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How to Become an Expert at Writing Follow-Up Emails

Lead generation is hard. It’s expensive and time-consuming—and therefore takes the majority of our focus when marketing our small businesses.

This leads many of us to making a mistake: focusing more on trying to generate new leads rather than nurturing our existing leads and customers with follow-up emails.

The truth is that writing follow-up emails to your existing and prospective customers will do much more to boost loyalty and increase your sales than chasing new business will.

Follow-up emails help to build trust between you and your customers, increase awareness of your brand, and earn you more repeat business.

The challenge here is that it’s really tough to write emails that people actually want to read.

To help you become an expert at writing follow-up emails and generate more sales for your business, we’ve put together these helpful tips, tactics, and templates to get you started.

Why Follow-Up Emails Are So Essential

Follow-up emails can help you on many fronts:

  1. Closing leads into sales
  2. Turn customers into repeat customers
  3. Turn repeat customers into promoters

It’s helpful to consider follow-up emails in the context of the marketing flywheel vs. the traditional marketing funnel. We’ll argue that because so many people think of sales and marketing as a funnel, they forget about the importance of nurturing all customers.

In a traditional marketing funnel, leads are pushed through a series of lead generation, nurturing, and sales phases. Under this model, you would use follow-up emails to nurture leads with the goal of leading them to a purchase decision.

Image Credit: TrackMaven

What happens after the purchase phase? According to this model, your work is over. 

But you must have heard that it’s more expensive to win a new customer than keep an existing customer. And did you know that returning customers also spend more than new ones? According to research, they spend 67% more than those making their first purchase from you! 

Impressive numbers, right?

So even if your customer has already made a purchase, if you don’t communicate with them after this step, then you’re losing out on a lot! Therefore, the traditional marketing funnel is a flawed way of looking at the importance of follow-up emails.

Enter the flywheel.

The marketing flywheel is a model created by HubSpot to explain the circular momentum gained from a cycle of attracting, engaging, and delighting your customers.

The flywheel looks like this:

HubSpot flywheel

In short, the theory is that an effective business and marketing strategy is focused on gaining circular momentum by always attracting, engaging, and delighting customers through every interaction.

Strangers are turned into prospects by attracting them with useful content. Prospects are turned into customers by engaging with them. Customers are turned into repeat customers or promoters by delighting them with your customer service. The promoters then introduce new customers to your business through word of mouth or testimonials, which creates a perpetual cycle that grows the size and strength of the flywheel over time.

Under this model, developing rapport and staying in touch with your existing customers is just as essential as the acquisition of new ones.

What does this have to do with follow-up emails? The flywheel model places equal importance on cultivating relationships with your customers at all stages. It doesn’t assume that a purchase is the end goal.

Having a thoughtful follow-up email strategy for both potential and existing customers shows that you have a vested interest in their wants and needs, and constantly reminds them about your brand’s value. 

Follow-up emails provide a motivational force for making a purchase for new customers, or can help reignite a previous customer’s interest in your brand, and induce their desire to make other purchases by offering special deals, or discounts.

Armed with an understanding of the importance of follow-up emails, let’s move on to how to do them well!

When to Send Follow-Up Emails

Before we jump into how to write a follow-up email, let’s go through the many situations that are always deserving of a follow-up email.

To close sales

According to the Brevet Group, 80% of sales require an average of five follow-ups in order to close the deal. Five!

Unfortunately, 44% of salespeople give up on a prospect after one follow-up. 94% of salespeople give up and four tries. You have to imagine small business owners and freelancers spend even less time following up.

There’s hesitance to be pushy in the sales process, but don’t forget: you have value to offer! Most customers don’t return your emails because they’re too busy, not because they don’t want your services.

To request information or action

Sometimes all that sits between closing a sale or pushing a new project forward is one missing piece of information. 

The number of “just following ups” can quickly pile up and end up in a lot of lost revenue. It’s just as valuable to your client that they get you this information to unblock a project from starting, so don’t feel bad following up.

To ask for payment

It can feel kind of icky asking for late payments. You have to convey the importance of making the payment without sacrificing the relationship. Therefore, lots of freelancers and small businesses shy away from following up and just hope the customer pays eventually.

But you can’t run a business that doesn’t make money, and your clients will understand that. For payment reminder email tips, check out How to Write a Payment Reminder Email.

To say thank you

Never underestimate “Thank You” letters. According to a survey, 68% of customers leave a brand due to its indifference.

Image Credit: Kapow

There’s so much value in thanking your clients, whether it’s after a meeting or after you’ve closed off a project. It reinforces the positive experience they had with you, and shows them that you care about more than just cashing their checks.

Try to send a thank-you email within a few days of them completing a purchase or you closing off a project to reinforce your relationship.

To ask for feedback

Whether it’s through a customer satisfaction survey or just a simple “how did we do?” email, asking for customer feedback is an invaluable way to improve your business and show your customers that you care. 

