Stop Making It About You

I was at a site and immediately presented with a pop-up advertisement. It felt like it was a slight rite of passage to getting to the good stuff – the content I cared about reading.

Was that banner about me or about that company? Why couldn’t the substance of the content itself start and grow the relationship instead?

I wonder if the marketer that put the ad out there likes such interruptions when they are online trying to learn or grow their understanding.

It’s typical. They aren’t thinking about how it makes themselves feel. They are thinking about what they want and hope will happen. Maybe if they annoy ten thousand people like myself then two will click it. Maybe if they make the gimmick a bit more foolproof, I will accidentally click and they can pat themselves on the back for the metric.

Stop making it about you. We don’t want to be sold. I’ll find a way around the annoyance otherwise to the real stuff.

3 Google Apps Gmail Shortcuts To Master

You can have a zeroinbox! Move fast!

Many of our clients struggle to keep up. We want to share a quick productivity tip to help you move through your inbox quickly using Google Apps. If nothing else, take 5 minutes to improve the rest of your habits going forward for moving quickly through the daily email you experience by using these shortcut keys in your Gmail:

  • # – This is delete emails. As you move through your email, hit this key much. Most of your email is junk.
  • “s” – Star items you need to respond to, act on or review later but that would take too much time now. Then hit the next key:
  • “e” – This archives any of email and removes it from your inbox

Learn these three keys. Every email has to have one of these shortcuts applied. If you don’t it’s because you did not make an executive decision.

Let us know how it works for you.

4 Google Apps System Review Tips

A team working in Google Apps is comprised of a bunch of individuals. The advantage of Google Apps is that everyone is collaborating and executing within one system. However, over time, each user may not be using the system in the most efficient or ideal way for the highest levels of success.

Knowledge work comes at us fast and furious. As business cycles naturally slow, you can take the time to review best practices for your Google Apps system to increase each user’s adoption. Here are a few items which are worthy of review:

  1. Keeping a zero inbox. Help users adopt shortcut keys and develop the habit of a zeroinbox mentality. They can move their email to action quickly and keep their mind free to be ready for whatever is coming at them. Furthermore, this avoids clutter.
  2. Collaborate in Google Docs. If users are keeping documents locally rather than in the cloud, show them the steps and benefits for uploading and creating Google Docs. They can easily share and modify documents in real-time with other team members to ensure there is a relevant and fresh library for ongoing use.
  3. Sharing knowledge in Google Sites. If people are keeping information for themselves, they are depriving the overall team of their value. Knowledge sharing in a Google Site which is searchable and a repository for best practices, FAQ’s and specific problem solving saves cycles for problem solving and serving your customers. Drive the behavior if it has been lost or start it anew if it needs to be started.
  4. Working in real-time. Demonstrate use cases for Google Chat and mobile device usage. Provide guidelines for etiquette and how to work collaboratively wherever and whenever a person is working. This helps for problem-solving issues as they happen and driving team dynamics.

You may have launched your system with the right training and expectations. However, over time, users may fall into their own habits. Reviewing best practices for your organization after users have become familiar can align your team to desired behaviors and increase your productivity. Fill the gaps and use natural business cycles to drive further adoption.

How can these tips help your team?


Gmail Search Trumps Labels

In our Google Apps consulting, we often transition organizations from a platform like Microsoft Outlook or client applications like Apple Mail or the numerous other email programs out there.  It is not atypical for users to find the transition to the Gmail interface less appealing.  After all, they were used to a user interface that they likely used for ten years.

The use of folders to drag and drop emails to manage your inbound information can help to create some order in the daily barrage.  However, it is slow.  Think about these things:

  • The steps it takes to move an email
  • How often you look inside those folders
  • The myriad amount of folders you have to scroll down to
  • The steps to create folders and manage them

Is there truly a return on investment?  Do you save every web page you visit in a catalogued approach?  Perhaps some overly maniacal and obsessive types do.  However, when you want something, you know you can find it because of search.  You use search to find what you are focused on.  You depend on strong search capabilities which are a given today.  This allows you to free up the time for organization for more productive pursuits.

In Gmail, you can use Labels, which are tags on emails similar to folders in Outlook.  It is a compromise for those that are used to the idea of folders.  It’s a feel good.

If you are processing hundreds of emails a day and thousands a month, how about abandoning organization and depend on search.  When you want something, simply find it.

It is one of the core powerful assets of Google Apps mail.  You can find what you are looking for.  Your brain relates information and with simple search, you can Google your email.  Save as much as you think you may need and free yourself from having to put email in its place.  Just make it available for search.

In the end, you will move faster with less drag on your productivity.  While others are fiddling with their folders, you can focus on getting things done.

What keeps you from going with this productivity strategy?


Google Sites For Analysis And Reporting

The beauty of Google Sites is that it is secure and collaborative.  That balance allows for opportunities to work and present your services in an experiential fashion with your customers.

