How to Follow up on an Email (What Gurus Forgot to Mention)
How to Follow up on an Email (What Gurus Forgot to Mention)
The idea to follow up on an email that got no reply is as old as time.
Or at least as the web.
I’m not gonna tell you for the billionth time that follow-ups increase response rates. Many gurus and studies have done it for me.
I wanna talk about another side to the story, usually unreported.
Along with a growth of response rates, the number of spam reports on each consecutive follow-up you send grows too. Unfortunately, there’s currently no tool that would let us collect stats on this. What happens in someone’s inbox remains in their inbox.
But the reality is a good portion of outreach emails land in my spam folder.
No, they don’t have any spam triggers like “buy now” or “discount.” And I must admit I occasionally see quite good emails there. Still, they go directly to spam and do it for a reason. Their senders must have abused outreach tactics earlier, which annoyed recipients to the point that they started reporting spam on them.
And criticism from social media only proves it.
Do you get what I’m saying?
While a lot of follow-up tips sound promising, they don’t always have the outcomes promised.
Let’s dig deeper into controversies about follow-ups, based on the feedback from people who receive them all the time. Their insights should help you understand how to follow up on an email the right way.
1. How many follow-ups would be TOO many?
Gurus say you should create an entire sequence of follow-ups. Opinions differ on the exact number, but I’ve seen suggestions of up to nine follow-ups.
I wonder how many follow-ups would be enough.
It’s one thing when someone forgets to reply to your original email and is too busy to do it the first time you follow up.
But when people keep ignoring you intentionally, which follow-up should be the last one?
Opinion from Jeremy Knauff – CEO at Spartan Media (digital marketing agency that provides web design, social media, SEO, and PPC services).
Connect with Jeremy on LinkedIn & Twitter.
As with most things in the world of SEO, the answer is this – it depends.
If you know the podcaster personally, you can get away with more follow-ups than you could if you were reaching out to a stranger. But in any case, you have to weigh your follow-up against the risk of alienating them. If you push too hard, you could kill any chance of ever being on the podcast, and that line is never black and white.
You never know what someone is going through at any given point, so be mindful that their lack of response could have nothing to do with you, and may just be indicative that they’re overwhelmed at the moment.
I’ve reached out to podcasters and got no response, and then suddenly, months, or in one case, more than a year later, they replied and brought me or a client on their show.
The important thing is to treat this like any other relationship because that’s exactly what it is. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s just a numbers game.
A good rule of thumb is three emails spread at least a week or more apart. Depending on a number of factors, you might consider emailing again once per quarter if you still haven’t received a response, but in the meantime, you should be working to build a relationship through social media.
My two cents. The more follow-ups you send, the more risks you get your brand exposed to.
The risks you could avoid…
1. Some recipients will report your follow-ups as spam and get your new emails landing in spam folders later.
Such actions won’t just harm your outreach visibility. Many people do check their spam folders once in a while. The problem is they automatically treat in-spam emails with a grain of salt, without even reading the first line of an offer.
2. Others will remember your name or/and brand to make sure not to deal with you ever.
3. Catch someone on a bad day, and your email will go public on social media. Their followers (and often followers of followers) will see it, and you’ll end up with more haters than you deserve.
To be honest, there’s an unspoken rule to use a different domain for outreach, e.g. email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org. It can help you secure your domain reputation against spam reports, but certainly not the reputation of your brand.
2. Is the fortune in follow-ups, as they say?
Gurus say the fortune is in follow-ups.
You can’t just send one follow-up and call it a day. The competition in people’s inboxes is huge. If you give up too soon, someone else will show up and reap the benefits of what you started but never ended.
I wonder if people actually reply after, say, the third or fourth follow-up.
I understand that someone might have forgotten to reply to the first email. But isn’t it naive to hope they also forgot to react to three or four follow-ups?
Opinion from Darren Shaw – Founder of Whitespark (tools & services that help businesses with local search marketing).
Connect with Darren on LinkedIn & Twitter.
I can think of some times when I’ve actually responded to something positively after the 4th follow-up. It certainly depends on the offer and who it’s coming from. If it’s some random person pitching guest posting services, I’m never going to reply. If it’s something that could benefit me or my company, then maybe I just need a few follow-ups.
Sometimes, it’s just my mood at the moment. An email comes in, and I don’t have time or interest in it, so I ignore/archive. Later, the follow-up comes in, and they may have caught me when I have more time to consider it, or it might now be the time I’m interested in whatever they’re pitching, so I reply.
In general, sending more than one follow-up may net you some additional conversions, but at what cost? You will burn some potential brand trust by annoying people, and you’re likely going to increase the number of spam reports you get.
My two cents. So, people may ignore you for a while because of time constraints, mood, and no interest in their current circumstances.
You can’t control anything about that on your end, can you?
I can’t speak for everyone, but my circumstances don’t change overnight. Considering that commonly suggested intervals between follow-ups are a few days, you’d better let some more time pass before/if you reach out again.
In general, I can think of only one legitimate reason to go beyond one follow-up – offering different or more value each time. Sending reminders about the same stuff over and over is a dead-end job.
