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Posted at 6:42 pm

2010 Apr 5

The Art of the Introduction: Top Ten Tips 1

This post is by Chris Fralic, a managing partner at First Round
Capital
. Last week Chris gave a
presentation at BootStrapperSummit in New York on the “art
of the introduction” and we asked him to write a version of that
presentation for TechCrunch. First impression matter, and getting the
right introduction can make or break a business deal. You may also want
to read out post titled Greetings! for
more tips on first interactions. You can follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisFRC

I’ve been a VC for about 4 years now, and I do a lot different things
in my job. But I’d have to say that making introductions, asking for
them, and being introduced is something I do every single day. In fact,
I looked through the 12,403 emails I sent in 2009, and 2,603 or over
20% contained the word “intro” or “introduce” or “introduction.” Along
the way I’ve noticed there are some best practices, so I’ve put
together a Top Ten list here from what I’ve learned.

Some qualifiers: First, this is for email introductions only, and
focused on busy people who live and work in email. Second, it helps to
have a personal reputation – it’s not just the words or format in your
email, but it’s about who you are and the previous experience others
have had with you. In the post below you’ll see I’ve called the person
asking for the introduction the Subject, the person you’re trying to
reach or making the introduction to is the Target, and the person making
the introduction is the Connector. So let’s get started with a
practical guide to The Art of the Introduction to help you increase your
effectiveness, reduce your inbox load, and have people look forward to
responding to your introductions.

1. SUBJECT LINE MATTERS This one is a big one – DO NOT use just
“Introduction” or “Intro” alone as email subject line. That’s the
equivalent of sending a resume titled “resume.doc” – it says nothing.
You should have the names and company names of both people being
introduced in the email subject line.

2. WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE TARGET? Ever hear the line about everyone’s
favorite radio station? WIFM – What’s In it For Me. WHY should the
Target care about this introduction? Put it in the first sentence or
paragraph. Another way to look at it – is there any evidence in your
email introduction that you know anything about the Target whatsoever?

3. CONTENT MATTERS Are you being specific enough about what you’re
asking the Target to do, and are you actually saying what your company
does? If you’re looking for a job or career help, did you attach your
resume? If you’re introducing your company, did you attach a deck or
executive summary or at least a paragraph explaining what you do? Links
are not enough – they’re generally useless if the person reading it is
on a Blackberry or on an airplane.

4. MAKE IT EASY TO REACH YOU Consider having your email signature
(and your reply signature) contain all of your relevant contact
information. You want to be one click away from a call or email. Every
deck or executive summary should contain your contact information on
the first and last slide.

5. MAKE IT EASY TO HELP YOU Don't just verbally ask someone to make
introduction – the follow through rates on those are usually low, and
it puts too much work on the Connector. A best practice is to craft an
email from the Subject to the Connector that contains EVERYTHING and can
be easily forwarded to the Target (from the road, on a Blackberry, etc.)

6) CREATE FIREWALLS This one needs some explanation and some caveats
– if the Connector is really close to both parties or has achieved a
certain level of relationship with the Target, it can be fine to
introduce both parties directly. But it often makes sense to consider
the benefits of using a “Firewall” – the best/easiest example is via
LinkedIn where it’s easy and completely up to each party to forward or
accept the Introduction. Another alternative to a direct introduction
is for the Connector to forward information to the Target to see if
they’re interested first.

7. “LEAN FORWARD” ON YOUR RESPONSE When someone engages on a
response you can really tell – it makes a difference and gets the ball
rolling (e.g. offering some quick insight into the problem or
opportunity at hand, offering multiple times/places to meet, etc)

8. CLOSE THE LOOP But don’t create an endless loop – don’t copy
everyone on each of the 12 emails it takes to find an open time to talk.
Instead…

9. EMBRACE THE BCC Blind Carbon Copy is the most powerful and least
used feature in email. One simple BCC lets the Connector know that the
introduction has been received and is under way.

10. EVERY INTRODUCTION CAN BE A WIN/WIN Help people out when you
can and be honest and helpful even if you can’t.

I hope you find something useful here, and I’d love to hear about the
best tips you’ve learned as you practice The Art of the Introduction.

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