An Ultimate Guide on Writing a Follow-Up Email That Gets Responses

Follow-up email

What to do if prospects don’t answer your emails? Should you forget about them and move on? Of course not — a polite follow-up email will save your sales. In this article, we’ll give you tips and tricks on writing follow-ups without being intrusive.

What is a follow-up email?

A follow-up email is an email that you send to customers you’ve got in touch with earlier. You can send them at different customer journey map points — no matter if your clients performed the target action or not. For example, take a look at this cart abandonment email from Everlane:

Cart abandonment email from Everlane
Source: Really Good Emails

But in this article, we’ll focus on follow-up emails after no response — by the “response” we mean performing the target action from the previous email. Why should you care? Let’s take a look at the study conducted by Woodpecker. They reported that sending a follow-up can increase the initial response rate up to 40%. For example, if your first email got a 5% response rate, after a follow-up email it will be as high as 7%. It’s especially important for cold outreach campaigns. Many sources claim that the average response rate for cold emails varies between 1 and 5% — and follow-up emails are a good way to boost such campaigns.

Why people don’t respond to emails

You’ve probably been ghosted at least once in your life. HRs, Tinder matches, or even friends do it for different reasons that often have nothing to do with you. When it comes to email campaigns, you can’t appeal to everyone as well — but you can increase the response rate if you avoid these email mistakes:

  • Irrelevant offers. Imagine inviting your punk friend to a Travis Scott concert — they will reject your offer at best. According to SwiftERM, irrelevant content is one of the top 3 reasons why subscribers mark emails as spam. Improve your email segmentation — it allows you to suggest more seductive offers.
  • Focus on the company. Have you been on a date where your partner kept talking about themselves without asking you any questions? Instead of focusing on how successful your business is, tell clients what your company can do for them — give them a reason to collaborate with you. 
  • Too many words. The study from Boomerang showed that the best email length is 50–125 words. Stick to this length for a higher response rate.
  • Unclear CTA. Misplaced or poorly designed buttons and too long or ambiguous text will decrease email engagement — clients won’t perform the target action in both cases. And if your email is plain text, chances are your wording wasn’t clear enough — and your recipient didn’t understand what you want. Another possible issue is that you didn’t include a CTA at all — that’s why your recipient doesn’t see any point in responding.

But even if your emails are well-segmented, have a crystal clear CTA and a good copy, you can still send follow-up emails to increase your campaign’s efficiency.

How long should you wait before sending follow-up emails?

Again, will you lash out at your Tinder match for not answering within two hours? Of course not. But it doesn’t mean that you should wait for weeks to send a follow-up.

Sales and promotional emails are similar to Tinder chats in this aspect. Most sources suggest sending follow-up emails 1–3 days after the initial email. Give this time to customers so they can digest the email’s contents and come up with a reply that sounds reasonable. But follow-up timing also depends on:

  • Your industry
  • Your target audience
  • The day of the week you sent the initial email

That’s why you should consider these numbers as advice, not the ultimate success recipe. For example, you’re running a campaign for a B2C business that sells consumer goods like food or makeup. Sending a follow-up email on a weekend in this situation will be ineffective — your customers won’t read it. At the same time, a weekend follow-up might work for a B2B business that targets startup CEOs — they will check their inbox at least on Saturdays. The best way to figure out the perfect follow-up strategy for your campaign is A/B testing. Experiment with time windows between emails and sending time, analyze the results — and you’ll figure out what works best for your campaign.

But is one follow-up email enough?

The short answer is: not really. If your prospect already rejected your offer, leave them alone. But if they keep ignoring you, feel free to send up to 5 follow-up emails. However, when it comes to time intervals, different sources provide different information. If we are to make a conclusion out of several sources, we get a schedule like this:

  • Follow-up 1 on day 3
  • Follow-up 2 on day 7
  • Follow-up 3 on day 14
  • Follow-up 4 on day 30
  • Follow-up 5 on day 60

You can use it as an approximate course of action.

As you can see, for each email in the sequence, there’s more and more time to answer. And again, we don’t know the best recipe for your campaign specifically. We think it’s too extra to follow up after a month — but it might work for you. The only solution is testing — keep experimenting with time intervals and other characteristics and analyze the results.

How to write a follow-up email after no response

Writing a follow-up email might feel scary. But if you use best practices and stick to email etiquette, you’ll be able to write polite follow-ups that boost your campaigns like a pro. Let’s take a closer look at the writing process step by step.