3. Are you supposed to get a response to your follow-ups?
Gurus say you should keep on following up until you get a response.
Even if it’s a no, you can discuss with prospects what could change their mind or suggest an alternative. As a last resort, you can agree to play by their rules, whatever it takes.
I wonder if recipients owe anybody a reply back.
Opinion from Maddy Osman – Founder of The Blogsmith (SEO content writing and strategy development for B2B technology companies).
Connect with Maddy on LinkedIn & Twitter.
In many situations, it’s the follow-up that gets the sale or the backlink placement. We often catch people at the wrong time or their inbox fills up and your backlink request gets lost in the chaos. It’s OK to follow up, perhaps even more than once.
That said, there’s a line that people frequently cross when it comes to requesting backlinks specifically. Nobody owes you a response (or a placement!) and to suggest otherwise in your follow-ups is ludicrous.
Don’t keep following up when someone tells you no or doesn’t respond after your third attempt – just move on.
My two cents. By following up with your prospects over and over, you’ll probably squeeze a response out of them eventually.
But are you sure you’re gonna like it?
In the best-case scenario, they’ll just reject your offer with a polite “no, thanks” reply. But some people can get more annoyed and demand that you never email them again. The end.
4. Should you follow up after rejection or let it go?
Gurus say you shouldn’t give up on editors who rejected your original pitch.
Feel free to follow up with an alternative idea – you don’t have anything to lose anyway. In the worst case, they’ll just ignore it or send you another no.
I wonder if editors don’t mind reviewing more stuff from someone they initially rejected.
Opinion from Elisa Doucette – Founder & Managing Editor at Craft Your Content (editing, writing coaching, and content management services) and Blogger at ElisaDoucette.com.
Connect with Elisa on LinkedIn & Twitter.
To be fair, the follow-up after a canned rejection is a hit-or-miss endeavor.
Depends if it’s thoughtful and obviously original, or just another time-wasting template. Keep it brief, address the editor directly on a human-to-human level, and do as much of the work as possible (e.g. don’t ask “What was wrong with it?” but instead ask “Could you give me one thing to improve in this piece to make it a great fit for you?”)
You can disagree with editors. You might even be right – shockingly, we are not always correct.
If you think an editor is not understanding your submission, or you really want to write for the publication, you’ll be surprised to know how many people will reply back to a well-written follow-up that you’ve put time and thought into.
Then, there are folks who write back to tell me that I’m wrong, we’re missing out for not including their writing, and they don’t care about our content guidelines.
There’s one that took me aback – the writer “updated” the piece to target our audience more by just dropping the word “programmer” into the SAME EXACT POST 5-7 times.
My two cents. If you’re gonna try to get a second chance with editors, keep one thing in mind.
It’ll require more work than you did earlier.
Editors don’t reject drafts because they are too lazy to make a few edits. They actually get paid for that. The reasons for rejections are usually more serious: a totally irrelevant topic, poor research, no new information that hasn’t appeared on hundreds of other blogs yet, or something along these lines.
Also, don’t neglect to mention the extra perks you could bring to the guest blog. Does your content target a keyword with a high traffic potential and a low keyword difficulty score? Do you have a solid social following to share it with the morning after?
Spell out what benefits editors will reap from your submission.
5. How to send a follow-up email to a busy person
Gurus say you shouldn’t delay following up for too long, until better times.
No, it doesn’t mean you can show up in someone’s inbox 24 hours later. But waiting for more than 3-5 days, you’ll simply miss out on opportunities. Your prospects will write you off and focus on others instead.
I wonder what if recipients have no time to consider an offer within a few days.
That’s definitely not enough for someone with a heavy workload. What would be a better way to follow up with people pressed for time?
Opinion from Kevin Indig – Director of SEO at Shopify (top eCommerce platform) and Owner of Kevin-Indig.com (where he blogs about SEO and growth trends).
Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn & Twitter.
Ask prospects, “Would it be okay to follow up in a couple of weeks instead of you having to make this decision right now?”
This way, if they come back to you and say, “Yeah, sure. Follow-up in a couple of weeks – now is just not like the right time, I don’t have the headspace for it,” they can show a bit of interest, but don’t have to make the decision right that moment.
My two cents. Trying to get an answer asap won’t always work in your favor.
On the other side of your outreach funnel, people struggle with busy schedules and can find it challenging to squeeze someone in.
It doesn’t take a minute to consider a pitch, evaluate its benefits, assess possible risks… Yep, not every pitch actually has value. Some marketers only ask for favors but never offer anything decent in return.
Thinking they need to decide right away, busy folks will find it easier to reject your pitch rather than give it some thought.
6. When is it legitimate to follow up early?
Gurus say you can’t follow up with editors the day after you sent your first email.
It’s just disrespectful.
Your prospects won’t drop everything to address your pitch as a priority. They have lots of others on the waiting list to handle. Be patient and wait your turn.
I wonder if there are any exceptions when following up the next day could be justified.
Opinion from Michelle Garrett – Founder of Garrett Public Relations (writing, PR, social media, and content marketing services).
Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn & Twitter.
Many journalists say they don’t mind it when you follow up on a pitch. But it’s best to wait at least a few days, maybe even a week, before following up.
However, there are a few situations where you might need to follow up the next day. Pitching the breaking news would be one of those.
My two cents. When you follow up in a day or two, make it clear why you’re doing this.
What’s obvious to you isn’t always obvious to others. Editors have a lot on their minds and may not figure out a noble motive behind your actions.
To make sure they don’t see you as another inbox pest, emphasize that you pitch the breaking news. That’s why it makes sense to get it published before the buzz ends.
7. How to shift focus from the flop of your original email
Gurus say you can’t tell recipients that you’re following up.
With such claims, you basically admit that your original email failed. The first thing they’ll do is try to recall why it didn’t work with them.
I wonder how to avoid reminding prospects about the failure.
Opinion from Joanna Wiebe – Founder of Copyhackers (conversion copywriting courses and resources) and Co-founder & Head of Growth at Airstory (writing software).
Connect with Joanna on LinkedIn & Twitter.
If you have to follow up on an email, it’s probably because the contact ignored or deleted your first one. Which means you’d be kinda nuts to send a follow-up that’s like, “Hey, just following up on that email you ignored or deleted” – which is exactly what you’re saying when you send a “follow-up” email.
Instead, just send a brand new email, as if you’ve never reached out to them and been ignored before. Your contact doesn’t need to know you’re following up. Keep that to yourself.
Would it be better to start over with all the prospects or only those who never opened the first email? If someone didn’t see the pitch, you can’t know if they’re interested or not.
I’d recommend changing the subject line – you can certainly reuse the pitch if they never saw it.
But why didn’t they open?
It’s either your “from” name, your subject line, or your send time (in most cases, that’s what it comes down to).
My two cents. Another reason why your email can remain unopened is its first line. Being visible right in the inbox, this snippet can make or break the outcome of your outreach.
Let’s take link building campaigns as an example.
Many link builders use the same outreach template that’s been flying around the web for years. If you have a blog, you’ll probably recognize it in a blink:
I’ve just found your post about [topic] and really enjoyed reading it.
Emails starting this way usually mirror one another, except for maybe some minor differences in wording. You don’t need to open them to understand how they will end:
I’ve actually written a similar post [link], which should make a great addition to your article.
Let me know what you think
My point is you can’t heavily rely on templates you found on Google. Others use them too, and people are getting more and more reluctant to read emails with opening lines they’ve seen like a hundred times before
8. What to say in a follow-up coming in a new thread
I still wonder what to say when you follow up in a new thread.
While the thread will be new, the offer will still be the same. Should marketers retell the story once again, as recipients won’t have easy access to it anymore, or say something else that would make them more inclined to reply?
Opinion from Brooklin Nash – Co-founder of Nash Content Consulting (B2B inbound marketing services for SaaS companies).
Connect with Brooklin on LinkedIn & Twitter.
Restate more briefly, then add value in a new way.
I’d suggest trying a new thread for a few different reasons:
- It gives you room to try out different subject lines and CTAs.
- It avoids giving the impression that you’re an “annoying” salesperson.
- It focuses on adding value.
Too often, sales reps treat a follow-up email as simply a way to bump the thread to the top of the inbox. But all that does is remind the prospect they most likely weren’t interested in the first place.
By creating a new thread (and referencing the previous email), you’re given more of a fresh start. Instead of “Hey, any thoughts on the above?” it becomes “Hey, I saw your post on xyz and it reminded me…” or “Thought you might be interested in…”
If someone is truly focused on bringing value to the conversation, I’ll nearly always reply.
My two cents. Don’t use this tactic just for the sake of it.
Following up in a new thread has a clear purpose – offering more value or something different. If you don’t have anything else to add, which is quite common in outreach, you’d better stay in the same thread.
It’s not okay to increase the number of new threads in the inbox for no reason. What if everyone starts doing it? Just imagine how cluttered and disorganized that inbox will get. It will only set your prospects against you and other email marketers.
I can tell it from personal experience. Look at the follow-ups I receive in a new thread.
All they do is change a word or two in the subject line and a few words across the message, but the key point remains the same. It can hardly feel like a fresh start – these are just reminders about the same email campaign that didn’t work out.
9. How NOT to start a follow-up email
Gurus say you should avoid cliches like “just checking in” or “just pinging you.”
That’s how every other follow-up starts. And today, many people get their right eye twitching whenever they see such an opening line.
I wonder how to start follow-ups in a way that would better resonate with recipients.
Opinion from Kristie Holden
SaaS Startup Marketing Consultant at KristieHolden.com.
Connect with Kristie on LinkedIn.
If you’re meaning a follow-up after you’ve emailed them once but not heard a response, I’d try something like this:
I understand you’re busy and probably get a lot of emails.
Just looking for a quick response. Are you interested in [what’s the value you offer?]
Or you could do some research and try something like…
Congrats on the award for [XZY]. I saw the mention on [your blog/news site], that’s great!
