A lot of things have changed in our professional lives. How we get jobs, the tools we use, the roles that are popular. But there is one thing that has remained constant and will continue to remain constant:
Relationships are still the driving force for how professionals get the jobs they want, how the top sales reps outperform the rest of their team, and how entrepreneurs get their companies funded and off the ground. These relationships don’t form out of thin air. They require good ol’ fashioned professional networking.
So what is the absolute best first touch point to network?
Twitter? Too impersonal and noisy.
LinkedIn? Messages just get deleted.
Cold call? You will be ignored.
Networking events? Too expensive and overcrowded.
The answer? Email is still the predominant channel to network.
91% of professionals check their email daily. By far the highest out of any channel. Most networking emails fall short though.
Below is a guide to networking emails that get results. Whether it’s reaching the CEO of a large company, a prominent investor, or the hiring manager for a job you want. The below guide provides:
- A step-by-step framework on how to use email to network
- Networking email subject lines that get your emails opened
- Real networking email samples, examples, and templates that get responses
- Tools that will take your networking emails to the next level
A 5-Step Framework For Writing Networking Emails
While email is still one of the best ways to network, the medium has gotten a little noisy. That means networking with someone meaningful requires a little more effort than a single email. We’ve developed a step-by-step framework to optimize your chances of success.There are five steps to the framework: Research, Warm Up, Connect, Ask, Follow Up.
This framework is designed to maximize chances of establishing a valuable relationship; it is not designed to mass cold email hundreds of people.
Lets go through each step of the framework in detail. Then we’ll move on to samples that you can use in your own efforts.
It is remarkable how many people skip this easy yet vital step. Doing 10 minutes of research about the person’s history, interests, potential problems, and communication style drastically increases your chances of getting a response. It sets the foundation for the rest of the framework.
Here are three effective ways to research and uncover some information.
1. Find Their Email (Or An Intro)
Always try to find a referral introduction if you can. Assuming you don’t have a mutual connection, you need to get their email address. Never send to a generic address like contact@TheirCompany.com.
2. Find Where They Are Online
Second step to research is to find where they live online. Examples include Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, or their own blog.
Sidekick, a free email productivity tool, can help you find this info quicker. Once you have Sidekick installed, compose a new email and type in their email address. A sidebar will pop up and show direct links to their various social profiles:
To go deeper, do some Google searching. Google search combos such as:
|i.e. Rob Miller LinkedIn, Rob Miller Quora, etc.
Don’t forget niche communities like Dribbble for designers, Inbound.org for marketers, Github for engineers, and AngelList for techies.
|i.e. By Rob Miller
This will help you find places where the person might have written an article.
|i.e Rob Miller Website
This will help you find if the person has a website or blog.
3. Understand Their Interests
Once you find where they live online, scour through posts, tweets, profiles to get a sense of what their personal and professional interests are, and what type of challenges they might be facing. Here are some tips specific to different networks:
- Look for tweets of questions they ask. This hints at things they are looking for help on or are interested in. For example, these tweets connected someone with the CEO of Uber, leading to a $3.5 million Series A round.
- Look for tweets of personal things. Do they tweet about certain sports teams for example?
- What types of articles or links are they sharing?
- What questions have they followed or asked? This gives you an indication of what they might need help with.
- What questions have they answered? This gives you an indication of topic areas they are interested in.
- What does their Quora profile look like? This can give you insight into what their overall interests are.
- While public profiles are limited, they can still hold a treasure trove of information. Click on the “About” tab and you can find things like cities they’ve lived in, colleges they went to, life events like getting married, photos of things they are interested in, places they’ve been.
- The obvious thing is to look at what companies and roles they have been in prior.
- One of the most overlooked places is at the bottom of the profile in the “Additional Info” and Personal Details section which gives hints beyond their professional interests.
- What skills have they been endorsed for? Content they have shared/published?
- What schools did they go to? Are you fellow alumni?
- Here’s one LinkedIn strategy that helped land an actual job.
- The treasure trove if they have one and update it constantly. People tend to put more personal details on personal websites that they don’t have in other places.
- For example, a quick read of the about page on my website would tell you I’m into college football, I like Bud Light, I love BBQ, and I spend tons of time in cities like LA and Chicago. All things that would have been hard to find in other places.
- Their company website can hold hints to things like what roles do they need help hiring for?
