Tools and Technology

Two Great SaaS Tools for Your Toolbox

Many people use a number of great SaaS products to power their work.  Be it Dropbox or Google Drive for storage and backup, G Suite for email, Slack for messaging and communications, or Freshbooks for accounting, SaaS is here to stay.  But for every big name tool out there, there’s a smaller one that is flying under the radar that you may not know about.  In this article we want to let you know about two of them that operate on a freemium model so you can try them and see if they make your work more effective.

Better email follow up: Boomerang

Email.  It’s probably no one’s favorite part of work, but it’s often one of the most necessary, if not the most necessary part of work.  The problem is, even when we needfully communicate using this medium, we can lose track of which emails were sent to whom, and what needs to be followed up when.  Enter Boomerang.

The software works for G Suite and Gmail as well as Outlook and Office 365.  Once installed you’ll have buttons installed both in the inbox and in individual emails that you send.  The most popular feature is email tracking.  After composing an email but before hitting send you can click a box that allows you to “boomerang” the email back into your inbox if you don’t get a reply within a time you stipulate, or you can set it to boomerang regardless.  This can be really helpful with follow up and will make you look like a rock star when you let someone know you’ll follow up in 6 weeks, then set a boomerang to ping you in 6 weeks.  Your correspondent will be impressed at your punctuality, and all due to your little SaaS friend.

A recently added feature is an AI tool that will also score the likelihood that your email will be responded to, scoring you on elements such as Subject Length, Word Count, Number of Questions, Politeness, and Reading Level, just to name a few.

Everyone can install Boomerang and get 10 free “boomerangs” each month just to try it out.  But beware – once you realize how powerful this tool is you’ll run through your free boomerangs quickly, and very well may upgrade to keep this new tool in your toolbox full time.

Better meeting management: Calendly

We have all had that email exchange when trying to coordinate a meeting with someone, whether virtual or actual.  Five emails later, and you may finally have locked down a time…if it wasn’t eliminated due to either party not responding quickly enough.  Enter Calendly.

Calendly works with your Google, Office 365, Outlook, or iCloud Calendars.  Under the free model (which you can use indefinitely) you can create an event type, of specific length and on specific days in your calendar, and when you send your customized link to someone you are trying to schedule with, that person will see all the free spots on your calendar to book a time with you (without seeing your actual calendar).  Just as with Boomerang, you may like it enough to start using it for multiple event types, in which case you’ll need to pay to upgrade.

It’s hard to understate how efficient it is to end back and forth emails for scheduling and just allow someone to pick a time based on their availability.  Calendly even detects the time zone of your correspondent so it shows them possible slots in their time, not yours.  Once they book a time you both get an email confirming the appointment and it shows up in your calendar and blocks out the time from being booked by others.  You or the person you are meeting with can also use Calendly links to reschedule the meeting if needs be.

One of the more robust features only available in the paid version is scheduling for teams, which allows multiple calendar availabilities to be merged to create all kinds of scheduling possibilities (and conveniences).

What’s interesting about both of these tools is that they live within integral parts of our work life – email and calendar.  But they significantly elevate the experience of both – making email more effective and scheduling less of a pain.  And those companies are betting that you might just be willing to pay for those conveniences.  So far, they’ve been right.  As ever, time is the most important currency in this new economy, and these tools help give more back to you.


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Stephen writes about startups, hiring and career issues for VocaWorks.