I was wondering if you’re interested in getting help with [what’s the value you offer]?
My two cents. I’m far from being a guru, but I do outreach once in a while to gather opinions for my articles.
I’m picking possible publication dates, and the final choice will depend on your preferred time to submit the information.
Let me know if you have an approximate date in mind so that I could plan my editorial calendar accordingly.
Basically, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead of “checking in,” ask your prospects what exactly you want to learn from them.
Also, try to omit the word “just” as well.
I understand that you use it to emphasize that you’re not gonna load them with any more requests – you’re just trying to get an answer to the same simple question from your original email.
But on their end, your message won’t sound as if it’s just a reminder, not something important to respond to asap.
10. Is it a good idea to use humor in follow-ups?
Gurus say you should use humor to relieve the tension in overloaded inboxes. It’s more enjoyable to chat with a funny person than some whiner, after all.
I wonder if jokes like “were you recruited by wolves” are appropriate for business correspondence. Here’s some feedback on a humorous follow-up I’ve found recently.
Opinion from Dr. Pete Meyers – Marketing Scientist at Moz (toolkit that makes SEO, link building, and content marketing easy) and Owner of DrPete.co.
Connect with Pete on LinkedIn & Twitter.
While I’m generally fine with using humor and use humor often in emails and on social media (including work posts), it’s a lot different in the context of an unsolicited request from an unknown party.
That naturally feels more aggressive, and the tone of the humor is often too personal.
Coming from a stranger trying to sell you something, the wolf thing (which might be funny among friends) almost feels like negging.
My two cents. “Were you recruited by wolves/abducted by aliens/sucked into a black hole?” – these jokes are like old memes. Pretty much everyone heard them many times, and they’re not funny anymore. There are surely better ways to improve email productivity.
Also, note that you can’t know what your prospects are going through.
Assuming your joke is creative, it may bring a smile to the face of a person who’s doing great. But how about someone who’s having a hard time, not necessarily at work? Your attempts to sound funny can only enrage them.
11. Should you be a bit pushy for your follow-ups to work?
Gurus say you’ll sometimes need to push recipients for them to write you back.
Just a little…
Procrastination is in the DNA of so many people, and your prospects are no exception. When they’re reluctant to react to your pitch, you could follow up, saying that you haven’t heard back from them yet and are still waiting for their reply. It should shake them up a bit.
I wonder if such claims won’t make them feel uncomfortable to reply back. Psychologically, it’s much easier for me to ignore someone than admit my fault for keeping them waiting.
Opinion from Anisa Purbasari Horton
Freelance Writer & Editor at AnisaPurbasariHorton.com.
Connect with Anisa on LinkedIn & Twitter.
In the ideal world, everyone would have time to respond to every single email, but we don’t live in that reality.
Many people see their inbox as a never-ending source of stress, and the last thing you want to do is contribute to that stress.
Phrase your follow-up without making the other person feel obligated to respond to you. In my experience, this has worked a lot better than writing something aggressive or resorting to shame and guilt.
My two cents. As someone who does outreach once in a while, I understand what you feel.
The deadline is around the corner, and you’re so ashamed to report miserable results to your manager. With each passing day of people’s silence, your frustration is only growing.
I am sorry but your prospects don’t feel sorry for you.
To calm down a bit, you can actually write a message in an accusatory tone. Just make sure you delete it before sending 🙂 Your follow-up isn’t the place for anger and other emotions. Keep them to yourself.
12. Should you apologize for following up (out of politeness)?
Gurus say you should be polite and say you’re sorry for messaging people again.
When you send someone an unsolicited pitch and then one more email to remind them about it, you basically distract them from something else. For the second time.
I wonder if making apologies out of politeness isn’t odd. Don’t senders acknowledge the fact that they bother recipients that way?
Opinion from John Doherty – Founder of Credo (platform to find the best digital marketing providers) and EditorNinja (copy editing & proofreading services).
Connect with John on LinkedIn & Twitter.
It’s better to avoid those apologies because they’re simply not necessary and clue people in that you think you’re bothering them, instead of being confident in your ask.
If you’re genuinely adding value to them, then there is no reason to apologize.
If you think you are bothering them, then maybe you need to rethink your approach and stop bothering them.
My two cents. Besides apologies, you should avoid any phrases that could provoke an objectionable counter-question from your prospect.
I’m referring to something like this:
YOU: I know you probably have no time for this…
THEY: If you know that, why do you keep taking my time away???
With such a reply, it’ll be much harder, almost impossible to sort things out and get the conversation back to a positive note. Don’t say anything that recipients could find fault with.
13. Do personalized follow-ups always feel right?
Gurus say you should mention something from your prospects’ social accounts in a follow-up.
That way, it’ll feel personal and indicate that you’re not a robot sending exactly the same email to the masses.
I wonder if it’s appropriate to comment on each and every personal detail in a business email.
People share different kinds of stuff on social media – pics of their tattoos, pets, food, trips, etc. When is personal too personal, especially in the case of cold outreach?
