The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Email – Escape Inbox Overload

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Managing email is an important activity for all small businesses. We have written about alternatives to email a couple of times but the truth of the matter is, email is here and it’s here to stay. For many small businesses, email is still at the core and relied upon for day to day transactions plus we all use our email to login to our favorite apps and services.

In this article, we will talk about apps various clients and tools you can use to improve email productivity across your team. We will not talk about how to host your business email, something we already covered in the Google Apps vs Microsoft 365 post. The goal is for you and your team to get to Inbox Zero as Merlin Mann says in his famous 2007 talk.

While email is still incredibly relevant, there has been a major shift in the way we use email in the last 5 years. Over 50% of emails are now read on mobile devices and this number is increasing rapidly, the stats are undeniable and because of this, we will have a heavy focus on mobile in this post.

So what is the best way to manage your email? The short answer, as usual, is “it depends”. It depends on your business, your standard operating procedures and personal preferences.

If you have a business where employees are working on the go or answer emails from home, mobile is a key focus. If everyone is office bound, maybe a desktop client is what you need. Usually, the solution is some type of hybrid across web, desktop and mobile solutions.

Email on the Desktop

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I am going to be quick here and say that my favorite and my highest rated solution for managing email on a desktop is the Gmail web client. If you are using Gmail or Google apps, you don’t really need to go further than here. It’s fast, its slick, it works offline, it has a ton of amazing extensions and it just works.

If you are not using Google to manage your mail or you simply must have a desktop client below are a few options.

For the Windows user, Outlook is the obvious choice especially for those running Office 365 while Postbox and Thunderbird and nice lightweight options.

For Apple fans, Airmail and Sparrow are slick solutions. As is the default mail client in OSX.

Mobile Mail Clients

Boxer Mail App

Moving forward, the most important decision you make regarding email productivity will be – your default go-to mail client on your smartphone. As we saw above, email is going mobile. Email can take a significant slice out of your day, reading, sorting, archiving, deleting. This adds up across an organization and improving this by 10-20% can equal big dollars saved.

You have a few options when selecting an email client for your device. Both iOS and Android have solid default clients but there are a few alternatives to consider too. Personally, I use Boxer for my Process Street emails, I love the one swipe archive and the Quick Templates feature that lets me save pre-written snippets that I can reuse when responding to emails. Also, the Dropbox integration makes it easy to add attachments on the go. Robert McGinley Myers wrote a post on The Sweet Setup that makes a great argument for Dispatch which looks awesome too, but right now I am currently testing CloudMagic since I use Trello for my to-do list and I am a heavy Evernote user it makes sense. CloudMagic has some awesome features allowing you to turn emails into Trello cards or notes in Evernote but it’s still pretty limited on the number of cards it allows, no seamless integration to Fantastical is my biggest concern.

I am not going to do a detailed review on every app out there, there are plenty of those already and the best thing to do is probably watch some videos and download the apps to play with yourself see what works best for you, but there is probably a better solution out there than what you are currently using. If you want a further list of apps to test out beyond the above suggested, take a look here.

Email Productivity Enhancement Apps

Beyond the standard email client apps, there are a few other apps you can add to your toolbox to further improve your email management skills.

Sanebox is a clever little app that “Moves your unimportant emails from the inbox and summarizes them in a digest”, great if you are suffering from inbox overload.


Triage brings a new method to managing your emails by creating a simple interface with two basic actions for each email – swipe up to archive it or swipe down to keep it. You can tap on a card to get access controls like reply and forward, but only when you want to. It does not revolve around the standard mailboxes, folders, and message lists.

Unroll Me is a tool that consolidates all your email newsletter subscriptions into a single email. If you are overloaded with marketing emails from all your favorite service providers, emails you still want to subscribe to but just don’t want to sort through every day, Unroll Me is definitely worth testing out. It can dramatically reduce the number of emails you receive each day. The Gmail tabs feature also works for this, hiding all promotional emails into the promotions tab.

Email Game
Lastly, we have the Email Game. This is kind of old news now and it’s not really a mobile app but I thought I would chuck it in anyway. It’s a great way to kill a couple of hours playing a game to get your inbox down to zero.

Using a better mobile app and the above email ninja tools will help your small business manage inbox overload; for a happier, healthier and more profitable business.

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Vinay Patankar

CEO and Co-Founder of Process Street. Sign-up for his free systems masterclass or find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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