There is one absolutely right way and one absolutely wrong way to introduce two people via email.
The wrong way: “You should talk to my friend Meghan. Here’s her email. Tell her I sent you.”
The right way: Read on, MacDuff.
Have you ever had someone call or email you out of the blue, and tell you a friend sent them? Did you completely believe them or were you a little wary? What if you were on the other end of that referral? Did you feel comfortable making that call?
I’ve known people who have been the caller and the callee, the emailer and the emailee, and it’s not comfortable for either of them to be involved in that kind of introduction.
Here’s the proper way to make that introduction.
1. Introduce both people and explain who they are
Steve, meet Nadine Wassername. She owns Wassername Communications, a public relations agency here in town. We met at a PR Flaks & Hacks Convention in 2008, and have worked together regularly. Nadine, meet Steve Newguy. Steve is a freelance writer and former investigative reporter with the Fort Tecumseh Herald Star. We met when he was working on a story on the unpasteurized cheese epidemic.
This is the kind of introduction you would make at a networking event. It helps them establish credibility with each other, and sets the stage for. . .
2. Explain how the introduction occurred to you
I was having coffee with Nadine this morning, and she mentioned she was looking for a new writer for an upcoming client project. I thought this sounded like a perfect opportunity for Steve, because he has been a journalist for 16 years, and has won several awards for his work.
I like a little back story to these introductions. Explaining the situation this way is certainly a lot better than “you two need to meet. Nadine has a project she wants to tell you about.” And yes, I’ve seen these kinds of introductions. The two people will then spend their first (and possibly only) meeting playing 20 Questions, trying to figure out what you meant.
3. Brag both people up, make the connection
Given his work as an investigative reporter, Steven was considered one of the best writers at his newspaper. Nadine told me she needed a top-notch writer who didn’t need any hand-holding or having anyone watch over their shoulder, because this was an important client. This is why I think the two of you need to meet — Nadine has an exciting project, Steve has the skills and experience to do it right.
I like the direct approach here. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t be humble on their behalf. Talk them up and speak to their strengths (but don’t overinflate; it makes you look like a bad judge of character). Some people are able to connect the dots on their own, and others need a little help. If you tell each other why they need to connect, they’re more likely to do it.
4. Tell them to take the next step
I think the two of you should meet for coffee in the next week or two to see if you can find a way to help each other. I’ll leave it to you to take the next step and find a way to connect.
This part of the intro puts the ball back in their court(s) and should persuade one of them to take the next step. Please note that I did not say Nadine needs to hire Steve. No need to put that kind of pressure on either of them. I suggested only that they meet, and find a way to “help each other.” That help may end up being Nadine saying Steve isn’t a good fit, but she knows of a better opportunity. Or it may be that Steve doesn’t think he’s right for the project, but knows someone who is. Or, she may hire him on the spot.
5. Expect nothing in return
One of the important things to remember is that when you do this, do not expect a quid pro quo exchange of favors. Steve or Nadine don’t owe you an introduction to someone. You need to get on with your life and believe you’ll never get the favor returned. That way, you won’t be disappointed.
If you fret over and count the introductions you make, you’ll make yourself unhappy keeping track of them all. Make as many of these introductions as you can, and wait for benefits to come your way. Whether you call them blessings, karma points, or the universe smiling on you, these little favors have a way of being visited back upon you. Don’t ruin it by expecting repayment.
Sending introductory emails are one of the most fun and valuable things I get to do for other people. I’ve connected people for freelance gigs, job possibilities, and even just connecting really smart people with big ideas who I think could create something awesome. It’s enjoyable to see something come about because of connections I’ve made, and to know that lives were changed because I took five minutes to make a valuable connection between two people who could make a difference to each other.
If you’re going to send email introductions, please do not just mutter “oh, just call Nadine.” That’s laziness on your part, and will end up hurting both you and your friends more than it will ever help.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, a newspaper humor columnist, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. His third book, The Owned Media Doctrine, will be available this summer.