Top four email mistakes to avoid when you have a referral

You’ve probably used a referral to ask a stranger for an informational interview or a chance to talk about your business. If you make your initial contact by email, please avoid the following common mistakes:

  • Burying the name of your mutual acquaintance in the body of your email
  • Not making it clear immediately what you’re seeking
  • Not identifying yourself clearly and succinctly
  • Putting the burden on the other party to follow up

Let’s flip these mistakes to get a list of best practices. 

4 best practices for emails following up a referral infographic

1. Highlight the name of your referrer
When I’ve got a referral, I often put the referrer’s name into my subject line. For example, “Allan Loomis referred me” or “Allan Loomis suggested I talk with you.” The familiarity of that person’s name raises the odds that the recipient will open your message. 
2. Quickly tell your reader what you’re seeking 
3. Identify yourself briefly
People are busy. They don’t want to read a long email to figure out what you want from them. Open with a line such as “Allan Loomis suggested I contact you for a brief informational interview about how you manage your investment research needs.” Then, and only then, should you give a brief self-introduction.
4. Take the initiative to suggest some times when you and the recipient of your email can connect
Nothing stops you from writing “I look forward to hearing from you.” But don’t expect your recipient to follow up. The burden is on you because you’re the person requesting the favor. I increasingly find myself writing “I will call you next week to follow up.”
Pay attention to these tips and you’ll increase your odds of success whether you’re marketing yourself or your company.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

8 replies
  1. June Bell
    June Bell says:

    Very helpful advice for anyone, regardless of what field they're in. So many emails don't get to the point quickly, which is frustrating for those of us with bulging in boxes.

  2. Jeanne Brown
    Jeanne Brown says:

    Great advice. Lately I've been introducing fellow freelancers to some of my business contacts and I'm happy to see that I've been using some of the tips here. But your last tip about taking initiative is key, and something I'll emphasize going forward. Thanks.

  3. Susan Weiner, CFA
    Susan Weiner, CFA says:

    Thanks very much for your comment! When I've got a referral, my goal is to make it as easy as possible for the person to say "yes" to a meeting with me.

  4. kiran sahu
    kiran sahu says:

    I am thankfull to you for writing these article and making me improve all my email mistakes these is the article I was searching for to improve my mistakes..
    Thanks a lot for such a great article..!!!

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