Knowing when and how to follow up is key to running a successful marketing campaign. Whether you’re sending a personal email to a high-value prospect, or a drip campaign to a segment of your email list, follow up emails can make or break your sale.

While many sales reps are reluctant to follow up with contacts who don’t reply, the truth is that follow up emails have a higher response rate then initial emails. Not only does it take multiple attempts to familiarize a contact with your brand, but you can experiment with different subject lines to find the strategy that works best for your product.

According to some studies, even the fifth or sixth follow up email in a sequence can get a positive response from your recipients!

In this article, we’ll look at a few tips for creating the most effective follow up emails, as well as how you can use tools to automate the process.

What good is a follow up email?

But first, why send a follow up email? There are a few reasons why sales reps might avoid sending follow up emails, but most of them don’t align with what the statistics say.

The first is that if your lead wanted to buy your product, they would have acted on your initial contact. This often isn’t the case, either because they aren’t yet familiar with your brand, or because they just happened to open the email at a bad time.

While you might think your initial email was persuasive enough, and you’re just waiting for your lead to make a decision, they may have forgotten all about it. Sending a follow up email shows that you’re serious, keeps your brand in their mind, and increases the chances that one of your emails will reach them when they’re in the mood to buy.

Another reason is that you’re afraid of being too pushy or aggressive and driving the customer away. It’s true that you can go overboard if you send emails day after day, pressuring your prospect to make a decision.

But if you leave enough time between each follow up, and use the right techniques, you can entice your contact to reach out to you.

Follow up emails are especially important in B2B sales. With longer sales cycles and higher-value products, following up ensures your prospects don’t fall by the wayside, and they’ll be more likely to make time for a phone call or schedule a meeting.

Here are some great tricks for writing a killer follow up email:

So, what makes a good follow up email? Here are 7 great tips and techniques that will help your follow up emails stand out in your recipient’s inbox:

Figure out your objective.

First, figure out what your goals are. It’s not enough to simply increase your open rate or response rate. Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with your follow up.

This could mean restarting a conversation with a prospect that has gone cold, or moving your website visitors to the next stage in your sales funnel.

Some sales reps make the mistake of thinking that their follow-up email has to include the same call-to-action as their previous message. But this isn’t always the case.

If your contact hasn’t acted on your previous call-to-action, make them a different offer. Send them a free trial or an educational resource instead of pushing for a sale.

Your objective could include anything from:

  • Gathering more information about your leads
  • Requesting a meeting with a B2B prospect
  • Thanking your contacts with a special offer
  • Finding out why a lead didn’t complete a sale

Whether you offer a free trial to inbound leads who created an account but didn’t place an order, or follow up with a B2B prospect you’ve already spoken to on the phone, you can use the information gathered in this stage of the process to learn more about your contacts and send them more personalized follow ups later on.

Give your reader the context for the email.

Next, make sure your contact knows who the email is coming from. After all, most of us get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails every day, and it’s easy for messages to get lost or set aside, even if it’s from someone whom you want to hear from.

The key is to avoid saying that you’re “just following up” or “just checking in,” which can make your email seem less timely or important than it is.

If the email is for someone you’ve spoken to or met in person, try one of these opening lines to establish the context and give your recipient a reason to read further:

  • Hi, [Recipient], it’s [Name] from [Company]. Last week we spoke on the phone about [product] and the recent news about [topic] reminded me of our chat....
  • Hi [Recipient]. We haven’t spoken in a while, but I’m reaching out because our friend [Name] told me you might be interested in our new product….
  • Hi [Recipient]. We haven’t officially met, but I attended your panel at [Conference] and was impressed by what you had to say about [topic]....

If your email is for a website visitor or lead, setting the context is just as important, but your opening line will be a little different. You can try something like:

  • I noticed that you redeemed your coupon code at [website] but haven’t made a purchase yet. I wanted to reach out and see if there’s anything I can do….
  • I know it’s been a few months since your free trial ended, but I wanted to give you a heads-up about our new product....
  • I sent you a link to [resource] last week, and wanted to know what you think….

Since most email campaigns allow you to enable click tracking, you can see which of your contacts opened an email, clicked on a link, or viewed a webpage or video. You can use that information to decide what to focus on in a follow up message.

Make your purpose clear.

Next, it’s time to articulate your reason for writing. If your ultimate objective is to set up a sales meeting, then the immediate purpose of your email might be to:

  • Add value
  • Offer social proof
  • Share a new perspective

You can add value by sharing useful resources related to your product or service. Your follow up could take the form of a mini course or the offer of a free consultation.

You can offer social proof by including a link to a recent mention of your product in the news media or highlighting a case study or testimonial from a satisfied client.

