January 10, 2013
If there's one thing I've learned while working at Contactually, it's that start-ups in particular must leverage their existing connections in order to learn from the people in their network and ultimately expand their opportunities for business. At Contactually HQ, we do this on a very regular basis. Whether we're reaching out to other start-ups from the 500 family, connecting with our fellow #DCTech compadres or making use of the friendships we established in college, we know that our efforts to keep in touch and use our existing connections will bring great things for Contactually. Further, even if we don't know somebody that can answer our questions and aid us directly, the chances are high that the people in our network will know somebody that can point us in the right direction.
Like most of you, we live and breathe email, and conduct a lot of our most important work straight from our inbox. As such, it's only natural that when we're asking the people in our network (at least the ones who also live and work from their inbox) for help, we tend to do it over email. Through various trials, successes and failures we've picked up three solid tips along the way that will help ensure that you're taking the right approach when asking someone you know for an email introduction.
1. Take a two-pronged approach. When I'm asking for an email introduction, I do so with a series of two very short and direct emails. In the first one, I ask my connection if he would be comfortable and willing to introduce me to my desired target. This helps me figure out how strong their relationship is and whether or not it makes sense to try to connect with my target through the person in my network. Of course, if you know the connector well and know that he has a strong relationship with your target, you can leave this step out. Then, once my connection has agreed to help, I send him a typical request for an introduction that he can easily forward to my target -- whether he's in front of his computer at work or on the go with his smartphone
2. Include the most important details. This starts with your subject line, which should have at least the names of both companies being introduced, if not your own name and the name of your target. In your message body, make sure that you explain what your company does in a few sentences. You could also attach a document if it's brief enough and will help them prepare for your eventual conversation. Finally, include all his possible methods of contact in your email signature to ensure that you're as reachable as possible
3. Respect the target's time and efforts. This means that in return for their help, you should have something to offer them as well, no matter how small it may be. Make sure you explicitly mention what's in it for them in that second email so that they recognize that value proposition from the get go. When it comes time to schedule that longer discussion, remember that your target is doing you a favor, and as such should be the one who gets to propose suggested times and meeting places. Your job is to ensure that one of these times and places works with your calendar, even if you have to move a few things around to make it happen.
4. Follow through. Your work is not done once you receive that much coveted response from your target! Once he or she suggests times to meet, pick the one that fits best with your schedule and follow up with him immediately to confirm your appointment. When the time and date rolls around, arrive on time -- or better yet, early -- and whatever you do, don't miss your meeting! Not only will you make yourself look bad and potentially ruin the possibility of working together in the future, but it will also have negative effects for the person who put you in touch in the first place.