Opinion from Carolyn Lyden – President of Search Hermit (content strategy & SEO services for BIPOC- and women-owned businesses).
Connect with Carolyn on LinkedIn & Twitter.
I think there’s an element of personalization that says, “I understand who you are, and we’re on the same page about certain things,” but there’s also a fine line that feels almost like stalking.
The outreach I received commented on my tattoo with no context around where the person saw a picture of it, which felt very invasive. It made me go looking through my own website, social, and mentions to see where the person saw a full picture of my arm.
It also made me even more aware of my own privacy online and want to clamp down on it even more – if a total stranger can find pictures of and comment on my body for a sales email, then what other strangers out there know more about me than I thought and care to email me about it? It felt very unsafe and creepy.
It also felt like a big non-sequitur to what this person’s goal was – an attempt at a weirdly intrusive “in” that had nothing to do with my business or my potential needs related to what the company did.
In the SEO community, we get a ton of strange and creepy outreach for links and products/services (it’s a running joke), so it just came naturally to share it with my friends on Twitter to say, “Look, another one.” The reaction was quite validating, too – yes I wasn’t the only one who thought this crossed a line.
I always try to blur out details for the sake of the person reaching out, but others who do so might not be so kind.
My two cents. Emailing someone you know is different from emailing strangers.
There are some lines you shouldn’t cross with the latter, no matter how good your intentions are. While you want to show that you did your homework and took a personal approach to each prospect, it will look different to them. They’ll see you as a nosy neighbor or, even worse, a creepy stalker.
Keep comments on their personal stuff like tattoos for later, when you get better acquainted with each other.
14. How to write a value-added follow-up
Gurus say you should add extra value to each follow-up.
It simply makes no sense to send multiple reminders about your original pitch without bringing anything new.
I wonder what kind of additional value people appreciate enough to reply back.
Opinion from Sujan Patel – Managing Director at Mailshake (sales engagement & automation software to do outreach on autopilot).
Connect with Sujan on LinkedIn & Twitter.
This is an area where many people get stuck. You can add value by sending a helpful article, video (doesn’t have to be from your company’s website), case study, or asking if you can help them in any way.
Bonus if you find something they could do better and tell them how to fix it, e.g. a typo on their website.
I always prefer to send blog posts with a reference to a specific bullet, quote, or section. It helps get their attention. You can also follow up with a compliment on one of their recent posts.
Good point, but doesn’t such flattery sound fake to most people? I’ve seen a lot of public criticism of it lately.
Vague flattery does.
It seems disingenuous but if you’re specific on what part of the article helped you do differently, then it works.
You can be genuine at scale by referencing a specific section and a broader change that it helped you do.
My two cents. To send prospects a helpful resource, you should first figure out what kind of help they need. People usually ask for advice on social media, so this is the first place to check.
I must admit you won’t always find answers on social media.
That will be a pity, but surely not a disaster. You can always focus on values people commonly appreciate (I borrowed them from SparkToro’s outreach guide):
- turning your prospect’s blog post into a visual animation;
- translating their content in other languages and republishing it with attribution;
- including their company in a case study for a popular publication;
- showing how their product can solve issues on a webinar.
15. What if you can’t add more value to each follow-up?
I still wonder if it’s realistic to increase the value each time you follow up.
When I collected replies for this post, the only value I could offer was a backlink from our blog. I didn’t have perks to extend for, say, five follow-ups.
Opinion from Chuck Price – Founder & CEO at Measurable SEO (digital marketing company that helps businesses increase traffic, leads, and sales).
Connect with Chuck on LinkedIn & Twitter.
As with so many things in SEO, “it depends.”
It’s usually not possible to “sweeten” the request on subsequent emails, so in most cases, they are really just reminders.
Therefore, anything over one or two follow-ups is overkill. Beyond that, the diminishing returns aren’t worth the risk of being flagged as a spammer.
My two cents. Providing “decent” values isn’t something you can do at scale.
It’s one thing to do something minor like indicating a broken link or image on the page, but quite another to feature your prospect’s product on a webinar. With a hundred people on the outreach list, it’s just unreal. You’ll need to sort out your priorities.
Also note that even a value-added follow-up doesn’t guarantee a reply, especially if your outreach is cold. You’ll probably get more rewards for featuring your current partner on a top niche blog rather than wasting this opportunity on a stranger who won’t get back to you anyway.
16. Is it OK to go off-topic when following up?
Gurus say you should add more interest to your follow-ups.
For example, you could comment on something your prospects care about – the latest article on their blog, post on social media, industry events, etc. It will make them more enthusiastic about starting a chat with you.
I wonder what if such comments won’t relate to the pitch directly.
In 99% of cases, a link request will have nothing to do with someone’s latest tweets, let alone industry news. Is it OK to go off-topic? Especially since another common outreach rule is to always keep the message short and to the point.
Opinion from Colin Campbell – Head of Community at Outreach.io (sales outreach engagement platform powered by AI-driven insights).
Connect with Colin on LinkedIn & Twitter.
