@GeeknRolla: VC Chris Fralic on the art of the email intro

Before you sign any deal, you need to make contact. For most start-ups seeking that all-important first meeting with potential investors or partners, email is the first means of communication.

But as Chris Fralic, managing partner at First Round Capital, told GeeknRolla delegates on Tuesday, there’s a right way and a wrong way to establish email contact with VCs and he says start-ups could save themselves a lot of time and disappointment if they follow these simple rules of email etiquette…

1. Subject line matters: “If all you’re doing is writing ‘intro’ in the subject line it could lost.” Try putting the name of the company or your name in there, he says. Even better, include something that might be interesting enough to read.

2. WIFM, or What’s In It For Me?: “People say ‘we should meet for coffee’, but I don’t know who you are. Ask yourself: is there any evidence in your email that you know who we are? I see emails from people who haven’t even looked at our website.”

3. Attach a CV, if it’s relevant: Fralic says getting an idea of who people are and where they’re coming from could help them get a foot in the door.

4. Make it easy to reach you. “Every email signature – even on your replies – should have every possible way to reach you. You need to be a click away.” Every executive summary needs contact info too, says Fralic, who stresses this is a key error a lot of people make.

5. Make it easy to help you: “Don’t just ask your board member or friend to introduce you. Best practice here is send an email to your connector that has everything in it… rather than people having to cut and paste to help you.”

6. Firewalls and obligations: Fralic highlights the tricky issue issue with email introductions that come via a shared contact – what if the targeted person doesn’t want get in touch but feels awkward saying no? “The best tool is LinkedIn: there’s a firewall and a chain of decisions as to whether the target wants to receive the invitation. What you don’t want is an obligation on the part of the recipient.”

7. Lean forward on your response: Don’t just send countless emails talking about meeting – actually arrange a meeting with a time and place and make it happen.

8. But don’t create an endless loop: “You can use BCC to copy people into emails without constantly updating everybody.”

Other than that, Fralic encourages would-be pitchers to “be yourself, use some personality” in messages. And he warns that while companies may be targeting more than one VC firm at any one time, it’s a dangerous game to send the same pitch to more than one company simultaneously. “Pick one and only one target,” he says.

And lastly – this is coming from a man who has clearly said this to a few start-ups – Fralic advises people to be respectful and understand that “no means ‘no’“.