For most people, especially the ones who work in a professional field, email is the most common method of communication. That is why knowing how to write it professionally is crucial.
Although emails are not as formal as letters, they still need to be written appropriately to present a good image of you, your brand, or maybe even the company you represent.
To help you be more familiar with the process, we asked experts to share some valuable tips they learned after years of sending professional emails.
Table of Contents
- The subject line is important
- Create the best introduction
- Do research
- Don’t focus on yourself, focus on the benefits you provide
- Keep it short and simple
- Proofread your content
- Get the receiver’s attention
- Keep it short and concise
- Think about what the person receiving the email cares about
- Set your intention: why the email?
- Use a short one-minute video introduction
- An engaging subject line is key
- Stand out from the sea of sameness
- Have something to offer of value to them
- Use the right greeting
Founder & CEO, The Slumber Yard
The subject line is important
If you have a mutual contact, make sure to include their name in the subject line. For instance, I would write something to the effect of:
- Billy Downing Suggested I Reach Out
- Referred By Billy Downing
- Introduction From Billy Downing
I should also add that with the three subject lines above, I’ve seen open rates of upward of 85%.
If you do not have a mutual contact, the subject line is of even greater importance. You have to grab their attention and entice them to click.
Remember that your subject line will differ depending on what industry you’re in and what you’re looking to accomplish with the email. For example, sales emails should have subject lines that focus more on numbers and success. Job inquiries should be more inquisitive in nature.
Oddly enough, the subject line that I’ve had the most success with—albeit in a less professional manor—is just writing the word “Hey.”
In our cold emails, we typically get an open rate of around 4-6%, but if I just write the word “Hey,” that open rate goes up to about 12.5%.
Create the best introduction
Once you’ve dialed in the subject line, you should turn to create the best intro section. Again, this will depend on your industry and what you’re looking to accomplish, but here are a few tips:
- No more than 2-3 sentences per paragraph. There has been a lot of research that proves that people are more likely to read smaller, broken up paragraphs than one large paragraph.
- Personally address the email (if possible). They easiest way to get ignored is to send a bland, generic email that you clearly sent to dozens of other people. Your email should be customized by at least switching out names.
- Use simple font so that nothing distracts from the main point of your email. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen emails with fancy fonts that look unprofessional and divert my attention from the substance.
- Bold where appropriate in your email to grab the reader’s attention and help them find the most important information. Do not overdo it, as this can easily turn from helpful to obnoxious.
President & CEO, PhoenixNAP Global IT Services
You only have one chance to make a first impression. With an email, that may be 3 seconds. During your research, look up the person receiving the email and find their interests, wants and desires so that you can get the most from your message. This approach lets you stand out from the rest and prove to your prospects that you have what it takes to meet their needs each step of the way. I like to implement this in the subject line.
Don’t focus on yourself, focus on the benefits you provide
Don’t talk about yourself, this is a good way to turn people off. You should only include enough information about yourself to grab the necessary attention. When you send an email, the person on the other end cares first about what they can gain from the interaction.
Keep it short and simple
The key is to keep your introduction as short as possible so that you can transition into the meat of your message without delay. Ensure that each word you use adds value to the communication and appeals to the needs and interests of your prospects, and it will take you far.
Proofread your content
With each email you send to a potential client or business contact, consider how typos make you look. Maintaining a professional and expert image is hard when you can’t keep your typos under control. While you don’t have to be perfect, do everything in your power to reduce the number of spelling errors that slip through the cracks.
When you proofread something you wrote, your brain thinks it knows what you wrote and skips spelling errors, making them hard to spot. Overcome that problem by using spelling and grammar checkers; I use Grammarly.
Entrepreneur | Author | Creator, Growth By Referrals
Get the receiver’s attention
How you introduce yourself in an email all depends on the context. Like most things in life – the advice of what to do depends on the situation.
The goal of most emails is to get the receiver’s attention, lower their defenses, keep them reading, and then get them to take action which can be tough to do in an email when you have to introduce yourself to a stranger.
