Email Best Practices Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know

Riley Soward
Apr 5, 2016 · 4 min read

As a Dorm Room Fund partner and a co-founder of Campus Insights, email is a central part of my daily life. But email etiquette in a work setting isn’t something that I was ever taught.

Over the past couple years, I’ve come across a few practices that I wish I had read or was told. The three tips below are nothing profound, but not knowing them when starting out with email cost me a few times.

1) If someone offers to make an email introduction for you, write the introduction email for them.

Introductions are always being made in the startup space. I am continually impressed by people’s’ willingness to help others through introductions. I’ve come to learn that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for email intros. But, when someone is making an introduction, it’s vital that you make it as easy as possible for the introducer.

I didn’t get this at first, but after seeing how busy VCs, founders, and other people in tech are, it now makes sense. People don’t want to spend even five minutes thinking about how to describe your business or who you are. They want something they can copy and paste into a new email window, quickly tweak, and then send.

I sometimes will write the introduction email start to finish, including an opening line where I explain how the introducer knows me.

In other cases, I’ll just send a short description of what my company does. For example:

Keep it concise.

Although this means a bit more work for you, it’s certainly in your best interest. This will increase the chances that someone will carry through with introducing you. Furthermore, it will allow you to control how your business or goal is described.*

*Most introducers find it helpful when someone writes the introduction email for them. That said, don’t force your suggested introduction email upon the introducer. Merely present it as an option.

2) When you receive an email introduction, reply all and move the introducer to bcc.

From my experience, when someone makes an introduction, they want to know the next step was taken. There’s no need to pull them into a long email chain, so moving them to bcc is the way to go. For example:

If you reply only to the person you were introduced to, then the introducer might worry that nothing happened on either side.

If you don’t want the introducer to see the content of your email to the person to whom you were introduced, an alternative is to reply to the person and to the introducer in two different emails. This also works, but for efficiency purposes, I prefer using bcc.

3) When someone doesn’t reply to your email, don’t be afraid to follow-up.

This has been the hardest thing for me to grasp. When you are new to email and don’t hear back from someone, it’s easy to assume the person doesn’t want to talk to you. This is (hopefully) rarely the case.

Do not be afraid to follow up multiple times if you don’t hear back. I’ll usually wait about five days (this is up to you) before following-up. I use an awesome gmail plugin called Mixmax to resurface any important emails that don’t get replies.

When I don’t hear back, I send something really concise. For example:

In situations where I’m introduced via email, I’ll usually keep following up until I get a response (within reason). In situations where I’ve sent a cold email, I’ll usually follow-up about four times. While this may seem annoying, you need to keep in mind just how busy people are. It is so easy to miss an email in your inbox or see an email and forget to reply. I commonly get responses like this:

The key to avoiding being annoying is to give the person an option to end the email thread. Usually starting at the third follow-up email, I’ll something like include:

“I know you are incredibly busy — feel free to let me know if you don’t have the bandwidth to connect.”

In many situations where I consistently follow-up, I’ll get a response that includes something saying “I appreciate the hustle” or “thanks for the persistence and sorry for the delay.” Don’t be afraid to follow-up.

Recap:

1) If someone offers to make an email introduction for you, write the introduction email for them.

2) When you receive an email introduction, reply all and move the introducer to bcc.

3) When someone doesn’t reply to your email, don’t be afraid to follow-up.

These are only a few tips for emails and I’m very interested in hearing others’ thoughts, especially if you have a different approach than I do. Please feel free to leave a comment below!


We are dedicated to supporting student founders across the country and help them reach new heights. Working on a startup? Get in touch on twitter or here.

Riley Soward

Written by

Co-founder / CEO of @CampusInsights & @DormRoomFund partner