If you’re going to invest 30-60 minutes in meeting with someone, you owe it to yourself and whoever you met with to send a follow-up email.
Like baseball, network relationship management is a game of inches where the difference between winning and losing is rarely decided by grand gestures; more often than not, the winner is the person who took the small extra steps.
This is especially true if you’re competing in a commoditized market where the difference between you and your competitor is marginal. Think of sending follow-up emails as one of those small extra steps that can make the difference between victory and defeat.
Besides, when you look at the minimal time and energy investment involved in writing a follow-up email to your meetings, it’s really a no-brainer: If you want to fully leverage the power of your network, you need to send follow-up emails. 
Why Most People Fail to Consistently Send Follow-up Emails
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve thought about sending follow-up emails. In fact, it probably isn’t even the first time you’ve tried to make this practice into a habit.
And the first couple days of your initial attempt probably went really well. But then something happened; a crisis arose. You invest all of your time and energy into resolving the crisis and, as a result, forget about sending follow-up emails.
The crisis ends, but the emails don’t begin again. Sound familiar? It’s the classic story of well-intentioned habits being crushed before they’re fully-formed.
If you’re ready to commit to this habit again, here’s a quick tip to streamline the process and make it easier to remember to send those emails, no matter what happens: Create a follow-up email draft before the meeting.
Obviously this draft can’t be too specific or detailed since it’s being written before the meeting is taking place, but that’s okay. You can always flesh it out after the meeting. Here’s an example of what this email draft might look like:
Thanks for meeting with me today. I enjoyed our meeting very much and look forward to meeting you again.
Once you’ve got this email sitting in your drafts folder, it’s hard to forget to send it. All you’ve got to do is personalize it once the meeting wraps up. Speaking of which, let’s talk about …
How to Write a Great Follow-Up Email
An effective follow-up email has three components:
- A “Thank You” component,
- A “Common Ground Reference” component, and
- A “Key Takeaways” component.
Let’s walk through a three-step process to create a follow-up email with these three sections.
Component I: Thank You
Saying “Thank you” is usually a given in follow-up emails, so why even mention it? Simple: Because gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to make a connection. That, and because there are two ways of communicating thanks: One is just saying it, the other is meaning it.
One is a standard phrase, the other is a little more thoughtful. Think of it as the difference between “What’s up?” and “How are you doing today? You seem quite happy.”
Using sentences like, “I really appreciated the time you spent with me today. I hope it was time well spent for you, too” or, “Let me start by saying thank you for your time today” are a great place to start.
If you can fortify these statements by adding specific reasons why you’re thankful, that’s even better. For example: “I learned a lot from your suggestions today,” or, “I feel I will be able to act upon the advice you offered.”
The key is to make sure your recipient perceives that you are genuine. Here’s how this might look in practice.
Example I: Thank You
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today, I really learned a lot from your suggestions. I enjoyed our meeting very much and look forward to meeting you again.
Component II: Common Ground Reference
This component adds a sentence about what you enjoyed about the meeting and what you have in common with those you met with. It has three primary benefits:
- It personalizes the email so it doesn’t look like you’re just sending out a pre-written template. This will likely cause the other person to perceive you as caring, thoughtful, and attentive.
- People are attracted to positivity. By highlighting a positive element of the meeting, those you met with are likely to have a better opinion of you and think of the meeting as a success.
- Common ground is the source of all connection, and this component allows you to establish that common ground quickly.
Here’s how this might look in practice.
Example II: Common Ground Reference
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today, I really learned a lot from your suggestions.
I enjoyed our meeting very much, and was particularly intrigued by your passion for tea. As you know, I love tea as well; and it’s not every day that I run into someone who appreciates a great cup of tea.
I look forward to meeting you again.
Component III: Key Takeaways
This final component is your opportunity to show that you’re committed to this relationship by going the extra mile.
Use this section to sum up all commitments given and received. This will underscore the productivity of the meeting and create confidence that you are going to follow through.
In addition, this component also creates an informal agreement that the other party will follow through as well.
For a powerful way of leveraging these commitments (and other vital sources of meeting information), click here to learn about Meeting Debriefs.
Here’s how this might look in practice.
Example III: Key Takeaways
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today.
I enjoyed it very much, and was particularly intrigued by your passion for tea. As you know, I love tea as well; and it’s not every day that I run into someone who appreciates a great cup of tea.
- Besides getting to know you a lot better, there are three key takeaways from our meeting:
- You are in need of hiring great engineers and find that very difficult to accomplish in today’s economy.
- We agreed to meet next week to discuss how we could work together to overcome this challenge.
- I offered to introduce you to Riviera Partners, one of the top engineering recruitment firms in Silicon Valley.
- If you feel I left out any other important aspects of our conversation, please let me know.
Again, I enjoyed our meeting very much and look forward to meeting you again next week.
Find an Approach that Works for You
Do you see how those three components work together to create an email that your recipients are likely to perceive as relevant, valuable, and meaningful? At the very least, it’s much better than sending no follow-up email at all.
But at the end of the day, keep this in mind: Focus on the components of a great follow-up email; not my specific examples. You don’t need to use my exact words; they might not be right for you.
The most important rule in Network Relationship Management is being genuine and staying authentic. If you say, “I’d never write that way,” that’s fine! Then ask yourself, “How would I communicate gratitude, establish common ground, and sum up the key takeaways?”
We all have our own style. Find yours, and start following up.
Further Recommended Reading
Follow-up emails are just one common part of a greater whole I call the Meeting Debrief. In a nutshell, this concept is all about collecting and acting on the most valuable information you learn about someone over the course of a conversation. Check out this article to supercharge the ROI of your meetings and, as a result, your relationships.
Follow-up emails might be a great idea in theory, but theory only takes you so far. At the end of the day, you’ve got to actually send them; and finding the time to do so can be a problem when your calendar’s booked back-to-back. Check out these two quick-and-easy tactics to break the endless meeting cycle and make time for what matters most.
One of the most common commitments made in meetings is an introduction. The problem is, most people vastly underestimate the introduction process. To truly make it a relevant and valuable experience for both parties, it takes more than a simple intro email. Check out this article for a full walk through of the introduction process.