If you are emailing a fellow association member you want to network with or cold emailing a prospect, here are some points to consider:
- Get to the point. Be brief – if someone has to scroll down on your email, they will quickly hit the delete button telling themselves they are too busy to read it.
- Start with a pattern interrupt if you can. A pattern interrupt grabs attention because it is unexpected.
- Make why you are introducing yourself about the receiver and their needs. Most of us are all more likely to keep reading an email when it is about us, on some level.
- Call a spade, a spade. If you are reaching out to someone cold, it is okay to acknowledge it.
- Don’t sugarcoat or mask your intentions. We can all clearly see your intentions thanks to our gut reactions to your message.
Co-founder & CEO, Lasting Trend
Keep it short and concise
When creating a professional email that’s going to be read by another professional you must respect their time and keep the email short. As a business owner, I don’t have the time to read an essay, just get to the point and introduce yourself and tell me why you’re reaching out.
A lot of times, email want to beat around the bush like:
Hey Tim, did you know that most agency owners don’t have enough clients to keep their doors open in the long run? Did you also know that (blah blah) and research shows that (blah blah blah) and on and on it goes before I even know who this is and why they’re emailing me?
While asking questions is good, we’re all used to these kinds of emails. Keep it quick by telling me who you are, why you’re emailing me, and why I should care, preferably in that order.
Physician | Investor, Cota Capital
Think about what the person receiving the email cares about
Female founders, big markets, serial entrepreneurs, sector expertise (e.g. Physician/Lawyer etc.), a particular school/ cause/ organization.
This can be learned by following the person on social media, reading their blog/website, enquiring from mutual connections, listening to them speak at a conference/ industry event etc. Do your homework.
Find traits in your background that are aligned with or adjacent to these objectives/ values
e.g. “I am a female founder/ serial entrepreneur building a Direct to Consumer business for a $3B Market” or “I am a Northwestern alumnus passionate about Women’s Health and just moved to SF.”
Establish credibility quickly
People are busy. It is easy to skip through cold emails especially if they get lots of them. Have a catchy subject line and establish credibility quickly giving them a reason to open the email and read the rest.
Eg. “Gen Z founder building a teen personal finance platform – $2.5B market” or “Physician Investor: Interested in your genomic sequencing startup”
Seek to build rapport
Find common ground – You went to the same high school/college, you care about the same charities, you both like running, you are both new to the industry/city/company – anything that can help them visualize themselves in your shoes – a “hook” to build a mutual rapport.
E.g. “I noticed you were President of Sigma Pi at Stanford. I was Secretary my junior year and loved it. Professor Grousbeck is still our biggest advocate. Small world!”
Have a clear ask
Don’t stop at the introduction. Have a clear ask for why you are reaching out. Make it easy for them to help you. “Can you please catch a quick call sometime next week. My Wed and Friday afternoons are open if you might have some availability.” or “Can you please make an introduction to your colleague in accounting. I have attached a note below to give a brief introduction of my background.”
Sudiksha Joshi, Ph.D.
Learning Advocate, We Are Always Learning
Set your intention: why the email?
One of the first things to figure out before you try and craft that email is what is your intention behind writing that email. Are you writing a casual thank-you-email because you like their book or their post? Do you have a question you want to be answered? Or do you want to meet with this person?
Having a clear purpose of reaching out to the person will help you set the right tone and also will allow you to set the right expectations. For example, a thank you email may not require a response from the recipient (it would be nice but not necessary). Whereas, if you want the recipient to respond a certain way, you need to make it easy for him/her to get back to you.
Establish a quick relationship
A quick association allows the recipient to look at your email with more interest. If someone referred you to the recipient mention it in the first or second sentence. If you read a book or an article or watched an interview then mention that. If you demonstrate that you know the recipient on a personal level then, it is more likely that the recipient will read your email with a personal interest.
Keep it short and simple
Time is a valuable resource for everyone, especially for the influencers who you are trying to reach out to. So, keep it short, simple and to the point.
Call to action
Don’t keep the recipient guessing as to what you want them to do with the email. Spell out the action you want them to take after reading the email. If you want a quick answer to your question, ask the question and mention that you’d love to hear her/his answer.
