Do Email Differently: Startups' Favorite Inbox Productivity Tools

There are a variety of email productivity tools on the market, so consider your needs before layering on too many at once. The three most valued services among our community are email scheduling apps, smart filtering tools that automatically organize your inbox according to your preferences, and lightweight CRMs that work within your email.

Email Scheduling Apps

At the most basic level, anyone who’s anyone should be using an email scheduling tool, which will allow you to schedule emails and receive follow-up reminders on emails you don’t want to lose track of. Of Stacklist startups who buy into the whole email productivity thing, 39% have chosen Boomerang. Kathryn  Minshew, Co-founder/CEO of The Muse, touts Boomerang as “the one tool I couldn’t live without.”

Right Inbox and Inbox by Gmail, used by 6% and 11% of Stacklisters, respectively, also fall into this primary category.

Smart Filtering Tools

Sick of seeing endless messages from vendors and marketers? In addition to scheduling emails and allowing you to set follow-up reminders, Inbox by Gmail bundles certain messages together (ie, promotional emails, purchases, etc) and add to-do lists to bring you steps closer to accomplishing your tasks. Geert DeBecker, CEO of claims Inbox saves him two hours per day, and Max Engel, Co-founder of Quill notes that the platform “has helped immensely with managing our workflow.” Or check out Unroll.Me, which brings all content and marketing emails from other vendors into one large-form emails (limited distraction = time saving!).

SaneBox, an Ampush favorite, gets a little more intelligent, offering “smart filtering” in addition to the basic email productivity features. It tracks your email habits, and sends all “unimportant” messages into their own folder. It should be noted that Boomerang, Inbox for Gmail and Right Inbox all work on top of Gmail, while SaneBox can be used for other platforms, as well, including Exchange, iCloud and the (still shockingly present) AOL and Yahoo.

Lightweight CRM Platforms

For early-stage startups with budding CRM needs but aren’t yet ready for even lightweight CRM tools (e.g., Pipedrive, Highrise), a few Gmail-based platforms have emerged that fill those needs nicely. In addition to helping with contact management, these platforms require virtually no training, easing the process of adoption across your organization--a win for all! If you are looking for an easy CRM solution that’s tightly integrated with Gmail and a step up from a spreadsheet, then Streak or ProsperWorks might be for you.

Says Dan Putt, Founding Partner of Reboot, “ProsperWorks is truly built, as they say, for Google Apps from the ground up. Their Gmail extension is fantastic, and the way it pulls data in via FullContact is really, really helpful. But the best part of ProsperWorks is that I can get the team to use it with limited training or explanation. The bottom line is that, in our experience, the gap from signing up to getting value was so much smaller with Prosperworks than with Salesforce. I would say that, unless you know for certain that you want and need Salesforce, and you use Google Apps, then ProsperWorks is worth a close look.”

For many startups, these email-based CRMs won’t last forever, but they’re a very user-friendly, low-cost option for the early stages. “Streak is a very simple CRM, and their pipeline tool is very simple and straightforward,” explains Erik Schreter, Founder of Venwise. “For a more sophisticated sales team, you wouldn’t want to use Streak; the admin and reporting functionality are quite weak...But Streak was integrated directly into Gmail, so we chose them.”

ToutApp is another double-duty email productivity/CRM tools. It bills itself as a bridge between your CRM and email, and is intended to be used in conjunction with more comprehensive services like Salesforce. With features like individual tracking through both your email and your website email templates designed for specific user types, and automatic lead prioritization, ToutApp focuses on one-to-one, email based-relationships. It does have some limited CRM features as well, like contact management and conversation history, which have proven handy for startups including Movable Ink and Visidraft.

And  while we’re on the CRM front, Jason Shah, CEO of Do, takes Boomerang to the next level and puts it to work as a lightweight CRM: “We use it mostly for tracking customer emails, and helps us effectively manage relationships with customers, partners, etc. Following up at the right time and streamlining our communication with customers is more important than 90% of the other things we can do for relationship development.”

Additional Bells & Whistles

Other email marketing tools loved by the Stacklist community include [Captio, which enables you to send yourself an email with one click (easy reminders!) and Alfred, an app for Mac OS X which boosts your efficiency with hotkeys and keywords. “It’s great for when you have to write the same emails over and over,” notes Amanda Rinderle, Co-founder of Tuckerman & Co.

The moral of the story? Make email work for you, not the other way around.

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