Sending a follow-up email usually feels a little bit awkward, very much akin to pulling at someone’s sleeve after they ignored your question in the first place. No matter how uncomfortable you may get, however, sending follow-ups is a vital component of any worthwhile outreach strategy.
We’ll even go a step further than that – follow-ups can be portrayed as the embodiment of marketing perseverance and hold a lot of sales power if you know how to wield them correctly.
The text before you has a few objectives in its sights. For starters, we’re going to rid you of that natural sense of awkwardness when sending follow-up emails. Second, and this one is more important, we’re going to teach you how to write follow-ups that will soon become the very speartip of your sales funnel.
Given such a grandiose intro we just put you through, we’d look a bit foolish if we didn’t present you with some numbers that back our opinion on follow-ups.
We’ll start with a UK-based study performed by Iko System that tried to measure how response rates differ between first-contact emails and subsequent follow-ups. For the first email they sent, Iko Systems saw an 18% response rate, which is about the average you can expect to get from a cold lead campaign. The fourth email after the initial one had a 13% response rate, which is, while nothing to write home about, still quite a solid response rate by any standard.
The study gets quite interesting at the sixth email they sent in the sequence as this one had a whopping 27% response rate! Talk about persistence paying off.
A similar study from Yesware saw a 30% response rate to the first email and 14% to the fourth. Out of the ten emails they sent, even the very last one made an impact with a 7% response rate!
Moreover, other studies reveal that an email series with 4 to 7 messages yields three times more responses than those with only 1 to 3 emails. The 4 to 7 formula had a total of 27% response rate, while the second approach stood at a mere 9%.
It’s also worth noting that 70% of sales emails do not get any responses at all. In other words, 70% of sales emails are not responded to unless there are follow-up emails to increase the response rates.
Finally, G2 maybe zeroed down on it better than anyone else – even following up just once can convert 22% more replies.
Feeling dizzy yet? We certainly hope so, as this is usually the point where the feeling of awkwardness enveloping follow-ups turns into cold sweat as you start calculating how many sales you’ve been missing out on.
Hopefully, it’s now crystal clear that sending follow-up emails is essential from a marketing perspective as they usually get a better response rate than the first-contact email. That’s why you should not think of follow-up emails as a backup plan – they should very much be a part of your entire outreach planning.
Now that we got the statistics out of the way, let’s talk about how you should be sending your follow-up emails, as well as cover some good practices along the way.
A follow-up outreach campaign, just like any other email campaign, has to start at the drawing board. Writing down your goals, workflows and templates before the outreach comences is not a planning step you can afford to miss out on.
As for the goals, that one is fairly straightforward – you have to be clear on what you’re setting out to accomplish with the follow-up messages you send. For instance, you may be trying to drive more sales, improve user retention or find new clients. Figuring this out gives you a workable KPI you can keep an eye on and measure success, as well as ROI.
Setting up the workflow is an extremely vital aspect of any outreach layout too. It entails defining things like the frequency of emails, the number of follow-ups, at what times you’ll be sending them, etc. Set this up and everything will run smoothly later on – and, if you really want to do this right, you can rely on OutreachPlus to fully automate the process of sending emails to your leads.
OutreachPlus is a cost-effective option that will virtually simulate an entire team of outreach specialists who send emails at just the right time and never make mistakes, which basically provides you with a perfect, automated outreach workflow.
Finally, as we said, you want to prepare templates for all the emails you plan to send. This includes everything between the first to the very last follow-up on your outreach chain. You should be A/B testing them before you send the first one, mind you, so make sure to get feedback from at least a few reliable people before you launch the campaign.
It’s only after you’ve got all of that ready that you should send the first batch of follow-up emails. We promise the results will be better if you spend more time on preparing the outreach then executing it.
As for how long should you wait before following up, the short answer is “certainly not long.”
A vast majority of emails are opened the day they’re sent, so if the recipient’s going to reply at all, they’re probably going to do that the same day too. If someone doesn’t reply the day you send your email, in all likelihood, they’re not going to hit you back at all.
That’s why two or three days is a good amount of time to wait before sending your first follow-up email. You should then extend the wait period by a few days for each subsequent follow-up email so that you don’t come off as being too pushy.
Okay, let’s now go onto the “meat and potatoes” of this article, probably the main reason why you made it this far into it – teaching you how to write great follow-up emails.
