7 Reasons Your Follow-Up Email Isn’t Effective

Whether you just completed a job interview, met an interesting networking contact, or had a great meeting with a potential client, you probably know that a well-crafted follow-up email is an essential next step.

It’s a simple way to keep you or your business fresh in that key person’s mind and bring you one step closer to reaching your objective, whether that’s closing a sale, nailing a job or attracting new collaborators.

But how can you make sure your follow-up email has the intended impact – or even gets read in the first place?

Here at Mailtrack, we deal with a lot of emails and know a thing or two about writing them. As part of our ongoing quest to improve the email experience, we’ll show you how to write an email that makes the right impact. But first, let’s see what you’re doing wrong. We have put together this list of common follow up email mistakes, as well as a few online tools to help you avoid them.

If your follow-up emails aren’t getting results, it’s probably for one of these reasons:

1. You’re coming on too strong

Be careful not to oversell your follow-up email

When your mailbox is full of sales pitches, it’s easy to ignore any email that looks like one, even when it might be presenting something you actually need.

It may seem counterintuitive, but flashy email titles aiming to get the person’s attention can actually cause an adverse effect. Steer clear of “Opportunity of a lifetime” or “I’m the candidate for you”, and go for something more simple and human.

Something like “Following up on our meeting”, or “It was great to meet you” are straightforward and practical titles that should at least get opened!

When you get to writing the body of your follow-up email, remember that the reason for getting in touch is to build a relationship, not only to  sell yourself or your business. Your email should relate on a personal level, and inspire your contact to want to continue the conversation. Be yourself, show your personality and be vulnerable. Don’t pitch too hard. And whatever you do, don’t USE ALL CAPS, which tends to make readers think “this person is yelling at me” or “this person is probably selling something I don’t want.”

2. You’re cliché

Consult guides on how to write an email, but don’t forget to be authentic

Chances are the person you are emailing is inundated with dozens, or even hundreds of emails each day. If you don’t do something to stand out, you’re going to end up in email purgatory, sandwiched between the latest alumni newsletter, and the flash sale at the local department store.

The average worker spends 13 hours a week answering emails. That’s 28% of our week or 650 hours a year. Yours needs to be one of those that’s worth taking the time to respond to.

Some typical messages that are easy to gloss over:

“I really enjoyed your presentation. Would you be up for having a coffee to talk more about what you do?” (Problem: What’s in it for them?)

“Just checking in on our last conversation to see if you have any questions or concerns” (Problem: If they don’t have concerns, there’s no reason to respond)

You’ll be amazed how far a little extra effort to personalize your message can go. One way to do some quick research on your contact is to use the great Connectifier extension: It scours the internet for all of the social information your contact has shared and displays it in a handy bar on the side of your screen.

When you are writing your follow up email, just check out the sidebar. Have any contacts or interests in common? Interested in a blogpost they have written? Mention it! As soon as you start build rapport with someone, you are taking a giant step toward becoming a trusted contact.

3. You’re lacking a call to action

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A good follow-up email should have the reader mentally drafting their response while they are reading. How do you do that? Inject a bit of urgency into the email. If you don’t get a reply the same day, your chances of receiving a reply drop dramatically.

A lot of the time your goal is going to be to arrange the meeting with the person in question. Including a suggested meeting time in your email is a great way to incite a timely response.  If you leave it open and say “Let me know when you might have time to meet”, that makes it easy for your contact to put off responding to the email, and perhaps never schedule a meeting.

Instead be specific and ask “Would you have time to meet for a coffee on Friday morning? Around 11 a.m. would be great for me.”

If he or she is free that morning, there’s a good chance they’ll say yes. And if they aren’t, they’ll at least be likely to get back to you and suggest another time.

4. You’re rambling

Less is more - and you know it

Get to the point! When it comes to the world of email, less is always more. There’s nothing like a big block of grey text to make your readers say “I’ll get to that later.”

Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. If you want to share more information, include it as a web link or an attachment.

