Sooner or later, you’re going to need to introduce yourself in an email. However, if you don’t introduce yourself effectively, or with proper etiquette, you could end up hurting your chances of making a connection, or getting the relationship off to a bad start.
Here’s how to introduce yourself in an email.
Email Introductions: An Overview
Let’s start with a high-level overview, then dig into some of the strategies and examples that can make you better at introducing yourself.
Ultimately, you have three goals:
- Get attention. Most professionals get too many emails to deal with on a daily basis. If you don’t have a compelling subject line, or if your message seems like a chore to get through, people aren’t going to read it. Your first job is therefore to get attention and convince your recipient that your message is worth reading.
- Make a good impression. Your recipient should be smiling when they get to the end of your message. You need to make a good first impression if you want this relationship to go anywhere. That means paying attention to basic email etiquette, providing value, and being unique.
- Encourage action. There’s a reason you’re introducing yourself. Do you want advice? Are you trying to land a sale? Do you need a favor? Your message should motivate these actions.
Every element of your introductory email should be working toward one or more of these goals. And don’t worry that these goals are too broad—we’ll be exploring specific strategies, with examples, so you can polish your introduction email to perfection.
Step 1. Choose the Right Subject Line
Everything starts with your subject line. Most people will choose whether to open or delete an email immediately, based on the subject line alone. We’ve written a few guides on subject lines, including a list of 51 examples of subject lines that work for sales professionals and subject lines for networking emails, but we’ll leave you with a few key highlights here, which you can use to construct a better introduction subject:
- Keep it short. You only have so much room to write a subject line, and in general, shorter subjects work better.
- Do something original. If your subject line looks like it could have been written by an algorithm, or if your recipient has seen it a million times already, they’re not going to think much of it. Come up with something unique.
- Make it personally relevant. Add in some element that makes it personally identifiable; in other words, make it so this subject line couldn’t work for anyone else. Something like, “Saw your name in the paper – congrats!” could work, provided it’s contextually relevant.
- Convey value. Effective subject lines convey value. Offering to take your recipient to lunch or coffee is a good start; you can also offer advice.
- Consider tying it to an action. If you’re strongly motivated to get your recipient to take action, consider influencing that action in the subject. For example, “Are you accepting guest author submissions?” can work. However, requests like these can also be flagged as salesy, rather than personal, and may get your email deleted without second thought. Use these with caution.
Because “short” is your main priority, subject lines like “Coffee this week?” or “Introducing myself” can work well, even if they don’t have much specific information. Get to know your recipient as best you can, and tailor your message to their needs and preferences.
Step 2. Capitalize on the CC Field (If You Can)
If you’re introducing yourself because of a mutual contact, or if you’re introducing two other people to each other, you can make good use of the CC field. In case you aren’t aware, including an email address in the CC field provides that person with a copy of the email, and shows the recipient who you’re CCing.
It’s a convenient way to swap information (provided you’ve had permission from both parties to introduce each other).
You can also use this as a way to softly suggest your own credibility or trustworthiness. For example, let’s say you know a person, Bob, who works at a company with the person you’d like to meet, Liz. You can shoot Liz an email CCing Bob, assuming these three things are true:
- Bob and Liz work together and know each other decently well. Don’t simply reference another person who happens to work in the same building.
- You have Bob’s permission and/or understanding. A quick conversation beforehand can make sure Bob doesn’t pop on the thread with confusion.
- You reference Bob in the body of the email. We’ll touch more on this later, but make sure you draw attention to your mutual contact beyond the CC field.
We’ve written a full guide on how to use CC properly, so make sure you consult it if you don’t have much experience with CC-related etiquette.
Step 3. Choose the Right Greeting
At this point, you have a recipient and a subject line. Now it’s time to start the body of the email. Everything starts with your greeting.
We’ve got a massive guide on email greetings that you should definitely explore. But in the meantime, consider these features:
- Formality and tone. Some greetings are more formal than others, and some are friendlier or “warmer.” Choose the greeting that makes the most sense for your desired relationship. Are you approaching a veteran professional as a seasoned expert? If so, you’ll want something more formal, like “Good evening, Mr./Ms. [last name].” Are you reaching out to a peer in the hopes of having a friendly conversation? Something like “Hey [first name]! How are you?” might work.
- You might also get points for originality. You can showcase your personality and personal brand, at least slightly, with your choice of greeting.
- Personal relevance. Finally, consider starting your email with a message that’s personally relevant. Something like “Congratulations on [accomplishment]!” can provide a recipient with immediate flattery, and a reference like, “It was great to see you at [event/place]!” can be perfect, provided it’s accurate.
Consider your relationship to this person, as well as their personality and preferences. Ultimately, you may have to trust your instincts.
Step 4. Make a Good First Impression
When you introduce yourself in an email, it’s your opportunity to make a good first impression. You can do this with etiquette, flattery, and friendliness.
In this section, we’ll list seven tips you can use to improve your impression in an introductory email. You don’t need to use all of them, nor are all of them appropriate for every occasion. Use your best judgment with these.
1. Start Your Email Focused on the Recipient
After the greeting, you might be tempted to start talking about yourself, with something like, “I’m [name], and I’m a prominent [such and such]…” If this person doesn’t know you, this is a good way to turn someone off immediately. Instead, start the email about them. A simple sentence like, “I love your work on [subject]” or “I read your post on [topic]” can immediately warm them to the rest of your message.