Email subject

OptinMonster found out that 47% of people base their decision to open an email on subject lines. That’s why email subjects are especially important for follow-up emails. Here’s what you should never put in the follow-up subject line:

  • The word “follow-up”. It’s too generic to bother opening — and you’ll have to send another follow-up.
  • Clickbait. A follow-up email subject line may be intriguing but don’t overdo this. Clickbait subjects like “You won’t believe this” or “An irresistible offer” will pave the road to spam.
  • Too many words. Emailmonday’s mobile email statistic overview shows that most people tend to use email clients via smartphones. According to them, mobile email can account for up to 76% of the total open rate. So keep your subject lines below 60 characters — otherwise, mobile users won’t see them. 
  • Intrusive questions. Subject lines that contain questions like “Can you respond to our last email?” or “Why did you ignore our email?” look manipulative and will decrease your open rates.

Instead of these bad practices, try some of these tips for follow-up email subject lines:

  • Get personal. Don’t hesitate to use subject lines like “Hi [Name], we have a question…” — they will make your follow-up look more real and genuine and help you stand out in the inbox.
  • Use humor. Follow-up emails create a slightly awkward situation both for you and your customer — release that tension by adding a little irony. Here are some examples: “Should I stay or should I go?”, “Don’t open this email”, “Houston, you’ve got a problem?”. 
  • Use urgency. If you’re suggesting an exclusive deal that expires quickly, you can send a quick reminder about the offer’s expiration with a sense of urgency. For this case, use subjects like “12 hours to save money” or “Get 20% off your first purchase today”.
  • Give something valuable. It doesn’t have to be a deal like in previous examples — you can suggest interesting content like articles from your company’s website. Use subject lines like “A fresh perspective on healthy eating”, “10 productivity tricks to boost your career”, “Have you tried biphasiс sleeping?” — details depend on your industry. For example, imagine that you promote an online therapy service. In your first email, your main selling point was resolving mental health issues and improving general well-being. If your email was ignored, send a follow-up with this subject line: “5 less obvious benefits of therapy we forget about” — and give a link to the article that lists them. 
  • Get to the point. If you need something from your customer, just say that in your subject line — like “How do you like our app?” if you’re asking for feedback.

But remember that there’s no universal recipe for a perfect follow-up email subject. We gave you some inspiration and listed common mistakes — and it’s up to you to brainstorm ideas and test them.

Greeting

Different types of emails require different greetings. If we’re talking about follow-up emails, you don’t need to start the whole introduction process all over again. Instead of doing that, start talking about your customer and refer to your previous encounter. Here’s an example:

Follow-up email greeting example

You don’t have to use this example as a template. But if you consider writing an intro from scratch, take notes on our tips to write a similar greeting or even do a better job:

  • Don’t be pushy. Avoid passive-aggressive remarks like “I know you were busy, so was I” or “Did you check your spam folder?”. Mannerisms like that will irritate customers.
  • Personalize. It’s not just using recipients’ first names — tailor your emails to different user groups. For example, your first email contained links to articles. Some customers read them, some didn’t. These groups need different greetings. Compare “Thank you for reading our articles. Did you find them interesting?” to “Sorry you didn’t like our articles — but we have more content that might tickle your fancy”. 
  • Don’t talk about yourself. Firstly, customers already know you. Secondly, they don’t care about how awesome your business is — they care about their problems and what you can do to solve them.

If you managed to make a good impression with a warm greeting, you’ve done a great job. But it doesn’t mean you can chill and write a half-baked copy. 

Body

Here’s the thing. Your follow-up email is an addition to your first email. That’s why the body should be as short as possible — stick to 2–3 paragraphs tops. And don’t include too much new information. Instead, try giving a different view on the value you offered in the first email.

For example, you’re promoting an online therapy service. It has a blog with articles about mental health and psychological quizzes. Your business also runs events like free webinars and workshops. Your first promotional email contained a selection of articles about how to ease depression with lifestyle changes. But what if your content didn’t appeal to customers who have a different condition or already tried meditating and it didn’t work? You can fix that in your follow-up email — here are possible strategies for this situation:

  • Use a different pain point. In the first email, you suggested lifestyle advice — and used the pain point “I want to feel better right now, without waiting for therapy to start working”. But if your customers are already meditating, eating healthy, and spending time in nature, this frustration is resolved for them. But there’s another one — like finding a good therapist: it’s too long, too hard when you’re low on mental energy, and the process is frustrating. Use the pain point “I can’t find a good therapist” — and suggest help from your business.
  • Give a different point of view. For example, your first email had lifestyle advice for the general well-being of people living with depression. The pain point is “I want to feel better right now, without waiting for therapy to start working”. But what if your prospects don’t have depression? Will these lifestyle tips help them? In the follow-up email, you can explain that yes, they affect other conditions as well — but it’s not the ultimate cure. Proceed to talk about the importance of therapy in one’s recovery process — and suggest help from your business. As you can see, the pain point is still the same, unlike in our previous example — but we looked at it from a different angle. 
  • Give a different offer. Maybe the information you gave in the previous email wasn’t valuable enough. Offer something else — from a free webinar on emotional first aid to a discount promo code for the first therapy session.

