The ultimate guide to follow-up emails: Templates & examples for every scenario

by Ramin Assemi
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For all the advances in technology we’ve witnessed over the last two decades, the business world still runs on email.

You don’t even need to cherry pick the statistics. Email wins across virtually every metric:

  • Email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel, including search and social. – Monetate
  • Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. – McKinsey
  • Email subscribers are 3 times more likely to share your content via social media than visitors from other sources. – QuickSprout
  • 72% people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media. – MarketingSherpa
  • 4.24% of visitors from email marketing buy something as compared to 2.49% of visitors from search engines and 0.59% from social media. – Monetate

But like with anything worth doing, effective email marketing requires some persistence and attention to detail. You need to know when and what to send and you have to take advantage of every opportunity.

Today, we’re going to be looking at how to use follow up emails to convert in a variety of scenarios. We’ll be looking at examples and providing templates for the following types of email follow up:

  1. Cold sales follow-up
  2. Warm sales follow-up
  3. Free trial follow-up
  4. Lead magnet optin follow-up
  5. Product sale follow-up
  6. Giveaway entry follow-up
  7. Contributor outreach follow-up
  8. Promotional outreach follow-up

Let’s get started!

1. The cold sales follow up formula

Cold email outreach is a big part of modern sales, and we’ve covered it fairly extensively on the Close.io blog.

Before we can get to the follow up email, it’s important that our initial email is strong, so we wanted to start by sharing a tried and tested cold sales email template with you.

Subject Line: "Trying to connect"

Hey [first name],

My name is [my name] and I'm with [my company name]. We work with organizations like [company name] to [insert one sentence pitch].

[One sentence unique benefit].

Could you direct me to the right person to talk to about this at [company name] so we can explore if this would be something valuable to incorporate into your events?

Cheers,
[Signature]

(For more cold email templates, click here)

Even the best cold emails rarely hit a 40% response rate, so how do we reach the other 60+%?

We follow up.

 

Many salespeople make the mistake of trying to win over prospects who simply aren’t interested. They will try to get creative with the follow up and reframe their value proposition, but in our experience, that’s a mistake.

We’ve found that the initial email is where the content matters. When it comes to follow up, it’s primarily an issue of timing.

Many recipients will see the original email when they were too busy or distracted to open the email or take action after they’ve opened the email. If they receive your follow up email at a time when they have the mental bandwidth to consciously process and respond to your email, they are likely to respond.

The Close.io follow-up formula

  1. Send out first cold email.
  2. 1 day later, at a different time of the day: Send out Follow-up 1.
    This email should be a modified version of your original email. It should communicate the same message, just in a different format. For example, if your initial email was several paragraphs long, make this follow-up email just two sentences long. If your initial cold email was just two sentences long, make this email several paragraphs long. Don’t write something completely different. Don’t add attachments.
  3. 2 days after your second email: Send out Follow-up 2.
    Don’t even explain anything. Just succinctly restate your call to action. You can ask your prospect to introduce you to the right person in their organization, to schedule a call, or to respond to your email—whatever your desired call to action for your initial cold email was. For example, you could say, “Hey, when would be a good time for you to discuss this on a quick 10-minute call? How about Tuesday or Wednesday 10 a.m. Pacific?”
  4. 4 to 5 days after your third email: Send out Follow-up 3.
    The break-up email. It’s an email in which you say goodbye to the prospect, betting on their loss aversion, a psychological principle describing people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.

Since cold emailing is a topic we’ve spent so much time on here at Close.io, we put together an entire book on following up for you, including templates and more.

The Follow-up Formula

 2. The warm lead follow up formula

With cold email outreach, there’s a timeline. If you follow our formula, it’s 1, 2, 3, 4, done. You spend a week on a prospect and move on.

With warm leads, it’s a different story. There is no timeline. You continue following up until you get a yes or a hard no.

Our very own Steli Efti says it best:

“I have a simple philosophy: I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response. I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one. If someone tells me they need another 14 days to get back to me, I will put that in my calendar and ping them again in 14 day

If they tell me they are busy and they don’t have time right now, I will respond and ask them when they feel like a good time would be for me ping them. The key here is to actually keep following up. If someone tells me they are not interested—I leave them alone.