If the person you are trying to network with isn’t on social media then skip this step. But if they are, you have a huge opportunity to increase your chances of connecting. People open emails from others whose names they know or look familiar. The key to this stage is:
Make your name look familiar to them before you hit their inbox.
To do this is pretty easy. Engage with the person on social media. On Twitter/LinkedIn/Quora/etc …
- follow them
- retweet a tweet they’re mentioned in
- favorite a couple tweets
- respond to open questions they ask
- share a link similar to a subject they care about
For most of these, you don’t even need a response. People are vain. They check to see who is following, mentioning and interacting with their accounts. Do this a couple times and by the time you email them, your name will look familiar and increase the chances they open your email. In fact, David Khim used this method to stand out from hundreds of candidates and land his dream job.
How much do you need to do this? A general rule of thumb is that the busier the person is, the more time you should put into this step. Scott Tousley on the Sidekick team explored this concept in-depth here.
To summarize, he describes the importance of providing value by illustrating the probability of receiving value as a result of the number of times we add value to the individual:
- Y-Axis: the probability of receiving value from someone (ex. an introduction, a new client, etc)
- X-Axis: the number of times we provide value
- Intersection of probability and providing value: This shows the number of times we need to add value before asking for something. In the graph above, if we add value at least six times before asking for something, we have a 50% probability of getting what we want.
- Line of Love (L.O.V): This is the line that connects the X and Y axes. It illustrates the simple concept that in order to get some love from someone, we need to give some first.
This step is where you send the first email. But it isn’t the email you are probably thinking. A natural behavior is to immediately go for the ask of what you want. That’s like scoring on the first date. It rarely happens – and when people say it does, they are probably lying. The only goal of this step is to get a response and engage them. Here are the three keys to this step:
Key #1: Skip The Intro
Almost everyone starts a networking email with the following:
“Hi Mike, I’m Mike Miller and a hard working sales professional at Widgets Inc.”
Stop right there. Don’t do that. That starting line SCREAMS cold email that I probably don’t care about. Instead of wasting sentences on explaining your whole professional history and aspirations, get to the meat of it immediately.
Save the introduction of yourself for later in the email when you already have their attention. Or better yet, have a killer email signature that does this part of the work for you.
Key #2: Stroke The Ego
Ego (or esteem) is one of the core components of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As humans we need it. Therefore we respond favorably to people who help us fulfill it. In addition, we are trained from childhood to respond when we receive a compliment. If we don’t, it is seen as rude.
A key part of increasing your chances at a response is to stroke the ego of the recipient. There are a few ways to do this:
- Mention them in association with respected brand name
- Refer to them as a “leader,” “expert,” or some other power word
- Tell them you shared their work with others
- Tell them how they had an impact on your life
- Write them a romantic song (joking … seriously, don’t do that)
Tip 1: Try to be specific. Saying, “I like your blog” is way less effective than saying, “I enjoyed [insert specific article], it had a huge impact on our strategy.”
Tip 2: Don’t over do it. One ego stroke is enough. More and you risk coming across as desperate.
Key #3: Add Value (Don’t Ask For Anything)
Here is the tough part. Restrain yourself from asking for anything, and look for ways to add value. This creates something Robert Cialdini, author of all time best-seller Influence, calls The Rule of Reciprocity.
Rule of Reciprocity
We are all bound — even driven — to repay debts of all kinds.
Ex: Someone does something for you. Then you feel obligated to repay. It’s an almost automatic reaction.
Why does this happen? Making decisions is one of the most resource intensive things our brain can do. As a result, our brain is constantly looking for shortcuts to make decisions.
With the Rule of Reciprocity, we can make a quicker decision on whether or not we should do something for someone based on our previous interactions and experience. In other words, if someone does something for you, and then they ask for a favor later on, you are much more likely to quickly say yes.
With that in mind here are X examples to add value in your email.
- Share their company, product, content with others via social media or other mediums.
- Feature/mention them in an article you write.
- Share a high quality and helpful article or book on a topic of interest or problem. Even better, buy and send the Kindle version of the book to them.
- Introduce them to someone they would find valuable. Someone in their industry, a candidate for a role they are trying to hire, or a person with knowledge about a question or topic of interest.
- Give them insightful feedback on their product, company or work.
- Share errors on their website, emails, product that you experienced. Just be sure this comes off as more helpful than arrogant.