If you want them to give you some of their time to meet over the phone or in person, ask them if they’d be willing to do so. The first email should be about asking for permission.
Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
If you have a contact in common who mentioned the person to you, I start the e-mail with a subject line of “XYZ suggested we connect” so that even if they do not recognize my name in their inbox XYZ should ring a bell.
If you saw them speak at a conference or read an article they wrote, you can tailor the subject line to that such as “Loved your piece on ____ in HuffPo!” or “Great talk at the conference this week!”
Then I check them out on LinkedIn and let them know in the e-mail that “I see we also have # connections in common” to make me seem more familiar to them.
Then I explain why I would like to connect to bridge the intro and suggest we set up a call at their convenience. It usually works and it shows I have done my homework and am respectful of their time.
CEO & Founder, Skin Care Ox
Get to the point
The opening line is the most important part of your email. Establish relevance and focus on your main objective in this first line. Here’s a quick and easy way to do that:
“I noticed you’re the content manager at [COMPANY] and I’d love to chat more about sharing some awesome new research with your readers.”
Before sending your email, do something for them first. Review their book on Amazon, review their business on Yelp, suggest a useful tool they might use at work, or pass along a relevant article.
Be honest and transparent
What’s worse than getting an email that says “free sample of new product” from your favorite company? But then, you open the email and there is absolutely not a new product and definitely not a free sample. Be honest, and write a compelling subject line that piques interest, but also cuts straight to the point.
For example, if you’re searching for a job, a good subject line might be:
- “Curious what working at [COMPANY] is like”
- “Are you looking for a [JOB TITLE]?”
- “Saw [COMPANY] is hiring. I’d love to apply.”
Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling
When introducing yourself in an email, start with your first and last name followed by your credentials. Offer 2 to 4 sentences about what you do. When you talk about what you do, use language as if you were talking to a third grader, so everyone can understand.
If you come off as egotastic in your first email by using complicated jargon and long words to describe what you do, or people will have no idea what it is that you do for work or for your job. You need to simplify what you do so that someone who has no idea about your field or your specialty can understand.
Then, you can always go into more detail. Always provide multiple forms of contact information including your number, your email, and your website. If you’re selling a product or offering a service, always include a called action. For instance, “Call or text me to get started at 000-000-000.”
Founder & CEO, Docudavit Solutions
Email first impression is important, especially when introducing yourself. In order to prevent your message from getting the “delete” button, I recommend the following tips focusing on three important areas: Subject line, body organization, and signature.
Subject Line: A subject line should not exceed 50 characters. Keep it clear and concise to accurately represent the context of the email. This is arguably the most important aspect of a solid introductory email and could be the difference between “open” and “delete”.
Body Organization: The body of your email should open with a professional, friendly greeting and an introductory sentence or paragraph about who you are. The second paragraph should explain the purpose of your email or what you want from the reader. Lastly, the closing paragraph should politely thank the reader for their attention and time. Keep it clean and to the point.
Email Signature: Every professional email should contain a signature at the bottom of the body. It’s recommended to include an electronic signature or logo and contact information.
Whenever I want to connect with someone via email, I first go through their social media profiles as well as any written content they’ve produced. Often I’ll find a common interest or an achievement that I can refer to in the email that shows I’ve done my research.
If you can then offer value up front that helps them in some way, you’re far more likely to receive a response. Here, simply link that offer to your best guess at their business goals.
It’s also worth remembering that whoever you’re contacting likely receives hundreds of emails a day. Don’t be afraid to follow up – it may feel like nagging, but if you do it right, they’ll appreciate it.
Just be sure to add an easy out, something along the lines of ‘if you’re not interested in this, no worries at all, I’m still a big fan of your work’.
Founder, A Plus Editor
How are you? I hope you are doing well today. My name is Attiyya Atkins, founder of www.apluseditor.com, a ghostwriting, editing, and polishing agency. I have the knowledge you need for this story, and would love to offer my assistance to help you reach your publishing goals. Thank you for your time.
