Three months after we launched our beta in 2010, Gmail announced Priority Inbox, which does almost exactly what we do – prioritizes emails. That was a scary day for us: half of our beta customers left. Since then, most of them came back, and today 60% of our customers are on Gmail, and prefer to pay us money for something Gmail offers for free.
We have been keeping a close watch on Gmail Tabs. Thankfully this elicited even less reaction from our user base than Priority Inbox. Here’s why:
1. SaneBox works everywhere
On any device or client - not just in the Gmail web interface (not to mention literally any email provider - not just Gmail)
2. SaneBox is smarter
Our algorithms are personalized based on your past behavior (which emails you open, which you respond to, how quickly, how often etc). That makes us much more accurate for you personally.
3. SaneBox is simpler and more powerful at the same time
If you like things easy, you get 1 other place to look (SaneLater folder - that’s where all unimportant emails go). But if you’re OCD, you can create lots of optional filtering rules and folders.
4. SaneBox does way more than just filtering
BlackHole (unsubscribe with 1 click), snooze non-urgent emails, reminders to follow up with people who ignored your emails, moving attachments to Dropbox, monitoring your spam folder for emails caught there by mistake, etc (and LOTS more cool stuff in the works). Watch this video.
5. SaneBox is not free
Although it’s questionable if it’s better or worse - you are our customer, not our product. We will never sell your data or annoy you with ads. You can try it free for 2 weeks, and our plans start at $2/month - that’s not that much to ask, is it? ;)
1. Stop playing Tetris
Email is like Tetris. No matter how fast you are, there’s always more coming, and faster. An average person today gets 110 emails/day. By 2015 it will be 125/day (a 14% increase). Since days in 2015 will still only be 24 hours long, something has to change – you. You need to change the way you think about email, and the way you process it.
2. Don’t let email be your #1 priority
Email is your to-do list that other people can write on. Be proactive and focus on your own to-do list. Scan your Inbox for urgent/important items in the morning, and then work on your top priorities. Dedicate blocks of time to processing email, and treat email processing as one of your priorities - not the default Priority #1. If you’re ever sucked into “doing email”, ask yourself if clearing your Inbox really the best use of time right now! Eventually it will be - but make a conscious decision about it.
3. Not all emails are created equal
Every email interface gives the same amount of real estate on the screen to each message. This tricks our subconscious into thinking every email is equally important. But that’s wrong - some emails need to be dealt with right away (urgent/important). Some can wait (non-urgent/important). And others should be archived/deleted in bulk (unimportant). According to our data the unimportant bucket contains, on average, 58% of emails. Here’s how SaneBox helps you:
- SaneBox filters out the unimportant emails into the SaneLater folder so you can archive or delete them all at once.
- You can move the non-urgent/important emails into one of our Snooze folders
- Now your email only contains emails that you need to deal with today. And if you don’t get to all of them, it’s ok - just snooze them till tomorrow!
An average person today spends 13 hours/week processing email – that’s 30% of our working time spent on a completely reactive activity! And “doing email” is only in your job description if you’re doing customer service
Inbox Zero is not just “having no emails in your Inbox”, its’ also a process for how to achieve that state consistently. There are only 5 possible actions for each email in your Inbox: Delete (or Archive), Delegate, Defer, Respond or Do (actual work)
The Inbox Zero process takes lots of discipline, but there are some hacks. Here’s how you can get to Inbox Zero every day easily with some help from SaneBox:
If you can tell by the subject line and sender that the email is not important - just delete or archive it without opening. It’s critical to process unimportant messages in bulk. It will not only save you countless hours, but will preserve your sanity.
SaneBox filters unimportant emails into the SaneLater folder, where you can scan them briefly, move the ones that deserve attention back in your Inbox and hit “delete all” or “archive all”. Your Inbox is saved only for important emails.
Pro tip: If you never want to hear from the Sender again, drag that email to SaneBlackHole and all future emails will go straight to trash. It’s like unsubscribing, only easier.
If there is a poor sucker who can deal with some of your emails - by all means, forward it on. But how do you know for sure if they get it done? One helpful tool is Sanebox’s SaneReminders feature. Just BCC firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org or any other timeframe), and if you don’t hear back from the them by then, we’ll send you a reminder.
Pro tip: Add “keep” to the address (email@example.com) and you’ll get a reminder whether or not you get a response.
Super pro tip: CC the reminder address instead of BCC’ing it for additional pressure.
If an email is not urgent, or not actionable until later, most people tend to leave it in the Inbox. It forces you to subconsciously pay attention to that email every time you see it, which is terrible for productivity. SaneBox’s Snooze Folders help with this too. Just drag an email to SaneTomorrow, and it will reappear in your Inbox tomorrow morning as unread. You can also create folders to hold emails until next Monday, or any other time frame. (Or you can also just forward it to a reminder address same as above and we’ll put it at the top of your Inbox when the time comes).
If an email is really urgent, or if a response will take under 2 minutes, reply right away. Don’t postpone or waste time thinking of what to do with it. SaneReminders come in handy here too if you need to make sure the recipient gets back to you by a certain time.
Pro tip: Our Reminders are really quite magical – they work anywhere you send emails the same way (on your phone as well as desktop), and can do lots of stuff. For example, you can use them to send reminders to your future self – even recurring reminders (e.g. send an email to every.Friday.firstname.lastname@example.org with subject “Bring flowers to the wife” and your marriage will blossom)
Lastly there are emails that actually require you to do work. This is the one part SaneBox can’t help you with. But if you are diligent with the steps above, the only “Do” emails in your Inbox are the ones you will work on and process today.