Here’s one of the options:

Follow up email body example

As you can see, the key to a good follow-up email body is keeping it short, offering something valuable, and showing empathy for customers’ pains and frustrations.

Closing

Don’t leave your customer hanging — add a clear CTA at the end of your email. All the standard CTA practices apply to follow-up emails as well. But consider these two nuances:

  • Use a different CTA. One of the reasons why your first email was left unresponded is that your customer wasn’t ready to perform the target action yet — for different reasons. Also, your first call-to-action has been ignored already — asking for the same thing might come off as intrusive.
  • Ask for less. Customers ignored your first CTA because you might have asked for too much — ask for smaller favors and simpler decisions.

Let’s come back to our therapy service case. For example, you asked to book the first appointment with a therapist in your first email. But therapy is expensive and starting a long treatment process is a serious decision. And some customers don’t understand what therapy is and how it works. So why not offer an educational quiz instead? Here’s an example:

Follow up email closing example

Sign-off/signature

Email sign-offs vary in tone a lot — use this to show your brand personality. For example, if you’re promoting a B2B company, using “Best regards”, “Sincerely”, and other formal sign-offs makes sense. But if you’re running a campaign for a B2C business targeting a younger audience, they won’t fit in the brand and the style of your email — it’s like wearing worn-out sneakers with a brand new wedding dress. 

Let’s get back to our example. As you can judge by the email’s greeting, body, and closing, the tone of voice is more on the informal side, friendly, and empathetic. Sign-off cliches won’t work in the context of this email. But we can make something from scratch. The most appropriate strategy for this email will be to express genuine concern — like this:

Follow up email signature example

Polite follow-up email samples

Our guide on follow-up emails would be incomplete without including real examples. We picked 3 follow-up emails that actually worked — and explained why we loved them.

Mozilla: How to ask for a big favor

Mozilla is a non-profit IT company that gave us Firefox. The company’s principles include open and safe internet for everyone, respectful communication, fighting misinformation, and supporting open-source software. Here’s their fundraising campaign follow-up email.

A follow-up email from Mozilla
Source: Email Competitors

Donating money is a big favor — and customers still should understand what they’ll get in return for the charity. And Mozilla managed to explain the values in their follow-up email. You’re paying for the open and accessible internet — even though you don’t have to. Another good thing about this follow-up email is that it undermines the initial big favor — we’re already close to achieving our goal, so you don’t have to donate a lot of money. That’s why customers who hesitated to donate after the first email are more likely to perform the target action after the second email. 

GlobalData: Explaining the value

GlobalData is a company that performs data analysis for businesses, governmental organizations, and universities. Here’s their follow-up email.

A follow-up email from GlobalData
Source: Email Competitors

One thing they did right is that they added more details to their previous email instead of giving completely new information. GlobalData also included a clear CTA — they want to talk to the customer about how they can be useful.

Twillo: I can help you, here’s how

Twillo is a B2B tech company that makes customer engagement systems. Here’s their follow-up sales email.

A follow-up email from Twillo
Source: HubSpot

This email sample is different from the other two because it’s a part of private interaction with a client — but we decided to include it anyway. Twillo made a textbook follow-up email — the sender made valuable suggestions to improve the recipient’s business and included a clear CTA at the end of the email. It leaves a good impression — the sender looks professional. When you send bulk emails, you can’t personalize messages at this level — but you can still use its tricks and make your follow-ups more effective.

Wrapping up

Sometimes customers don’t respond to your emails — some of the reasons include:

  • Irrelevant offers. To avoid this, improve your email segmentation.
  • Focus on the company. Don’t talk about your business — tell clients what you can do for them. 
  • Too many words. Stick to 125 words tops for higher response rates.
  • Unclear CTA. Clients won’t perform the target action if they don’t understand what you want from them.

But you can save your sales if you follow up 1–3 days after the first email. Here are some tips on how to write polite and effective follow-up emails:

  • Personalize and test your subject lines.
  • Don’t be pushy or manipulative in the greeting.
  • Keep the body short, use a different pain point, and offer something valuable.
  • Don’t repeat the CTA from your first email — ask for less.
  • Show your brand personality in the sign-off.

Have you ever been ghosted? If yes, what did you do?

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