That above is a pretty standard formula for introducing yourself. I will pick it apart and explain.
I say Greetings, in some cultures and religions Hello is not preferred. I work with clients all over the world, and I’ve found a good salutation is Greetings or Good morning, Good evening, etc. I use the first name for informal emails and first name, last name, and title for more professional emails.
Then I always ask how the person is doing. True, you might not get a response, but that’s the first way to show that you care about the other person.
Next sentence, I introduce myself using my first name, last name, and title. Then I proceed on how I can assist the person I am emailing or the reason for my email.
Then I conclude with a Thank You and a closing statement. With introductory emails, its important to know that your email can get lost in spam folders so it is necessary to follow up, with a shorter email referring to the first.
Ron Stefanski, MBA
Internet Marketing Consultant | Owner, Cat Kingpin
Use a short one-minute video introduction
One of the best ways to introduce yourself is to do what others aren’t, and that’s to use video. I’ve used video for quite a while and it’s been really well received because it puts a face to a name and makes you much more than just text in an email to someone.
Most people won’t do this because it takes too much time, but a short one-minute video introduction always gets more responses for me than just text.
Consultant | Author
Study the person both professionally and personally. Only look at interviews and videos when it is the person themselves on the screen being themselves i.e. TED, CNN, Bloomberg or at a conference.
Read only the interviews and their ideas that are from reputable venues i.e. WSJ, NYTimes, Forbes, Bloomberg etc. Do not read what other people say about this person. People have a love-hate public relationship with people and unless you are part of their conversations you do not know if this is the truth.
It also will fill your mind with gossip and emotions that will take away your authenticity and pureness in the writing. You need to come from a place of non-judgment of this person and complete objectivity of who they are.
Listen to and go with your emotional, social intelligence. What does this person say to you? Who are they intellectually, morally, legally, financially, culturally, socially and their sense of social responsibility? Does this person have qualities, attributes and character acumens that you can speak to in the letter?
Here is the key to my success in writing cold letters of introductions for 20 years:
In your letter, come from an internal place of “what and how can I contribute to this person’s life and or the company? How can I use all that I have been imbued with and given in life to be in service”.
The more powerful, wealthy and important the person that I am writing. They find it refreshing that you are coming to them regarding what you will do for them not what will they do for your resume.
If they are a mid-level manager speak to their background, where they are now and why you are interested in working for them. Write about something in common if possible and why you are drawn to them in a pragmatic, practical and skillful manner. Do not make this emotional and personal.
Send the letter to yourself as an email first. Read it with virgin eyes as if you are the recipient (not yourself). Be critical, merciless, laugh at yourself ie. What was I thinking? Then rewrite it a few times. Sit on it for a day go back again in the same way via an email to yourself. Think as they do. How will they interpret your words, purpose, and intention?
Be discerning and objective. Take your thoughts and see the person at their desk reading your email. The goal is to get them to say yes for a ten-minute meeting. State who you are, what you want, why they need to meet you.
Co-founder, Elwynn + Cass
The best way I have found to introduce myself in an email is to first preface with my reasoning for reaching out.
For example, writing:
I hope you are doing well. I wanted to reach out because _____ (ex: you love their work, a friend recommended them, you met them at an event, etc.). My name is ____ and I do ____”
By prefacing the start of your email with why you are reaching out you are giving them context and that you are an actual person who has some connection to them. By not doing this, it is more than likely someone will assume you are sending out a mass email and didn’t do any research or truly care who they are as a person.
When you engage in small talk and have done your research on the person, then they know you genuinely care about building a connection and not short term gain.
Head of Digital Marketing, WikiJob
An engaging subject line is key
Sending an email to introduce yourself can be tricky. Business people receive such a large quantity of emails daily that unrecognized email addresses can be ignored or sent straight to trash.
So an engaging subject line is key. This is the first thing that the recipient will see and determines whether they open or junk your email.
The subject line should be relevant to the purpose of the email and the audience. Unless you are very sure that an attention-grabbing joke will go down well (and it is more likely it won’t), keep the subject line professional, short and to the point.
