Follow up emails are a great source of valuable information. If you plan them carefully, you might expect high engagement rates (e.g., open and click-through rate). This article is aimed at helping you apply follow ups strategically and increase the value of your email marketing.
What is a follow up email
A follow up email is an email you send after any significant point in the customer journey with a goal to collect a piece of information.
You might send follow up emails to people who download your content asking them if they found it valuable.
You can send a follow up email to people who are in the middle of a free trial of your service, with questions regarding their experience.
You can follow up after an event in order to touch base.
You can schedule your follow ups as autoresponders to create tailor-made programs that will perfectly match your subscribers’ needs and interests.
How to write a follow up email
Here are a few tips that will help you write an effective follow up email.
1. Start with the CTA in mind
Always think of your goal first. What exactly do you need to know? What do you want the recipient to do?
This will determine your CTA – and the remaining content that leads up to it.
a clear goal? Maybe it’s not a great idea to send the email after all.
2. Pay attention to your subject line
Make it stand out. However short or long it is, it should be specific. Make sure the most important info is at the beginning in case it gets cut off in the inbox. Use the preheader to complement it and add the information you can’t (or don’t want to) fit in the subject line. Here’s an example of a longer subject line which makes the preheader irrelevant since you don’t really see it anyway. It includes specific information about what the email’s related to – which makes it much easier for the reader to decide whether to open it .
These two (follow up emails sent to inactive customers) not so much:
(Plus, it looks like the preheader isn’t used there at all – and it could really help to make these subject lines clear).
Also, using “tricks” like “fyi” is probably a little passé now – people quickly see through them and become blind to them. For a followup email, a good idea might be to include the recipient’s first name to make it more personable. Test it to see if that works for your audience, though – people have different preferences when it comes to email personalization.
3. But be personal, anyway
Make the email seem like it’s from a real human – people don’t really want to talk to brands; they want to talk to people. And just because the followup email is automated doesn’t mean it has to sound robotic. After all, there’s always a person behind writing the copy and setting up the automation rules. So make yourself seen.
use natural language. Like you were really having a conversation with the
person you’re sending your email to.
A big trend
today is to actually send plain-text (or faux plain-text) emails that look and
feel like emails from someone you know, often with a real person’s name
attached to the sender address.
One great example are emails sent by Moo – or their
“robot”. This post-order followup email asking for feedback shows exactly what
I mean. Everyone knows it’s an automated email, but still, it doesn’t really
read like one. And what’s even better, you know there’s someone on the other
end of the line who will read what you have to say.
And look at
this simple subscription confirmation email from Really Good Emails (a really
good email indeed)
4. You don’t have to keep it short – but keep it interesting
In certain cases – like sales follow up emails – you might actually want to send a longer email. The plain-text version even encourages longer copy. But whether this is a good idea will depend on several factors like:
type of email you’re sending
your audience is
stage of awareness they’re at – do they need a story first to get them where
you want the email to take them, or are they ready to click that button and all
you need is a few crisp sentences to encourage them?
Adjust the content of the email to the recipient’s needs, and whatever the length, don’t forget about your goal. Make it clear all the way.
And format your email in a clear way – forget about long paragraphs (even if they’re super interesting, you risk losing a lot of attention) and super long sentences.
Don’t be afraid to try something different – there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Test different kinds of copy to see what works for your customers.
When should I send follow up emails?
I recommend following a simple principle – send a follow up email whenever there is an information need that justifies sending one. Obviously, you should always consider your target audience preferences and use common sense.
Those information needs vary from company to company and depend on whether you operate in a B2B or B2C environment. Here are a few common examples:
B2C follow up emails
- Welcome email: an email sent whenever a new person joins your email marketing list. You can use this email to show the new subscribers what they can expect from your email marketing program.
You can use the email welcome series to onboard new customers. Here’s a blog explaining how to do it right: How to Onboard New Customers with Welcome Emails
- Thank you email: there are a lot of reasons to send a thank you email. Maybe someone has bought your product or took part in an event that you organized? Follow up to get valuable feedback that will help you improve your customer experience.
- Outreach follow up: these are tough nuts to crack. Here’s what Ada Durzyńska, GetResponse blog’s editor has to say:
As the blog’s editor, I receive hundreds of outreach emails every day and, what’s more surprising, two times as many follow-up emails. Why is that? Well, many times, people want to follow up too quickly, sometimes following up two times on an email sent 10 minutes earlier.
It’s only natural for a person to want to know if their email has been read, and to want answers ASAP. But, give the person you reach out to some more time to read your email and familiarize themselves with your offer. If you want to follow up quickly, wait at least a few hours. If it’s not an urgent matter – the soonest you should follow up is the next day.
