Many underestimate how hard it is to write that first message to someone you don’t know – whether it’s to talk to a potential cofounder, advisor or just networking. There’s the dreaded blinking cursor on that blank, white background just staring at you. It’s hard to craft – how long should it be to get them interested, but not so long it gets ignored? Should you get into details and numbers about your company or keep it high level? Recently. we were revamping messaging on the site and in an effort to see what was and wasn’t working we analyzed thousands of messages that have been sent via FounderDating to advisors, fellow entrepreneurs and potential cofounders. There were a lot of surprises, but one of the more interesting analyses came from a visualization of the words used in the most responded to and then in the not responded to messages. Here’s the top 3 things that guarantee failure or success when it comes to getting a response.
The Don’ts - What NOT to include in your first message:
1. Hard sell – you can see words like ‘mobile’, ‘developer’ and ‘app’ indicative of the sender talking about their idea and what they need. No one joins you in any role after a hard sell in the initial email, it just doesn’t happen.
2. Give your email (if via a private network) – might not be intuitive, but we noticed that first messages that include the sender’s email, rather than just assuming they will reply directly to the message if they’re interested, had much lower response rates. It’s aggressive, salesy and unnecessary.
3. Forget to give context – you’re so busy hard selling you don’t tell them why you’re messaging them. Oops…
The Dos - What TO include in your first message:
1. Keep it light – ‘Hi’, ‘chat’, and ‘coffee’ are all words that keep things light and don’t make anything seem like a hard sell (see #1 in don’ts) or make it feel like it’s some major commitment if all you want to do is learn more.
2. Make it about them – use words that make it clear you know a little something about them and have a reason for reaching out (‘saw’ or ‘interesting’ or ‘love’).
3. Show appreciation – you’ll notice ‘thanks’ is literally one of the biggest words – no coincidence. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.
We know, this doesn’t make reaching out easy, but hopefully easier. Honestly, the most important detail is that no matter what the response is, at least you put yourself out there. You can’t make progress if you don’t take a few risks and writing a message is small in the scheme of things.