But here is the kicker—if they don’t respond at all, I will keep pinging them until they do. And trust me, they always do. :)”

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The two things to keep in mind when following up on warm leads are frequency and relevance. You want to be persistent without being annoying, and you want your emails to be simple yet relevant.

For frequency, here’s what we recommend:

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).

If you are using Close.io, it’s very easy to set these simple follow up reminders.

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The follow up emails themselves don’t need to be complicated. Just keep them simple and relevant.

Example Template #1:

“Hey [first name], how is it going? Can we schedule a time to talk this week?”

Example Template #2:

“Hey [first name], we got some new press coverage [link]. I’d love to pick up on our conversation. When’s a good time to chat?”

Example Template #3:

“Hey [first name], can we hop on a quick call Wednesday 4 p.m. or Thursday 11 a.m.?

Cheers,

Steli

PS: thought you might find this article interesting [link]”

Another great example of a follow up email is John Barrow’s “Did I lose you?” email. You follow up several times with a prospect, and each time you hit reply all to answer. You always keep it in the same email thread. After doing this about six or seven times, you hit reply all, but you change the subject line to “Did I lose you?” and hit send. This will often get prospects who’ve gone dark to respond to you.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. If they aren’t giving you a “no”, there’s a reason. Your job is just to keep putting your business in front of them and reminding them how relevant your offer is to them.

That’s the core of sales follow up. Be willing to persist. If you aren’t convinced, grab your free copy of Steli’s book: The Follow-up Formula: How to Get Everything You Want by Doing What Nobody Else Does

3. How to follow up with free trial signups

The SaaS business model is a bit different than most other business models. Rather than pursuing a one-time sale, your goal is to get users signed up for an ongoing subscription to your software.

Many SaaS businesses offer a free trial to get interested users on their platform and actively using their product. This entails many of the same challenges as selling the product outright, but even when you get the signup, you still have to turn those free trial users into premium customers.

Doing this well requires you to hit a number of key objectives:

  1. Get the user into the app
  2. Get the user to have an “aha moment
  3. Get the user to sign up for the paid plan (or refrain from cancelling)

Hitting all three of these objectives is not easy to do within a brief free trial window, but it’s essential if you want to maximize your free trial conversion rate.

A great example of this in action comes from Groove, a simple help desk software platform. (They’ve also been documenting the journey of building their startup on their blog, sharing lessons learned along the way. Highly recommended reading!) Groove’s follow-up sequence starts with a welcome email focused on making a connection with the user rather than diving right into the product.

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This initial email has also ended up being a significant source of feedback for Groove, which they’ve used to improve the product, the website, marketing campaigns, and the onboarding experience itself.

From that point forward, Groove sends emails based on user behavior. For example, users who have taken the step to create a mailbox on the platform get this email:

welcomeemail.pngWhile users who haven’t reached that stage would get this email:

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Groove’s follow up sequence is composed of six core emails sent out over 14 days. With the above customization, they end up sending 22 different messages. Adding this type of customization improved Groove’s trial-to-customer conversion rate by 10%.

Once the sequence is over, Groove sends out a “win them back” email. Some users opt in for a trial and then it just doesn’t end up being a good time for them to try out a new platform. The goal of this email is to get those users back at a better time where they can actually try out the software.

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Groove has tested sending out this email 7, 21, and 90 days after the free trial expires, and the 90 day version has converted best with a 2% customer conversion rate.

A more aggressive example comes from SamCart, a platform for quickly creating high-converting checkout pages. SamCart offers a 21-day trial and sends users a new email EVERY SINGLE DAY of the trial period.

Here’s Day #1:

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Notice that SamCart is doing some very important things here:

  1. They tell the user exactly what to expect
  2. They provide added value in the form of a course
  3. Each action they are teaching the user incorporates their software

This is the perfect formula for accomplishing all those objectives we just talked about.

Clear expectations (along with an intuitive UI) will get the user straight into your app. Providing added value will get users feeling really good about your brand AND stir excitement, leading to more app time.

And most importantly, you need to be taking users on a journey that plugs your app straight into their challenges.

