The Art of the Email Intro

Like many of you I get introduced to at least a couple of people per week via an email intro, and probably send out just as many if not more intros to various people.

A good intro goes a long way, and when people hook you up with the right contact at a company, it can save you a ton of time and open up some real opportunities.

Having said that, I’m always amused and sometimes a bit confused by the weird email intro or the odd email intro etiquette that goes on.

So I thought I’d blog a few dos and dont’s that I think are helpful to keep in mind:

Don’t use a real generic subject line like “intro”. Everyone is swamped with email, so it’s easy to just skip a generic email, especially when reading on a mobile device. Do use something like “Company X meet Company Y” or “Person X meet Person Y”. Makes it simple and easy to scan.

Don’t forward a really long and obtuse email thread inserting a new person in at the end with “do you know anyone ?”. That creates work for the person you are asking for help from, and is just messy. Usually reading the long forwarded threads also reveals a ton of stuff you probably should never have seen in the first place. Instead, craft a new clean email.

Don’t ask for an intro to someone but provide no context. If you are asking for an intro, at least provide some kind of hint as to why you want the intro, what’s the angle, and what the person being intro’d should expect. That way you can quickly write up an intro note without having to guess or be really vague.

Don’t keep the thread going on forever with me CC’d.. After I make an intro for someone, I don’t really need to be on the thread as you and the new person decide on a coffee shop and a date, and then change and reschedule it a few times πŸ™‚ Fine to keep me on there for one back-and-forth so I know the email went through and isn’t stuck in a spam folder. After that, if it’s strategic in some way or an FYI, put me on BCC or just forward one of the notes.

The flip side, do make sure to acknowledge the intro. I have a couple of people who I’ve sent opportunities to, and each time they’ve failed to CC or BCC me – and I’m always following up to see if they got my email.

Anyone else have any tips ?

Subscribe to raanan.com via Email

Tonight, on WordPress.com, we launched Email Subscriptions.

You can now subscribe to this blog via email and get nicely formatted posts delivered in your inbox whenever I publish something new. Just put in your email address into the sidebar widget on the right, titled “Email Subscription”. If you are logged in to WordPress.com it’s just 1-click, but anyone can subscribe, you don’t need a WordPress.com account to use this.

With various options like RSS readers, Twitter, and Facebook — I’m still impressed by the usefulness of receiving certain updates by email. Maybe out of habit from my NY subway days, but I still read paidContent.org daily summaries via email every morning.

Like paidContent, what’s also cool about this new email subscription feature is that you can elect to receive digests:

When a user subscribes to a blog they will receive an email containing recent blog posts. The subscriber can select how often this email is sent (the delivery frequency – immediate, daily, or weekly), as well as when this email is sent (the delivery window – a specific day and hour).

If you’d like to learn more, check out the announcement post.

Google Apps and Gmail Fix “On behalf Of” Issue

[tweetmeme]
When I switched to Google apps for my personal email back in January 2008, my #1 wish list item was to:

* Fix the β€œon behalf of” issue. If you use multiple email addresses, gmail and google apps are easy to setup to receive those emails. But when you send out using those non gmail/google apps addresses, certain recipients – especially those using Outlook – will see a β€œon behalf of email@gmail.com” in the β€œFrom” field.

This past Thursday, Google announced that they had fixed this issue, by allowing you to send out from your domain’s smtp server, thus dropping the “on behalf of” portion.

This is good news πŸ™‚

I’ve been using Mac Mail and Thunderbird for a while in conjunction with google apps, so after tweaking my settings, I decided to try a few days of just Google apps for all my email accounts. Here is what I learned:

The good:

  • Love having just one single inbox
  • The Archive button is even more useful for work emails since the volume of email for me is pretty insane on most days

The bad:

  • The signature feature is pretty weak. You can’t set it per account, and you can’t have different versions. I did find this Firefox add-on, Black Canvas, that looks promising — but it doesn’t seem to work in google apps right now
  • If you rely on the google built-in mail fetcher to retrieve email, you’ll be waiting 20-60 minutes for new email – which is a problem. The work around is to have your other accounts forward all you email to your main gmail or google apps account, that way it shows up instantly
  • Address book issues. I haven’t sync’d my contacts with Google contacts yet, so finding an email address is a bit clunky. I have everything in my OS X address book sync’d nicely with my iPhone right now, so I haven’t gone down the Google contacts road yet — plus I’ve heard some stories of problems of late, so thinking I’ll wait a bit
  • No Gravatar support, so i can’t see the avatar/photos of the people I’m emailing with. I tried my colleague Jon Fox’s greasemonkey script but it’s not working — could be again b/c I’m in google apps. Would be nice to see Google support the Gravatar service, and other avatar services, natively ( Google folks, feel free to contact me if you’d like to chat about this )