If you find that you have a tendency to spend too long trying to craft the perfect email masterpiece, the real-time tracking feature in the Postbox app could be exactly what you need. Its adjustable word counter and stopwatch help you add a bit of discipline to your email writing — something that both you and the people receiving your emails will appreciate.

5. Your follow-up email arrived too late

Timing is as important as what you write in your follow-up email

If you work in sales, you probably know that if you follow up on a lead within five minutes, you are nine times more likely to convert them. For those who don’t work in sales, this still proves that people are more likely to respond to your follow-up email when you are fresh in their mind.

That’s why when you send a follow-up email after an interview you should do it within 24 hours, not when you get a spare moment in the coming days.

It’s also why when you receive a response to your follow-up, you want to be in a position where you can reply to it straight away. This is where Sanebox comes in. It’s an app designed to get you to the holy grail of email: inbox zero.

It features snooze folders, separate folders for cc emails, and a black hole feature that allows you to ‘disappear’ unwanted email addresses. You will soon find yourself getting to grips with your daily inbox, putting you in a much better position to reply to those time-sensitive messages.

6. You’re giving up too soon

Come on! You can do it!

No-one wants to be that guy. This guy. The one who doesn’t get the hint and keeps on nagging away. But because of an unwarranted fear of violating some rule of email etiquette, many people give up way too soon.

A bit of gentle perseverance often works wonders. People are busy. Just because they didn’t respond to your first follow-up, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Don’t worry about being annoying by sending more than one follow-up email. As long as you can avoid the pitfalls mentioned in the rest of this list, you should be OK.

The MailTrack extension for Gmail lets you see when your emails are being read, and when your contacts check out your email more than once. In those cases, there is a good chance that the person is interested in what you have to say. Maybe they just got distracted at the vital moment? Maybe the return email is sitting half-typed in their drafts section? We don’t know, but what we do know is that If you don’t send that next follow-up, there’s a good chance the opportunity is going to fall to the person who does.

If email isn’t working and you need a response, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. You know what’s worse than being annoying? Losing an opportunity.

7. You’re not learning from your mistakes

An important part of the art of the follow-up email is repetition

Analyzing what is working for you and what is not is great practice in any walk of life. The problem with emails is that most of the time there is no feedback on what people have liked and what they haven’t. This is where the Unreplied app comes in. This app checks your email overnight and tags any emails that haven’t been replied to.

If you want to understand why you are not receiving responses, re-read the emails you have sent with a critical eye. Have a look at where you could have gone wrong, maybe talk it over with a trusted friend or colleague. You might just find that the answer to why your emails are not being replied to is staring you in the face.

Dissecting the follow-up email

Hi Bob,

  1. Reference where you met and, if relevant, who put you in contact. Name dropping never hurts!

Mark Zuckerberg introduced us yesterday at the Emoto3.0 networking event. You mentioned that your company, Smile Co., is looking for an experienced emoji shepard.

  1. Sell yourself, but be brief. Attach relevant materials to back up your claims (resume, work samples, sales brochures).

I currently work for Emoji Inc., where I have shepherded more emojis than anyone else in history. Find my resume attached for more details on my experience and accomplishments.

  1. Be clear about the purpose of your follow-up email.

I’m currently looking for opportunities to progress in my emoji herding career.

  1. Show that you know something about your contact or their business. The more specific, the better.

It’s really impressive that your company is the number three in the sector after just two years of operations. It was clearly a smart move to start using nets!

  1. Include a call to action that requires a quick response.

Would you be available for a meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon next week?

I would love to meet up to discuss opportunities at Smilo Co.

Best regards,

Johnny Followupper

In conclusion…

If you’ve been committing any of these errors, don’t sweat it. There’s time to change. The only thing worse than writing a bad follow-up email, is not following up at all.

And remember, sometimes it’s not you – it’s them. For example, only 18% of Fortune 100 companies send emails to applicants when a position has already been filled.

Sometimes you just have to accept that it just isn’t going to work out. At least not this time. But don’t worry, there will be another opportunity just around the corner. And now that you know how to write an email that will have real impact, you’ll be better prepared than ever.