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Have you ever had one of those days where you wish there were two of you? You could finally unglue your fingers from your iPhone and maybe grab lunch with a friend? Or, go on a long run without feeling like things are falling through the cracks?
Well, what if I told you that we have the technology? We can clone you!
You get to be “fun clone”. The other clone—The other clone is “robot clone”.
While you’re out having fun, robot clone is going to do all of your email work for you, making you look super responsive to every email all of the time.
Before you get too excited, we’re not really going to clone you or create a cool Terminator style android version of you. In fact we’re just going to team you up with a virtual assistant, who, perhaps to your dismay, is really just a real person that helps you get stuff done.
We will, however, use a combination of smart automation and clever use of your VA can make you look like you’re responding to everyone all the time without actually being forever chained to your email.
→ ACTION: Create Stock Response Templates ←
If you go back through your emails and really analyze the common themes across your responses, you’ll start to notice some patterns emerging? Oh, you don’t spend your time doing chronically OCD things like pattern matching your email? Well, sadly, we do.
We want to create a series of stock responses to the most common questions and situations. The goal of these templates is to not only respond freakishly fast to every inbound email but also using that email as a way to help identify whether we need to prioritize, deflect, or destroy these requests (see Step 1).
Bono from Accounting “Madonna, can you review these expense reports and let me know if they look right?”
Note: You already told your VA that Bono is a A-Lister in Step 1, which means we know this request can’t be entirely ignored (yet).
Your VA sends this Stock Response “Bono, thanks for sending. I”m a little buried right now but if you think this is a priority I can move it to the top of the stack – just let me know.”
Note: You just did two really sweet things there with no effort – you gave a quick response (without touching your email) and you put the ball in Bono’s court to tell you – and your VA – how urgent this is so it can be prioritized accordingly.
Sting the Biz Dev Salesman “Madonna, I’m inquiring as to whether we can setup some time next week to talk about the amazing opportunities we have available to you. I’d also like to combine the words synergy, peer-to-peer, and vertical markets into this email for no good reason.”
Note: You’ve told your VA that Sting is a B-Lister (his time at the Police notwithstanding) so your VA is going to fire off a stock response to gauge whether this can be deflected.
Your VA sends this Stock Response “Sting, thanks for reaching out. I may be able to meet but it would probably be 3-4 weeks out. Can you shoot a message to my assistant (email provided) and see what we can do?”
Note: This time you’ve done 3 things at once. You’ve given Sting a long window which buys you time to punt later, you’ve moved the conversation off your plate to your VA, and you’ve allowed the VA to control the outcome of the conversation which will involve more rules we will setup later.
The key to crafting these responses is to make them your own. Your style may be super carefree and whimsical or it may be strictly business. What’s important is that they very much reflect the natural conversation that people would have with you specifically, so it doesn’t come across like someone’s “I’m out of the office from this day to this day” autoresponder.
→ ACTION: Setup an Autoresponder ←
If you really want to take your automation to the next level, or if (gasp!) you don’t have a VA – you can also try building some custom auto responses.
You can take two approaches here – the Basic and the Advanced way.
You’ve seen this before – you email someone or some company and you automatically get a “we got your response” generic email. The problem is that it looks like it was written by a computer. Imagine if someone had taken the time to write it like a human.
Try substituting “I will process your email when I am back at my desk.” (I see you, Robot!)
… with something a bit more human…
“I just got this but it’ll take me a while to respond because I’m pretty buried today.”
This invariably buys you time and sets the tone that you’ve already responded at least once. You can change up the copy a bit from time to time so your colleagues don’t catch wind that you’re really on Necker Island sipping margaritas alongside Richard Branson.
If you really want to get crazy with the Cheez Wiz, try setting up auto responders that are based on Rules. Depending on your email client (Outlook, Gmail, Prodigy) you can send different autoresponders for different situations.
For example, you may have an auto response that goes out to anyone with your company’s @domain in the email address. Or anyone in your contact list. Or anyone who sends an email with the word “synergy” in it.
Feel free to get creative with how you set these auto responders up to account for different situations. Over time you might also notice patterns in how you process emails that your VA can start to take from stock templates into auto responses, thus saving you even more time.
We admit—the above isn’t quite as exciting as having your very own *real* clone. But, we know you’ll concede that it’s pretty rad that your email is chugging along…without you. All while you and Sting catch up over that cup of coffee. Or, maybe it’ll hit you later that afternoon when you’re focusing on that one project you haven’t had the the time for.
Empower your VA to respond to emails on your behalf by communicating VIP contacts and by creating stock responses.
Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.