Guest author Siobhan O’Rorke is the marketing and communications manager for Lookeen Desktop Search.
It’s a tough world out there for small businesses, and making your name known to other people and industry influencers can feel like an uphill battle.
Well-crafted networking emails can help you make those valuable connections. The only problem is that everyone knows that—influential people can receive hundreds of networking mails per week (or even per day), and they won’t have time to reply to everyone.
The key is to stand out, but without being pushy. You want to build a genuine working relationship, so forget any notions of standardized robotic emails. They won’t help. Here’s what will.
1. Put Yourself Out There
It stands to reason that, if your name is already familiar to your recipient, they’re more likely to open your message. You can accomplish that through social media. Get onto Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or whichever social network your target is active on and be active. Share useful and interesting content, retweet them, link to their company, blog post or product with an “@” mention.
You will become associated with helpful or interesting content, and you’ll add value to this young relationship.
2. Make The Connection
The first email you send is the most important. It’s the first time you’re making direct contact, and it’s the first place that you’ll be asking for a favor from them.
Hopefully you won’t have to entirely “make a first impression” within that initial note. If you followed step one, yours should already be a familiar name. The message content itself, then, should support the (hopefully) positive impression they have you.
There are several parts to an outreach email:
Introduce yourself: You’ll want to stand out, so avoid using generic openers, like “Hi I’m John Doe from XYZ Company.” Instead, take the opportunity to signal your interests and stroke the recipient’s ego simultaneously. Mention the person’s latest blog post, e-book or other project: “Your XYZ was instrumental in guiding our new product development process, and I just wanted to say thanks!”
Add value: If you help your target connections before asking anything from them, they’re more likely to assist you too. Think of it as “I’ll scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.” For example, if a potential connection tweeted about wanting to learn a new skill, recommend a website, tool, book or blog that’ll help get the person started.
Call to action: Once you’re in the connection’s good graces, it’s time to ask your favor. The key here is the 3S strategy: Keep your request short (one or two sentences); only ask for one small favor (save bigger ones for later, when the relationship has developed); and be as specific as possible (you need to make it as clear as possible what you’re asking for).
Make it easy: If you’re requesting a quick phone call, use an app like Assistant.to, which gives your recipient linked time options that will automatically update both participants’ calendars. (Gmail only for now.) Another example: If you want the person to share your latest infographic, don’t just send the image. Also offer to write the text to accompany it.
3. Follow Up
Following up is just as important as the initial contact. If your new friend has done what you asked, send a thank-you email and build your relationship further.
You can demonstrate the amount of traffic your connection brought to your website by tweeting about it, or show how the contact’s opinion on your latest product prototype helped shaped the final design.
If your target didn’t reply, don’t let it get you down. People are busy. Unless it’s urgent, just send a gentle follow-up a few days or a week after your first attempt. Make sure to provide context by referring to the first email and including a brief description of the favor you’re asking. End it with a friendly close and a couple of ways to contact you.
In this case, one follow-up is enough. You don’t want to annoy your potential new friend with multiple pushy emails.
Boomerang is a great free app you can use to schedule follow up emails. You can set it to remind you within a specific time period after sending. You can also choose only to be reminded if you receive no response.
If you want to know if your emails are hitting their marks, you can use a tracker like Sidekick to see if your recipient has opened your email, or clicked on any links contained within it. That makes it much easier to craft a targeted follow-up message.
4. Keep at it
It’s very easy to get sucked into over-analyzing your messages, or taking negative or non-responses personally. You can curb your disappointment by keeping expectations low (or not expecting anything at all).
You might not get a reply and you may get a few outright rejections. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong; you just need keep going. The best way to boost your response rate is to keep sending, tracking and improving on the process. Good luck!
Lead photo by Leeroy