SamCart does this by walking users through a simple new feature each day.

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They take the user through a journey, from initial checkout page, to upsell...

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All the way to split testing checkout pages and other parts of the funnel:

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Since SamCart’s free trial automatically converts to a premium account if the user doesn’t cancel, their goal isn’t to convert the user but simply to help them make SamCart a part of their marketing and sales system.

And even if the user doesn't follow along actively, they are being exposed each day to a new benefit of using the product.

4. How to follow up with lead magnet optins

A lead magnet is simply something of value given away in exchange for a website visitor's email address. They go by many different names: content upgrade, opt-in bribe, etc. and often come in the form of free checklists, ebooks, reports or whitepapers.

Lead magnets tend to be educational in nature, and accordingly, the follow up should nearly always be educational in nature.

For businesses with big tickets items to sell and a consistent content marketing strategy, there is really no need to use email marketing for direct sales as part of their normal follow up. These businesses will often use the email list primarily as an audience building asset, allowing them to send 30-40% of their list to new content any time they want.

Popular marketers like Pat Flynn, Brian Dean, and Sujan Patel use this strategy to keep their business on readers’ minds and to drive consistent traffic back to their websites. They will then run dedicated product launches to their email lists 2-4 times a year.

So essentially, their follow up model looks like this depiction of Pat Flynn’s autoresponder sequence:

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With this model, the bulk of your follow up strategy is delivering educational content - tips, tricks, how-to’s, guides, case studies, resources - and then every few emails, you attempt to directly engage subscribers by getting them to actually reply to your email.

And as you can see from my inbox, guys like Sujan Patel consistently send out emails focused on education and marketing training, as opposed to attempted sales.

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When’s it time to launch a new product, they do a specific, limited-time launch sequence, like this example from Brian Dean:

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And then they go back immediately to providing free content and training.

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With this content and engagement focused strategy, you can keep your list open and click-through rates incredibly high, allowing you to send large amounts of eyeballs wherever you please. Sujan Patel maintains a 35% open rate and 18% click-through rate, while according to Hubspot, the average open rate in the marketing niche is 25%.

When you get this level of engagement with your emails, your list becomes a true promotion asset, and with high-ticket products to periodically sell, you really don’t even have to sacrifice direct revenue.

At Close.io, we follow this model, sending our best new sales content out to our marketing leads once a week. We also send out a special offer to sign up for a free trial once per month.

If you’re curious about how your own open and click-through rates stack up against your industry, check out these benchmarks from Wordstream.

5. How to retain customers with a strong post-sale follow-up

It costs 5x more to attract a new customer versus keeping an existing one. The sale is just the beginning of the story, especially if you are running a SaaS business or offering some other type of recurring product or service.

What you do after the sale is just as important as what you do before the sale—and will only gain in importance in the coming years.

Every business model demands a slightly different approach, but we’re going to focus on three highly effective strategies for the purpose of this discussion:

  1. Onboarding
  2. Education
  3. Incentives

The Onboarding approach is all about getting users to experience an “aha moment” with your product. This terminology was coined during Facebook’s meteoric rise. They determined that their users’ “aha moment” would come when they added 7 friends in 10 days, and they focused all their energy into making that happen, as Chamath Palihapitya explains in this video:

 The Education approach is all about educating your audience, establishing your brand as an authority and driving regular re-engagement with your website.

Buffer offers a great example of this in action. The start with a great, personable confirmation email:

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And then they follow it up with a rock solid content marketing campaign. And by “rock solid”, I mean this thing is thorough. Look at my inbox. This is from just one and a half months.

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The emails themselves don’t need to be in-depth. Buffer simply includes the headline, a short description, and a CTA to read more on the blog.

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While these sorts of automated campaigns seem to be working for Buffer, we’ve found that custom, text-based emails works significantly better for us here at Close.io.

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Not only does this content help Buffer educate their users, but it also establishes them as a major authority on social marketing and sends a flood of new traffic to their site every time a new article is published.

It’s fairly high investment compared to the other strategies, but it also doubles as both a customer retention strategy AND a lead generation strategy, so in the end, it’s a sound investment.