2. Flatter Your Recipient (but Don’t Go Overboard)
There’s an element of flattery in starting the email focused on your recipient, but you may want to go even further. Telling them you’ve been inspired by their work, or complimenting their latest achievement, can make them feel good. However, you’ll need to be careful with this; if you’re obnoxiously flattering, or if you come off as insincere, your recipient may feel like they’re being persuaded or manipulated. Keep it in check.
3. Find Something in Common
Through the phenomenon of similarity attraction, people tend to be more attracted to people who they share commonalities with. The term “commonalities” is broad for a reason; it could be similar physical features, a similar background, or similar interests and hobbies. Anything you find in common with your recipient can be valuable—you just have to find something.
Depending on how public this person is, this may be easy or challenging. For example, you might note that you’re part of the same conference, or that you attended the same event recently.
4. Reference a Mutual Contact
You can evoke commonality and strengthen your potential bond by referencing a mutual contact in the body of your message. We discussed this earlier; if you know someone who works with your new contact, consider bringing them up. This can reinforce your credibility, and even present an early talking point. Again, just make sure this person knows that you’re going to reference them, or it might be taken as bad etiquette.
5. Ask for Help
The so-called Benjamin Franklin effect is a psychological phenomenon that makes us show fondness for people to whom we provide favors. In a counterintuitive twist, sometimes people are more likely to think highly of you if you ask them for help. This is partially a trick of the brain, and partially because human beings genuinely like to help each other.
If you have a favor to ask, especially if it’s small, go ahead and ask it. If you’re not sure what kind of favor they can do for you, just ask them for a bit of advice—people generally love to talk about subjects in which they’re an expert, and it only takes a moment to write a couple sentences of advice.
6. Offer Help
Conversely, you can also add value to your introductory message by offering some type of help. If you do this, make sure your “help” isn’t just a sales pitch in disguise, or the sincerity of your message is going to be questioned. For example, you could offer to take this person out for coffee or lunch, or offer to contribute content to their blog. As long as you’re actually providing value to them, they’re going to take it as a positive gesture.
7. Be Confident
Throughout your message, it’s important to convey confidence. Don’t undermine yourself with phrases like, “If you want, we could…” or “this is just my opinion, but I think…” Instead, phrase your content with as much resoluteness and confidence as possible (without verging on arrogance).
Step 5. Get to the Point
Remember, your recipient is likely already overwhelmed with emails. Your message is going to be faster, more effective, and better received if it’s short. If you’re introducing yourself for a specific reason, get to that reason as quickly as possible, and don’t beat around the bush.
For example, you can simply say, “I’m trying to meet people in the industry and get their opinions for a book I’m writing,” or “I was hoping to get your advice on a new project I’m working on.”
Step 6. End With a Clear Call to Action
What is your goal in sending this email? Chances are, you want this person to take some kind of action, so reference that action when you close the message. For example, you can end the email with, “Let me know if you have 15 minutes for a phone call!” or “I’d love it if you could check out my website and give me a few pointers.”
Without the call-to-action (CTA), your recipient may not know exactly what to do next. This way, you give them an avenue for further interaction, and it’s their choice whether or not they take it.
Step 7. Express Gratitude
Expressing gratitude is going to help you in a few different ways. First, it will help you feel better about your message.
Second, it will show your recipient that you value them and value their time—even if they don’t follow through with your desired action.
You don’t have to overthink this, nor do you need any flowery messaging. A simple “Thank you for your time!” at the end of the message is totally fine.
A Note on Following Up
Now you know how to introduce yourself in an email! But it’s important to also know that your introductory message will often not get a response. If your recipient is busy, on holiday, or if they just don’t care, they may not respond to your email right away. It’s perfectly acceptable to follow up on your introduction, with a few important caveats:
- Don’t follow up too quickly. People are busy, and shouldn’t be expected to respond to a simple introductory email in 24 hours or less. Give them a few days, or even a full week, before your first follow-up message.
- Be polite and sincere in your follow-ups. Be polite and straightforward in your follow-up messages. Impatience, sarcasm, and jokes aren’t going to be taken well. Writing a message like, “Hello? Anyone there?” might be funny between friends, but to a stranger, it leaves a bad impression. Instead, opt for straightforward phrasing like, “Hello again! I just wanted to follow up with you and see if you had a chance to read my first message.”
- Know when to call it quits. In many cases, your recipient will respond to one of your follow-ups, but if they consistently ignore you, it’s on you to take the hint. There’s no hard rule for how many follow-ups to send, but you should use your best judgment; in most cases, more than three follow-ups is uncalled for, and won’t increase your chances of success.
If you’re not used to sending follow-up messages, or if you want to make sure you get it right, be sure to read our comprehensive guide on how to write follow-up emails.
Now that you know how to introduce yourself in an email, it’s a good idea to get a better understanding of your email effectiveness. This includes how many emails you send, how many responses you get back, and even your busiest times and days of the week. To do that, you’ll need an analytics tool.
If you use Gmail, that tool is EmailAnalytics! With EmailAnalytics, you can get detailed data visuals on all your email activity, so you can gain control over your favorite communication medium. Sign up for a free trial today, and learn what you’ve been missing!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.