One of the areas where Google Sites can work to provide a personal and customized branded experience for your customers is with proposals and reporting.  This format traditionally is sent in an email with a pdf or Microsoft Word format.  However, you can do more with a Google site in the way of presentation and working with your prospective customers.  Here is how you can set this up as a process and system for your team:

  • Customize a site.  Make a specific site for your customer.  Provide their branding, especially their logo, in the header information.  Use domain mapping to provide a unique and memorable subdomain to their site.
  • Record journal entries.  Use the Announcements type page on your site to record reverse chronological documentation of your engagement with a customer.  Insert graphical images and make each post a comment which invites collaboration.  They can leave a comment for each post.
  • Measure visits and responses.  Subscribe to any site changes to be notified of any comments to the content you post.  Also, use Google Analytics to measure your visitors, especially if several people are beneficiaries of the information.
  • Integrate Google Spreadsheets.  Anything which requires calculations and graphs should be done within a Google Spreadsheet.  Insert these as custom pages and allow the data to be navigated in the context of your presentation.
  • Provide checklists.  Checklists can help your customer see what you are going to do with the data.  Maintain a checklist of items of actions you will take to improve on the metrics.

Over time, your Google Site becomes a hub to track and interpret information on projects or systems you may be measuring.  It is valuable because it has your advice and interpretation of the data.  It is more than a sterile report from a system.

What are some ways you can use Google Sites to serve your customers using these strategies?  Feel free to comment.


Google Voice Rocks

Your Google Apps organization can take another step towards organization, productivity and automation using Google Voice.  Google Voice has a variety of ways to be customized for each user’s workflow.  I personally use Google Voice as a strategic cloud computing app in the midst of my business day.  Here are some things I do that can help your users:

  • Keep a tab open.  Along with my Gmail, Calendar and project management system, I have Google Voice opened.  I can quickly look up a Google Contact and dial from the interface.  The caller ID will be from our AscendWorks Austin area code regardless of where I am.
  • Manage your inbox.  I manage voice as an inbox much the same way I do with Gmail.  You can use stars, archiving and search to find past voicemails.
  • Leave messages for yourself.  This can convert your messages into text for archiving and search.  This is very powerful for managing your thoughts and actions.
  • Account for your activities.  You can work through a call list quickly from a sales or customer service role.  The work is documented and useful for accountability and reference later.
  • Text from your keyboard.  This is a lot easier than using your thumbs on your mobile device.  It is also documented in your system.
  • Make it easy.  I have an embedded Google Voice widget on my site at  A person can click and talk to me instantly wherever.  It makes it easy to tell them to go to my site and give me a call.
  • Control of my incoming calls.  I can instantly change rules for how inbound calls are handled.  This comes in handy depending on what I am working on or what meetings I am in.  I can change the customer experience whether it is a new greeting or an unwanted solicitor.

From an organizational standpoint, Google Voice enables effective management of call activities.  They are documented and the workflow is integrated within the Google Apps system of your organization.  It’s a powerful tool that is part of the overall suite of cloud applications.

Want to learn how to implement this for your organization?  Call me.

What can such a solution do for your productivity?


Google Apps And Building A Virtual Organization

Google Apps allows you to grow an organization in the cloud.  Your team can work in a virtual manner apart from the IT headaches of traditional email, calendaring and document management systems.  This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and visionaries that understand how the new economy for talent works.

In our Google Apps consulting, we help businesses create the infrastructure and strategies for growth.  Here are some ways you can limit your overhead and drive growth with a virtual organization structure.

  • Recruit and try out new talent.  Set up their Google Apps user account and have prepared documents and access to your knowledge base in Google Sites.  If they work out, share more.  If they don’t then turn off their access.  It is simple to set up and restrict access.
  • Keep connected using Google Chat.  Ensure your Google chat is set up for each new user to connect with relevant people on the team.  It allows for questions to be asked spontaneously and quickly.  Furthermore, you can use video and voice to connect across the globe for meetings and getting to know new team members.  It is also an excellent way to monitor working patterns online.
  • Integrate Mobile devices.  Keep the inbox for new users as well as Chat and Calendar entries in real-time.  As your new team members are mobile, they can keep within reach for important messages.
  • Create an internal blog.  Using your Google Site, you can set up notifications around an internal blog.  Post articles which keep everyone on the same page and builds your culture.  Help communicate priorities and keep everyone on the same page wherever they are located.

Before Google Apps, it was difficult to integrate new team members into your organization.  Physical location was important.  Using the cloud computing platform Google Apps offers enables you to look beyond your four walls and work with talent wherever they may be.  Use these strategies to make collaboration easy around your brand.

Are you using Google Apps for a virtual organization?  How is it working?

4 Google Apps Contacts Tips

Google Apps Contacts helps you to organize the people in your life for doing business or building relationships.  Over time, it has evolved to become more useful while retaining the signature Google simplicity in appearance and experience.