I think it might depend a little bit on your ACV and whether this approach is worth the time investment. But my gut would be to do what you’ve done here – build a conversation (any conversation) that interests your prospect that’s related to what they care about as a person. Even if it’s not related to their work at hand or the services/products you offer.
When someone mentions my recent tweet that doesn’t directly relate to their outreach request, they still motivate me to reply. It stands out – almost nobody takes the time to do that kind of work. So, I suggest that you play with personalizing the first touch just to start any conversation then move to the relevant ask vs the other way around.
My two cents. Commenting on someone’s point of interest, even if it’s off-topic to your pitch, can get the ball rolling.
It will show that you learned about them more than their email address and the URL of the page you want a backlink from. And most importantly, your follow-up didn’t automatically land in hundreds of other inboxes. Successful outreach requires an individual approach, you know.
What it also requires is some wit from you.
Let’s say your prospect often tweets on some upcoming event. Telling them that you’re looking forward to it too would be lazy. Try to come up with something more intriguing like “Did you know that Seth Godin might join the line-up? The hosts haven’t officially confirmed his participation yet but he dropped a hint about it on social media a few days ago.”
You get the point, don’t you?
Instead of telling prospects about your anticipation (who cares?), deliver them the news that would spark their reaction.
17. How to follow up publicly the right way
Gurus say you should follow up with editors on social media if they don’t reply by email.
I wonder if it doesn’t feel weird to tell someone to go check their inbox in public. Technically, when you tweet to someone or tag them on Facebook, other people will see it.
Opinion from Alexandra Tachalova – Founder of Digital Olympus (relationship-based link building agency) and Digital Marketing Consultant at AlexTachalova.com.
Connect with Alexandra on LinkedIn & Twitter.
I believe it’s absolutely fine, but as always, the devil is in the detail.
So, the main question is how to deliver this type of follow-up so that a person wouldn’t feel disappointed or even frustrated. The key to success in public follow-ups is to show that you really care about what they do.
The best strategy will be to leave a meaningful comment under this person’s most recent post on social media platforms. In P.S., you could say something like, “I’m still waiting for your reply. When you have a minute, could you please check your inbox?”
And if you do it this way, I’m certain that a person wouldn’t react negatively to your public follow-up.
My two cents. It feels less public to comment on someone’s recent post than tweeting to them directly, thus creating a new post on your thread visible to everyone.
Just imagine how tweeting to dozens of editors would look like.
Some of them may check out your Twitter thread and come to a few conclusions.
- It was automated mass outreach, which is a major turnoff.
- They were not the only ones who ignored your pitch and probably did the right thing if many others did the same.
18. Should you load your follow-up with attachments?
Gurus say you should include attachments or links to something interesting in follow-ups.
It will help you engage with your prospects rather than remind them about their forgetfulness.
I wonder if such extras won’t load them up with more work.
I mean, if they find it hard to review a single resource from the original email, what are the odds they’ll want to check out more stuff?
Opinion from Austin Belcak – Founder of Cultivated Culture (where he teaches job seekers how to land jobs without traditional “experience” or connections).
Connect with Austin on LinkedIn & Twitter.
I think it’s all about the message and the copy. If you give them a compelling reason to check out a resource through good copy and good messaging, they’ll click the link or open the attachment.
I definitely think that fewer attachments/links lead to more engagement though. It’s no problem to get people to check out one thing, but each additional resource takes bandwidth away and reduces the engagement in my experience.
Anyway, I don’t think it’d hurt to send. Worst case you end up right where you were before sending it, right?
As for me, I typically aim to try and add value to the other person upfront before making an ask for a link, so I’m probably not going to be sending them more of my stuff. Instead, I’d try to figure out what their goals are and add value to that.
My two cents. I’d personally dare to send only one resource and only if it was somewhat controversial or new to the industry.
Let’s say your prospect often talks about link building. You’re unlikely to impress them with an article about the efficiency of guest posting, producing linkable assets, and doing outreach.
No big deal, they must have seen tons of such articles.
What could get them hooked is a post with a new link building tactic no one talked about before or a study debunking commonly suggested tips.
19. Can your connections help you with follow-ups?
Gurus say you should introduce your prospects to a useful business contact.
I wonder if that contact will be obliged to help them somehow.
What if that person turns out useless to them in the end? There’s no way to tell if third parties will be able to agree on something of mutual benefit. Is it necessary to negotiate possible scenarios with both parties before making such intros?
Opinion from Ian Brodie – Writer, Advisor & Coach at IanBrodie.com (resource with client-winning tips and advanced marketing training).
Connect with Ian on LinkedIn & Twitter.
You’d want to see that there would be a possibility of something positive happening between the two of them in the future. But it needn’t be an immediate opportunity.
Online we tend to think very short term in terms of relationships – like immediate JV partners. In the real world where most business is still done, introductions are usually made between people who might potentially be interesting to each other some time in the future. Like an accountant introducing their lawyer friend to a young surveyor who might pass them business over the next 20 years once they get more senior in their firm.
