Mastering Follow-Up Emails: A Complete Guide for Small Businesses, Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Illustration showing the concept of follow-up emails

So, you emailed a potential customer and haven’t heard back. What now?

You might think, “Well, they’re just not interested.” But it might not be that simple.

The reality is very few people say “yes” right away. It often takes persistence and well-crafted follow-up emails.

Your initial email is probably buried in a crowded inbox, forgotten in the daily hustle and bustle. That doesn’t mean the person on the other end doesn’t want what you’re offering. Maybe they just missed it. Or perhaps they’re waiting for a little nudge.

That’s where follow-up emails come in. At crowdspring, we’ve seen how a friendly, well-timed follow-up can turn a “maybe later” into a “yes, please!” It’s not about bugging people; it’s about reminding them and showing them you care about their business.

If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, or marketer, follow-up emails might feel awkward or unnecessary. But trust us, follow-up emails are a secret weapon in your email marketing strategy. This guide will show you why follow-up emails are necessary when to send them, and what to say. It’s easier than you think and might be the key to growing your business.

Key takeaways

Here is a quick reference for any small business owner, entrepreneur, or marketer, be it a seasoned veteran or someone just stepping into the world of business communication:

  1. Follow-up emails are not spam. Appropriately crafted follow-up emails are professional nudges, not annoyances. They remind recipients of your previous conversation and encourage a response.
  2. Persistence pays off. Not everyone responds immediately. Well-timed follow-up emails show you’re attentive and serious, encouraging recipients to engage.
  3. Clarity of purpose is crucial. Before you send a follow-up email, identify a clear objective. Whether asking for information, requesting a meeting, or just saying thanks, your recipient should know what you want.
  4. Follow-up emails help maintain relationships. Follow-up emails allow you to catch up with contacts, thank them, or update them on ongoing projects, keeping your connection fresh and engaged.
  5. Customize the message. Tailoring your follow-up email to the recipient and the context makes it more personal and effective. A one-size-fits-all approach is less likely to succeed.
  6. Provide value in every email. Whether it’s information, support, or a special offer, ensure that your follow-up emails provide something of value to the recipient.
  7. Timing matters. Sending follow-up emails at the proper intervals shows persistence without being annoying. Timing also includes considering the recipient’s time zone and work hours.
  8. Use tools to make it easier. Various scheduling and email tracking tools can automate the process and provide insights into your follow-up emails’ performance.
  9. Analyze and adjust. Continuously assess the effectiveness of your follow-up emails. Analyzing the response rates and feedback will help you improve future communications.
  10. Think long-term. Follow-up emails are not just about immediate gains. They build and maintain long-term relationships, trust, and brand image.

Follow these principles and turn a simple email into a significant business opportunity. For specific insights, read on.

Benefits of follow-up emails

Here’s how follow-up emails can be a game-changer for your business:

  1. Building trust. Regular communication fosters confidence and transparency. For example, a SaaS company can send personalized follow-ups sharing updates on features requested by clients, enhancing trust in the brand’s responsiveness. A local plumber can send a follow-up email after a service visit, including maintenance tips, building trust in their expertise, and customer care.
  2. Improving conversion rates. Well-timed follow-ups can turn interest into sales. An e-commerce store might send a follow-up email offering a limited-time discount to cart abandoners, converting browsers into buyers. Similarly, a car dealership could send a follow-up after a test drive with a special financing offer, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.
  3. Segmenting your target audience. Follow-ups help identify serious prospects from casual inquiries. An online marketing agency could send various follow-up sequences based on engagement levels, focusing resources on high-intent leads, while a boutique might send follow-up emails to event attendees, offering personalized styles and identifying loyal customers.
  4. Making interactions valuable. Tailoring content or offers to individual preferences makes interactions meaningful. A streaming platform can send personalized follow-ups based on viewing habits, enhancing user experience, just as a personal trainer might follow up with tailored fitness plans, making the client’s gym experience more valuable.
  5. Establishing credibility. Follow-up emails that offer insights or assistance underscore expertise. A financial tech startup can follow up with informative content on managing expenses, positioning itself as a financial expert, while a law firm could send follow-up emails with legal tips related to a consultation, establishing its authority.
  6. Keeping your brand top-of-mind. Regular engagement ensures that prospects remember your brand. A subscription box service might send follow-up emails highlighting upcoming products, keeping excitement alive, and a real estate agent could follow up with market insights, keeping clients engaged and aware of their services.
  7. Standing out from the competition. Unique content or offers set your brand apart. An online education platform could send follow-up emails with exclusive access to webinars, differentiating from competitors, and a local restaurant might send follow-up emails with invitations to special chef’s table events, creating a unique dining experience.
  8. Enhancing customer retention. Thoughtful follow-ups foster loyalty. An online software company can send follow-up emails with tutorials and tips, helping customers utilize the product and ensuring retention. A pet store might send follow-up care guides after purchases, enhancing satisfaction and repeat business.
  9. Providing support and feedback channels. Encouraging dialogue supports ongoing improvement. An online clothing retailer can send follow-up emails requesting reviews, using feedback for continuous improvement, while a dental clinic could send follow-up emails to check on patients’ wellbeing, showing care and gathering feedback on services.
  10. Creating upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Follow-ups can introduce complementary products or higher-value options. An online electronics retailer might send follow-ups suggesting accessories for recent purchases, promoting cross-sales, and a salon could send follow-ups with discount offers on related beauty treatments following a hair appointment, encouraging further bookings.

