or however often emails that you get from people and try to look at it through the eyes of a CEO and identify the strategy that they're using, or to see, oh, I noticed that whenever this person has a promotion coming up, they send out these three types of emails, something like that. 

In the beginning, it'll be hard to possibly pinpoint stuff like that, but the more you get accustomed to reviewing your inbox and looking at it differently as an asset to your business, the more you'll start seeing things, and that just really hones your CEO eye, right? That's what we want to do. All of this that you do in your email when you're sending out emails, you're helping to build the know, like, and trust factor. And that's what when you're on someone's list, they're trying to do too. It's really interesting how you can look at it both sides of the coin. You have stuff going out, but you also have things going in. And instead of looking at our email box, our inboxes as, oh my gosh, I want to get to inbox zero. This is just driving me crazy. I feel like a lot of the time, the reason that happens is because we're looking at it as kind of a little pest, kind of like the gnat or the mosquito that keeps landing. Every day you've got more and more and more, but we're not stopping to actually open it up and see exactly the fact that those things that are coming in every day are treasures if you look at them that way.

[14:12] Deirdre Harter: Yeah. I just love this discussion, Carmen, because it's like changing the lens on a camera, right? It's the same thing, but it really is just looking at this from a different perspective and going in with a different intent and seeing this as an asset for you as opposed to a time suck.

[14:31] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yes.

[14:32] Deirdre Harter: All right, so now here's another way that we can use our email inbox, and that is for network building with referral and collaboration partners. Now I know you have all gotten these emails, or you have seen them and you've opted in for the summits and the giveaways, right? Like the mega “We've got 35 speakers coming and they're going to all talk about this topic!” And a lot of times, we have this love-hate relationship with these kinds of things, right? Because we're like, oh, that sounds really good. I want to learn that. And there may be things that you want to learn and things that are going to help you grow your business, like the content itself. However, I want you to look at this and flip this around and look at this as a way for you to grow your business as the CEO. When you opt in, you're going to start getting emails, and they're going to start highlighting the speakers, and they're going to maybe send you to a page, and it's going to talk about who's speaking and what they're talking about and when. And it's going to give a bio on each of those speakers. You can use that information to test that against who is your ideal collaborator and who is your ideal referral partner. 

Now just like we say there is an ideal client avatar, we should also have an ideal collaborator avatar and an ideal referral avatar. So you need to know who these people are, just like you need to know who your ideal client is. And when they fit the bill, and they fit this avatar, you can kind of quickly scan all the information is right there. Instead of you having to go out on LinkedIn or onto Facebook and like use keywords and search for these people, they're all right there in one place. Once you know what that bio is and you've got the overview of each one, you can see, you know, think to yourself who might be a great connection. You don't need to connect with all of them. Pick the top two, three, or four at the most. Then you can use the information from what they're talking about as a conversation starter after the event. Don't do it during the event because they're going to be busy. But after the event, you can get in touch with them. 

Almost everybody gives their email address. They are giving away something for free. And often, you can then get on their list, and then that's when you can start the conversation. You can ask them, say, hey, I saw you at this event. How did that turn out for you? I loved your topic about so and so. Start a conversation around what they just talked about. 

Just think about it. Why are they even at this event? Why are they spending their time? Well, it's to get visible and to connect with others. Sure, they may be looking for clients, and you're thinking, oh well, here, I don't want them to think I want to buy their thing. Now, sure, they may be looking for clients at this event, but in relationship marketing, building our network of the two other ideals collaborators, and the referrals, we all know that this can fuel our growth faster than getting a new client or two will. 

So here's how to do this. Create a list of your top ten to twenty-five collaborators and referral partners, and then opt in to get on their email list. Now, this can be people already in your network, or this can be using the Summit Giveaway and even podcasts. You can find information by listening and looking at podcast pages as well. So you get onto their email list. This shows your support and you can easily reply to an email as a nurture point, just like we talked about on doing with qualifying your prospects. Because remember, who isn't reading email replies from their own weekly email that they send out to their list? No one. It's an easy way to keep up to date with what they've been up to, and you may even find ways you can support or promote them through inviting them to a live stream swap or to speak on the topic to your clients, et cetera.

[18:31] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, there's so much you can do. I hope that this is creating some light bulb moments for you guys because, honestly, I think it's one of the most undervalued things in people's lives is their email inbox. We always hear people cursing it out, and now you know that you can look at it in a completely different way. But let's talk about how do you make this work because we can't just subscribe to everything, right? And we want to make sure we've got the right things. If you're on a bunch of lists that don't give you value, then it's not going to work. So we need to learn how to curate your inbox. And this is comprised of being intentional about whose lists you're on. And Deirdre gave you some great examples there; prospects and referral and collaboration partner lists. Anyone that you are interested in learning from or potentially working with or who serves the same audience that you do but is not a competitor. 

