By Chris Fralic, Partner at First Round Capital in New York.

Email is broken.   Do you know anyone who loves email?  I don’t – it can be frustrating and it doesn’t scale well, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to process it all.  But for many executives it’s the reality of how a lot of business gets done, and everyone has to deal with it and make the best of it. Here’s an example (chart below) of the email volume problem I have as a venture capitalist. This is the number of emails I have SENT each year for the past 6 years.

This is my work-only, outbound-only email volume, and it seemed like a lot when it was around 10,000 a year, and in 2012 it hit around 17,000. That means I’m spending multiple hours sending an average of 76 emails every workday, and reading, processing, filing and deleting a whole lot more. And a large part of what I do involves introducing people by email. Over the years, consistently about 20% of these emails contain the word “introduction” or “intro.” So that’s why I’m passionate about sharing some of the best practices I’ve learned along the way.

The Higher Order Goals:

Before we get into the details and specifics, at a higher level I think there are several overarching themes and goals that business professionals should be striving for that certainly apply to email introductions:

1)   Help everyone involved

2)   Make it easy to help you

3)   Build relationships and reputation along the way

This means you are doing your best to make introductions and connections that you think makes sense for all parties, you’re doing all the work to make it really easy for people to respond and help you, and that with each interaction you’re building relationships and trust along with your reputation.  At the end of the day, these tips can help, but a big part of the equation is who is sending the email and the expectations from all previous interactions with your personal and/or company brand. Your reputation and relationships are big drivers of your email response rates, and you should be looking to build them both along the way.

1) The ASK

Sometimes it makes sense to just make the introduction when asked, but in most cases I think it’s a best practice to ask for and receive permission before an introduction is made. This makes it a choice for the recipient and doesn’t create an obligation. And if you’re the person asking for the introduction, you should ask the person making the introduction how they’d like to have it made, and how you can help them make it. Some people like the double opt-in approach, but I prefer the Self Contained Forwardable Email.

2) The SCFE – Self Contained Forwardable Email

This is a brand new email that is self-contained with a custom/relevant subject line and opening paragraph and a specific call to action that can be easily forwarded.  Whew…  That sounds like a lot and is, so why am I suggesting all that?

First, doing this makes it something that can be forwarded along in minutes from a mobile device along with a sentence or two about why the recipient should care/engage. And being in that category of “easy to forward” is where you want to be. You don’t want to make the person have to think about crafting an email from scratch when they’re back at their computer, or cutting and pasting from your email – many in that category never get done.  And it makes it easy for the recipient to respond or not, and they have all the information they need to make that decision.

3) Make it PERSONAL

Do some work and research on the recipient, and have the email come from your voice.   I’m talking about a sentence or two up front that shows you’ve done at least a Google search on the target/recipient, and have a sentence or two in there about why they should care and what’s in it for them. And if you’re asking for 3 introductions from someone, you should be sending them 3 separate emails.

4) Getting them to Read and Act on your Email

By and large, less Is more – spend the time to boil it down into as few sentances as possible to get your point across. Bold the ask – make it easy for them know what you’re looking for. It can make a big impact to underline or strikethrough words, and it looks clean and saves space to put links in words.