What's the common thread? The email introduction. So let's master it. First Round Capital partner Chris Fralic will be our professor—a man who's sent 10,000 emails a year for five years, with around 17,000 in 2012. And here's the scary thing: every year, about 20 percent of those missives contained the words "introduction" or "intro." He pretty much defines the term "superconnector."
Like any good scholar (or leader), Fralic lays out the over-arching goals for email intros: they should help everyone involved, they should make it easy for them to help you, and they should build your relationships and reputation along the way. Important stuff, right?
So let's get to it—we've collected a few of his most potent imperatives below.
- Always ask "May I?": Fralic says to first ask permission from the parties involved before you fire off that connecter message. Why? "This makes it a choice for the recipient and doesn’t create an obligation," he says.
- Be personal, not lazy: If you don't know these people well, then at least do a bit of good-natured Google-stalking before you pelt them with generalities and requests. While in the days of handwritten letters it might have come with the inky territory, you should make sure your recipients know that you are writing for them, not some generalized nonperson.
- Tell them why they care: In journalism we call it a nut graf—the paragraph that's the heart of the story. The reason that you care. An email will be (or should be) shorter than an article, but you still need a few sentences for why your reader cares and what's in it for them.
- Prompt with presentation: Take the time to distill your message. Then, as Fralic says, bold your ask, underline key words, and put your links in your words. This is hypertext, after all, and spilling HTML across the page looks sloppy.
- Respond tactfully: Give the other person some room to breathe, Fralic says. If you're being introduced via email, don't inundate them with another message two minutes later. It gets a little overwhelming.
- Close that loop: If someone's taken the time to introduce you to a contact of theirs, the least you can do is keep your karma clean and let them know what came of the connection.
What do you think is most important in an email introduction? Let us know in the comments.
[Image: Flickr user The Integer Club]