The simple idea of writing a follow-up email after the first one didn’t get a reply can be pretty daunting for many of us. Perhaps our social anxiety kicks in. Or perhaps we’re afraid that we sent a bad email. In any case, if you feel awkward about crafting follow-up emails, you’re not alone.
According to a Yesware report, 70% of marketers stop the interaction if they didn’t get a reply the first time. But guess what. Not getting back with a follow-up means missing out on a huge lead, an important business meeting, or on essential information that your company could use in the future.
Emails have a very short lifespan, so if you didn’t hear back within 24 hours, it’s perfectly acceptable to follow up. As inboxes get more and more cluttered, it’s possible that your recipient didn’t have time to read your email, or didn’t even notice it. Taking the time to understand why you didn’t get a reply and drafting a compelling follow-up email can help you get your audience’s attention and meet your goals.
In fact, one single follow-up email can increase conversion rates by 22% and if you’re one of the marketers who stick around after hearing “no” a few times, you have 80% chances of completing the sale.
When should you send a follow-up email?
When recipients open emails, they generally do so on the same day they received them, so if you don’t get a reply after 24 hours, you can already start thinking of what you’ll say in the follow-up.
Although the time you should wait between emails may depend on a series of factors and there are always exceptions to the rule, you should send your first follow-up email within two to three days.
If you don’t get a reply this time either, you should slowly increase the time between follow-up emails, because no one likes being nagged with daily reminders.
As a general rule, try this:
- Wait 4 days until the second follow-up email
- After two follow-up emails, increase the time spacing between emails to 7 days
- After 28 days, send follow-up emails once a month
Besides these follow-up rules, you should also consider the best times to send emails in general.
According to a MailChimp study:
- Tuesday has the highest open rate
- There are very small variations between the days of the week in terms of email response rates
- Weekends have the lowest open and response rates
Identify your goals
Before you start writing your follow-up email, you need to go over your first email and establish once again why you sent it in the first place. Was it to close a sale, to establish a meeting, or to ask a client for feedback?
This step might seem redundant, but knowing your audience and your goals is key to setting the tone and structure. Maybe your first email wasn’t too clear on what you were trying to achieve, so you should reconsider its form and content.
Set the tone
Using the right tone in your follow-up emails plays a major role in whether you will get a reply. If your tone is too weak and unconvincing, then the recipient might ignore you. If you’re too pushy and direct, then they can feel offended and flag your email as spam. So, where does the balance lie and how do you set the tone?
Previous interactions are a good starting point:
- If the recipient requested your help or services, but then they didn’t reply again, then you can be more direct.
- If the recipient didn’t request your help, you have no history of previous interaction and you’re basically sending cold emails, then you need to be more cautious because you can come across as pushy.
For most marketers, setting the right tone is a matter of experimentation. When in doubt, use common sense. Does your tone sound appropriate for the recipient’s age and position? Would you use that language in real life? How would you react if you received that email?
Find out why they didn’t respond in the first place
This is an area where email deliverability metrics and analytics come in very helpful. Understanding why you didn’t get a reply, to begin with, will help you adapt your tone and gain important insight into your overall email marketing strategy:
- If the recipient opened the email but didn’t read it, this is a sign you should add value to the content, be more persuasive and include clear calls to action.
- If the recipient didn’t open the email, you need to dig deeper and understand what happened. Maybe they just didn’t see it, but maybe the email ended up in the spam folder or the subject line wasn’t convincing enough to make them open the email.
Remind the recipient of previous interactions
Adding context will create a connection between you and the recipient and increase the chances of them replying to the email.
People tend to be more open if they’ve seen or heard from you before, so make sure you reference your previous interactions in the follow-up email.
An introduction like “I’m just following back after the email I sent you last Tuesday”, will give the reader some context and the fact that you’re referencing something they missed creates a sense of urgency.
You can always use the example of big companies to inspire you. Wikipedia, for instance, sends annual reminders to previous donors and asks them if they want to donate again in a very personal and thoughtful way.
Give them additional value
If the recipient read your first email but didn’t reply, you have to go the extra mile and provide additional value in your follow-up. Lazy emails that aren’t relevant in any way will not boost your conversions, and neither will generic sentences that don’t relate to the recipient.