As you grow your use of Google Apps, here are some productivity and collaboration tips to help you with managing the relationships in your world:

  1. Assign Android Starred Contacts.  If you have an Android mobile phone, you can assign people to a group called “Starred In Android.”  This is a quick and accessible list of your Google Contacts that you can scan and keep top of mind for next steps in your business interactions.  Refresh this list weekly to help you keep a prioritized list of people and to touch base to nurture the relationships.
  2. Add Birthdays.  The birthday field can be added to a Contact record.  Your person’s birthday then appears in your Google Apps Calendar.  This allows you to send something special to help them know they are remembered.  An email, Facebook comment or an e-card via Hallmark all work.
  3. Group Contacts For Easy Email Distribution.  You can communicate quickly and easily with Groups.  Add people to their respective groups.  Be sure to BCC the Group distribution list to protect recipients from data mining of their email addresses.  This is also easy for regular Calendar meeting invites when adding Contacts to specific meetings.
  4. Use SMS On Mobile Phone Numbers.  It is easy to work from within your Gmail interface and send an SMS to specific people.  Be sure your Google Voice is also integrated for quick VOIP calls.  You can rely on your keyboard and consolidated workspace this powerful feature integrated into your Google Apps environment.

The people you touch moves the ball forward in your business and life.  Take a bit of extra steps to integrate these practices into your personal workflow to experience easier ways to connect and drive your activities.

How else are you using Google Contacts?  Feel free to comment below.

Google Sites For Customer Collaboration

Google Sites is a ready-made environment for an intranet to store your knowledge base.  Anyone on your team can collaborate with others in a secure area around files, process, content and numerous other internal pieces of information that helps your team get things done.

There is also great opportunity to enhance your customer experience by using Google Sites to create a secure or public access site for your service delivery.  In our Google Apps consulting, we have implemented many different types of strategies and solutions.  Here are a few which can help you leverage Google Sites for increasing customer loyalty and revenue:

  1. Project management.  You can set up a Google Site with specific external user access to track items related to a project.  A checklist of outstanding action items, a blog for ongoing communications and a file storage area can all be pages within the site.  You can build individual pages as necessary.  Keep the design simple and easy so that everyone adopts the tool.  Your customer can set up notifications to see what work has been done.  Every project may require different combinations of pages depending on what you are delivering.  Customize the look and feel to create a rich experience for your customer.
  2. Reporting and dashboards.  If you are managing any type of metrics for your customers, you can create a Google Site which acts as a home base for ongoing reporting.  Use this to give your analysis.  Combine it with Google Spreadsheets as well.  This becomes a historical ledger for the value you created.  The collaboration can be a strong point of partnering with your customers.
  3. Requirements and scoping.  If you are engaged in defining a problem or bringing together multiple groups of people to explore an issue, then creating a securely accessed Google Site that shares your findings and thoughts consolidates the group’s thinking.  They can add their thoughts to a stream of messages and help build the picture you may be seeking to define.  This can work for consulting work or sales.
  4. Sharing private value.  You may have some marquis customers that you want to share value with over time.  Keeping your information consolidated and using Google Docs in conjunction with your Google Sites, you can design an extranet for special customers.  They can find special white papers in a file manager, executive briefs, analysis and special news content.  Think about how information can be consolidated and used to bring heightened and precise value to your specific customer or set of customers.

As you can see, Google Sites can be extended to collaborate with customers in a way that increases your value perception.  By building secure access sites that are custom designed, it shows great care and design.  The value of this asset can grow between you and your specific customer or exclusive audiences.

What do you think of using such strategies for your customers?

Growing Your Business With Google Apps

If you have more than one person and have customers, then growing your business with Google Apps is one of the most strategic systems you can use.  It is a cloud-based software system which allows you to interact with your team wherever they are in the world instantly.  Google Apps also allows you to provide real-time interaction with your customers to provide a high level of service to them.

If you are getting started, here are some strategies to allow your business to grow with Google Apps:

  1. Hire anywhere and everywhere.  Free yourself from geography.  Look for talent where it is found and trust your system to help you manage the projects and communications of your business.  Setting up a new person is secure and takes minutes to do.  It is not like the old days of having an IT setup of a computer with image software for someone far off and ensuring their VPN is connected.  Today, you can set up a username and let them be part of your team.
  2. Use Google Sites for a powerful intranet.  Your knowledge base and knowledge sharing should be captured in Google Sites.  Without a username, others are not able to access your information.  Store what is important, accessible and searchable for your team.  Anticipate that people will come and go.  However, your data and processes should be in one place.  If you ever sell your company, it is a valuable asset which allows you to extend your business and grow it continually.
  3. Connect everyone on Google Chat.  Part of each user’s setup should be their Google Chat within their Gmail setup as well as on their mobile devices.  Regardless of where people are located, they can connect instantly for answers.  Set rules for avoiding interruption by changing user statuses.  You can see when your team is online and get access to the people you need quickly.
  4. Share Google Docs.  Drive collaboration by using Google Docs to share and work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations together.  This will drive a culture where everyone works together.  Furthermore, knowledge sharing will be promoted by allowing access to documents online.  Salespeople can use past presentations and gain access to tools.  Support staff can find answers and resources to solve customer problems.  Make strategic use of how your documents are accessed.

There are many other strategies to help you grow your business with this vital asset.  You can continue discovering and stretching the capabilities of Google Apps as you grow your team.  You have agility and ease-of-use built into the way the system works.  Collaboration and productivity without obstacles is the key focus.


How are you using Google Apps to grow your business?