Remember to always attach the previous outreach message in your follow up in a way you find suitable (forward, reply, or as an attachment).
As for the email’s copy – make it sound kind, light-hearted, and be patient. Try to include a question in your follow up email, it’s harder for the reader to skip. So, for example, switch the usual “Just making sure you saw this” for something just a bit more engaging, like “What do you think of my offer?”, or even something as straightforward as “is the silence a ‘no’?“.
Also, while making the email as unobtrusive for the reader as you can, don’t be overmodest. A good “I’m following up on this email, because it’s worth not giving up!” will take you further than “I know you’re probably too busy to read such emails, and I really don’t want to bother you…“. And, for the sake of being nice to others, skip the “are you alive?!” and “I’m CC’ing all your management on this email”.
Make the subject line stand out, because the more creative you get, the better chances are you’re going to get a reply, either positive or negative. Just to be clear, “A quick follow up” is the subject line of (probably) 99% of follow up emails.
Ada Durzyńska, GetResponse blog’s editor
- Free-trial follow up: if you provide a SaaS product, you probably offer a free-trial period when people can test if it provides a solution to their problems. Send at least one follow up email during the fee-trial in order to monitor customer satisfaction.
- Product campaign follow up: so you’ve launched a promo campaign for a new product. Track conversion and send a follow up email to those who visited the landing page.
- Customer satisfaction survey: ask your customers if they are satisfied with your product and the overall experience. You can send a simple follow up email with an NPS score. Segment contacts based on the perception of your business and personalize further communication. E.g., find out what’s bothering the unhappy ones, what you can do to improve the customer experience, ask the happy one for a testimonial.
- Customer feedback: use follow up emails to check if customers remain satisfied with your product after the purchase. Remember that satisfied customers are likely to come back and recommend your product. Such feedback loop with your customers provides you with valuable information that helps you develop your product and can be used as user-generated content for marketing purposes.
B2B follow up emails
The customer journey in B2B environment might be longer and more complex. Here are a few practical tips form the expert, Beata Patfield, Senior Business Development Executive at GetResponse:
Event follow up
Be personable! Call them by name, ask about something personal you’d spoken about previously, show you were actually listening. Did their kid ace those SATs?
Go through your past interactions. Were there any questions you were supposed to get back to them on? Make sure to do it now.
Be brief. Don’t write a three paragraph email just to ask them if they like your product.
Leave the ball in their court. Make sure to finish strong with a specific and actionable CTA – ‘Let me know what you think!’ or ‘When can we jump on a call to discuss your feedback?’ is always better than ‘let’s touch base’ or ‘looking forward to hearing from you’.
And finally, don’t forget the CC. If they had a colleague involved in the conversation, make sure to include them. Otherwise, at best you’ll be deemed as forgetful, at worst – disrespectful.
Sales follow up email
Speed matters. Contact your prospects as soon as you can after you hear from them. Do you really want your competition to beat you to it?
Don’t give up. It may take up to 5-7 tries to actually get through to your prospect.
Check your metrics. Do your emails get opened? Just like with online marketing, it matters what time you send your emails and what you put in your subject line. If you’re getting opens but not replies, revamp your content.
Use multiple channels if one isn’t sufficient. No reply to your emails? Give them a call. Not picking up? Look for them on LinkedIn on Skype – you have many options at your fingertips, all you have to do is look.
Be flexible and adapt. Once you’ve established two-way communication, have a plan but be open to change. Your process is to answer the inquiry, demo the product, then reach a decision – but your prospect can switch things up on you, and you just have to roll with it. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Beata Patfield, Senior Business Development Executive at GetResponse
If you like the idea of automated emails – using autoresponders and marketing automation workflows to send emails in specific time intervals or in response to your customer’s actions, here’s a perfect article for you:
Follow up email vs follow up email cycles
Some time ago we did a podcast with Dr Dave Chaffey, CEO and co-founder of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights, where he gives the following advice:
“You should be looking at the lifecycle of the prospect, as they are interacting with your business and figure out how you can provide reminders to encourage them to buy with you.
(…) One of the touchpoints to start with is the welcome. The first thing you can do is create a welcome series instead of a welcome email. The welcome sequence is the first impression. That first email you send is in some ways the most important one. And if you turn it into a sequence, you can engage your audience from the very beginning of the subscription.”
Read more here.
Dr Dave Chaffey, CEO and co-founder of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights
So, think about the customer journey, and decide if one email or rather a series of emails will bring the best results. Here’s a comparison between a single email and an email cycle.
|Follow up email||vs||Follow up email cycle|
|one-time opportunity||several opportunities|
|you ask one question/approach issue from one angle||you can ask a few questions/approach the issue from different angles|
|you can progressively profile your contacts|
When do you send follow up emails?
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