7 Gmail Tips Every SMB Should Know

So many of us in the small business community rely on Gmail as our default email provider, and with good reason! We use Google because it comes at a price point we love (often free) and it integrates with other applications that we use on a daily basis – like our calendar and To Do list. If you’re a small business using Gmail to manage your email and your customer relations, why not make sure you’re getting the most out of it that you can?

To help you do just that, below are seven tips for how to use Gmail smarter. Because if you think Gmail is great on its own, you don’t even want to know how powerful it is once you supercharge it.

1. Get a Gmail account at your own domain with Google Apps: Just because you like the simplicity of relying on Google for email doesn’t mean you want @gmail.com to append your email address. You know that customers will trust your business more if they see you have a branded email account connected to your business. They’re looking for that name@yourdomain.com in order to trust your business and that you’re a “real” company. And you don’t have to sacrifice this important authority metric just to use Google. You just have to become a Google Apps users. For five dollars (per email address) a month, small business owners can become a Google Apps users andCanned Responses comes into play. By turning on Canned Responses it gives you the ability to write your message once, save it, and then use it based off certain keywords in your message.

2. Juggle multiple email accounts from one interface: You probably don’t have just one email address. Most of us practically collect email addresses. There’s our personal email, our work email (name@domain.com), the generic company email (info@domain.com), and other email addresses we use for other purposes. But just because you have five different emails doesn’t mean you have the time to be logging in and out of accounts all day. By setting up Mail Fetcher in Gmail, you can download messages from up to five other accounts in one interface to help you centralize all of your email. This way you’re spending your time answering it instead of trying to access it.

3. Use Labels: SMBs can use labels to help organize their inbox and keep them on task. To create a label, select the message you want the label to apply to, hit the Label button in the toolbar (it looks like a tag), and then choose Create New. Once your label is created, you’ll be able to apply it to different messages in your inbox or even nest it under a broader category. This is really helpful in organizing your inbox. You can even then create filters to have certain messages removed from your inbox until you have the time to deal with them.

4. Use Boomerang: Boomerang is a Gmail plugin that lets you take back control of your inbox by giving you the ability to write emails now and schedule them to go out later. Want to respond to an email to get it off your plate but don’t want to have to respond when the other person tennis balls it back to you? Schedule it to go out in an hour. Or at the end of the day. Or perhaps you can’t sleep and you’re answering email at 4am. You don’t have to alert your business contacts to your raging insomnia. Write it now and then schedule it to go out at 8am when the rest of the world is awake. You can also use Boomerang to remind you to check up on people who haven’t gotten back to you or use it for link building.

5. Answer faster with canned responses: Take a look at your email right now. How many emails are waiting for you to write the same answer to the same question over and over again? If you’re like most small business owners, probably a lot. And that’s where Google’s Canned Responses comes into play. By turning on Canned Responses it gives you the ability to write your message once, save it, and then use it based off certain keywords in your message.

6. Reply by chat or video: Or why answer the email with another email at all? End the cycle and take advantage of Google’s option to reply by chat or by video.

7. Mute emails: For emails not sent directly to you (for example, if you’re part of an email group or listserv) you can mute emails that you wish not to see. Perhaps there’s an email discussion going around that you’re no longer interested in or people are all leaving their thoughts on a topic that doesn’t involve your business, by using the shortcut M, you can actually mute the thread to hide the emails so you don’t have to deal with them. It’s like magic.

Those are some ways that I supercharge Gmail to work better. What works for you?

More in: 18 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

18 Reactions
  1. These are all interesting. I particularly like the ability to tie email addresses together. Do you have any suggestions on overall email reduction/check frequency?

  2. Thanks for the link to Boomerang. This is something I’ve been wishing Gmail would do for years.

  3. Thanks Lisa for the link to Boomerang! I’ve been using Canned Responses, Google Apps, Labels, and Chat. I have’t tried mute yet though I am aware of it; seemed easier to delete emails. LOL.