There’s been quite a lot of work in sociology on the power of heterogeneous networks and “weak ties”. In other words, having a wide and varied network is better for you than only having “like minded” contacts who are similar to you and move in similar circles. It means you get access to a much wider range of opportunities because the more diverse network interacts with different people and different situations to you – whereas people who are like you tend to see and get access to the same things as you.
Of course, if there’s something of immediate benefit for both parties, that’s great, but there doesn’t need to be. It just has to be clear to both that there could be some significant benefit downstream.
In terms of making the intros, I would ask permission from both before giving details.
My two cents. This tactic can open up new opportunities for your prospects, and many of them should take the bait.
Still, it’s quite a slippery slope where one wrong move can get you in trouble.
To be on the safe side, don’t make any promises. You’re not the one who’ll have to fulfill them in the end and can’t take responsibility for someone else’s actions. Don’t even drop vague hints that your prospects may misinterpret and later accuse you of foul play.
Ask that “useful contact” in advance which of your prospects they won’t mind dealing with. For example, if they publish guest posts, there’s no way they’ll want to accept them from each and every person on your outreach list.
20. Do you breach follow-up etiquette with social proof?
Gurus say you should drop names to add a sense of authority to your follow-ups.
By mentioning well-known companies you partnered with, you’ll prove that you’re not a nobody off the street. You’re someone who could find support from big names in the industry. Your new prospects will see you reliable enough to deal with.
I wonder if it’s ethical to involve third parties for the sake of social proof.
No doubt such mentions are the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To tell you more, I use this trick myself once in a while 🙂 But I’m getting a bit paranoid about what people would say if they found out about it.
Opinion from Dean Yeong
Head of Content at Sumo (free email capture tool).
Connect with Dean on LinkedIn & Twitter.
I think it’s ethical as long as we get permission from the person you want to mention beforehand.
While I can’t speak for others, I’m generally okay (even if the other person didn’t ask).
But it’s better to get permission before name-dropping.
My two cents. I personally don’t mind being mentioned as someone’s friend, partner, or customer without my prior approval.
Except for maybe a few rare cases.
Let’s say I once collaborated with some brand, and everything was perfect. But who knows what the future holds? Things may change there in a while. For example, they may cut the budget for outreach and start sending spammy mass emails, mentioning me for social proof.
Being associated with spammers isn’t cool, I guess.
21. How to follow up with people who repeatedly opened your email
Gurus say you need a different follow-up approach to people who reread your pitch many times.
If you see some prospects repeatedly opening your email, it means something’s going on on their end. You can’t treat them the same way you treat folks who read your pitch once and forgot about it.
I wonder how follow-ups to “openers” should differ from follow-ups to “non-openers.”
Opinion from Gisele Navarro – CEO at NeoMam Studios (content marketing agency that produces linkable & shareable assets).
Connect with Gisele on LinkedIn & Twitter.
When it comes to recipients who are consistently opening my email, I assume they are either discussing internally or trying to figure something out so I try to insert myself into the conversation.
A quick email would suffice, “I forgot to mention that I’ve got X available as well, in case you want to see it: [link to Dropbox folder].” I still send my usual follow-up to these prospects later down the line, unless they reply of course!
I also like to try a different approach from my original email. For example, if I’m promoting the World Beer Index and my initial outreach was about the most expensive countries to drink a beer, then my follow-up will be about where to find the cheapest beer in the world.
I like to follow up no sooner than 4-5 days, and I always send my email on a different day of the week, just to try something else.
My two cents. When people get back to your pitch over and over again, they’re probably trying to identify something. In a short-term follow-up, you can clarify what kind of information they’re missing:
- if they’re curious about how you collected the data for your research;
- if they have any ideas of how to make it better;
- if they have any questions about some specific part of your copy.
22. Should people know you saw them opening your email?
Gurus say you should use recipients’ behavioral actions as your follow-up excuse.
If you saw them opening your pitch a few times, you could mention that and ask if their actions might mean they’d be interested in learning more about it.
I wonder if commenting on what someone did in their private inbox doesn’t feel invasive.
Opinion from Mehdi Hussen – Digital Marketing Manager at SalesHandy (sales engagement platform to scale email outreach).
Connect with Mehdi on LinkedIn & Twitter.
It’s all good if done with the right intention. We ain’t breaching privacy rather trying to understand the recipient’s behavior.
This is handy when you have already built a rapport with your prospect in the initial calls or email. If there is an ongoing discussion, and there isn’t any response coming to your previous email, you can always follow up this way. It will get the recipient to take action faster.
However, it’s not advised if the conversation is new, and the recipient doesn’t know you well.
My two cents. I’m pretty sure a lot of your prospects know that modern technologies make it possible to track email opens and use them too. Still, what they do in their inboxes is none of anyone’s business.
In cold outreach, you never know what kind of person is behind that cheerful avatar.
Someone carefree will probably not read too much into your statement. But tell it to a sensitive person, and they’ll wonder if you have any shame to capitalize on their private actions.
23. How to follow up with editors uninterested in your pitch
Gurus say you should add more arguments in favor of your pitch each time you follow up. The fact that editors ignored it means your reasoning wasn’t convincing enough.