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Why do people fail to respond to emails?

If an email is delivered, the chances are good that it’s been viewed (unless it went to your spam folder).

A study on “Characterizing and Predicting Email Deferral Behavior” reveals that the sheer volume of emails leads people to “triage” them. This method involves swift scanning and deferring them to a more convenient time.

For example, a busy entrepreneur might defer an email from a new vendor until the weekend, when they can give it proper attention. The working professional spends approximately 28% of their time with emails, and 16% defer responding at least once a day.

What kind of emails do people ignore?

People tend to defer or ignore the following types of emails:

  • Time-consuming emails. Those requiring careful reading or replies.
  • Unclear sender’s identity. Emails from unknown or suspicious senders.
  • Large thread sizes. Emails with numerous recipients.
  • Workload & context of recipient. Timing matters based on their schedule.
  • Low-urgency emails. Those that don’t demand immediate action.

How to write effective follow-up emails to get responses

Despite only 8.5% of outreach emails receiving a response, the outreach effort doesn’t end with the first email. Crafting the right follow-up emails at the right time is vital for success. Here’s a guide on how to write follow-up emails that get responses:

1. Clearly state the purpose of your follow-up email

Here are examples of ten typical reasons to send a follow-up email, with templates illustrating each:

Information needed

This type of email is used to gather specific information from the recipient that may be missing or unclear. It may relate to a particular product, service, or any other detail required for proceeding with a task.

Meeting request

This email is a formal request for a meeting or conversation. It could be to discuss potential collaboration, further engagement, or other business-related matters.

Catch up

Catching up via email may be necessary after significant changes or accomplishments. It’s a way to reconnect, show interest, and explore new opportunities for collaboration or assistance.

Thank you

Expressing gratitude can create a positive relationship with the recipient. This email can be sent after a purchase, referral, review, or any other form of collaboration.

Provide a solution

Offering a solution via email is common when addressing a problem or need. It showcases a tailored approach and can include a proposal or a special offer.

Request feedback

Asking for feedback can help in enhancing products or services. It shows that you value the recipient’s opinion and are willing to improve based on their experience.

Offer additional resources

Offering additional resources can provide extra value to the recipient. This could include educational materials, guides, or anything that enhances their understanding or experience with your product or service.

Send a gentle reminder

A gentle reminder can prompt the recipient about an upcoming meeting, an incomplete task, or any other pending action. It’s a polite way to jog their memory without being intrusive.

Share an update or announcement

This email shares updates or announcements about your business, products, or services. It keeps the recipients informed about the latest happenings and offers.

Extend an exclusive 0ffer

Extending an exclusive offer is a way to reward loyal customers or to entice potential ones. It often includes special discounts or access to premium features.

2. Use engaging subject lines

Craft a clear subject line. Make it concise and relevant. And remember to test various subject lines to avoid spam filters.

3. Keep It brief

Your follow-up email should ideally be 50 to 125 words. Many people ignore longer emails or defer reading them.

The examples we included in this article can be customized for your specific needs, but keep this guideline in mind.

Less is more.

4. Time your follow-up

Wait about one to three days for regular follow-ups, with specific times for other situations.

Here are some typical time frames for sending follow-up emails:

  • 24 hours. Post-meeting thanks.
  • 48 hours. After important documentation.
  • 1 to 2 weeks. No response follow-ups.
  • Every three months. Reconnecting.

5. Establish context through your introductory sentence

Introductory sentences help people remember previous interactions. Be upfront about why you are following up.

Here are ten examples of effective introductory lines that establish a context in follow-up emails:

  • “I met with you last week at [event], and we discussed [specific topic]. I wanted to follow up on that conversation.”
  • “A mutual friend, [name], suggested I contact you regarding [specific opportunity]. I hope we can discuss it further.”
  • “I am reaching out regarding the email I sent about [topic]. Did you have a chance to review it?”
  • “We spoke over the phone recently about [product/service]. I’m following up to see if you have any more questions.”
  • “During our last meeting, you showed interest in [product/service]. Let’s explore how we can make it work for you.”
  • “I noticed you downloaded our recent whitepaper on [topic]. I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss how we can assist you.”
  • *”You attended our webinar on [topic], and I wanted to provide you with some additional information that might be of interest.”
  • “I read your recent post on [social media/forum] about [topic], and I think our services could align with your needs.”
  • “You mentioned in our last conversation that you faced challenges with [specific issue]. I’ve been thinking about ways we can help.”
  • “After our product demo at [location/event], you asked about [specific feature]. I have some more information for you.”