Or, share a new perspective by shifting focus onto a different aspect of your business. If your offer of a free trial isn’t working, try something else instead. Many email campaigns make a clear distinction between their “content” emails and “engagement” emails.

For B2B prospects, you can consider inviting them to a company event, suggesting a product demo or discovery call, or offering a free trial.

Make the subject line pop.

While the body of your email is important, the subject line is what determines whether or not the email ever gets read. Creative subject lines can be key to an effective follow up, while poorly-written subject lines can get you sent right to the spam folder.

For best results, write them after you write the content of your email to ensure that they accurately represent what’s inside. You can also use A/B testing to determine which of your subject lines drive the most engagement and which are reported as spam.

First, make sure your subject lines are clear and easy to read. If your recipient doesn’t know what it is they’re receiving, they’re less likely to engage with it. This also means making sure that your subject lines are short enough to view on mobile devices.

Second, make your subject lines as personal and specific as possible. You can use your recipient’s name, the time you want to schedule a meeting, or the date your special offer ends, as a way to convey a sense of urgency and get a speedy response.

Finally, know your recipients. Depending on your audience, using emojis in your subject line can either make you look hip, or result in a surefire trip to the spam folder.

For some recipients, the word “free” in the subject line can appear spammy. You can try using alternate words like “complimentary” or “on the house.” Here are a few examples you can customize for your follow up email:

  • “Can I get your input?”
  • “I forgot to tell you…”
  • “This one’s on us….”

Send it to the right place, with the right timing.

So much of email marketing depends on getting your email seen at the right time and in the right place. Some email marketers suggest the sweet spot is following up every 2 to 3 days, with a maximum of 7 follow ups per campaign.

By that point, you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns, and you can probably go ahead and send them a break up email.

But when exactly should you send a follow up email? Aside from choosing a time of day when your recipient is likely to be at the office or otherwise available to read it, consider sending a follow up in each of these situations:

  • After the first phone call or online interaction. The first interaction is the most important. If you don’t stay in touch with your prospects, they’re likely to move on and forget about you. You can send a “recap” of your first phone call with a B2B prospect, or a log of your chat with an inbound visitor to your website. Take the time to thank them and include a specific call-to-action.
  • 2-3 days after your previous contact. It’s always disappointing when you don’t hear back from someone, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. This is your chance to send a gentle reminder and try to reignite the conversation.
  • After a change in circumstance. Use an external trigger (a new product launch, a positive mention in the press) as the rationale for another follow up.
  • After a long period of silence. The more time that passes, the less likely it is for a prospect to get back to you without another follow up. Realistically, it’s possible they’ve moved on and no longer need your product or service. Send them one last email letting them know where to reach you if they change their mind.

Keep your tone courteous.

No matter where a prospect is in the sales funnel, it’s important to keep your follow ups respectful and professional. Yes, it can be frustrating when a prospect “ghosts” you, but you shouldn’t take it personally, even if you were in the middle of a sale.

Sometimes a prospect has legitimate reasons for disappearing, such as having a family emergency or no longer working at their company, while in other cases, they might have simply found a better deal from one of your competitors.

Either way, no matter how much effort you’ve put into a particular prospect, they aren’t obligated to make a purchase, and you can’t guilt them into it.

If you can find a way to express your disappointment respectfully, that’s fine, but don’t let it come across as too demanding or entitled to a response. That’s when sales reps can cross the line into being perceived as pushy or even stalker-y.

For example, try, “We’ve missed you” or “What can we do to win you back?” rather than passive-aggressive phrases like, “Did you see my last email?” or “Any updates yet?”

Sell yourself.

People write follow up emails for a variety of reasons, from setting up a sales call with a B2B prospect, to following up with inbound customers after a purchase.

No matter what your end goal, remember that your primary objective is to sell yourself: that is, to come across as a trustworthy source with a valuable product or service. Use positive phrases, and back up your claims with third-party sources.

And above all, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Email templates are great, but they can’t replace your own point-of-view and instincts as a marketer.

People will click on your emails because they want to hear from you or your company, not because there's anything inherently unique about your seventh email.

A good CRM can help you schedule your follow up emails.

Even if you understand how important follow up emails are, keeping track of all of your contacts and remembering when to reach out to them can be a challenge. That’s why many sales reps use a CRM like OnCourse to automate their email follow ups.

With the right CRM, you can create templates for every stage of your email campaign, and personalize them for each of your contacts. You can also set a reminder to follow up with a prospect a specific number of days after an initial email or phone call.

Reach out to the team at OnCourse to book a demo and find out how you can improve your follow up strategy today!