The third strategy is all about incentives. It’s about giving the user monetary reasons to come back.

This could look like daily (or twice daily) coupons, as we see from record breaking lingerie retailer Yandy.

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Yandy regularly sends out these emails offering a variety of discounts twice per day. The constant offers keep the brand top-of-mind at all times.

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It’s important to note that this type of email follow up strategy fits with Yandy’s branding as a discount fashion retailer and tends to be more effective for ecommerce businesses. As a B2B business, it’s often best to stay away from discounts—they’re an easy way to make some extra sales in the short-term, but can do more harm to your brand in the long term. Plus, if you keep hitting people with discount offers, you can be sure that a lot of prospects will insist on discounts once they talk with a sales rep.

Incentives can also look like a loyalty program, like the following example from New England food chain Boloco. The company uses a points-based loyalty program to provide discounts and rewards to members, sending updates via email and app notifications.

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Southwest Airlines does this as well. By offering rewards that accrue with use of your product or service, you can incentivize customers to use your brand on a more consistent basis.

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You can follow this up with exclusive discounts and member-only specials:

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Another incentive strategy that toes the line between upsell and incentive is paid membership, like you might see from Costco or Amazon Prime. The price can act as a value signal, and it also plays on confirmation bias, encouraging members to purchase more from you, so as not to waste the money they spent on membership.

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There are, of course, many other strategies. Customer retention is it’s own topic that deserves your attention, but hopefully these strategies spur some creative ideas for retaining and expanding your customer base.

6. How to follow up with giveaway entrants

As we discussed earlier, lead magnets are a fantastic way to build your email list over time.

But sometimes you want a quick boost. Maybe you have an upcoming product launch, or you are just getting started, and ten new emails per weeks isn’t good enough.

Giveaways can be another way to quickly collect more emails. Keep in mind that the quality of these emails will generally be lower, because the primary motivation of the people who sign up is just to get the free thing you're giving away. This is a big reason you want your giveaway item to be something that's relevant to your ideal customer.

Giveaways allow you to place tangible, irresistible value in front of your target audience without breaking the bank. Imagine if you could offer a physical lead magnet that costs $1,000? Who would say no to that? Giveaways basically allow you to use the appeal of a $1,000 lead magnet while only requiring you to pay for it once (or maybe not at all).

There are a lot of places you can go to learn about giveaways, but very few spend much time talking about the aftermath. Once you have 2,000 new subscribers... what then? How do you follow up with them?

The answers to those questions are insanely important, which is why we are turning to marketer Robbie Richards for an example of how to run a giveaway the right way. On only his first try, Robbie was able to grab 1,171 new email subscribers and turn that into 27 immediate sales.

He selected a SaaS license his audience would love as his giveaway prize and then sent out the following email to his list:

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It’s essentially sales pitch, but you aren’t asking for money. You are giving something away for free.

But that’s pretty straight forward. Let’s get to the follow up.

Robbie had a 3-pronged strategy for his follow up campaign pushing the giveaway:

  1. Reinforce the value
  2. Incentivize sharing
  3. Give people a guaranteed way to win

The first two are absolutely essential to running a successful giveaway. You have to have a great prize and be able to sell its value to your audience. And you absolutely need to have incentives in place for sharing.

Let’s look at each one of these elements more closely.

Robbie’s first follow up email was all about reinforcing the value through a personal narrative.

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Let’s break this down into a makeshift template you can use.

  1. Describe a problem you faced
  2. Describe the pain you experienced from that problem
  3. Share the solution and how the prize played a big role in that solution
  4. Talk about the benefits of the prize
  5. Talk about how it feels to have the problem solved
  6. CTA

The next email in Robbie’s follow up sequence was focused on incentivizing entrants to share the giveaway with their networks. As I mentioned earlier, this is absolutely mandatory if you want to succeed with your giveaway.

People won’t just share your giveaway on their own. In fact, if you don’t have it set up correctly, it’s in people’s best interest NOT to share. It lowers their chance of winning... unless you have it set up to where getting referral entries gives them an increased chance of winning.

Tools like Rafflecopter or KingSumo Giveaways make it easy for you to incentivize entrants to receive additional entries by referring their friends.

