The Art of Email Follow Up

The Art of Email Follow Up

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Email follow-up is as much an art as a science. In crafting follow-up emails, we walk a fine line between continuing to build interest with our audience and turning them off with too much, too soon. Getting this balance “right” can be the bane of an email marketer’s existence.

The reality is that in today’s noisy online marketing space — where people receive an average of 126 emails per day — it’s unlikely that your first email will generate any great results. That’s why email follow-up is an essential skill for email marketers.

Let’s take a look at why email follow-up is so critical, including when and how to follow up with your audience to garner the best results.

Why is email follow-up important for marketing campaigns?

Most marketers consider email to be a highly productive channel — it is shown to have double the returns compared to other sales and marketing tactics, like cold calling.

Despite this, a whopping 70% of unanswered sales emails don’t trigger a follow-up email. In a Yesware study, they analyzed the response rate of ten emails and saw the following results:

Graph from Yesware email follow-up study

Source: Yesware

While the first round of emails usually receives the highest response rate, later messages allow you to expand on your value proposition and educate your audience about your offering in different ways. The results are clear: If you skip following up with non-responders, you’ll miss opportunities.

How many follow-up emails should you send in a campaign?

The number of follow-up emails you send depends on the objective of your campaign. If your aim is to sell a product or service, you’ll need more emails to create awareness. Whereas, if you’re trying to garner survey responses or website clicks, perhaps less is more — especially if you’re working with a cold audience.

Email automation can go a long way to help you understand what works for a particular audience. By automating emails, you can send your prospects personalized, relevant messages at key moments in the customer journey. You can also build a series of emails that are automatically triggered based on your prospect’s actions.

Paired with a strong lead qualification system, email automation can offload much of the burden sales and marketing teams face when executing sales prospecting. For inspiration check out these email automation campaign ideas.

When to send a follow-up email

Timing is a critical factor with any email follow-up. The idea is to ensure that your audience is able to recall your previous communication, but not feel irritated to hear from you again. A good rule is to allow 2–3 days between emails to ensure that you stay top of mind with your audience, but don’t oversaturate them.

What to consider when writing a follow-up email

The key to high-performing email follow-up is a combination of etiquette, timing, context, and a compelling offer. Here’s what to consider when drafting your messages:

1. Get the subject line right

More than anything else, your subject line matters. The more thoughtfully written your subject line, the more likely you are to pique your audience’s interest and get your email opened. According to Optinmonster, 47% of people who received emails decided whether or not to open them based on the subject line. Conversely, 69% of those to report spam emails did it based on the subject line.

Here are some points to remember when drafting a follow-up email subject line:

  • Keep it short: Research from Marketo found that subject lines with 7 words or fewer led to more overall engagement.
  • Use emotional language: Triggering an emotional response with your subject line can help improve the performance of your follow-up emails. The Harvard Business Review gives an example of a bank that released a new credit card that was designed to inspire emotional responses. They saw a 70% increase in usage amongst its segment, as well as 40% rise in new account growth.
  • Personalize the subject line: Data from Yes Lifecycle Marketing confirms that personalizing subject lines can result in a 50% increase in open rates and a 58% increase in click-to-open rates.

2. Provide context and add value with each follow-up email

A good practice with email follow-ups is to make sure that you refer to your previous email. Build on the information shared in each one, ensuring that you clarify your offer and remind your audience about your brand. As you build value with each email, you increase the likelihood of a response.

Here are some things to try in email follow-ups to add context and value:

  • Reiterate your initial pitch: Make sure that you get your pitch across again — but do it in a slightly different language so your audience will remember it, but won’t be turned off by receiving the exact same messaging.
  • Illicit a response to clarify objections: Ask your email recipient for a response that explains either why they aren’t interested at the moment or what might be keeping them from taking your offering.
  • Use testimonials and social proof: If your product or service has great reviews from users, or is endorsed by an expert or celebrity, this can lend credibility to your follow-up email. Additionally, crowdsourced reviews or industry certifications can also help improve the perception of your follow-up messaging.
  • Share relevant content: Providing links to helpful resources or related articles about your product or service and the problem it solves can help email recipients to learn more about what you do and how you can help them.

3. Personalize as much as possible

Depending on how much you know about your prospects, personalization can go much further than just using their name in the subject line. By using relevant information to personalize your messaging, you can customize follow-up emails on a larger scale. This can be done with email marketing platforms that enable you to use dynamic fields to insert key data points that build tailored messaging for your audience.

For B2B selling, sending BASHO emails can help with conversion. A BASHO email is a highly personalized message that aims to get a meeting with the end buyer of the product or service. This term was coined by acclaimed sales trainer, Jeff Hoffman, under the Basho brand.

BASHO emails are highly personalized and can really convince readers that you’ve done your homework and understand their requirements. Here are 8 examples of ways you can use BASHO emails.

4. Pay attention to your tone of voice

The way you say things in emails is an important part of your follow-up strategy. Ensure that your tone is always polite and respectful, and avoid sounding passive-aggressive. Depending on your branding, you might be able to take more risks or be cheeky in your messaging, but be sure that it never crosses a line with your audience. Taking care with your choice of words is an important part of convincing your audience to convert. 

5. Make sure your call to action is persuasive

A simple, persuasive call to action provides a way for your audience to take immediate action if they are interested in your offer.

Here are some ways to include a compelling call to action in your follow-up emails:

  • Give your audience a deadline: Stating a specific date and time by which recipients should respond can help move the conversation forward, or even get you an immediate response.
  • Include a link to your calendar: If your product or service requires further discussion with a salesperson, provide a link to your calendar to make sure that the recipient is able to easily set up an appointment.
  • Underline your value proposition: Turning your value proposition into a snappy call to action can be a great way to bring your audience to the realization that your solution is what they’ve been looking for. Here’s more on how you can write the most effective call-to-action copy.
  • Create an urgency to respond: Giving a reason to act quickly, such as sharing an exclusive or limited-time offer, can encourage your audience to act swiftly.

Test a range of variables with your follow-up emails

Trial-and-error is always an important aspect of ensuring that your email campaigns meet their objectives for each audience. A/B testing a variety of subject lines, messaging, and email closings is critical to figuring out what works for your specific audience. It’s also an integral part of understanding what impacts your open rates and reply rates most. Remember, email marketing is all about constant improvement.


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