Next, make sure you personalize your introduction email. The recipient will be able to tell at a glance if it is a generic copy-and-paste effort. If you can, find out the recipient’s name and use it. If not, use their job title or give some specific information relevant to their company to show you have done your research.
If you have met or spoken briefly before – for instance at a conference – or if a colleague or friend set up the introduction, mention this as a point of reference.
Clearly – but briefly – state why you are writing. Tell them your name and title in the first sentence and briefly explain the purpose of the email. Introductory emails can be an inquiry about a job or collaboration, a request for advice or an explanation of services that you offer. Do not be too demanding; remain polite and respectful of their time.
End with a call to action. Maybe you want to arrange a call to discuss further or for the recipient to provide further information. Remember that the recipient usually hasn’t invited this contact, so don’t ask for too much from them.
Super Julie Braun
Stand out from the sea of sameness
Everyone says the first impression is important. If that first impression is over email, it can be a nerve-racking experience. How do you stand out from the millions of emails being sent and received every day?
Testing = the science of what works
Fortunately, you do have time to think about what you are going to say before you send the email. Whatever you end up sending, test it with several people and see what your results are. For example, if you send your email out to 20 people and 2 people respond, you have a 10% response rate!
That’s pretty amazing for 1 email. Test and refine, test and refine. Over time, you will hone your email to the best and highest response rate.
Simple powerful email must-haves
Here are 3 key points to make in a powerful “I must read this” email.
- Introduce yourself and include WHY are you reaching out to them. The purpose is the most important thing you can communicate. “Hi Chante’! I’m (fill in your name and position) and I’m reaching out to you because I think you could be a fantastic (relationship or reason you are reaching out) for us!”
- Include your CALL TO ACTION! “Here’s what I would like to do, let’s meet for 30 minutes next week on/at (location like video Skype, coffee shop, wherever). Please send me a few times/days that work for you so we can get this on the calendar. I’ll be checking for your email response in the next few days.”
- Include WHEN! In your CALL TO ACTION, include the when to act. Notice the “I’ll be checking for your email response in the next few days.” That is the action when you must include in order to be successful.
Finally, emails are only the beginning. Don’t think that 1 email is going to get you the deal or even a meeting. You will need to follow up other ways like Social Media, phone or text, face-to-face visit, etc. Once you have established your relationship with your intended person, they will be more and more responsive to your email and your purpose.
Have something to offer of value to them
The only way to introduce yourself effectively in an email is to show the recipient of your communication that you value their time – and have something to offer of value to them.
Put more effort into gathering background information before crafting a customized email. As Einstein said when asked how if given an hour, he would solve a problem “I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about it, and 5 minutes solving it”.
By way of example. Let’s say you’re seeking a new job and have made a list of individuals you’d like to speak with. The steps before your email outreach could include:
- Googling the person to discover media, profiles and social media accounts.
- Following them on Twitter or SnapChat or Linkedin.
- Reading their blog posts.
- Listening to podcast interviews they are featured in.
- Watching video interviews or TED talks they have conducted.
- Depending on the prominence of the person, setting up a Google alert notification.
- Attending any public events or panels they are speaking on.
- Discovering if you have a common connection on Linkedin. If possible, ask any common connections for insights about the person.
This “pre-email” drafting prep may sound like a lot of work, however, putting in the preparation will pay off. You’ll have a fuller picture of the person you’re trying to connect with – their challenges and how you can help address those – all of which will come through in focused, personalized email. Any less preparation and the risk is your email is ignored completely, as most generic emails are.
Executive Associate, Moshes Law
Use the right greeting
When creating an email, a formal introduction is usually the best way to start unless you know them in any way. A lot of people say it’s okay to be informal and act all buddy buddy with them but from my experience, I don’t see that as the case. I’d much rather see an email address me as “Mr. Litvin” and not “Hey Gennady”.
I do not know you so trying to act as my longtime pal from my college days won’t work with me and doing so with no prior relationship can sometimes come off as insulting. This is also the case with the emails that I myself send out to people. People like to feel big and respected.