For a minute, forget that you’re a marketer or salesperson and put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. What do you have to gain from this interaction? Will replying help you in any way or is it a waste of your time? If you think you can do better, add some elements to strengthen your case and increase responsiveness:
- If you’re selling a product, add a customer review
- Attach a relevant document
- Reference a mutual connection to boost trust
- Mention the results of a report or case study
The additional value does not mean adding more words and increasing the word count. Keep your follow-up emails short, clear, and to the point. 100 words are more than enough to state your case.
Make it about them
Although the ultimate goal of your email may be to close a sale, advertise your product or raise awareness of a new service, your follow-up email shouldn’t be focused on your needs, but on the needs of the recipient.
According to a SalesForce report, more than half of consumers consider switching brands if their current provider doesn’t personalize their interactions, so try to use a consumer-centric approach in every follow-up email.
As a marketer, you probably have to send dozens of emails every day and it’s easy to forget that at the end of the line there’s a real person, so take the time to make your emails more personal.
It all starts with addressing the recipient by name (including in the subject line), but there are other additional ways to personalize follow-up emails:
- Avoid industry jargon that the recipient isn’t likely to understand
- Do some research on the recipient’s industry and needs
- Mention a challenge that the recipient might be facing, empathize with them and explain briefly how your product can help
- Be professional, but avoid overly formal phrases because they sound too impersonal and prevent you from connecting with the recipient.
Proofread your email
Did you know that leads who spot spelling and grammar mistakes in emails are less likely to respond positively to them? According to a study carried out by two professors at the University of Michigan, errors influenced readers’ perception of the writer mainly because the writer was otherwise unknown. In other words, you need to make a flawless first impression.
Crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s is essential if you want to inspire reliability and professionalism. Good writing is simply the norm when writing effective emails and there’s no excuse for using they’re instead of there or using the wrong verb form. One simple typo can draw attention from an otherwise amazing sales pitch.
Before hitting send, proofread your email carefully, ask a colleague to give you their opinion, or use online tools. Grammarly, Studicus, Hemingway App, GrabMyEssay, and Readability Test Tool are must-haves for marketers who want to perfect their writing skills and write flawless emails every time.
Apart from “technical” errors, you might also want to scan your text for awkward words, unclear statements or phrases that the recipient could perceive as impolite.
Include a clear call-to-action
One of the reasons why some recipients don’t answer emails is that the message wasn’t clear enough and they didn’t know what to do next. So make sure you state the purpose of your email from the very beginning and state it once again in the conclusion.
Also, don’t forget to include a clear call-to-action. Do you want the recipient to click a download link, make a purchase, send you a review, or confirm a meeting? Make that crystal clear through the CTA. This way, the recipient knows exactly what the next step is. Very few people read the email a second time to find out what they need to do.
To increase the odds of someone getting back to you, you can always ask the recipient to refer you to someone else:
“Can we schedule a quick phone call with you or someone else on your team to discuss this further?”
This way, the recipient can forward the email if it doesn’t concern them.
End your email with a question
The end of the email is the best place for a call-to-action. And the best way to do this is to craft the CTA as a question.
Here are some examples that I have found effective:
- “Is [date] [time] a good time to talk about this in more detail?”
- “Are you happy with our current plan or would you like to suggest any changes?”
- “Is there more that my team can help you with?”
- “Can you please reply with Yes to this email if you’d like to know more about [Product]?”
Don’t leave the next thing to chance. The recipient shouldn’t guess what the following step will be. You have to state it clearly so that they know exactly what to do next.
Pay more attention to the subject line
Almost 50% of consumers decide whether to flag an email as spam after reading the subject line. This means that you should put as much effort into writing a good subject line as you do in writing the inside content.
Make sure to avoid the red flags that guarantee failure. This includes using all capital letters, clickbait titles or aggressive sales language. It does not work. It will not convince people to open the email and there’s a considerable chance that the email will go straight to spam anyway.
The ideal subject line for a follow-up email should have at least 4 words and include the name of the recipient to add a personal touch.
According to a Forbes analysis, email subject lines containing an emoji have higher open rates. So consider this as something you can try, but keep in mind that emojis aren’t appropriate with all audiences.
Figuring out the perfect subject line for follow-up emails can take some time and experimentation. Nearly half of marketers say that they test multiple alternate subject lines to optimize email performance. So don’t be surprised if you don’t get an immediate boost in response rates from the first try.
Persistence is key when writing follow-up emails after getting no response, but getting it right isn’t easy. You have to strike a balance and avoid crossing the fine line between persuasiveness and rudeness. Be polite and don’t approach your lead in a way that can come across as insensitive or desperate.