Google is so darned innovative lately, though, that it scares me. I want to use all its mighty and mostly free online suite of rich content, marketing, and social media tools, but I worry about being too dependent on them. For now, however, I’m silencing my inner voice, and moving even more aggressively into Google’s startling panoply of online services.
GMail’s Got It
What first tipped me off to Gmail as THE most productive email solution came from my virtual assistant. Here’s a woman who makes it her business to know what it takes to stay in touch, conduct customer relations, track communication, and maximize productivity. When I told her I was leaning towards MS Outlook as my email and CRM solution, she talked me out of it. She had trained extensively in Outlook, and agreed it was a powerful tool, but, she said: “…the world is migrating to Gmail…” And she did too.
Yes, there are other strong email contenders: Thunderbird, Yahoo, AOL, GMX, etc. For the last two years, I’ve been using a powerful suite of programs under the ZOHO banner. I like ZOHO, but the strength of add-ons, extensions, plug-ins and 3rd-party assistance you get with Gmail these days is just too powerful to ignore. Even the TV station where I work, gave up on the enterprise version of Outlook for the corporation, and migrated to Gmail.
So, last night, just after midnight, I turned off my ZOHO mail, and integrated all my email activity into the Gmail interface. Now, all my firstname.lastname@example.org email goes through the Gmail portal…even though it looks like courvo.com incoming and outgoing.
Four of the Best Integrated Add-Ons
The various tools you can use inside Gmail are dizzying, but let me underscore four that are just about irreplaceable for me now.
1 & 2 ) XOBNI and Rapportive.
Xobni is Inbox spelled backwards, and I’ve been using this service (at one of their paid rates) for years. It’s superlative. As a sidebar on your Gmail screen, it reveals loads of information about each person sending you an email. Once you call up the individual mail from anyone, Xobni fetches pertinent social media and contact info, and displays it immediataely. An auxilliary service is Smartr, which helps you manage and connect with people especially on social media platforms. (available as an app as Smartr)
Rapportive offers much the same service. I use both (Rapportive is free), because where one might come up short, the other is almost always there with something more. There’s room for both on your Gmail screen, too. (no smartphone app)
As if Gmail’s own native connection to GDrive storage isn’t seamless enough already, PowerBot let’s you tap into the incredible strength of Evernote and Dropbox right from your Gmail interface. See something you wanna save? Click on a handy PowerBot icon in Gmail, and choose your Evernote or DropBox acccoutn (or both) to be a destination for that picture, or doc file, or attachment. Brainless! (no smartphone app)
YesWare admits right up front it’s a tool for salespeople. But have you noticed how the line between tracking sales prospects and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is pretty blurred these days. YesWare is a Gmail extension that goes right to work in your Gmail service to let you “…track and analyze email communications, improve CRM compliance and accuracy, and get real-time feedback on every opportunity…” It really is amazing and pretty intuitive. The folks at YesWare seem to go out of their way to explain how the thing works, and the program is pretty intuitive. The free version lets you track 100 emails/mo. After that, it’s still fairly inexpensive to go to a paid plan. (no smartphone app)
Honorable Mention: If you already use the CRM tool “Nimble”, the Gmail integration is superb and very helpful for tracking relationships.
Needlesss to say, all these programs work best within the Chrome browser.
There are SO many others. I’m still looking at Maven…but really too many to mention here. I can vouch for the four above, ’cause I use ‘em constantly, and they’re reliable. Check ‘em out!