When They Don’t Respond, Here’s How You Write a Follow-Up Email

You always have high hopes when you craft a marketing email, but sometimes your message elicits no response. When this happens, don’t despair: You still have an important marketing opportunity ahead of you, but first you have to understand how to write a follow-up email. Start with the basics, and give your customer a reason to respond.
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Put specific details in your subject line.

Understanding how to write a follow-up email after no reply means understanding that you need to be as helpful as possible to the recipient. You have value to deliver to your recipient, so don’t hide it in the body of your email. Announce it in the subject line.

Just as journalists don’t want to bury the lede when they write a story, your subject line should immediately transmit the importance of your message to compel the recipient to click through and take action. Generic subject lines such as, “Hey, I’m just reaching out again…” serve no purpose. You don’t even need to put the phrase “follow-up” anywhere in the subject line. Address your recipient directly and tell them specifically what value they’ll get by reading.

Remind them of their decision to opt in.

Done well, your SEO and content marketing strategies can drive people to engage with your brand and opt in to receive email communications from you. A follow-up email is a good time to remind them why they previously opted to receive your messages.

Remind subscribers of the content that originally inspired them to opt in. Consider the following examples:

  • “Remember watching that video on our website showing how you can reduce your shipping costs by 30%? I want to make that happen for you.”
  • “I hope you found our white paper on logistics planning helpful. I’d love to schedule a chat where we can discuss the possibilities for your company in more detail.”

Always be respectful of their time.

Don’t make customers read too far into your message to find its purpose. Show that you understand your prospect’s time is valuable. It’s possible they didn’t reply to your first email because they were too busy, or they meant to respond, but your message got pushed back into their inbox because of a flood of new emails.

Be upfront and honest about why you’re sending another message, and avoid the temptation to be passive-aggressive or sarcastic about their lack of response. It’s perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that you understand they are busy and that you are asking them to take time out of their schedule to respond. However, the conversation always needs to be centered on the potential value you bring to the table.

Place a strong call to action in the text.

Some marketers believe you should pull back on the strong call to action (CTA) in a follow-up email in order to avoid coming off as pushy and potentially triggering an unsubscribe. But if the recipient wants to unsubscribe, they’re likely going to do so no matter how straightforward your CTA is. In many cases, you’re leaving the recipients who are interested without a clear path of how to move forward.

It’s up to you to guide them, just like when you send the first email. Make it clear why they should continue the conversation, then provide simple instructions on how.

Make it ridiculously simple for them to take action.

The problem with open-ended CTAs is that they’re open-ended. A closing line like, “Let me know what time you’re free, and I’ll give you a call,” seems innocuous, but it can easily lead to a game of email tag when both parties’ schedules don’t match up.

Instead, place a prominent button in the email that sends the recipient to a page where they can click on an available time to schedule the call. Tell them exactly where they need to click in order to get the ball rolling and let them know you’ll take care of the rest.

Focus only on the single recipient.

If you haven’t gotten a response after the second or third email, it can be tempting to try and CC someone on the recipient’s team in the hopes you’ll get a reply. This is especially true in warm calling situations where you may already have other connections at the company.

If you want to write a follow-up email after no response, you should avoid copying others who aren’t already involved. Focus your energies on the original recipient. If you’re going to get someone to agree to have a deeper conversation, it should be the person who originally expressed interest. Additionally, CCing others who aren’t already part of the conversation can be seen as unprofessional: They may feel you’re wasting their time.

Personalize wherever possible.

Personalization is all the rage in B2B email marketing because it consistently delivers results. According to research from Experian, B2B industry emails with personalized subject lines delivered 27% higher unique open rates compared to those without personalization. When a recipient takes the time to click on your follow-up email, they should know immediately why you’re contacting them specifically. The last thing they want is a generic message that obviously goes to every person who doesn’t reply the first time.

You don’t have to get fancy with personalization. The simplest techniques are often the most effective. Address the person by name in the subject, greeting, and body. Reference ways they’ve interacted with your brand previously. You could remind them of content they’ve recently viewed. Mention how your product or service can specifically help them or their company in this moment.

Reintroduce yourself and your product when responding to an unopened message.

You do need to approach your email slightly differently when the recipient has failed to open your original message. Because it’s difficult to know the exact reason they didn’t originally respond, you’ll have to work from the beginning.

A effective technique is to acknowledge that you sent a previous message, then re-establish your value proposition as quickly as possible. Your recipient may have been researching solutions from multiple companies, so differentiate yourself as early as possible in the email.

See insights on successful email strategies from Marketing Cloud customers.

Reference your previous conversation — and add new value.

When you follow up with a client who opened your previous message, you have to quickly accomplish two things: First, build off of that previous message, perhaps with a reference to the benefits you already mentioned. If they are intrigued by the premise, but they only skimmed your first email and didn’t internalize it, they can go back to the original message for the full scope of your value proposition.

But this follow-up email can’t simply be a rehash of what you already sent. You have to take this opportunity to add additional value to the conversation. Find a way you can tie the content of the initial email into your follow-up message, but give them a new reason to click your new CTA. Every CTA you include, whether it’s in your original message or a follow-up email, should have value to back it up.

Track your unengaged subscribers and take action.

Follow-up emails are an important tool in the email marketer’s arsenal because they allow you to show your commitment to providing real value. However, there does come a point where follow-ups that don’t elicit responses can turn into spam. This is where tracking your unengaged subscribers and updating your subscription list becomes important.

Of course, you don’t have to take someone off your list if they don’t explicitly ask you to, but it’s a good practice to follow. You can set your own standards for what constitutes an unengaged subscriber, but if they haven’t opened an email in three or four months, there’s little chance of you breaking through. Prune your list accordingly, and focus on communicating value to those who are more open to your messaging.

When your carefully crafted email messages go unanswered, it takes patience to write and send the right follow-up email. With these tips, your email subscription audience will be more engaged.

About the Author:

Fan Bi is the Founder and CEO of Blank Label, a custom men's clothing brand with locations in Boston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

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