I have been on a work and speaking tour for a while and haven’t had a chance to post. This morning while browsing the news, blogs and email, I was surprised to discover a recurring theme. It goes like this: We’re getting too much email. It takes too much time and resource to deal with all the email we get. How can we reduce email?

One company is considering making email one-way. They can send, the recipient cannot reply. The company reasons that this gives a route to distribute information without having to reply to a bunch of “thank you” emails. They consider that a waste of time. This same company has a multi-million dollar advertising budget.

The subject of email volume comes up at nearly every company I visit. How can we reduce the volume of email?

Why would you want to? Are customers and prospects annoying you? Assuming email is not being used for personal distribution of jokes or pictures of puppies snuggling with tigers, why would a company want to reduce communication? The source of pressure is usually the IT department. IT hates to maintain mail servers. Storing all that correspondence and keeping the viruses out is a headache.

But IT isn’t marketing. If IT needs more server space, buy it. Seriously, IT needs to stay out of your marketing discussions.

The most valuable asset your business has is its relationship with customers and potential buyers. That relationship is built through communication. Do you want to reduce communication with your revenue source? That makes no sense.

People tell me they can’t get work done because of the constant flow of incoming email. What work? You mean that forecast report that will be forgotten a few days after you submit it? There is nothing anyone at any company can do that is more important than to communicate. But…what if you get 5 or 6 six emails a day from a co-worker who is 20 feet down the hall from you? Would you rather she barged into your office 5 or 6 times a day?

We all have things that have to be done. I have a number of reports to prepare for clients. So, for periods of time throughout the day, I’ll turn Outlook off. I can “work” for a couple of hours and then answer emails.

Email is often used as an excuse by people who can’t can’t get things done. Nonsense. Turn email off for a while.

Please don’t look for ways to reduce the email volume. Please don’t even consider one-way email. Please don’t let IT cripple your most important avenue of communication. Would you prefer to have the phone ringing off the hook?

What can you do if email is draining away too much time and resource? First, allocate more resource. Take the money from marketing and increase your server space. IT shouldn’t have to be concerned about the storage space of email. Second, train your people to communicate more efficiently. Your people should give clear answers. For example, if I ask about a ship date for my order and receive the reply “as soon as we can”. I’ll write back and ask for more specifics. This endless loop of empty transmissions is the root cause of most email inflation.

Take away? Email isn’t the enemy of production. Email is the best marketing tool to come along in 50 years. Learn to increase your return on email investment. Too much email, if not personal bantering, is a good problem to have.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
[email protected]