According to a recent survey from Adobe, the average American professional spends about six hours a day checking email -- that's 30 hours during the work week.
That's a lot of time spent on unbillable tasks that could be spent focusing on work that meets the goals of your paying clients.
Getting bogged down by your inbox is especially problematic in agencies where account managers and other client-facing employees must deal with managing requests from a number of different clients who are all considered priorities.
When you communicate with your clients primarily over email, it's easy for important messages and tasks to get lost in the seemingly constant shuffle. Your inbox can quickly become an unmanageable time sink.
You could use a project management tool to reduce the amount of email clutter created from projects. But you could also better optimize how you use email, prioritize requests, manage communication from your inbox.
Check out these 13 Gmail plugins and apps to start improving how you use email to communicate and collaborate with clients.
13 Tools to Improve Client Communication & Collaboration Through Email
SaneBox weeds out unimportant emails after examining your inbox content and history, surfacing only the communications you want to priortize. You can train the tool by moving miscategorized emails to your inbox to make it even smarter.
The tool also provides features for setting notifications for when people don't reply to a message, unsubscribing from unwanted newsletters, and snoozing emails you want to deal with later.
Price:Snack plan for $7/month for annual contract, Lunch plan for $12/month for annual contract, Dinner plan for $36/month for annual contract
Communicating with clients in a direct, assertive manner is easier said than done. This plugin helps you write more confident emails by scanning your messages for extraneous words that undermine your tone, e.g., "Sorry," "Just," or "I think."
When you use a word or phrase in an email that could potentially weaken your positioning, the app highlights it and explains specifically how it could make you seem less confident and proficient.
This iPhone app upgrades the user interface of your email client by displaying emails as chat dialogues. It also separates newsletters from emails from people in your inbox, and provides an option for you to unsubscribe to irrelevant communications with one swipe -- perfect for decluttering your inbox. The app works with both Gmail and Outlook.
HubSpot Sales is a free email tracking tool that allows you to see when a client or prospect has opened an email -- basically, you'll be able to tell if your email got lost in the client's inbox or if she's actually ignoring it.
The plugin also highlights key contact information about the person you are emailing, such as links to their social profiles, so you can gather intel on what the person is interested in or recent events in their professional life and personalize your messages. With HubSpot Sales pro, you can create up to 1,000 templates and track the performance of your sent emails and content.
You don't want to be controlled by your inbox, but it's also the place where many of your important task items and communication about these items are located.
This plugin brings your to-do list to your inbox to make prioritizing and organization more streamlined. There's no need to hop from your email to your to-do list to your project management tool and back. It's all there in one straightforward interface.
Price:Free plan for one user, Startup plan $6/user/month for up to 100 users, Premium plan $15/user/month up to 1000 users, Enterprise plan pricing available upon request
Snapmail is perfect for when you need to send a vendor or a client password details and other sensitive information, but you don't want it to sit in their inbox and potentially cause a security risk. You simply select the Snapmail button, and any text emails will be encrypted. Once your recipient opens the email, she will have 60 seconds to record the content before it's gone for good.
To focus only on the really important emails -- like those from your clients -- it's a good practice to unsubscribe from the email newsletters that are no longer relevant or those that you've been mysteriously added to.
With Unroll.me, you can easily view your subscription lists and unsubscribe from them with one-click. You can also choose to "roll up" your subscriptions into a digest email to reduce email clutter and distractions throughout the day.
This app allows you to instantly convert messages in your Gmail or Outlook inbox into tasks for your to-do list, and automatically syncs across all of your devices. You can also assign tasks to other members of your team, collaborate on tasks, and set deadlines and reminders to stay on track.
When you install the plugin for Gmail, it creates a tab to access your to-do list within your inbox, so you don't have to download another program to view your list.
Price:Basic is Free, Premium (for individuals) is $28.99/year, Business (for teams) is $28.99/year/per user
Batched lets you control when emails reach your inbox, which is especially useful when you need to focus and get a project out before a deadline. Basically, the tool filters emails under a specific label in your Gmail account. At times that you have selected (such as every hour or at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.), those emails are moved to your inbox. You always have access to any important incoming emails, but you can stem the habit of checking email out of curiousity that something important has arrived.
You need your clients to trust you, and building trust is all about proving to your client that you're an expert in your field. And experts don't forget about grammar. They know the that only amateurs (not amatures) dash off an email without clicking spellcheck.
Grammarly works wherever you're writing online -- email, in a project management system, or a blogging platform -- and makes sure that your credibility remains in tact by double-checking your work.
Price: Free basic plan, Premium plan available on monthly basis for $29.95/month, quarterly basis for $19.98/month, and annual basis for $11.66/month
If you want to know when you've received an important email from a client or manager without constantly opening up Gmail, this app allows you to set up Chrome notifications for important conversations, ensuring you never miss an important message.
The app also allows you to go on "Do Not Disturb" mode when you're trying to get work done, and lets you mark unimportant messages as "Read" without even opening up Gmail.
This plugin teaches you how to use all of Gmail's built-in hotkeys so you can more efficiently manage your inbox with fewer clicks.
When you take an action in Gmail that could have been accomplished via a hotkey action (e.g., composing a new message), KeyRocket triggers a simple notification that lets you know the hotkey option you could have used.
We all stumble across a word, phrase, or reference we don't quite understand every once in a while. This plugin lets you double click on any word in an email and instantly look up the meaning or Wikipedia explanation -- without having to leave the compose window.
What plugins, extensions, and apps make communicating with your clients easier? Let us know in the comments below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jan 3, 2017 5:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017