Do you find yourself writing the same types of emails over and over again for your business? Programs Like Gmail’s Canned Responses and Text Expander can help you streamline your approach to answering emails, and free up more time for marketing, shipping orders, or anything else that might need attention your business. I use canned responses to speed up replies to wholesale requests, client questions, customer support, job applicants, and more.

A boilerplate or a canned response can be any standardized piece of text that you find yourself using repeatedly in your communications. In my business, I found that I was often replying to certain types of emails in the same way over and over again. Using a program to automatically add standard responses to my emails saves me a ton of time, and gets me out of my inbox faster so that I can get to work on other projects. Gmail’s Canned Responses program is a free add-on for Gmail users, and Text Expander is a paid app available to all email programs on Mac or PC. Once you learn how it works, you can set up some new canned responses in minutes, and shave time off your email replies going forward.

Setting Up Canned Responses in Gmail

To enable canned responses Gmail, click the gear icon in the top right corner of the screen from your inbox. Scroll down to settings, and click on the tab marked Labs. From there, type “canned responses” in  the search field marked “search for a lab.” Press the radial button to enable, then click the save changes button.

Back in your Gmail inbox, click to compose a new message to create a new canned response. Write the email you’d like to save as a canned response, or copy and paste it from an email you wrote in the past. If you plan to use customization in your canned response, consider writing a generic version (eg: “Hi there,”), which you can replace with specifics (eg: “Hi Sally,”) when you load the response in future emails. You can save email text and a subject line in Canned Responses, but not attachments or images. You might want to consider using a link to an attachment in Google Drive if you need to use the same attachment over an over in your emails. Make sure to update the share settings for that file in Google Drive if you want to make it viewable by anyone with the link.

When you finished your template email, Click the arrow icon next to the trash icon in the bottom right corner of the compose email box. Select Canned Responses in the menu that opens, then click “new canned response…” in the sub menu. Name your response something descriptive that will help you remember what’s inside, such as “wholesale introduction”, or “New client FAQ”.

To use the canned response, click compose to begin a new email, or initiate a reply to an email you’ve received. In the bottom right hand of the email compose window, click the arrow next to the trash icon to pull up canned responses again. You’ll see your saved canned responses in the pop up sub menu. Take care to click on the name of the email template you’d like to insert, making sure to click on the title under the heading Insert (otherwise you could accidentally overwrite one of your saved responses.)

From there, you can change any information that needs to be modified or updated, alter the subject line, add additional recipients, upload any attachments you need, and send when you’re finished.

Canned Response Ideas

There are tons of ways to use this functionality to save time:

  • Customer service message receipt
  • Polite decline email for replying to email pitches that aren’t a fit
  • Alternate email signature if one option isn’t enough
  • Follow up email to PR/media pitches
  • Forwarding wholesale info (link to a linesheet or catalog)
  • Sending a price list for services
  • Onboarding process for new clients
  • Targeted vacation responder
  • Resource lists for inquiring students or aspiring creatives
  • Info about product return/exchange process
  • Reply to requests for product donations
  • Link to a media kit for Press/PR requests
  • Responding to job applicants
  • New employee onboarding
  • Standard questions or interview FAQ for podcast guests
  • Request to be removed from cold-email marketers with no unsubscribe button

You’ll want to experiment with different types of canned responses to use in your customer service efforts, to see what works best, and how to make the biggest difference in your workflow. Remember to add personal touches where appropriate, and always double check to make sure you’re addressing your emails to the appropriate name. The trick is to balance the functionality of a snippet or a canned response with the warmth of personal human interaction.

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Erin Dollar is an artist, surface pattern designer, and founder of Cotton & Flax, a collection of boldly patterned textile home decor that is designed and manufactured in California. Her work has been sold in 100+ retail shops, from indie boutiques, to large mass-market retailers like West Elm, CB2, and Need Supply. By growing her ecommerce business to accommodate wholesale buyers, she has built a sustainable business that generates income year-round, and built a platform for long-term growth. See her webinar, Wholesale for Craft Business, in our archives.

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