Category Archives: Athenee Mastrangelo

The Power of a Template

By Athenée MastrangeloAthenee Mastrangelo

Does it feel like you’re always busy typing up letters and emails?  Does it sometimes feel like you’re sending out the same emails?  If you answered yes, what do you do?  Do you retype the entire email over and over again, or do you go back in your Sent folder and look for that email you sent out a few weeks ago so you can copy and paste the content?  Why not simplify the process with a template?

Why reinvent the wheel when you can have your own library of frequently used items?  Templates are not just for contracts; you can use them for emails, spreadsheets, to do lists, and just about everything.  Most word processors already have templates in place for you to use.  You can use theirs or create your own from scratch – either way you’ll save a ton of time in the end.  Let’s look at a few different ways of using templates:

Email Templates: Find yourself responding to the same emails over and over again?  Being Secretary/Treasurer of her network group, Jessica has to send out weekly emails and most of those emails contain the same message each week.   So for each of those emails, she typed up the message and saved it as a Signature in her Mac Mail.  Each week when it’s time to send out these emails, all she has to do is pick out the right message AKA Signature, personalize it and hit Send.  No time was wasted creating a message, typing it all out and making sure it has no typos.

If you don’t have the Signature option with your email service you can either store your templates in the Draft folder or you can create a folder named Templates.  All you have to do is copy and paste the message, personalize and hit Send.

You can use email templates for basically anything.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Meeting Agendas & Minutes
  • Requesting a meeting
  • Office Memo
  • Confirming receipt of someone’s resume -or- Replying that the position is already filled
  • Weekly Status Report
  • Driving Directions to your Business

You can also use your email Signature to promote events or specials, once the promotion is over just remove it from your Signature.  Want to wish them a great holiday season?  Rather than retyping it over and over again, just add it to your Signature!

Document Templates: It’s common for most of us to use templates for contracts or forms, but get creative – there’s so much you can use it for.  Some examples:

  • If you work in the HR department, set up templates for responding to applications to let them know (1) They are hired, (2) The position is closed, (3) Informing them of their next step
  • Are you in sales?  Have an introduction letter with important information and links to your website
  • Do you have to reply to customer complaints?  Use a template, now all you have to do is personalize it
  • If you’re applying for a new career use a template for your cover letter and resume, all you have to do is go in and personalize and you’re ready to go
  • Spreadsheets are also a great way for using templates, for example: expense reports, travel expenses, proposals, invoices and so much more.

To make sure you can easily find your templates; store them in a folder called Template.  Tip:  Always have a backup folder with all your templates, just in case you mistakenly use and changed one from the Template folder.

Presentation Templates: If you prepare presentations for your company, having templates will not only save you time, but more importantly will keep your presentations consistent and professional!  Make sure you:

  • Keep your logo and text positioning in the same location
  • Use the same colors, font, and sizes if and where possible – it looks less cluttered and is much easier on the eyes for your participants

If there is more than one person creating presentations for a company, having templates is a must for keeping your company’s branding consistent.

AutoText – another great tool! What is AutoText, you ask?  It’s a tool inside your word processor or email service that automatically replaces your text as soon as you type it in.  It’s frequently used to replace typical typos, for example ‘recieve’ will automatically be replaced with ‘receive’.  Most of these tools let you add your own set of AutoText words and phrases.

Here are just a few ways you can use this tool to save you time:

  • Let’s say you’re always typing in ‘Executive Assistant to the General Manager of This Company’.  Rather then typing that same phrase repeatedly, have ‘EXGM’ replaced with ‘Executive Assistant to the General Manager of This Company’ – that’s 4 key strokes instead of 60!
  • What about names with symbols?  Most AutoText tools will replace the letters ‘TM’ with ‘™’  But if yours doesn’t you can instruct it to do so.  Plus you can do it with your company name – just have ‘YCN’ replaced with ‘Your Company Name™’
  • You can do the same with entire paragraphs – let AutoText do the work for you!

Word of caution:  When creating these replacement letters in AutoText, make sure they are not existing words or abbreviations – it can get quite messy!

Your Next Action! Over the next few days and weeks pay attention to the things you frequently type or send out.  Then take some time to set up your own set of templates. Remember, you can always go online to find some great pre-created templates.  Download them, personalize them to your needs and you’re good to go!

Athenée Mastrangelo helps busy professionals use technology to stay organized, productive, and connected.  She is available for workshops, online training, and individual consultations. Clients include Marriott, United Colors of Benetton, Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs. Connect with Athenée at www.ActionChaos.com or 407-435-2170.

Turn Business Cards Into Business: Do You Manage Client Information on a Paper Napkin?

