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How not to write an e-mail

By Pardeep Goyal
Last updated on: July 31, 2015 18:14 IST
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When it comes to writing e-mails, less is more.

Presenting a list of mistakes you must avoid while drafting your next e-mail...

How not to write an e-mailWe should learn from one another's experiences because life is too short to try everything yourself.

I always seek out experts when I need any feedback on my idea or product.

In this regard, I have some tips to share with you, so that you get the best advice without mucking up the opportunity.

Occasionally, I receive e-mails from people who want to start a venture or have already launched a product.

I reply to all e-mails, but sometimes I have to dig deep to understand what they are looking for, and how I can help them.

In quite a few cases, there is a lack of clarity in the questions, and therefore in the expectations from me as feedback.

What makes it more difficult is that I have only a limited amount time to spend on each e-mail.

I know most people love to help the start-up community. But they may not be getting the right feedback if they are committing some of the mistakes listed below.

#Mistake 1: Too much introduction

There is no need to tell a story about yourself unless it's absolutely necessary.

If your question is about validation of a product, then there is no need to explain how and why you started your venture.

Only if your question is regarding failure or success in the past, then it would make more sense to involve the reader in your story.

#Tip: A one line introduction is sufficient to introduce yourself.

#Example:  I am an ex-founder of two start-ups and I am now building a fin-tech start-up.

#Mistake 2: Lengthy and unorganised e-mail

Believe me; no one has the time to read lengthy e-mails to find the real context hidden within a pile of the text.

Be brief; it will help your mentor in helping you.

Look at this confusing e-mail:

I mean, no offense to the writer of the e-mail; I am just using it as an example.

He did not introduce himself before talking about his venture.

In this case, I would have been more interested in knowing about him and understanding what he expects from me -- rather than getting a picture his venture in detail.

He could have simply shared his website link or blog instead of this bulky e-mail.

He mentioned about his mentor who ran a start-up and was an IIT-B alumnus, but he did not mention what he expected from me.

Mentioning another mentor's name is good only when pitching to a VC for funding!

Besides, he has attached a PPT that I would have had to go through. That's asking for too much time, of anybody.

#Mistake 3: You don't know what to ask

If you write "would be glad to know your thoughts on the above concept" -- I will make an assumption that you are unclear about your thoughts.

You don't know what to ask me. You are asking an open question and I cannot help you here.

All I will respond with is: "You have got a good idea, execute it with excellence".

#Tip: Don't present yourself to be a clueless person. Ask precise and relevant questions.

#Example: A good e-mail, in terms of length and depth.

#Mistake 4: Asking too many questions is asking no questions at all

Occasionally, I receive e-mails which bombard me with questions.

I lose context while replying to so many questions in a single e-mail. Of course, the quality of my feedback also gets diluted.

On the other hand, some people talk about the problem they are solving and their struggles in the start-up world, but they don't ask any questions.

I wonder what they expect of me. I simply appreciate the start-up idea and close the e-mail thread.

#Tip: Ask only one question; but be concise and precise.

Sample this short and concise e-mail below:

#Mistake 5: Asking for a meeting in the first e-mail

Why will someone agree to a meeting with you? Are you paying him or her consulting fees? Or is the meeting for his or her benefit?

If you are asking for advice from anyone, then you have to respect their time. You can take the benefit of free advice only over an e-mail. You should only invite someone over for coffee once you have established a healthy relationship.

#Tip: Build a relationship over e-mail before asking for the phone number or a meeting.

#Example: Is there a compelling reason for a meeting?

#Mistake 6: No Introduction. No business detail. No meeting context.

Should I be out all the day, meeting people, just because they have checked my profile online and might need some assistance in a business context? ?

I love to meet people; in fact, I try to find at least two interesting people every week to exchange my thoughts with.

I even meet new people; not related to my domain or the world of start-ups.

It helps me see the world from their point of view.

Can you present yourself interestingly enough so that people might want to meet you?

Bonus Tip: Follow up

You may have asked some good questions but your mentor may be taking some time to get back with the answers.

It's your responsibility to follow up after few days.

Many a time mentors may get busy and lose track of their e-mails.

Send a follow-up e-mail, asking them politely if they had any time to work on the questions you sent.

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Credit: eef ink/Creative Commons

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Pardeep Goyal
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