First and foremost, you need to understand that the essentials of email marketing very much apply to creating good follow-ups. This means that the following rules need to be taken into account:
1 . The subject line has to be enticing and offer up value that’s backed by the rest of the email
2. The content within needs to be well-written and split up into chunks of text
3. Including an image that captures the eye and splits the content up a bit is always a good idea
4. The CTA section needs to be honest, straightforward and compelling, and it should make it easy for the recipient to respond
5. Make full use of headlines as they are what the readers naturally see first after opening an email
6. The email has to be visually scannable, as well as optimized for mobile devices
7. Be relevant and do your best to not come off as a generic message
Other than sticking to these good practices, writing high-converting follow-ups has a few other rules that can stack the deck in your favor. There’s a total of three things you need to add to each follow-up in order to yield best results:
Think about how you’d feel if someone was sending you messages over and over again while you had no clue why they’re doing that. You’d be quite annoyed, wouldn’t you?
Rest assured your cold leads would feel the same.
Tell the recipient why you’re sending another email in a fashion that’s both direct and concise. You can do this in a nutshell by just telling them what you want. If the reason hasn’t changed since your last email, remind them. If it has, simply explain the new circumstances.
Adding context to your follow-ups can have an incredible psychological effect on the recipients. This usually works best if you add context at the very opening of your email so that it does its magic straight away.
Start your email with a reference to the previous email or, even better, to an actual interaction you had with the recipient (if you ever communicated, of course).
This will instantly increase trust on the recipient’s end as the target will be reminded of the fact that the two of you have some history, giving you a bit of an edge going forward.
If your previous email didn’t do the trick, offering up less value in the follow-up will certainly not get the job done, right? Never send a follow-up without upping the ante and showing even more of your worth then what the previous email(s) demonstrated.
Make the follow-up worth the recipient’s while to open, read and respond. You can do this in a variety of ways, like offering up a gift coupon, discount, e-book, case study, template, webinar, etc. It’s from these kinds of “offerings” that opportunities for organic, natural interaction arise.
Furthermore, at least for a little while, you stop being a salesperson and turn into an asset for your leads, which gives you an even bigger psychological advantage.
Okay, by this point, you’ve got about everything you need to put together a fantastic follow-up strategy. However, we’re not quite done yet – we’ve also prepared an additional set of tips you can use to get even better results from your follow-up efforts. Here we go:
1 . Walk a mile in the recipient’s shoes – Always try to look at an email from the recipient’s perspective. If the tables were turned and you received the follow-up email, would you do what the email asks? Or would you just ignore it? Answering that will tell you a lot about whether you are doing an adequate job or not.
2. Don’t forget to test different subject lines – While A/B testing your content also makes a lot of sense, subject lines is where you make or break a campaign. About 47% of people open an email and 69% report it as spam based on the subject line alone. That’s why giving your follow-up email subject lines the time and effort they deserve is a definite must.
3. End the follow-up with a question – By doing so, you can make some recipients feel compelled to answer you as they will not take the email as a declaration of sorts but as something that demands a response.
4. Insert videos – Inserting a video within an email is becoming an increasingly more popular tactic and can increase your click-through rate by over 300%, follow-up or otherwise.
5. The key to success is in personalization – Just like with any other sort of email, injecting a dosage of personalized information in a follow-up can do wonders for your response rates. Mention the lead’s industry, occupation, location, ask for a recommendation of some kind, talk about relevant competitors – almost anything you dig up can be used to form a bond with the lead.
6. Keep it short and to the point – Nobody loves their time being wasted, and this goes double for cold leads. Be concise and informative without dragging out for too long.
7. Focus on them and not on you – Remove all ‘I’ statements from your text. Recipients honestly don’t care much, if at all, about you or what you think. They want to know what’s in it for them, so showcase that instead of placing focus on yourself.
8. Check the spelling – Nothing screams incompetence more than an email that looks like it was written in a hurry, on a small mobile phone while being stuck in traffic. Check your grammar and don’t fall into this easily avoidable pitfall.
9. Always be polite – It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or seventh email without response, you have to be nice as no one will give you their time of day if you’re being pushy or, even worse, rude.
10. Keep an eye on email deliverability – Maybe the reason why you’re not getting responses is that your follow-up emails ended up in the spam section. This may mean you could be experiencing problems with email deliverability, so make sure that you check out our blog post about making sure the emails you send actually end up in the desired inbox.
A final piece of advice here – just like you would never send an email to someone for absolutely no reason whatsoever, never send a follow-up without having a clear picture of what you need to get out of it. Being clueless about your goal will mean you are basically wasting your time, which certainly can be better spent on something not involving sending emails.
You Can Do Email Marketing WIthout Follow-ups – But Why in the World Should You?
If it wasn’t completely transparent by this point, allow us to paint a perfectly clear picture – you’ve got enormously more to gain then lose when sending follow-up emails.
Furthermore, follow-ups don’t really cost you anything, except maybe having to swallow your pride a bit, but even that shouldn’t be a problem if you have the correct mindset in place. And the correct mindset comes from what we highlighted above: follow-ups are not a plan B, they are what can comfortably be called the key element of any well-thought-out outreach’s plan A.
And remember – the worse thing they can say is no. What’s the real harm in that?
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