Gmail has become a powerful and inexpensive way to run a companies’ email. I moved each of my domains there last year and found it to be extremely helpful. As Google continues to add features and collaboration tools, Gmail might be a useful service for your small business to consider.
Here is my suggested plan of action:
1. Set up your domain mail to be hosted by Google.
First, get a Google Apps for business account. Move the MX records for your domain from your previous server to Google’s servers (this isn’t as difficult as it sounds). In doing this, you can use Gmail and it's functions while still having your mail come from firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also create custom emails for your staff. This service costs $50 a year and allows you to share calendars, tasks and contacts throughout your team. (Most web hosts these days give you access to the mail server for making this change.)
2. Create and use labels and filters
You can create an infinite number of labels (like folders) in Gmail to store and organize your email. I recommend trying Google Labs and the Nested Label feature, which allows you to create a sub topic within a parent label. To create these, simply connect the parent label to the sub label (ie: clients/nameofclient).
Filters allows you to automate how your email is handled and sorted. If you get a lot of email from one service, then create a filter and the mail will go straight to that folder, relieving the clutter in your inbox.
Another recent addition is the Priority Inbox. This feature sorts your email and learns from your actions (you can direct it manually as well) which emails are the most important. They will appear first in your inbox.
3. Create multiple feature rich signatures
I use a Firefox add-on, Wisestamp, to create different signatures for work and home purposes.
Want more tips on useful web tools? Check these out:
4. Sync the offline feature
Gmail allows you to access a copy of your inbox when you’re offline, especially useful when you're on an airplane or out of Wi-Fi range. You access a synced copy of your email that is stored on your computer, but you're not actually using your inbox. Download a browser plugin called Google Gears and turn on the offline option in 'Settings' to use this service.
5. The Delegation function
Delegating email might sound impersonal but there are many practical uses for the tool, like when you want to create company mailboxes for things like sales, customer service, advertising, media requests, etc. Administrators must first enable mail delegation by checking the 'Mail Delegation' checkbox under 'Email Settings' in the administrator control panel.
To enter a delegate, users can select the 'Accounts' tab under 'Settings' in Gmail and click 'Add another account' to enter their delegate's email address.
Once the delegate is signed into their own own Gmail account, they can then access their manager's account from the account selection menu at the top of Gmail.
6. The Canned Responses settings feature
In Google Labs (click the science beaker icon above your mail to access this) you can turn on a host of options that will enhance Gmail’s functionality. One that I like is the Canned Responses, which allows you to store email copy that you frequently use. Whenever you need to use the copy, you can insert it with one click.
7. Explore the App Marketplace
When you create your Google Apps account, you become integrated with Google Calendar and Google Docs, both of which can function as company-wide. More add-ons like this can be found at the Google Apps Marketplace.
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.