Asking for feedback in a letter is also an effective data-gathering tool, that will improve your services. Many customers won’t provide feedback unless you ask them to — especially if they have had a positive experience with you.

You can either ask for feedback when you send your thank-you email, or in a separate email later on.

To ask for testimonials or referrals

Don’t forget about the flywheel: your delighted customers are your best way to earn more business. Testimonials should be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.

A negative experience can lead customers to leaving angry comments or reviews. However, a positive experience doesn’t necessarily spark that same drive. That’s why asking for them is much more effective than waiting for them.

After every successfully completed project, follow up within a few weeks to ask your customer if they’d be willing to provide a testimonial, leave an online review, or refer another customer.

It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll quickly find that this leads to many positive interactions that leave both you and your customer feeling good about your experience working together.

6 Tips for Writing Perfect Follow-Up Emails

There’s of course no single follow-up email template suited for every situation. But there are best practices that you can follow to make sure you get as many responses as possible.

1. Have a clear objective and call to action

Your goal with every follow-up email should be to make it as easy as possible to get you the answer you want. Therefore, don’t send a long rambling email on a variety of topics. Keep your email concise and confined to one topic.

Before writing your email, determine what one thing you want out of the customer’s response. In other words, you should have a single call to action (CTA).

Is it booking a follow-up meeting? Is it answering a question? Is it taking a particular action?

If your ask is more complicated than that, it’s likely better to arrange a meeting, or to split your requests into multiple emails so as to not overwhelm your customer.

Be as specific as possible with your ask. Don’t say “I’ll follow up next week.” Say “Can I call you at 2pm on Wednesday to follow up?”

2. Use a clear, informative subject line

Half the battle is getting your prospects to open your email in the first place. This is especially true if you’re dealing in a business context where someone in senior leadership may be getting hundreds of emails a day.

A subject like “just checking in” will likely be ignored or put aside (or just create anxiety or frustration that they haven’t responded to you).

Here are some tips for writing email subjects:

  • Personalize the subject with their name
  • Keep it short, conversational, and to the point
  • Create a sense of urgency by referencing a specific time (e.g. “Are you available Tuesday at 3pm?”) or by having a limited-time offer
  • Ask a direct question like “Can you leave me a review, David?” Questions are shown to trigger more email opens.
  • Demonstrate the value of the email in the subject line (e.g. “Here’s the proposal you asked for”)

Take your time to write a great subject line!

3. Open up with context

Don’t waste anyone’s time with fluffy email introductions that distract from the goal.

You should start your email by providing context that helps your customer take the action you want them to take by reminding them of your relationship, the situation, or whatever it is they need to need to know.

For example:

  • We met last week at [event].
  • You had reached out to request [information/quote/estimate].
  • We recently spoke about [subject].

After this, you can introduce your call-to-action we mentioned in point #1.

4. Be timely

You’ll of course want to send your follow-up emails at the best possible time to drive action. The right time to send certain emails will be dependent on the goal.

For sales emails, for example, you may want to space them out by a few days as to not be too pushy.

Here are some suggestions for when to send particular follow-up emails:

  • Within 24 hours: Following up after meeting a new prospect for the first time.
  • Within 48 hours: Asking for feedback on a quote or information request.
  • Within 1 week: Asking for a testimonial, payment, or referral after closing off a project.
  • Every few months: Following up with past customers to gauge their need for more services.

The exact timing will depend on your unique business and situation, but the point is to be thoughtful about when you send certain types of follow-up emails and not to let things slide too long. The longer you wait, the less likely you will be to get the response you need.

5. Be personal

Even though you should aim to be concise, you’ll have more success if your follow-ups are as personal as possible. 

Always use the customer’s name, and show that you care by including tidbits of personal information you have about them.

For example, you could start a follow-up email like, “Hi David, I hope you and the dogs are well!”

It will show that you value them as a person, not just as a customer.

6. Automate your follow-up emails

Any time you’re doing repetitive, scheduled tasks, you should look for an opportunity to automate your workflow.

Client management software like HoneyBook provides convenient automations that help automate routine follow-up tasks like:

  • Responding to sales inquiries
  • Sending follow-up questionnaires or scheduling links
  • Sending thank-you emails or surveys
  • Creating and sending invoices
  • Sending payment reminders

Emails can be set up based on your customer’s behavior (e.g. signing a contract) or date-based triggers (e.g. two days after project completion). 

HoneyBook also lets you create branded templates for proposals, estimates, and more, so that you can reinforce your brand at every touchpoint.

Follow Up and Sales will Follow

By following these easy follow-up email tips, you can boost customer engagement and help your leads move through the sales funnel quicker—thereby drastically increasing your sales. 

Try them out, and you will see the difference they make.

To see how HoneyBook can instantly improve your follow-up workflow, start a free trial today.

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