Ever sent an email and not gotten a response? We all have. Most of the time, it’s not by accident. They’re ignoring you — or rather, they’re ignoring your email.
The good news is you can change that. Email is a powerful relationship-building tool if you use it effectively. But in an inbox cluttered with demands on the recipient’s time, it takes a little strategizing to get some of it. Here are five ways to use email more effectively for networking and building relationships.
1. Add Value First – A quick way to get your email deleted is to go straight for the ask. Your email recipients have more demands on their time than they can service. They need a reason to want to engage with you. How can you add value to their life? Sharing their posts or articles on social media, providing a client or partner referral, complimenting their work, or supporting a cause that’s important to them are all ways to add value and get their attention. Your first few emails should not require a response. Give before you ask, networking should never be a one-way street.
2. Write a Subject Line That Can’t Be Ignored – Getting the recipient to open your email is half the battle. In the past year, more than 281 billion business emails were sent per day – yours needs to stand out. Do your research before reaching out. Include a personalized detail in the subject line, like mentioning a recent project or something they’ve posted on social media. For example: “Enjoyed your recent article on LinkedIn. Want to know more.” Capture their attention by mentioning a shared interest. You can boost their ego and appeal to their desire to help by asking for advice. Don’t be insincere but do let them know you respect and admire them.
3. Be Familiar – A familiar name is much less likely to get deleted. Try connecting with your contact on social media before you email them. The more you comment and engage with them online, the more familiar your name will be when it shows up in their inbox. If you haven’t already met the recipient in person or don’t have a mutual connection to mention, you can reference your social media interactions to help them place you. Engaging with them on social media also gives you more insight on what’s important to them. You can use this information to personalize your message and make it relevant.
4. Keep it Short – Raise your hand if you like reading long emails from someone you don’t really know. None of us do. Get to the point. Skip long introductions and personal details. If they want more context, they’ll ask. Keep each paragraph 1-2 sentences. Start with a reference on how you connected with them, compliment them or mention a mutual interest, and then make your request. Make any request easy to quickly respond to. Be specific:
Bad: How do I become a better networker?
Good: What’s one thing you did that helped you expand your network?
Bad: Can we get together sometime?
Good: Can we meet for coffee on Tues at 7am or Wed at 3pm?
Established a rapport with them before asking for anything. If you’re emailing them for the first or second time, don’t include a request. Follow the outline above and change the request to a statement, such as you would love to stay in touch.
5. Start Small – Unless you’ve met the recipient previously or have been referred, your first few emails shouldn’t require a response. You can start the relationship by just mentioning something you admire about their work. After you’ve added value and displayed a genuine interest in them —not what they can do for you — start with a small, specific ask. Ask for their advice or opinion. A meeting, a referral, a reference – those are big asks. Start small, take the time to build a genuine relationship. When the time comes to make a bigger ask, it won’t feel big to either of you because you have a relationship.
Follow these strategies and watch the responsiveness to your emails improve. Keep in mind building a network is not about getting people to do you favors. It’s about building genuine relationships and allowing those relationships to unlock your true potential.