Wish List:

  • While google apps email search rocks, I actually miss my desktop client search feature where as I type I see results. In general I think google could do a better job with search on email, such as having “did you mean” based on my index, and better snippet highlighting, as well as some kind of live results
  • Native iPhone app. The safari/mobile web version is getting better, but you can’t top the speed of a native app right now

Search / Sync Tip:
If you’ve been using a desktop mail client via IMAP like Thunderbird for your other accounts, google apps/gmail won’t have any of your sent messages. I find that I’m often searching for emails that I’ve sent, so this was something I needed to address. What I’m testing right now is a way to copy my sent messages into google apps. I loaded up all my accounts and the google apps account via IMAP in Thunderbird, and then started copying my Sent Folder messages from my other accounts into my google apps sent-mail folder. So far it seems to be working, and syncing up nicely.

Conclusion:
Very promising so far. If I can get the signature issue sorted out I’d be happy and may switch to this setup for all email.

Testing:
I’m also testing out an interesting desktop/web hybrid app called Mailplane on my colleague Andy Peatling’s suggestion. Their tag line is “Mailplane brings Gmail to your Mac desktop”. I haven’t used it enough yet, but it integrates nicely with your OS X address book, growl for notifications, and in beta is gears/offline support as well as HTML signatures. Checkout their 2 minute video overview for a good summary.

Switched to Google Apps for Personal Email

Over the holidays I was testing Google Apps and except for a small false positive spam issue with google alerts — I was really impressed.

The reason I was testing it was to see if I could replace my gmail account with one of my own email accounts, using my own domain — but running on google apps. Google Apps essentially allows you to use all the Google services like email, docs, calendar, etc — but using your own domain (i.e. myname.com).

The main motivator for me was to have a permanent email address that had great web interface, and also pop/imap support for a desktop client.

My old personal email setup:
* hosting: running on my own server
* Spam: using SpamAssasin to filter out spam. It worked fairly well but required some maintenance overhead of keeping up with new versions and tweaking the spam’s whitelist was a chore
* Webmail: the default Squirrel webmail was good, but not amazing
* Search: using Thunderbird for search when you had gigs of email was tough, and webmail search was OK

My move to gmail:
Then in July 2004 I signed up to test gmail and was amazed. I was tired of endless mailboxes/archive rules/folders of the Outlook/Eudora/Thunderbird world. Gmail had:
* awesome search
* no folders ( but simple & powerful labels )
* virtually unlimited storage
* killer feature — the threaded view which I’m amazed hasn’t been copied by every mail provider (and conversely i’m amazed gmail doesn’t offer a non-threaded view for people who just hate the threaded model)
* really solid spam protection

In addition to gmail’s great features I found that I needed a google account to use i-google, google reader, google webmaster tools,etc and I quickly found myself just using the gmail address as my person email address, and forwarding all my old accounts to the gmail address. ( since then google has changed the google account setup so you can use a non-gmail address for google services )

I can still easily call up the Gmail welcome email:

You’re one of the very first people to use Gmail. Your input will help determine how it evolves, so we encourage you to send your feedback, suggestions and questions to us.

I recall emailing in and saying that they should support domain mapping so you could have email@yourdomain.com. Fast forward a few years, and google now has that option. I quickly set it up on google apps, made some DNS changes and was up and running in no time.

Google Apps
I’ve been using google apps for about a month now, and here are a few observations:
* the free version I’m using is perfect for my use. They do offer premium options of larger organizations.
* everything you would expect with gmail you have with google apps – including docs, calendar, etc
* the mobile blackberry app for google apps works great
* with the calendar there are some extra features for people “on your domain” to always have access to your calendar
* outside services that provide a way to grab your gmail address book ( such as facebook ) do not work with google apps – this could be considered a good thing for some people πŸ™‚
* moving my gmail emails to google apps was relatively painless. Details & lots of discussion at Scott Hanselman’s blog.

WordPress.com Support:
If you have a blog at WordPress.com and are using a mapped domain as I now do with this blog, you can enable Google Apps for that same domain. Details are here in our faq.

Wish List:
* Fix the “on behalf of” issue. If you use multiple email addresses, gmail and google apps are easy to setup to receive those emails. But when you send out using those non gmail/google apps addresses, certain recipients – especially those using Outlook – will see a “on behalf of email@gmail.com” in the “From” field.UPDATE: Now fixed.

Conclusion:
Pretty much a no brainer. If you love gmail, want your own domain, and like having the safety to know that you can pop/imap your email, and move it at any time — google apps is a great choice.