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The third part of Robbie’s strategy was to give people a guaranteed, surefire way to win. People are optimistic, but they understand odds. They know it’s highly unlikely they will win a giveaway. In order to increase participation, you should give them a guaranteed way to win something.

Robbie did this by following up with a special prize package for anyone who got 5 additional people to sign up for the giveaway through their referral link.

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This final piece also positioned Robbie to turn his list into affiliate sales, as he was directly signing people up for SEMRush. He could have probably tried to get 30-day trials for every contestant.

Here’s his follow up that resulted in 27 affiliate sales.

First, he announced the winner:

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Next, he sent out the awards.

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There are a few key takeaways here that will help you launch your own campaign:

  1. Don’t simply add giveaway entrants to your subscriber list without following up
  2. Provide some value to every single individual who signed up
  3. Reinforce the value of the prizes when you send them out
  4. Invite new subscribers to engage with your content

You really can’t go wrong with giveaways. There’s not much more to say on the matter.

7. How to follow up with expert contributors

One phenomenal way to amplify your content’s quality and reach is to tap into the expertise of other influencers in your niche.

These types of posts are typically referred to as “roundup posts” and they are starting to get a bad rap... with good reason. Over the last few years, marketers have been butchering this technique with lazy, generic topics that rely on volume to be “noteworthy”, BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t do it the right way.

The key is identifying a topic that would actually be enhanced by expert insight and then getting a small group of legitimate experts to provide meaningful commentary.

A great example comes from marketer Jacob McMillen, who used expert insight to create this guide to A/B testing tools and rank it #1 in Google for the post’s target keyphrase. Jacob shared his outreach emails with us, pictured below.

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Notice how he specifies that the recipient is on a short list and will be “featured” in the upcoming post. This frames the outreach uniquely from the standard trope of 100 influencers with one sentence each.

In this example, the recipients already had past connection with the host blog, so it wasn’t cold outreach. If you are attempting this cold, you could specify that you are asking 10 total experts to provide input, that you will be spending $500 on paid advertising, or anything that establishes value to the contributor.

For his follow up email, Jacob kept it super simple.

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This campaign got a 60% response rate and resulted in Conversion Science’s most successful post of 2016.

8. How to follow up on promotional outreach

As more and more marketers are realizing, creating really great content is just the first step in the content marketing equation. You can create the greatest resource on the internet, but if you don’t get it in front of the right people, you won’t see an ROI.

How important is promotion?

Brian Dean, who built his blog Backlinko to over 100k visitors per month, spends 80% of his total content marketing time on promotion. In other words, for every hour he spends writing, he spends 4 hours promoting what he wrote.

There are many, many ways to promote your content, but one of the most effective methods (and the reason we are covering this in today’s article) is direct email outreach.

Sam Oh of Money Journal offers a great example of this strategy in action:

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Notice how Sam’s email is short, to the point, and doesn’t ask me to do anything right off the bat. He asks me if I’d like to see his content when it goes live, and he also offers to lend his own aide if I ever need anything, letting me know he’s not just looking to use me for a quick share.

And while Sam didn’t end up needing to use his follow up email on me, he reveals the template he uses as part of his 74 Step SEO Checklist.

Hi [Name],

Just a friendly follow-up. Were you interested in the article on [topic]? I’m sure your inbox gets bombarded daily, so no hard feelings if you’re too busy. It just got me thinking…

If [name] saw value in [competitor company’s] article, then [name] will definitely want a unique take on the topic.

Not trying to get anything from you. Just want to impress lol 🙂

Cheers,
Sam

This exact follow up template increased Sam’s replies by 23.5% and even began a number of relationships with fellow influencers in his niche. He sends it within one week of the original email.

If this can work in the marketing niche, where people are constantly bombarded by hundreds of emails, it will most likely work in your niche as well.

Conclusion

The success of email marketing is ultimately in the follow up.

We’ve tried to cover every scenario your business will likely face in this article, but in an evolving marketplace, there will always be new opportunities for follow up.

To learn more about effectively following up, get a free copy of our book The Follow-Up Formula.

The Follow-up Formula