These introductory sentences are effective because they directly reference a previous interaction or connection, immediately reminding the recipient of who you are and why you’re reaching out. By establishing this context, you make it easier for the recipient to engage with the content of your email and respond to your call to action.

6. Provide value and incentive

Share relevant tips, blogs, e-books, etc. Your follow-up email must be relevant and seen as something of value. Encourage people to respond by asking for opinions or offering special incentives.

7. Use engaging visuals

Including high-quality images or videos related to your product or service can enhance the appeal of your email. If appropriate and relevant, visual content helps convey your message more effectively and can engage the recipient’s attention.

8. Offer limited-time discounts or exclusive offers

If your follow-up email intends to sell something, encourage the prospect to take immediate action by offering a special discount or exclusive offer. Ensure the offer aligns with their interests or needs and specify the time frame.

9. Provide clear solutions to pain points

Highlight how your product or service can specifically solve the problems or challenges the prospect faces. Provide real-life examples or case studies to make your point more convincing.

10. Ask open-ended questions

Engage the recipient by asking open-ended questions related to their business or interests. This can spark a conversation and make them more likely to respond. For example, “What challenges are you currently facing in your marketing efforts?”

11. Share industry insights or news

Offer value by sharing insights, reports, or news related to their industry. This not only demonstrates your expertise but also provides them with helpful information. For example, you could link to a recent study or news article about their field.

12. Include social proof and testimonials

Share testimonials, reviews, or success stories from other clients, preferably from the same industry or business as the recipient. This builds credibility and can instill confidence in your offering.

13. Conclude with a clear call-to-action (CTA)

Avoid big asks early; start with small requests. Make the next steps apparent, such as suggesting a specific meeting date.

Here are 15 examples of effective Call-to-Action (CTA) statements in follow-up emails, along with an explanation of why each is effective:

“Click here to schedule our next meeting.”

Why it’s effective: It’s direct and actionable. By providing a link to schedule a meeting, it simplifies the response process for the recipient.

“Please reply with your preferred date and time.”

Why it’s effective: It encourages a quick response and leaves the decision in the recipient’s hands, making them feel more in control.

“Download our free eBook to learn more.”

Why it’s effective: Offers additional value and appeals to the recipient’s curiosity or need for information. It also encourages engagement with other content.

“Visit our website to explore our latest products.”

Why it’s effective: Creates curiosity and directly guides the recipient to where you want them to go, increasing potential sales or engagement.

“Fill out this brief survey to help us serve you better.”

Why it’s effective: Emphasizes that the recipient’s opinion is valuable and that their input will lead to a more personalized experience.

“Join our upcoming webinar by clicking here.”

Why it’s effective: This CTA is specific, offers value, and creates a sense of community. It’s also easy to act upon if a link is provided.

“Use this coupon code at checkout for a special discount.”

Why it’s effective: Offers immediate tangible value, incentivizing a quick purchase or commitment.

“Connect with me on LinkedIn to continue our conversation.”

Why it’s effective: Encourages a more informal and ongoing relationship, which can be essential for networking or partnership building.

“Sign up for our newsletter for more insights and updates.”

Why it’s effective: It keeps the recipient engaged with your content or brand longer.

“Share this with a friend who might be interested.”

Why it’s effective: Encourages word-of-mouth marketing and extends your reach to new potential clients or customers.

“Call me at [phone number] to discuss further.”

Why it’s effective: It’s direct and personal, showing you are accessible and ready to engage in deeper conversation.

“Start your free trial today by clicking here.”

Why it’s effective: Encourages immediate action and reduces barriers by offering a free experience.

“Let me know if you need further assistance.”

Why it’s effective: Shows empathy and readiness to help, fostering a relationship of trust.

“Register for our upcoming event at this link.”

Why it’s effective: It creates a sense of urgency and offers a clear path to action, promoting event attendance.

“Read our latest case study to see how we can help you.”

Why it’s effective: This CTA provides evidence of your success and offers a deeper insight into how your services or products work, fostering credibility.

Each of these CTAs is designed to prompt a specific action that aligns with the objective of the email. By being clear, direct, and offering value, they make it easy and appealing for the recipient to take the next step.

Follow-up emails are more than a simple tool for closing deals; they build and nurture relationships. Knowing how to construct them effectively ensures you can confidently engage prospects and leads.

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