Today we’re talking about why follow-up emails are one of the best investments you can make, along with how and when to send them, plus what NOT to do.
Let’s Get Real: Follow-up Emails Are NOT Optional.
Think about this… you send an email to a prospect who doesn’t know you, introducing yourself. You do the same thing to several prospects as well.
Because it’s a cold email, you don’t expect huge numbers of replies. But you get some.
It could be about the content in your email (most likely), but it’s also timing; they happened to see your email and their interests happened to align with what you said when you sent it.
So you got a few to bite hopefully.
What about the rest who didn’t? They may not have seen the email. They may have deleted it. They may have read it but didn’t respond in the moment. They may not have even got it. (See our other Marketing Minutes about deliverability for more on that!)
This is where the follow-up comes in. Look at this stat of replay rates from the opening cold email vs the opening cold email + a follow-up email.
“I learned that if you don’t follow up on your opening email, you can reach 9% reply rate on average. However, if you add at least one follow-up message to your email sequence, your average reply rate goes around 13%.” (source)
13%?? Isn’t that still pretty low?
Let’s set the expectation here - with cold emails, your prospect likely doesn’t know you or your business at all. So the trust is low. Plus, these particular stats were from an average of email senders.
For advanced email senders, who are clever on email copy (how to sell in print) and who KNOW their audience really well, the stats increase somewhat -
“When it comes to the most experienced users, the percentages are higher. In this case, those who send only one email without follow-ups achieve a 16% reply rate on average. In comparison, users who send at least 1 follow-up in a campaign reach 27%.” (source)
However, to get people to reply to an email is something!
Plus, no matter how experienced you are at email marketing and prospect outreach, the data is clear - sending at least one follow-up is a huge bump in numbers!
The same study shows that even one follow-up email can increase your reply rate by 22%.
I’d say that a 22% increase with just one follow-up is significant! More replies mean more opportunities to acquire leads and close sales.
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How Many Follow-Up Emails Are Best? Frequency Best Practices
In sales, I’ve heard people say (and I tend to agree with them), that you keep going until you get a definitive “no”. If you follow that philosophy, then one might hope that if just one follow-up can give you a huge bump in your reply rate, what can 3,5, or 10 follow-ups do, right?
How many follow-ups should you send out?
After all, these follow-ups are an investment. You invest time writing the email, scheduling it (if you’re using an email automation solution like Connect 365) and if you’re doing this with an entire list, you can see how it adds up.
What’s the sweet spot that’s a good payoff between your investment and risking becoming an annoyance to your potential clients?
I’ve seen sequences of up to 30 follow-ups!
If we take a look at what the professionals are doing, we can see that there is no definitive answer.
However, at Connect 365, we’ve taught our clients to create 4-7 follow-ups over the course of a few weeks.
It really depends on a couple of things -
- Your audience and what they respond to overall. This you’ll have to get a feel for as you send emails. After 4 emails you might notice your replies really dropping off. It’s worth it to test your follow-up sequence.
- Your objective. If you’re trying to get them to join your LinkedIn group or your email list, that’s much different than whether or not you’re trying to get them on a call with you. It’s important to remember that the greater the “ask” often the more time is needed. That’s because you need to build trust. Note: time isn’t always the factor behind trust. Trust can be built within the course of 1 webinar, for example, coupled with an online presence (oh yes - they’ll search for you online if their interested in learning more) that shows your expertise in the field and how you’ve helped others.
While there definitely is no definitive answer as to how many you should be sending to your potential clients, here is the research that’s out on this right now…
When To Send the First Follow-up
According to “500,000 sales emails sent by Yesware users in Q1, looking at email read recipients, we found that if your email is ever going to be opened, 91 percent of the time it’s opened within a day after you sent it.”
“Furthermore, 90% of emails that received replies were replied to within one day after they were opened. During that first day, over half of opened emails were replied to within three hours.” (source)
In other words, give your prospect some space to reply, but don’t wait too long. Follow up within a day or two. Wait too long and your original email will be forgotten and your follow-up will lose context. (source)
No answer from the first email OR the follow-up within a few days? Send another.
The same study of 500,000 email senders showed that the MAJORITY of salespeople do not send follow-ups. So even by sending one follow-up, you’re ahead of the game. But should you keep going?
This graph below tracked those 500,000 email senders and showed that it took 7 emails on average to get a reply. (source)
“What this chart illustrates is that by continuing to send more emails, you create more opportunities for your recipient to reply. It is a study in scale. Greater volume of emails should correlate to greater total response, and the chart above shows this to be true.” (source)
And, just for another opinion, and to show that there is NO definitive answer, another study by another email automation company shows that “the 5th, 6th or 7th follow-up email brings just a tiny increase in the reply rate, so it may not be worth your time to send more than 3 or 4 follow-ups. 2 0r 3 seems to be the optimal number. Top performers usually send just that.” (source)
Others promote a cadence like this:
Day 1: First follow up (+2)
Day 3: Follow up (+4)
Day 7: Follow up (+7)
Day 14: Follow up (+14)
Day 28: Follow up (+30)
Day 58: Follow up (+30)
… (from there on once a month). (source)
Quality Over Quantity
There’s another argument here: quality over quantity. Many would say that it’s not really a matter of how many follow-up emails you send (as long as you definitely send them, even one is better than nothing), that it’s more a matter of quality.
Your focus should be on building trust.
After all, you don’t want to hammer your prospects with constant offers, hoping that when they’re ready to buy, someday they’ll say yes. Doing this can give that uneasy feeling similar to entering a car lot and being bombarded by a salesperson who you know is just after their own commission, forget what’s good for you or what you want. The better option is to cultivate long-term relationships.
This is where your messaging comes into play.
It’s good practice to continue in the same thread as your first email to provide context, but writing a generic “just following up” or “checking in” is so overused and it also doesn’t do anything to pique interest or create value.
In other words, with generic follow-ups like that, there really is no reason for your prospect to reply when they didn’t reply to the original email.
To change this, you want to be interesting and add value in a different way. Maybe trying a different angle, sharing some of your story or your company’s story (careful here though! They might not care so much about that yet unless it reflects a current problem they have or are interested in fixing). Other ways to bring value are to share case studies, webinars, videos, etc.
The key is to put yourself in their shoes and remember they are people, not just targets. They have limited time and attention bandwidth. They have relationships at work and home they’re juggling, and they have goals. They have problems to solve. You know… just like you and me 😉
It’s important to tap into that, figure out what they’re interested in, and be human. No corporate robots!
Your Turn: How You Can Set This Up, Too
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In the workshop, I’ll be teaching:
- Exactly what an Authority Leadership Platform is and how you can leverage our Authority Amplifier process to position yourself above the competition, putting your business on an entirely different playing field.
- How to target high-end prospects using online platforms (social media + email) in a unique way that builds instant trust by doing the polar opposite of what most ‘salespeople’ try
- How to develop real relationships online using a highly-personal Multi-Touchpoint Messaging Campaign to naturally guide the conversation towards an appointment
- The right way to automate processes that build trust, improve credibility, and increase responsiveness in your campaigns.