The Drop Shippers Guide On Setting Up Gmail For Your VA
Scaling your drop shipping store by outsourcing repetitive tasks is essential to ensure you’re building a long term asset for yourself rather than a job. One of the biggest things that you eventually should be outsourcing is customer service and sales support.
Customer service may consist of a number of channels. Most likely: phone, email and live chat.
Whilst it’s pretty straight forward to have someone handle your store’s email unless you have a good system in place things may often be done wrong.
But don’t worry… It’s completely normal to have 100’s of emails in your inbox. Most of us receive an email, open it, action it then forget about it.
But Matt, I know what needs to be done!
That’s great. You may be able to remember that email you said you’d action 2 days ago once your supplier said that stock had arrived. But your VA is not you.
The problem here is that it’s not a good system to have all of your emails in your inbox floating around as it leaves opportunity for emails to go missing or be forgotten about once the responsibility to manage emails is on your VA.
The Solution: Filtering and Labels
There’s a great course on Udemy from David Dang Vu who teaches “How to Train your Virtual Assistant for eBay Drop Shipping“. Although this course is designed for eBay arbitrage businesses, I found that a lot of the techniques David shows will work for drop shipping businesses as well.
In his course, David shows us how he has his Gmail setup using filtering and labels. Emails received are first sifted through a filter and are allocated to the desired label.
However, in eBay arbitrage, there are only emails received from just a few sources. I found that I needed to expand and customise David’s Gmail label setup to make it work efficiently for my drop shipping businesses.
Before we get into setting up labels, first let me give you a basic rundown on how they work.
How Gmail Filtering and Labels Work (basically)
Emails don’t always go to your inbox. This is just the default setting Google gives your inbox.
When you receive an email to your Gmail email client it can have an action applied to it by using Gmail’s filters.
By using filters, emails can have the following actions applied:
- Skip the Inbox (Archive it)
- Mark as read
- Star it
- Apply the label:
- Forward it
- Delete it
- Never send it to Spam
- Always mark it as important
- Never mark it as important
- Categorise as:
Depending on who the email is from or to and what you want to do with it, you can apply any of the above actions or a number of the above actions together.
Still with me? Good!
Okay, so now you understand that when you get sent an email you can have Gmail action it before you even see it.
Pretty cool huh?!
Why do we want to do this you ask?
Because as your business grows, emails will become the bane of your existence. They take time to action and never ever stop.
Just like hiring a VA – having repetitive tasks outsourced (or in this case, automated) means you remove unproductive dead time from yours or your VA’s day.
Here’s a scenario that is common in my business:
An email is received from Gumtree (Australia’s version of Craig’s List) each time my VA posts a new ad on the Gumtree platform.
This email tells my VA whether or not the ad posting was successful as Gumtree has strict criteria of what ads are good for their site.
If the email from Gumtree says that the ad is denied, then my VA must revise the ad and repost it.
Now, I have 500+ ads on Gumtree at any one time. Can you imagine how time-consuming it’d be for me to send an email to my VA each time it was received from Gumtree?
It’d drive me nuts!
So instead, I set up a series of automated filters so that each time an email from Gumtree that is about the status of a new ad post is received, it is automatically sent to my VA’s email, marked as read, skipped from the inbox and placed in a label called “Gumtree Ads”.
I’ve completely removed myself from having to do any work!
4-hour work week here I come!
What Gmail Labels Look Like
If you’re anything like me your Gmail may look like this:
- Sent Mail
… With the entire history of emails received sitting in the inbox.
Not a good system.
Here’s how mine looks now using filters and labels:
- Sent Mail
- Attn: You
- Pending payments
- Attn: Your VA
- Payments made
- CS Issues
- APPROVED & PAID – AWAITING SHIPPING CONFIRMATION
- APPROVED & SHIPPED – AWAITING INVOICE
- APPROVED AWAITING INVOICE
- AWAITING APPROVAL
- NEXT DAY FOLLOW UP
- DRAFT ORDERS
- PENDING CUSTOMER PAYMENT
- ZIPMONEY – AWAITING CUSTOMER APPROVAL
- Status Updates
- Happy Customers
- Product Reviews
- Negative Reviews to Follow Up
- Sales Enquiries
- Questions & Answers (App)
- Supplier A
- Supplier B
- Supplier C
- Supplier D
These labels can have colours assigned to them too so that the ones that still land in your inbox can be prioritised via colour.
Generally, I like to colour new orders as yellow to stand out, anything urgent as red, customer enquiries as green and completed items as blue.