I wonder what to do if editors aren’t interested in that specific pitch at all. Following up on the same stuff over and over will get you blacklisted soon.
Opinion from Sarah Archer – Writer & Marketing Manager at SarahAArcher.com and Head of Content Strategy at Kona (a mini culture officer in Slack).
Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn & Twitter.
If an editor isn’t originally interested, consider how you can pivot the pitch. Can you offer to contribute to their site? Can you turn this into a thought leadership opportunity and offer an interview with your executive team?
Put yourself in their shoes. Determine what their content strategy is, and pitch unique concepts that make their job easier.
Checking out their recent posts and pages that are linked from their homepage or navigation is a start. You can also input their domain into SEMrush or Ahrefs to identify their top-performing posts (either in terms of links or ranking), and reference them in your follow-up email to show that you did your homework.
My two cents. Pitching an alternative idea can improve your chances with editors. But you can’t just stab in the dark. Think about the reasons why they didn’t respond to your original pitch.
- Are you sure you didn’t overlook something in their editorial guidelines?
- Did you check if they had the same or very similar topic on their blog?
- Was your topic too general for their specific audience?
- What do their previous posts have that yours doesn’t?
Your alternative pitch should be based on learning from mistakes, not guesswork.
24. How to send the last follow-up without burning bridges
Gurus say you should send a “breakup email” after a few unsuccessful follow-ups.
This is the kind of follow-up when you ask recipients directly if you should leave them alone. With its help, you’ll identify and remove dead options from your outreach list. Here’s an example:
I wonder if such an approach won’t close the door for future interactions.
When someone tells you to delete them from their outreach list, that’s what you’ll have to do. You won’t be able to message them again.
But while your pitch is of no interest to some people now, things may change in the future. Your product can get a massive upgrade or you can come up with a better content idea. In the course of time, your authority will also grow, so some of your prospects will be more willing to deal with you later.
The question is, how to send the last follow-up without burning bridges?
Opinion from Forster Perelsztejn – Marketing Manager at Rooftop (email management software to streamline internal communication, customer support, and workflows).
Connect with Forster on LinkedIn & Twitter.
A lot of influencers recommend breaking up with your prospect by asking them if they want you never to contact them again. I don’t think that’s a good strategy.
If they haven’t responded yet, they’re at best neutral towards you. In that regard, asking someone who doesn’t care about you if you should stop contacting them isn’t the best approach because the fear of loss or FOMO is low.
Instead, by asking them what could’ve changed their mind, you’re putting them in a position where they have to think about their objections. And if what you’re offering is relevant enough, you might very well at least get a response.
My two cents. The question about what could change their mind should have a better outcome than the proposal to leave them alone.
Your prospects know more about their needs than you or any other email marketer could ever suggest. They won’t miss an opportunity to take advantage of you if they see it’s possible.
Folks who’ll ignore this question too are probably not open to new partnerships at all. Feel free to leave them alone (until your next campaigns), but don’t say it.
Let this outreach episode end on a cliffhanger.
25. Will bad follow-ups discredit you in public?
Gurus never say that your follow-ups can end up on the public wall of shame, e.g. in someone’s social thread.
It usually happens when emails are “one of a kind” or recipients just get tired of never-ending follow-ups. Sometimes, you can also show up in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
When sharing screenshots of a bad pitch, some people blur out the sender’s name, company, and email address. Others are not that kind and prefer not to bother with blurring.
I wonder when senders face a higher risk of ending up in public with their personal details.
Opinion from Dan Shure – Owner of Evolving SEO (SEO consulting services that help businesses with traffic, revenue growth, redesigns, site migrations, and more).
Connect with Dan on LinkedIn & Twitter.
As a rule of thumb, I would never make someone’s name, company, or email public when sharing examples of outreach. The point of sharing outreach examples tends to have more to do with using them as an example of what not to do, or what to do, and does not directly have anything to do with who sent it.
The only time I would consider exceptions is if the example being shared doesn’t make sense unless the sender is made known. And in that case, I would make sure to think carefully about how important it is to share, or in extreme cases maybe even ask for permission.
My two cents. People don’t always mean to disclose the sender’s identity, it’s true. But they can overlook a few minor details that will reveal who the sender is, like on the screenshot below.
While the sender’s name is hidden, you can still find out who that person is by googling one of the posts they listed.
Since Maddy blurred out their name, pic, and email, I believe she didn’t leave that loophole on purpose. She just didn’t bother looking into every possible detail to keep out of view.
The bottom line?
Even with noble intentions, your prospects can make you famous.
I’m not against gurus and what they preach. Their follow-up tips probably worked for them and, in all honesty, helped me a lot in my early days.
Still, outreach trends come and go. What was appropriate for someone a while ago may look odd today. It’s easy to try different follow-up tricks but hard as hell to wipe your reputation clean.
When following up with someone, imagine how you would react to your own email. Would you find that joke funny? Okay, how about this – would you find it funny with tons of tasks to complete and the deadline around the corner? I doubt it.
If you have any questions or disagree with something you’ve just read, feel free to tweet to @NickCampbelll.