On a weekly basis, I typically provide and receive dozens of introductions. When done correctly, introductions can translate into incredibly meaningful business and personal relationships.

As we all know however, the vast majority of introductions that are made miss the mark.

The art of the introduction has been covered with great intensity within industry circles. Specifically, the “double opt-in” introduction is widely viewed as the most appropriate (and perhaps, only) method for facilitating introductions. For those not versed, the double opt-in introduction is an introduction that is made between two parties only after both sides separately acquiesce to the introduction.

On a fundamental level, I couldn’t agree more. It guarantees that each party agrees that either (or both) business or personal value can be derived by the connection.

In practice however, massively increasing workloads and the velocity of introductions that need to be made often make double opt-in’s incredibly difficult to manage. This might sound like a poor excuse, but I view it as acknowledgement of the non-utopian world we live in.

So double opt-in’s are ideal, but what to do if they are not always possible?

Before I address ways to effectively make non-double opt-in introductions, let me offer why most people make introductions – simply, to showcase network reach and signal strength. These “selfish” introductions are intended to generate goodwill with both parties that presumably will translate into some sort of future tangible economic or social benefit for the connector.

And I think it’s ok. Not all introductions need to be motivated solely by altruism, but the parties you are introducing should be receiving similar or greater value than what you receive. What most connectors fail to realize is that every introduction either generates an increase or decrease of social capital and trust – I like to think of this as “introduction capital”.

The double opt-in solves addresses most of this, but since we’ve discussed that it’s not always possible, here are ways that a non-double opt-in may be ok.

1/ You’ve received prior agreement from a party that blind introductions are ok from you. For example, let’s say Jack has asked you to be introduced to Bill. In the past, you’ve gotten the green light from Bill to freely make introductions as you see appropriate. Unless something has changed, this is ok.

2/ The small “wedding” test. If you personally were invited to someone’s wedding, you likely have a close enough friendship where blind intros occasionally are ok (rather than these “so and so is a good friend of mine” when you haven’t spoke to the person in 6 months). I have many friends who will make introductions to me, and I’ll take them happily, even if it only means me helping my friend in some small way. Keep these limited, and be thoughtful of the individual’s time.

3/Have a firm grasp of what motivates both parties. This means really spending time to understand what incents the people you are connecting, from both a personal and professional level. This will avoid meaningless connections, while greatly preserving your introduction capital with both.

4/Include context. If you are introducing Sara and Mike, make sure you clearly articulate why the email introduction is being made.

Here is an example of a bad email introduction:

“Sara, meet Mike. He’s a good guy and I think you two will have great partnering opportunities”.

The above gives no clear reason of what the expectations of the introduction are. More importantly, it doesn’t provide either individual a way of prioritizing the introduction – Can this wait, or is this time sensitive? Is a call or in-person meeting appropriate? What are my expectations of the meeting/call?

A better email would be:

“Sara,

Hope you’re doing well! It was great seeing you last week at the CEO conference. Following up on our conversation, please meet Mike, CTO of Tech systems. I met with Mike earlier today and he and his team are exploring enterprise storage options this week. I told him that you guys have the best solution, and he’s interested in learning more about your product and business.

5/ Personalize the introductions. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I get “template” introductions. These come off as spammy and usually don’t meet tests 2-4 above.

For example:

Hi Samir,

Please meet Jake. Jake is the CEO of mynewapp.com and is looking for banking providers. You will enjoy hearing about their company and I’ve told him great things about you and the bank.

Jake, John and his team do a great job with banking tech companies.

Yep, I actually see a lot of these.

Mismatched fonts, no personalization, and residue from other introductions the individual has made – in this case, the reference to John, not Samir.  Emails like these eradicate any introduction capital you have built with a person.

So be thoughtful when connecting people. You’ll benefit greatly from it.

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