Tip 1: Track the emails you send so you can know if, when, where, and how many times they opened the email.
Tip 2: Make sure you follow solid email etiquette. After putting in the work, the last thing you want is something small to ruin your credibility.
Here it is. The moment you’ve been waiting for. Asking the person you are networking with for what you want. There are six keys to follow for this email to maximize your chances of success.
Key #1: Size Matters
The second someone opens an email they immediately scan it and are assessing if this is something they want to deal with. The longer it is with lengthy paragraphs, the higher chance of them hitting the delete button without ever getting past the first sentence. Remember, this isn’t a follow up where you’re providing more context, it’s simply the first ask to put the relationship into motion.
Keep the email as short as possible. If it must be longer, don’t use paragraphs. Break it into bullet points instead to make the email more digestible. Be brutal about revising the email and cutting out anything that is unnecessary.
Key #2: One Email, One Outcome
Keep the email incredibly focused. If you ask for multiple things, you’ll get nothing. Ask for one thing, and you and are much more likely to get what you want. One email, one outcome.
Key #3: Get Specific
Get as specific as you can with your ask. Asking for something super generic or broad creates work for them. I’m Sidekick’s VP of Growth, and I often gets asked for marketing advice from entrepreneurs. Compare these two questions:
“My startup is a SaaS product for marketers. What should my marketing strategy be?”
“My startup is a SaaS product for marketers of SMB’s to help them capture more leads. It costs $100/month to start. I’m trying to decide between content marketing and paid acquisition as a channel. What do you think the pros/cons of those two channels would be in my case?”
Question one requires me to do a bunch of work. I need to check out what the company does more specifically, look at their pricing, think about their target market, and then think about an entire marketing strategy!
The second question is much more specific and something I can respond to almost immediately. With a small tweak, the recipient is more likely to get a response and a more insightful and targeted answer.
This also applies when asking for time. If you are asking for a meeting or a call, specify the time – especially if the time commitment is small. Just don’t over promise (i.e. “I only need 5 seconds of your time.”) because it is blatantly not true and starts to feel manipulative.
Key #4: Small Asks, Then Big Asks
Think hard and long about what you are asking for and the amount of effort required by the other person. The smaller the ask, the more likely you are to get a response.
There is a reason that despite receiving thousands of email pitches a year from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists fund almost zero of those companies. Asking for hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars in an email when they’ve never heard of you is too big of an ask.
As your relationship develops, the more you can ask for comfortably. Here are nine ways we can strengthen our relationships.
Key #5: Do The Work For Them
Last but not least, do as much work as you possibly can to make it easy for them to give you what you are asking for. The classic example is if you are asking to meet in person. Compare the two examples below:
“When and where could you meet for a half hour?”
“How is next Tue/Wed/Thur at 4 pm at your office, or the Starbucks down the block from you?”
In example one, the recipient has to go to their calendar, come up with a few times to suggest, think about place to meet, and then send that back to you.
In example two, the recipient looks at his calendar and can reply yes to one of those times, and the location is chosen and convenient for them. You’ve done the work for them. Here’s another example of doing the work for a connection when asking for an introduction.
Key #6: Get The Timing Right
You’ve done all the work above. The last thing you want to keep you from making your connection is timing. People are much more likely to be in their email and responding at certain times of the day.
Use something like the Send Later feature in Sidekick to schedule the emails to be sent at specific times to optimize your chances.
Data shows that sending in the evenings will optimize your chances of receiving a reply. Two reasons for this:
- If your email is among a bunch that need responses, your chances of getting a response is less likely. What is the first thing you see when you open your inbox in the morning? A bunch of unread emails that need responses.
- Most emails get read within an hour of being sent. So try to send when you think the person will be sitting in their inbox. Lunch time, commute home, dinner time are all bad times.
Pro Tip: If you meet with the person, fish for personal tidbits. Are they going on vacation? Do they have a big launch coming up? Do they have a family? What are their interests (sports, activities, etc) What challenges are they facing? This info will become extremely useful later on in the Follow Up stage.
There are two cases to follow up:
Follow Up In Case Of No Response
When most people don’t get a response, they start to feel guilty and never email the person again. That is exactly why you should follow up! By following up, you are doing something that most others won’t: helping yourself stand out. It shows you are serious and on your game.