With this system, each email has a place and is never lost in the inbox jungle. Your aim is to get to what’s known as “Inbox 0” each day – no emails in your inbox at all.
How To Setup Filtering And Labels in Gmail
Let’s assume you’ve got an inbox full of read emails. Start by looking at your most common emails. These may be from suppliers, Shopify, and customers.
Here’s how to setup a filter for new order emails…
In Gmail, click on the settings icon on the upper right-hand side of the screen
Click on “Settings”
Within settings on the top menu, click on “Filters and Blocked Addresses”
Navigate down and click “Create a new filter”
Within the pop-up box enter the following:
– From: Enter the email address that Shopify uses to send you order emails. Eg. firstname.lastname@example.org
– To: Leave blank
– Subject: [Your store name] Order Place By
– Includes the words: Leave blank
– Doesn’t have: Draft, Automatic, RE,
– Leave “Has attachment” unselected
– Select “Don’t include chats”
– Leave “Size” blank
On the next menu, enter the following: (all other options are to be unchecked)
– Check: Apply the label
– Select “Choose label…”
– Then select “New label…”
– Enter the name “Orders”
– Click Create
– Check: Never send it to Spam
– Check: Always mark it as important
– Check: Also apply filter to matching conversations.
Click “Update Filter”
Congratulations! You’ve made your first basic filter! Now, Whenever a new order comes in it’ll be automatically placed in the “Orders” label.
If you want to colour your label, simply navigate to the new label on the right-hand side of your screen, click on the little down arrow on the right of the label when you hover over it, hover over “Label colour” then chose the colour you like.
You can follow the same steps to create an infinite amount of actions and labels to suit your individual business using these basic steps.
One thing I like to do is group labels together using sub-labels (Gmail calls this “nestled under”).
Some emails you may want to have sent to others such as other VA’s and skipped the inbox altogether and some you may want to have set up as Spam.
Work through your inbox and start applying filters to emails to make your inbox perform as it should.
Managing Labels Manually
Once an order email from Shopify comes through to my inbox my VA will send it to the corresponding supplier. When she does, the label “Orders” is removed and the sub-label “AWAITING APPROVAL” is applied.
Do this by entering the email, clicking the label icon, deselecting “Orders” then select “AWAITING APPROVAL”. Finally, click the archive icon to remove the email from the inbox.
Now you have a nice neat list of orders that have been sent you your supplier and are yet to be approved.
Of course, once you receive a reply from your supplier you should remove the “AWAITING APPROVAL” label and apply the next appropriate label such as “APPROVED & PAID – AWAITING SHIPPING CONFIRMATION”.
Once the order process is finished you will have all orders labelled as “COMPLETE”.
Each day your VA can check the labels to see if any orders have been missed by the supplier or need following up.
Google has a great article on Gmail labels that you should check out if you want more info.
One Person To Manage The Inbox!
This system works only when one person has control of the inbox – your VA. It’s your VA’s responsibility to allocate emails to the correct label if Gmail’s filters have not auctioned them automatically. They are the customer service rep and this is their responsibility.
There’s no doubt emails will be sent for your attention. That’s fine. Your VA simply applies the label “ATTN: Your Name” and marks the email as “Unread” if they’ve opened it to action the email.
If you’re not yet ready to give full access to your store’s main email, don’t stress. You can have your cake and eat it too! Emailing back and forth from your VA to yourself is dead simple.
All you need to do is send an email to your main email address Eg: email@example.com, label it as “Attn: Your VA” then mark it as unread.
You’ll see that your VA now has an unread email under their label and also in the inbox.
3 Tools to Turn Your Gmail Into a CRM
There are three cool Chrome extensions that I’d recommend for even better functionality and control…
Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang is a powerful Gmail tool that does a host of cool things such as scheduling emails to send later, get notifications if emails haven’t been replied to, pause your inbox and write perfect email subject.
Grammarly not only works in Gmail but on every other page you visit and use in Chrome as well. Basically, it’s a free spell checker on steroids!
Grammarly also has an OSX app too!
Active Inbox is new to me but from what I can see it look like it’s a very powerful app to use with Gmail. You can set tasks, turn emails into calendar events plus a tonne more. It’s not free but prices start from just $4.16 Per Month.
Got A Better System? Share it Here!
This is the system I’ve developed over time and that I use for my drop shipping businesses. And just like any system, it can always be improved with new technology changes and alternative ideas.
Don’t be shy to share with us if you’ve got a better system or new tools!