The Anatomy of a Great Email Introduction

Introductions are a critical part of being a good professional and friend. Do them well and you’ll be seen as a valuable contact and person to know and stay in touch with. Do them poorly and you’ll find people avoiding contact with you, in person and any other channel.

Step 1: Always, always use a double opt-in

Double opt-in means that you first confirm from both parties that they’d like to meet each other before you make the introduction.
I prefer to make introductions only when there’s a great fit on both sides. in which case I’d be more likely to tweet the request or share on Facebook.

In general, when I want to make an intro, I want to maximize the chances that it results in an actual engagement. This means I won’t make an introduction on behalf of someone I can’t vouch for, and I only introduce them to people I know well and who are likely to follow up.

Let’s go through each element one at a time…

1) Subject: This has got to be catchy. Sometimes I make it short and vague (if they’re a busy person and I’m trying to pique their curiosity). Other times I do a more straight forward “Steve meet Joe [starting a blog”. Gotta make sure they open the email in a timely fashion!

2) Quick personal chit-chat: I only introduce people that I know decently well and who knew me. In this case, it was more of a business contact, but I gave them an update on what I was doing and wished their business well.

3) Who I’m introducing you to: This is where I give the background of the people I’m making the introduction for. I usually try to highlight how I know them, (in this case I forgot to) and showcase whatever they’re doing in the best light possible. In this case I included links to show what these entrepreneurs were up to.

4) “The Ask”: Here is where I ask the person I’m reaching out to for something. I think it’s important to have a specific request in mind. Usually this ask is for advice, perspective, a meeting, a beta invite — just ask for something! In this case, I asked the guy for his perspective on their startup’s contests and whether it would make sense for them to sell it as a product to web publishers. [1]

5) Why I’m asking you: This is where I establish the background of the person I’m reaching out to – both for the benefit of the people I’m making the introduction for, and also to underline why I’m asking this particular person for help. No one wants arbitrary requests – this shows you’ve thought about this.

6) Flattery/Compliments: If I’m making the introduction, it’s because I like and respect this person and I think a genuine indication of my high regard for that person is really valuable. Buttering up your target never hurts =)

7) Fun sign off  or extra personal request: This is optional but I like to do it. I almost always add a PS in my emails because almost everyone reads them and you can add something tangential to the email, like a joke or an additional request. In this case, I’m asking if the guy I’m emailing knows anyone who are going to Burning Man.


So that’s what I got. I think introductions are a super powerful thing – I’ve gotten a lot of benefits from a well-written introduction and I strive mightly to ensure that every introduction I make adds value to both parties.

What do you think? How do you do email introductions? Anything I missed or got wrong? Let me know in the comments.


[1] One of my friends just got back from an internship in Washington D.C. and one of his biggest complaints is that he’d get introductions to meet legit people, but they’d get there and no one really knew what the meeting was for. It was just a “hey you two should meet”, which tend to be really crappy.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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  1. I always like it when people put both parties’ names in the subject line. I find that makes it easier to relocate the email intro amongst the pile of stuff in my inbox. And helps me remember the name of the person to whom I’m being intro’d.

  2. @HealyHoops Hey Healy – good call. In this case, I really wanted the guy to open the email, and I think that subject was going to be more catchy that “Hey X Meet Y and Z”. But you’re right, having names definitely helps with remembering.

  3. yeah, I’m a fan of the double opt-in introduction. You can actually email the intro target in advance with “2) Personal chit chat” and “5) why i’m asking you” so you can send a concise email to both parties which will be easy to find and easy to respond to.

    For the subject lines, I’m a fan of “introduction: person a (company a) / person b (company b)” so folks can easily retrieve email and provide some context. I think people generally know you are asking for something with almost any subject lines other than “hey” but they have no other basis to decide whether to click through unless they know the relevancy from the subject line.

  4. That is one of the most suave emails I’ve ever read. Will be forwarding this post to those that need to introduce me to others but maybe aren’t as smooth as yourself Jason ;)

  5. @vkw Great point Victor, if the intro is particularly sensitive or important, it can help to do an additional, pre-intro email to your target to make sure everyone is on the same page. Sometimes that ends up taking longer than just sending one long intro – but sometimes it can speed up the process if your target is really busy / in demand.

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