Following up psychologically places a little guilt on the recipient’s mind for not responding the first time. This creates social pressure to respond.
Follow Up After They Completed Your Ask
Deep and effective relationships are built over the course of multiple interactions. In the age of LinkedIn where everyone is your “contact”, this is often forgotten.
You need to find a way to keep the communication going to deepen the relationship. The deeper the relationship, the larger the ask you can make.
So how do you follow up with them? The worst follow ups go like this:
“Hey Rob, it’s been awhile. How are things going these days?”
How is a person suppose to respond to this? You basically just asked them about their entire life. So how can we make this better?
- Use A “Trigger”
If you met with the person or had a phone call, hopefully, you took the last tip and fished for some personal professional tidbits in their life. Your research from step one will also come in handy. Were they going on a vacation? Big product launch? Birthday, married, kid? All of these provide you with more interesting things to follow up on.
- Get Specific
Notice a theme yet? Breadth makes it hard to respond. Be as specific as you can.
- Continue To Be Helpful and Add Value
Repeat the tactics in the “Connect” phase. Others want to help people who have helped them. It is human nature. Over time you’ll stop having to ask and the help will come to you.
- Thank Them
If they did something for you in the previous step, reaffirm your appreciation. It shows that you remember and value their time.
Easily send personalized email templates like this in Gmail and Outlook with HubSpot’s free CRM.
Subject Lines for Networking Emails
There is one simple rule. If your email doesn’t get opened, you have zero chance of getting a response. That is why we have broken this out into its own section. Making sure you have a great subject line for your networking emails can be the most important part.
Here are three rules to follow with your subject lines.
1. Create Curiosity
Upworthy, the incredibly successful viral content site, analyzed headlines that were most successful for them. One of the core elements is creating something they call the “curiosity gap.”
Make it interesting enough, but not so much it gives away everything in the email.
Kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears. Not too specific, not too vague, but just right.
Make sure it is relevant with the body of your email otherwise your recipient will feel like you pulled a bait and switch.
2. Make It Sound Natural
People are most likely to open emails that sound like they are from a close personal contact or relationship. We tend to write subject lines and behave completely differently for people we don’t know yet. Those subject lines stand out with a giant “delete” sign on them.
To write a great subject line, think about subject lines that you would write to or receive from someone you already know well.
3. Size Matters
Not the size of that. Get your head out of the gutter. We’re talking about the number of characters and words in your subject line. There is some conflicting historical data showing that size of subject line may not matter. But don’t be fooled. There has been one huge change since most of these studies have been done. The emergence of mobile.
Look at what emails look like on mobile:
See what I see? Longer subject lines get cut off.
But beyond that, following principle #2, when you write emails to people you know, do you write full sentence subject lines or short ones? Probably short. I mean really short, one or two words.
If you are going to write a long subject line, make it stand out, by including one of their interests that you found in your research step in order to catch their eye.
Check out this slideshare for more tips on how to craft the perfect subject line:
Example Subject Lines For Networking Emails
Let’s look at some specific examples within the context of our framework and it’s three core email stages: the connect, ask, and follow up.
Tip: Mentions mutual connection. Provides intrigue. What about Rob Smith?
Your tweet on Growth Teams
Tip: Refers to something they’ve done. Provides intrigue. What about my tweet?
Tip: Remember our note about stroking ego? Use a quick power word to stroke the ego while peaking curiosity to open.
I can’t believe that Michigan game…
Tip: Intrigue and relates to their personal interest. Also easily surfaces a connection point between you two.
Tip: Short and enticing. Your favorite what? And how does this relate to me? Are these my favorites too?
Tip: Who doesn’t like free food / coffee / beer? (Only use if you’re offering to meet over grub or drinks.)
The Follow Up
Tip: Short. Relates to a trip they might have taken recently.
Awesome branding tips
Tip: Reference project they might have mentioned.
Recovered from #INBOUND15?
Tip: Most people have the event they just attended fresh in their mind, so they’re more likely to open emails related to it.
Networking Email Samples
Let’s end with some specific examples of networking emails for the Connect, Ask, and Follow Up stage. Each one comes with tips on what makes them successful.
Networking Email Sample 1
I loved your post on Building Growth Teams.*1 I shared*2 it with 3 other friends that I know are facing similar challenges and they all said they immediately subscribed to your blog.
Your’s and Seth Godin’s *3 writing have been very influential on my own work.