Athenee MastrangeloBy Athenée Mastrangelo

Your clients are your #1 priority, right?  So how are you managing their information and your relationship with them?  Do you have all their information stuffed in a shoebox or do you have an effective CRM (Contact Relationship Management) system?  Or maybe you’re somewhere in between?

The difference between having the right and the wrong CRM system can make or break your business.  Finding the right system for you is not an easy task.  It’s also a personal task – just because Mike next door is very happy and successful with his CRM system does not mean it’s the right system for you!  Every person, business, and situation is unique.

Scenario 1:  Kevin wanted only top of the line for his team and chose one of the more expensive CRM systems.  Unfortunately, it was too complicated and too time consuming, so in the end his team ended up never using it.

Scenario 2:  Becky started out with a free CRM system, but slowly had to start upgrading to a paid version to get the necessary options.  In the end she was paying more than the average system, but was getting less in return for her investment.

Rather than making those same mistakes, assess your situation and ask yourself some really important questions

Five Key Areas: Prior to investing your time, money, and energy into a new CRM system you want to ask yourself some important questions. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Contact Management: For starters, you know you need to store and manage all the people in your life from your clients, colleagues, leads, and vendors, but what is it that you need to save (aside from the obvious – like their name, address, phone numbers, emails, etc.)?

  • Do you want to store their family information, e.g. spouse and children’s names, pets, birthdays and stories?

  • Are you a visual person and would like to be able to store their business card image/logo?  What about their picture?

  • Do you want to be able to organize your contacts into groups?  [Hint:  Yes!]

2. Your Relationship: Now that you have their information, what about your relationship with them – your history… is this important to you?    If so, what is it you want to store and manage?

  • Collect any and all phone calls and take note of important things discussed

  • Keep a record of things covered and discussed during meetings and presentations

  • Any email correspondence (If email is an important part of this, you definitely want to look at a CRM system that syncs with your email.)

3. Projects, Tasks and Events: Some CRM systems have their own calendar or they can integrate with your calendar system making it easy to share events, projects, and tasks with other people in your team.  It is helpful to have your tasks and events synced with your contact system – this is definitely worth checking into.

With some CRM systems you can even automate a lot of your assignments and tasks – this is a great time saver!  For example:

Let’s assign a new task to Jane, asking her to call a new lead.  That task will have all the details and instructions for that call – what to say and what questions to ask, for example:  ‘Is lead interested?’  If Jane answers ‘Yes’, the CRM automatically creates a personalized email to the lead, thanking them for their time and….’ it also creates a follow-up task for Jane to drop by their office with a welcome basket.’  How cool is that?

4. Your Sales Cycle: Here is where you can go as simple or as detailed as you need to.  Some things to think about:

  • Do you need to keep track of your sales cycle with each client?

  • If you sell products, do you need a system for keeping track of your inventory?

  • Do you need an online shopping cart?

  • Do you want to be able to invoice your clients directly from your CRM tool?

5. Your Team: How many people are in your team?  Is it just you, do you have just a few people, or is there a big team?  Size does matters when looking for the right system.

  • When working with a team you want to keep track of who is working on what

  • Do you need a social network site for your team (something that works like Twitter and Facebook, but privately for your team)?

  • If there are more people on your team – are you all using the same operating system?  [Hint:  consider using a cloud-based system so this won’t be an issue]

  • Consider looking into a time-tracking system, even if it is just you

  • Where does everyone work?  At the office?  From home?  Or are they mostly on the road?

Important To Check Out: Now that you know a little bit about what you need, ask yourself the following questions about the system you are looking at:

  • Accessibility.  With today’s technology consider looking into a cloud solution. You’ll have access to your important information no matter where you are. All you need is a computer, iPad, iPhone, or any other smart phone.

  • Security & Backup.  Is your information secure and is there continuous backup?  Obviously very important things to look into.

  • Pricing.  Know your budget and remember more expensive does not necessarily mean better (for you).

  • Export strategy.  If you do decide to leave you want to be able to easily take your information with you.

  • User friendly.  Is it easy to use and is there a good support system

  • Reviews.  Do you like what you are reading?

  • Customizable.  Are you able to change things like your dashboard, fields, reports, etc.?

  • Integration.  Does it play well with other systems like email, calendar, scanners, invoicing, online forms, etc?

  • Social Media.  Some CRM systems let you sync your contacts with social media sites, so you’ll always have the latest news and information.

Athenée Mastrangelo helps busy professionals use technology to stay organized, productive, and connected.  She is available for workshops, online training, and individual consultations.  Clients include Marriott, United Colors of Benetton, Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs.  Connect with Athenée at www.ActionChaos.com or 407-435-2170.