It's one thing to know what tools people use to increase productivity but it's another thing to know how they use them. In this post I'm going to share exactly how I use 4 free tools to schedule online meetings. After all, it's often following processes that get things done – not just having killer tools.
I've looked for different options but these tools have been the best I've found to meet my needs so far. If you're looking to schedule online meetings or interviews with potential clients, customers, supporters, prayer partners, or for any reason, I'd recommend you start with these tools.
Here are the tools that we'll be looking at:
- Streak for Gmail
OK, so using Gmail is pretty self-explanatory. I wish I could say that I've somehow discovered a secret Gmail hack but I really haven't. I will say, though that there are some functions I use that you might not know about.
- I learned and use keyboard shortcuts to write, respond, archive, and move between emails
- I have a custom email signature (I'm using WiseStamp for that right now but I might go back to a standard signature block)
- I use Streak for Gmail (more on how I use that below)
Streak for Gmail
So, truthfully, most of my workflow was designed around Streak. Right now I'm using it myself but as I grow a team, I can involve them as well.
There are two basic elements of Streak that I find most useful. We'll cover how I use them in just a minute.
- User-defined “pipelines”
If you're familiar with the concept of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools or basic project management, you know that both projects and relationships often go through stages.
For a relationship, it might be something like:
- First contact
- Discovering common interests
- Identifying common and dissimilar perspectives
- Identifying opportunities to reinvest in the relationship
- And so on…
(I just made this it, it's not based on research).
So, knowing that, I also know that there are stages to setting up an interview with someone I've never met. And I know that it might work differently for me than for somebody else. Here's how it works for me:
- I hear about people
- I contact them to see if they're interested
- If they are, we schedule an interview
- I follow up prior to the interview
- We record the interview and I get it ready for publication
- We go through some phases of publication
- I ask them if they know anybody I should meet
If I was using some CRM solutions, it would be really hard to define these stages. But with Streak, it's really easy. In fact, it took me more time to figure out the different stages than to plan them,
So, all I did was create a new custom pipeline in Streak and define the stages just like I outlined above. Though, because not everybody nearly everybody's inbox is overflowing with requests and pictures of kittens, not everybody responds on the first attempt. Rather than simply contacting once, I've added “sub-stages” to some of the different stages in the pipeline. To denote those, I just used the stage and a number.
- C1 = First contact
- C2 = Second contact (without receiving a response)
- C3 = Third contact (without receiving a response)
- And so on…
Here's where the real power (for me) comes in. Not only can I keep track of the people I've contacted and where we are in the process of booking and publishing an interview, I can write customizable emails once to respond more quickly.
To some, this might seem false but I don't see it that way. Rather, this gives me the freedom to make sure that I don't miss any valuable information for my guests. And it still gives me the freedom to make each email as personal as possible.
Truthfully, I'm trying to get better at the “personal” part.
Now, snippets aren't quite as easy to set up. At first I poked around for a while before I figured out how to define and use them. But now that I've figured it out, they're not that hard.
Define the Snippet
I think that the easiest way to create a Snippet is to write an email, subject line and all. Then I click one button that lets me turn the subject and body of that email into a Snippet.
After I do that, I can name it, assign it to a pipeline, and create a keyboard shortcut.
Note: If you don't use keyboard shortcuts, you should give it a try.
Once that's done, I can keep track of what's going on with the relationships I'm developing. And, when it comes time to send or respond to an email, I can start with a keyboard shortcut and then edit as necessary.
- This can save me hours some weeks
- I don't leave important information out of emails
- I don't have to struggle to think of how to respond to common requests
- I drop fewer balls
That's all for now
I'd planned to spend some time on how I use ScheduleOnce to handle bookings and how I use Skype to run and record interviews. But, since this post is already pretty long, I think I'll leave that for next time.
Now to you…
Question: What is one thing in your life, business, or ministry, that often goes through defined stages or steps? What could you do to bring order to the process to free you (and others) to do their absolute best?