How to E-mail Busy People…

It’s no secret that today’s world is highly interconnected and more interdependent than ever before.  And, in order to succeed in this world, obtaining the right guidance is more important than ever before.  The challenge, however, is that many times, the people you seek guidance from are not directly connected to you – so, how do you ask for help?  In many cases, we do what we feel most comfortable with – e-mail.  It provides us the ability to reach out while still remaining in our comfort zone.

The challenge with e-mail, as with many initial communication methods, is that there is an art behind getting what you want without burdening the other person.  All too often, we’re a mixed bag of information and rarely communicate all that we want to on the first attempt.  In fact, many times we find ourselves reflecting back on the conversation either regretting something we said, or worse, didn’t say.

I came across a great post by Jason Freedman who outlined some tips on how to e-mail busy people… below are the key points.  Valuable stuff.


Subject Lines Matter

A lot.  Your subject line should be uber-concrete and descriptive. Bad:  “Re: fundraising advice”.  Good: “Seeking fundraising advice for my startup FlightCaster (as per intro from John Smith). If you can fit the entire question into the header, just do it and include #eom at the end, which means ‘end of message’.  Yes, it feels weird.  Do it anyways.

Use Your Company Email Address

Everyone has multiple email addresses now.  When you randomly email or respond from your personal gmail account, you make it harder for your target to search his archives for context on your conversation.  If you don’t include your company name, he won’t even know what you do!

Remind Him of Context

You met him at a conference and had this fabulous conversation about your startup, and he totally got it.  You just know he got it.  Guess what?  He’s had 137 conversations with other entrepreneurs in the last 3 weeks.  Remind him of where you met, what exactly you do, and how you met.

Limit Your Entire Email to 5 sentences or Less

Seriously.  I know it’s painful.  You have so many important things to say.  However, getting it read is more important than getting all that explanation in there. Preferably it’s 3 sentences.  Your goal is to make it easy for him to respond immediately from his smartphone.

Make Your Ask Explicit

If you want a meeting, ask for a meeting.  Provide some time options and ask for a specified length.  If you want an introduction, ask for an introduction.   If you’re looking for funding, tell him you’re currently fundraising and ask to meet to show him your pitch.  Don’t be sly.  Don’t hint.  Make the process ridiculously easy by just asking for what you want.

Respond Immediately

Show your target respect by responding to everything immediately.  Just because the VC you’re emailing might not get back to you immediately, doesn’t mean that you have the same privilege.  Ron Conway famously makes immediately email responses a pre-condition for investment.

Include a Short, Professional Signature

My standard signature includes my name, company, blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  If I want a phone call or fax or meeting, it’ll include phone number, fax, address.


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6 Comments

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