Those are great for referrals and collaborations, but also you want to get on some of your competitors, your competition's email list because you want to learn what your competitors are doing and how they nurture their audience. And I don't know if people think about this very often, but that is a great thing to be doing as well because if you have a competitor in your industry, well, they potentially, if they're a qualified competitor, they're someone who does the same thing. They are speaking to your audience as well. We don't ever want to take the information and plagiarize it or copy it, but we want to use what we learn from the research in our inbox as inspiration, jumping-off points, ideas, and AHA moments to get our creative juices flowing and create our own thing. Because we don't stand out when we copy others. We stand out when we take a concept and make it our own. And so that's what we're talking about here. 

You also want to be on lists of experts in your industry, right? People that you want to work with or who you know have gotten to where you want to be, and they're most likely to give you the gold nuggets, right? So it's someone that maybe if you're like Deirdre and I, we kind of map out who do we want to be our next coach when we're ready for a coach, who would we love to work with, who do we want to learn from, who are we willing to pay to learn from? And so we get on their list, and then we can watch and get nurtured in between now and when we're ready. And that's what you want to do.

Then there are prospects, as Deirdre said. So if you get on the email list of potential prospects, people that you want to work with, if this is again business to business, so they would have to be a business who's sending out an email, but you get a better idea of who they are, what they stand for, and where you can help. As Deirdre related in the story that she told just a minute ago. Another great thing to look out for is national or international associations. So these associations relay general industry information that helps keep you in the know, and it could be specific to life coaches if there's a life coaching international, or it could be things that we all are interested in as online marketers, like Social Media Examiner. That's one of the ones that I subscribe to on every single email that I have because I have multiple inboxes. But they're great because they are keeping up with the trends of social media marketing, so I don't have to, right? So if something interesting comes out, I can look and see what's going on and that keeps me in the know. And then if it's something that I keep seeing, then it maybe gets elevated to the level of Deirdre, and I might talk about it on the podcast, or we might do a live learning, a weekly live learning on that topic, but you're not going to know. And as a solopreneur, which most people are, that we work with, you can't possibly know everything, right? But the cool thing is when you curate your inbox; you are saying, okay, these are the kind of things I need to know, this is the kind of things I want to see, these are the people I want to follow, and those are the lists that you get on, and it saves so much time. 

[22:35] Deirdre Harter: And I know you may be thinking, okay, this all sounds awesome, and I want to get in here and do this. And then once you get in there, you might be thinking, okay, hold on, I've already got like 2,755 emails I have not even read, so what am I doing adding more in? Well, we don't want to clog up your email. So this is where a little bit of organization is necessary. So I'm going to go through here some ideas on how you can keep this organized and keep it manageable to where it is serving you, and it is not sucking the time out of your day. 

So you can keep it organized by setting up a file folder system in your email account. What this looks like is that you can put - I'm going to use Gmail as an example because that's what Carmen and I use. I've been a Google girl for like ever, and that's what we use - But you can do this in any email provider. You set up your file folder structure first. So you say, okay, here are my collaborators. Or maybe you want to put collaborators and referral partners together, depending on how many you have. And then you might have one for your prospect bucket that we talked about. Then you might have another folder for your competitor emails, and then you might have another one for general marketing and copywriting. So think throughout of what we talked about today, which of these things are you going to implement? Set up your folder system accordingly. Then as you begin to set these all up and start subscribing, you can set a filter to automatically put things in the folder. In Gmail, it's called Skip the inbox, and it goes straight into the folder that you've told it to go to. That way, once or twice a week, you can schedule time to start looking through those emails. So maybe you want to do one each day. So maybe on Mondays, you want to go do your prospects. And then on Tuesdays, you want to do your collaborator referral partners and so on. Then every quarter, maybe every three months or six months, you go through, and you assess and cut out anything that no longer serves you. Like after this period of time, you should know, am I really getting value out of this? Is this really helping me? Are these prospects I've been following, are they still viable? Or have I determined that they just are not the right fit for me? You want to remove some and then replace them. We don't want to just keep adding and adding and adding and then forgetting about it, right? This is what being intentional is all about. Because if you have too much information that you can't manage, then you will quickly abandon the entire process, and then it does suck the time out, and it does provide frustration for you. 

Now we suggest that you don't try to add all four of these at once. You take one group at a time. You get your organization structure set up, then create a checklist or an SOP of the process you're going to follow and how often. So let's say that you're going to start with the marketing piece. You're going to sign up for some competitors' emails. You're going to sign up for some expert emails, and then you're going to work on that one and that one only before you go subscribe, happy with everything else and get your process, get your flow, and build it into your normal routine every week. Then once you've got that down, then you can go on and add the next one. 

I think a lot of times I know I've done this in the past. We get all excited. We hear this new strategy that we want to implement, and so we just go gung ho, right? We're like, okay, I'm going to do it all right now, but we don't think through; I'm doing this right now, but what does this look like next week and the week after that? And am I going to be able to manage this, and when am I going to do it? We think we'll find the time that you have to plan in when this is going to happen. And then once you've gotten all this up and running and you're following it consistently, then you add the second group, and then you do the same thing, incorporate that, and then you add in the third group. So if you follow it in this methodical manner and just have - we have show notes from this podcast, and you can use this as your procedure that you're going to go through as you're implementing.

[26:56] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: The point of this episode is really to give everyone a different way to look at your inbox, not as just the pain in the butt that it can be, but as an actual business building treasure trove of opportunity that it really is.

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