We already know that we need to follow up. We also have an idea of what our follow-up emails should look like. Now, how do we know when to send the follow-up messages? How many of them should we send for optimal results? Where is the line between persistence and stalking?
First of all, there are no straightforward answers to those questions. It all depends on the specifics of your target audience, your market, and your general approach.
How many follow up emails should we send?
Steli Efti points out in his article, the number of follow-ups depends on the kind of interaction you previously had with a prospect. If we’re trying to start a relation with a prospect via our cold email, we shouldn’t probably go beyond 2 follow-ups. If we had previously started a relation with a prospect, we can follow up until we get some kind of response.
In contrast, Heather Morgan from Salesfolk reports in her post that in the campaign they run for Ambition, they sent 8 touches to each of the targeted prospects, that is an opening email plus 7 follow-ups.
Both approaches are backed up by experience and satisfying results. That proves one thing: there is no single bulletproof strategy when it comes to follow-up.
Based on our research 2 or 3 follow-ups is the optimal number. Top performers usually send just that. But even just 1 follow-up email can increase your campaign’s effectiveness. It may get even about 40% higher reply rate comparing to the initial email.
Following up, as well as cold emailing in general, requires lots and lots of individual testing. So many factors affect the efficiency of our cold email campaigns, and it is we who have to discover what works best for our own group of prospects.
Warm leads vs. cold prospects
As pointed out by Steli Efti, considering the number of follow-ups we should differentiate between cold prospects and warm leads.
If we use a base of fresh contacts, they are most probably cold – which means we haven’t contacted them before, plus they haven’t got a chance to check out who we are and what we offer. Warm leads, on the other hand, are those contacts which have given us some indication of interest in our offer, so they had previously started some kind of relation with us.
What kind of relation may that be? Perhaps they replied to us earlier, they signed up for a trial, they told us they would be interested in a demo. If we can determine that they have been somehow interested in our company, product, or service, we have a reason and motivation to follow up until we get some kind of a reply from them.
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How often should we send the follow-ups?
Again, it depends on the purpose of our email and the characteristics of our group of prospects. Elliot Bell in his post, artfully entitled “Pleasantly persistent…”, points out that we should give our addressee at least a week to reply to our first email before we send the first follow-up.
On the other hand, Steli Efti proposes a sequence 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).”
For yet another perspective, at 52Challenges we used a 3-email sequence (an opening message plus two follow-ups), and we sent the first follow-up after 3 days and the second one after 7 days. We saw reply rates up to 30%.
Additionally, in the third email, we gave the prospects an easy way to express explicitly they are not interested. See the previous part of the follow-up series for more details.
Keep in mind that we’re addressing people
All our prospects are people. We cannot ignore that. They are very busy running their own business and get dozens of emails every day. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to reply to the emails that are not ‘top priority’. And if we address totally cold prospects, we can be sure that our emails are most certainly NOT ‘top priority’ on their list. So be patient and give them some time to react before you send them another follow-up.
The trick is to discover the optimal frequency for our group of prospects. If we send the follow-ups too frequently, they may feel stalked – and that’s not what we aim at (remember, “pleasantly persistent” is not pushy).
If we wait too long, they may forget who we were at all and if they are confused they won’t be eager to reply, either. (Especially because recently some evil geniuses of spam somehow figured that if they send us an email with the subject starting with “Re:”, we will automatically feel the need to reply to them… Well, we won’t. Not if the “Re:” email is the first one they have ever sent us.)
The aim is to get a reply
The aim of a cold email sequence is to get a reply. Of course we want to get plenty of “I’m interested” replies, and that’s why we need to constantly improve our emails. But don’t be afraid of the “I’m not interested” replies, either. They happen, and they happen a lot. And those are also replies.
The “not interested” replies are better than no replies whatsoever, because at least we know we don’t have to waste our time and resources for those who are not in need of our service at this time.
If a prospect explicitly tells us that they are not interested, we should definitely stop following up with them. That’s how we avoid being stalkers. That’s how we show them we respect them and their time.
What’s in it for you
I wish I could tell you there is a golden sequence of follow-up you could use for your own campaign. Unfortunately, there is nothing more than a few articles that report on the campaigns that someone run. You may obviously take the hints from those articles and test them out in your own campaign.
But here’s an advice for you: don’t stick to the first sequence you try out.
- Change the frequency.
- Change the number of follow-up touches.
- Experiment with the copy.
That’s the only way to find out what brings you the optimal results. You may find out that your first guess was the best one, but that’s still worth discovering. Keep in mind the ‘pleasantly persistent’, and don’t be afraid of following up.
Curious how we handled sending our personalized follow-ups automatically? Check it out here.