There are two other incredible posts on team building I read recently that you might be interested in. Creating High Performance Teams on Harvard Business Review, and A Study Of The Top 1% Team done by a researcher at Stanford. *4
I hope you enjoy!
Marketing Manager @ Acceleration Partners
Tip *1: Being specific. Pointing out a specific post rather than a generic “I love your work.”
Tip *2: Adding value by sharing their work with others.
Tip *3: Stroking the ego by comparing with a world renowned author/marketer.
Tip *4: Being helpful. Sharing two high-quality pieces of content related to their interests.
Networking Email Sample 2
Looking for designers?
The design of [Their Company] is truly awesome. I’ve learned a lot from your work along with Apple and and IDEO. *1
I saw on twitter you were looking for a designer to join your team. While I’m not a designer myself, I know Joe Parker who runs a local Design meetup. *2 He is very plugged into the design scene and I think he would have some candidate ideas for you. Interested in an intro?
All the best,
Marketing Manager @ Acceleration Partners
Tip *1: Stroking the ego by putting his work in the tier of top companies.
Tip *2: Offering an intro and being helpful.
Networking Email Sample 3
I saw you launched a new version of your website recently. I thought you might like some feedback *1 and additional ideas:
- Feedback 1 *2
- Feedback 2
- Feedback 3
I hope these ideas are helpful. I have more but wanted to keep the email short. *3 If you are interested in hearing them just let me know.*4
Tip *1: Adding value!
Tip *2: Using bullet points to make the email digestible.
Tip *3: Showing you are considerate of their time.
Tip *4: Good hook to engage in conversation.
Networking Email Sample 4
Let’s talk growth
I hope you found the articles in my last email helpful. *1
We are building a growth team ourselves. I’m trying to get insight from others who have gone through similar challenges.
Would you be available for a 18-minute call? I’ve provided the specific questions I’m exploring below. *2 Happy to tell you about the other perspectives *3 I’ve found. How is:
- Next *4 Wednesday at 4 pm, 4:30 pm, or 5 pm?
- Next Thursday at 3 pm, 3:30 pm, or 4 pm?
If none of those work, name a time and I’ll make it work.
- Question 1 *5
- Question 2
- Question 3
Tip *1: Referring back to the “Connect” email.
Tip *2: Keeping the core of the email short.
Tip *3: Making the conversation valuable for him as well.
Tip *4: Doing the work and making it easy for them.
Tip *5: Being specific. Much better than “I’d love to chat with you about a generic subject.”
Networking Email Sample 5
Lunch? On me!
I’ve started looking for new job in marketing.
Can I buy you lunch [place near their office] on [name a few dates 2 weeks out]?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
- Who are the best people/companies to learn from?
- What is the hardest skill to find currently?
I’d greatly appreciate it!
The Follow Up
Networking Email Sample 6
I saw that triple overtime win by Michigan over Notre Dame last week. *1 Unbelievable! You get a chance to watch the game?
Thanks again *2 for the advice a couple weeks ago. Very helpful.
I know you mentioned you were looking for designers. I recently met Joe Parker who leads the local Design Meetup and knows a lot of designers in the area. I think he could be helpful. *3
Interested in a small lunch *4 with you, Joe, a couple designers, and I? How about Perry’s on tue/wed/thur at noon in two weeks? I’ll organize. *5
Tip *1: Referencing a personal interest of theirs.
Tip *2: Thanking them showing appreciation.
Tip *3: Adding value.
Tip *4: Connecting people. Now you are stepping up your game!
Tip *5: Making it easy for them.
Networking Email Sample 7 – After Conference Follow Up
My favorite book
It was great meeting at the Inbound Marketing Conference.
I remember you talking about how you had a big rebranding project *1 coming up. I just sent you the Kindle version of my favorite branding book *2 Positioning by Al Ries. I hope it is helpful.
By the way, have you ever considered our product for your marketing efforts? If so, I’d love any brutal feedback. *3 I provided some specific questions below. *4
Anything I can help with?
Tip *1: Specific reference much better than just “it was great talking.”
Tip *2: Being helpful an giving a gift. Double win!
Tip *3: A small ask that can lead into a big ask (a sale) rather than leading with a big ask.
Tip *4: Being specific rather than asking a generic question that is hard to answer.
That wraps up the email samples.