“The Art of the Start”: Guy Kawasaki Talks E-Mail

I’m holding here, in my hot little hands, an advance copy of Guy Kawasaki’s newest masterpiece, “The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything.”

For those of you not familiar with Guy, he is probably best known as the original Apple evangelist, and is a former Apple Fellow. He is the author of such books as “How to Drive Your Competition Crazy” and “Selling the Dream.”

In short, he knows a thing or three about marketing.

“The Art of the Start” is a book for anyone who is thinking about starting something. Or who is in the middle of starting something. Anything at all. And here I would also include anyone who is beyond starting, but needing to redirect, reinvigorate, or just plain repurpose something upon which they are already working or for which they have just become responsible. It is as much for employees in established companies who are trying to create a new product or service, as it is for entrepreneurs starting their first, fifth, or twenty-fifth project.

An easy, fast, and entertaining read, “The Art” includes chapters on the arts of positioning, pitching, bootstrapping, recruiting, partnering, branding and rainmaking, to name just a few. But its most fundamental strength is that it is written in Guy’s voice, and that voice gives it to you in a clear, direct, no-B.S. fashion, liberally salted with large doses of common sense which is, woefully, anything but common in the business world. (Full disclosure: I have the great honor of being able to count Guy as a business mentor, and so the reason I recognize it to be his voice is that I have been on the receiving end of that voice, and am the better for it. I was also one of his readers for this book, but I am enamored of it because it’s that good — nothing more, nothing less.)

Guy has a few things to say about the use and abuse of email. No lofty words of higher conscience here, but good, practical advice in the mini-chapter dubbed, of course, “The Art of Using E-Mail”.

First, and perhaps most relevant to this forum, he admonishes us to fix our subject lines and name. He explains, rather bluntly, “If people think your messages are spam, they won’t read them…so be sure to use good subject lines to make it easy to see that they aren’t spam.

He continues, “Send yourself a message to see how the ‘from’ line appears to a recipient. If your email client software isn’t sending out your properly capitalized first name and last name, fix this, too.”

On the subject of mail formats, he advises us to use plain text, not HTML. “I assume that all HTML email is spam and have my email client delete them automatically. If you have something significant to say, you don’t need bold, outline, shadow, red text and graphics to say it.”

And guess what? That’s what lots and lots of other, far less marketing-savvy end users feel and do too. Even I do it (which could explain why you haven’t heard back from me if you sent me email containing HTML).

His other email advice is less oriented towards mass marketing, and more towards individual business communications, but they are equally apposite — after all, it’s all about growing your business. His right-on business builders: Answer email within twenty-four hours; don’t use all caps; and include a good signature. Under the heading of “Keep it short and simple,” he advises us to “cut the crap and get to it. The ideal length for an email is fewer than five sentences. If you can’t say what you have to say in five sentences, you don’t have much to say.” It’s much the same advice he gives about pitches to venture capitalists and business plans.

“The Art of the Start”, published by Portfolio Press (a division of Penguin), is available now through Amazon. Get it. Anything you can do, you can do better for having read this book.

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