How to finish the day with Inbox Zero - guaranteed :)
At the end of the day there’s nothing better than dragging all your unprocessed emails to SaneTomorrow and seeing the magical empty Inbox. Even though it seems like cheating (it is – they will reappear tomorrow morning), the feeling of accomplishment is good for you!
When you provide an email tool that helps people take back control of their inbox, they tend to develop a certain fondness towards you.
Here’s what some of them are saying:
Brian Witlin, Shopwell
@sanebox is the most elegant and effective tool to manage your email. It has literally doubled my email productivity in a week. Amazing!
Forrest Kobayashi, ZURB
@SaneBox is the best service I’ve used in the past year. My email inbox is completely streamlined and yes, digestible.
Neil Ellis, Cazcade
Go use @sanebox now! First time I’ve made sense of my inbox in years, and it’s zero hassle to use.
Web Barr, National Geographic
One day into using @sanebox and its INSANE! ALL the email I never read is gone and I get ONLY email that matters. Its awesome!
I have to say that, although I was skeptical before I tried it, @sanebox has honestly helped me recapture my life from my inbox.
@sanebox You could easily call it AWESOMEbox, as SaneBox is pure, unadulterated awesomeness. Thanks for making my life easier!
Andrew Skotzko, Chill.com
I will never go back to email the old way, if I can help it. @SaneBox for life
Chris Schultz, Launchpad
1 day back from #sxswi and just hit inbox zero. thank you @sanebox
Dan Knox, Science Exchange
received an amazing customer service email from founder of @sanebox today. equally impressed and inspired. thx @stuartroseman
Frederic Dumeny, FastForward
usually don’t tweet that kind of thing, but @sanebox is TRULY a great tool for email overload
Gideon Walker, AppSumo
If ya haven’t tried @sanebox then ya havent seen what loving your inbox is like. Empty your email, keep your sanity.
Jose M Guardia, TMR Productions
The trio of technologies that have boosted my productivity more: Evernote, Dropbox, and now SaneBox. I’m not the same man.
I’m kicking so much inbox butt with @SaneBox I actually wish I got more email…
Koka Sexton, Insideview
Thank you @perramond! Just signed up for @sanebox and I think I’m in love with email again.
Rachael Herron, Author of the Cypress Hollow Novels
@carrieoke I LOVE @sanebox so much I want to marry it. I check my email about once a week.
Rob Kurver, Voipro International
Totally in love with @sanebox. Smart email management, trainable, excellent support. Saving me lots of time already, thanks guys!
Thank you so much for the kind words!
By Dmitri Leonov - @dmitri
You know how every VC asks “what happens when Google gets into your business?” Well, that just happened to us. Again.
Our company SaneBox has built a cloud service that makes email less painful. We have lots of features: snoozing non-urgent emails, 1-click unsubscribe, moving attachments onto Dropbox/Box etc. But the feature we’re best known for is the automatic filtering – we look at patterns in you email behavior, move unimportant emails out of your inbox into a separate folder, and summarize them in a digest. Over half of our customers are on Gmail, so when Gmail announced the new “Gmail Tabs” feature, which directly competes with what we do, we received lots of tweets around “Is Gmail killing SaneBox?”
If you’re in a business remotely related to something Google does (or could do), you’ve had the same concerns. Google has had a long history of getting into new markets, offering services for free, and hoping to monetize them via its cash cow – paid search. Here are the reasons we’re not worried, and you shouldn’t be either.
1. You get what you pay for
Three months after we launched our beta in 2010, Gmail announced Priority Inbox, which does exactly what we do – prioritizes emails. That was a scary day for us: half of our beta users left. Since then, most of them came back, and today 60% of our customers are on Gmail, and prefer to pay us money for something Gmail offers for free.
So we have been keeping a close watch on Gmail Tabs. Thankfully this elicited even less reaction from our user base than Priority Inbox. Why you ask? We’re told it’s because our algorithms are more personalized to each person’s behavior, which requires processing a lot of data in real time (not something you can do on the cheap).
One of the reasons to charge for your products is it allows you to build better products (Death to Freemium!). Google doesn’t have that luxury. Use it to your advantage and compete with Google on value, not price.
2. Let the best man win – in your segment
Can Google offer a better email filtering product for free? Maybe. However, our business is evidence that it is possible for David to build a better product than Goliath – at least for a particular segment.
In every large market there are lots of segments. Ours is professionals who value their time and are happy to pay for better products. If someone is happy with a free version (or can only afford the free version), they are not our target customer. If they’re unhappy with the free version - they will look for us. If they are ok with the free version, but want something better – it’s our job to get in front of them. This brings me to the last point.
3. Let the 10K lb gorilla educate your customers
For many startups the greatest challenge is not competition – it’s lack of awareness. People simply don’t know there’s a solution to their problem, as is the case with email overload. Everyone suffers from it, but nobody searches for the solution (the search volume for related keywords is ~0). So when Google educates the market on the value of email filtering, it’s a good thing. Gmail’s Priority Inbox made our positioning easy: “We are Priority Inbox that actually works”. Not a bad pitch to have.
If Gmail was the only email provider out there, we would be more worried. Luckily there’s Yahoo Mail, Exchange, Office 365, Lotus Notes (yes, there are 100 million people using Notes), etc. These folks aren’t as spoiled with helpful add-ons in their Inboxes as Gmail users are. When they hear about cool stuff Gmail is doing, they want it too. We’ve capitalized on that by making our service provider-agnostic. It’s exceptionally difficult technically, but very powerful: ““We are Priority Inbox that not only actually works, but works on any email provider, client and device.” Should we ever lose the Gmail market we still have the other 80% of the email market to capture.
There are lots of things that can kill a startup. Google entering your space shouldn’t be one of them - it can actually help. We’re living proof that it’s possible for a small startup to compete with a giant, in the giant’s backyard.