How to write networking emails people will actually read

How to Have Better Email Etiquette

Stop writing diary entries and start writing for action

We're all crushed by email, and the unread message count can reach a point where your best bet is to delete or file away a chunk and assume that anything really important will resurface to your inbox with a follow-up.

If you want to be one of the few messages actually read, you have to create an expectation that your content is worth a recipient's limited time. Entrepreneurs managing relationships with supporters, potential partners and investors are especially reliant on email networking to keep themselves and their company's name top of mind.

Unfortunately, most early stage companies do a terrible job crafting insightful updates. They often read like personal diary entries, and over time many entrepreneurs stop sending them, convinced no one cares. One of my portfolio companies gave up when the founder announced her pregnancy in the last sentence and only one person congratulated her. No one was reading that far.

Networking emails can though prove incredibly helpful if constructed to both provide and gain value from the people receiving them. I'll take a catch-up meeting with someone who has kept me in the loop over one who cold calls six months after our first encounter, and I'll probably take action if there's a clear request. I'm also less likely to bug them for information if everything I need is neatly laid out.

These three principles have, for entrepreneurs I've shared them with, most frequently led to higher open and response rates:

1. Use Structure

An update should have 3, titled sections: what's going well, what's isn't and specific asks for help. Every detail seems critical, but it's not. Pull out the key insights that you'd share if you had to read someone in on your business in 30 seconds. What are your recent key wins? What will make or break your company this month/quarter? What 2-3 introductions or answers would get your to your next milestone?

2. Keep It Short, Very Short

Your email should take up no more than a single desktop screen, no scrolling. Use bullet points, not paragraphs. Literally highlight the most important items and classify as the TLDR (too long, didn't read) version. People are visual - make it easy to pick out the key points with just a glance.

3. Make It Forwardable

I may not have an answer for you, but I might know someone who does. I may not be interested in investing, but maybe I have a friend who would be. Make it easy for people to pass along within their own networks, and explicitly encourage them to do so.

Related: 5 tips to help you land your first job out of college

5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation
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How to write networking emails people will actually read

Take advantage of your college career center
Most universities offer career coaching from trained professionals who specialize in development and advancement. Whether or not you have an idea of your career plans post-college, it can be beneficial to take a few hours out of your day and set up an appointment with one of the counselors. Many times, these professionals can review and help you tailor your resumé and cover letter. To top it off, because of their experience and networks in various industries, counselors have the potential to connect you with hiring managers.

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Begin creating and using your network 
One of the most important aspects to finding a job is taking advantage of your professional and personal network. Your connections can vary from your family members and friends to your professors and alumni. If you feel as if you're lacking a valuable network, however, business association events and gatherings are the best way to gain important contacts.

Photo credit: Getty

Always follow up  
With the advancement of modern technology, most job applications are done online. Because of this new process, it oftentimes makes it harder to find the person of contact to follow up with. However, you shouldn't let that initial obstacle prevent you from following up. If you can't find the name of the hiring manager directly reviewing your application, use LinkedIn to do a search of the next best person to reach out to. Many potential employees miss out on interviews by not being proactive and sending follow up emails.

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