    As for Mail Fetcher, I just turn the multiple inboxes on 🙂

    An additional feature I like doing is filtering.

  4. Thanks Lisa, great post on the benefits of using Gmail. I love Gmail and use the ActiveInbox plug in with it. My favorite feature of this is it lets you schedule emails like tasks that come back up on a list when they are due. You can also create projects, email yourself and a bunch of other cool stuff. If you haven’t seen it check it out, here the link http://www.activeinboxhq.com/ I’m going to have to see if it works with Boomerang I like the idea of being able to schedule for later too!

  5. Hi lisa thanks for such a useful post about gmail features, i already know some features you have posted here but the mute mails, boomerang and canned responses are now only i came to know..thanks once again…keep it up your good work…

  6. I’m not into Boomerang because A) I don’t want to have to pay for it and B) I want it to be native. I WISH Google would add this one, tiny feature to GMail. It would make their email client UNSTOPPABLE!

    To work around this, I’ve been using Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client. It allows you to send later with a plug in. The draw back is, Thunderbird does need to be running/connected to the internet to send the emails, but it’s the best free option I’ve found to work with GMail at this time.

    GMAIL… is you’re reading this… make it so!

  7. Boomerang is great tool and I hope google will add a similar feature of their own because often I check mail on many different computers which doesn’t have plugin installed and then this feature is unavailable to me.

  8. Hi, Lisa…

    Love, love, love Gmail, and am a sponge for tips; thanks for these!

    The tip that changed my life (sounds dramatic, but I’m beyond serious!) came from Gina Trapani. It’s to NOT use labels to organize things (like folders), but to instead, dump everything into the Archive, and search for what you need when you need it.

    Add that to using the bounceback feature of Boomerang (to help me track things I didn’t hear back about), and I almost never have anything in my Inbox except what’s new since the last time I checked email.

    Friends and colleagues are constantly amazed and joke with me about it all the time. I think they’d love to have an empty inbox with everything handled, but can’t make the shift away from needing things deeply organized. Dumping into one central archive “feels” messy to them–so they don’t do it.

    For me, though, it’s quick, easy, efficient, and absolutely freeing. I delete with prejudice, answer what needs answering, send (or set up to send later) and archive anything I answer, and archive stuff I need to keep that I didn’t need to answer.

    I used to dread email. No more. 🙂

  9. So how does one use Google to manange CRM as the opening paragraph suggests?? I am looking for a solution.

  10. Great post again, Lisa! Like most here, I love Gmail. I use it with my own domains, too, and just use the POP/IMAP features and “Reply As” my own domain name. Then I don’t need the Google Apps stuff.

    I couldn’t figure out how to do the “Reply by Video” option you mention. Anyone else use that yet??

    I love your input Anastacia!! I do the same. I filter all messages into Archive and let them all go to a specific label I have set up as an alternate inbox. Then when I log in because I want to SEND an email without getting distracted — I see a completely empty inbox. Phew. I write and exit. No emails catch my eye unless I want to click that label. I also don’t do all the filtering (except for some stuff that SPAM doesn’t catch) and labeling and tagging. Why? Google’s little internal search box is so powerful. Love it. That’s what makes it so hard to use Outlook or Thunderbird — the search function is simply not as powerful. And I say that with deep admiration for both of those email clients. But the search tools are insufficient.

  11. TJ…

    Never thought of creating a label for an alternative inbox. Interesting!!

    Is there a benefit to that that you see other than being able to not be distracted by the regular inbox when you want to send mail?

    I’m trying to think through how this might be helpful to me 🙂


  12. Good comprehensive advice. At The Fremont Group we utilize all of those tools and advise our clients to do the same.

  13. Good tips Lisa, I wasn’t aware about ‘Boomrang’ seems a good plugin and pretty useful; email scheduling made easy now:-)
    Thanks for sharing this!

  14. Why are we paying for extra crap when we are already paying extra for more storage? rediculous, I will look for other options.