How to Send a Follow-up Email After No Response

How to send a follow-up email after no response?

Many cold email senders seem to think that a great opening message is what you need to master outbound email outreach. Well, it is indeed – but it’s also not enough.

Follow-up emails to those who didn’t respond to your initial message are a must if you think of a truly effective cold email campaign.

One thing we see at Woodpecker is that it’s often the follow-up that makes them reply.

So here’s your Follow-up Guide, aka all you need to know before you send follow-ups:

  • why follow-up is so important
  • what you should realize before you start sending it
  • how to write engaging follow-up messages that make people open, read, and respond
  • how many follow-ups you should send
  • how often you should send them

Too short on time right now to read the whole thing? Bookmark the guide for later and skip to the TL;DR section at the end.

Why should you always send follow-up emails?

Sometimes you may feel that follow-ups will make your prospects feel stalked and downright angry. I felt that when I first started sending follow-up emails.

In practice, this is rarely the case. Usually, they feel grateful, enjoy your interest in them, and admire your persistence.

This is an actual reply Cathy, our CMO, once got:

According to our research, even one follow-up email can increase your reply rate by 22%.

And trust me – not that many people do actually follow up with prospects.

As pointed out by Christine Georghiou in her article, “70 percent of sales emails stop after the first attempt”. Considering that not all cold emails are sent for sales purposes, the overall rate of cold emails that are never followed-up may be even higher than that.

In short, hardly anyone sends follow-up emails.

Which means that if you do follow up after sending the opening message, you are in a quite limited group of people who do that.

You actually show more interest in starting a relation with your prospect than the majority of cold email senders that ever reached out to them. This means that just by sending follow-ups, you actually stand out from the crowd.

And this can make your prospects see you differently than your competition.

  • First of all, just by the fact that you do more than most people who contact them, you make them notice you.
  • Second of all, you make them feel you actually care about their reaction or lack thereof. You make them feel you didn’t just send a huge amount of messages in bulk and forgot about it the moment you hit “Send”.

You make them feel you are not bots, but real human beings who actually care more personally about the people you’re addressing.

How to write a follow-up email after no response

So now you know why following up with your prospects is crucial for the effectiveness of your campaign. But what should an actual sales follow-up email be like? How to tell your prospects ‘hey, I’m still here waiting for you to reply’ without being creepy, or annoying… or both?

Why do your emails get no response?

There are three basic reasons for that:

  • The problem may lie in the content of your email. Perhaps it didn’t hit the right chord and recipients didn’t find it interesting enough. Or they need more touchpoints to get engaged
  • Your addressee is a busy person and simply forgot to reply or missed your email among hundreds of other messages
  • Your email landed in SPAM or the promotions tab and recipients never saw it

In the first two cases, you can get a second chance to catch their attention by sending a follow-up email after no response.

In the last case, the problem is a bit more complex and requires some investigation to be done first. To learn more about spotting & solving email deliverability problems, read this blog post.

How to write a follow-up email to get a reply

Cathy explains how to write a follow-up email after no response in this video:

What to write in the subject line of a follow-up email

It’s best to send your follow-ups in the same thread as the opening email to make it easy for a prospect to refer to your previous message. This will also help you to maintain a logical connection between all your follow-ups.

This makes the choice of a subject line pretty straightforward – stick to the one you came up with for the opening email.

For inspiration, check our selection of 15 best cold email subject lines we’ve come across >>

What to write in the follow-up email itself

I can’t count how many times I get a follow-up email saying “Just wanted to follow-up on my previous email” or “Just checking in”. Yes, it’s short and immediately gets to the point, but it’s also so overused that it became one of the cold email cliches.

There’s also one more problem: this approach doesn’t solve the first case of why people don’t respond, namely because your message didn’t catch their interest.

Since you don’t really know the exact reason why people didn’t respond to your initial email, it’s wiser to write a follow-up that brings additional value and use a second chance to catch their interest, rather than keep reminding them that you’re waiting for their response.

So what is the additional value I’m talking about? For example, mention another benefit of your product, send them a case study of how it helped a similar company, or link to a video, which shows how to use your product and what they can gain from it.

Here is a follow-up email template for no response that perfectly illustrates my point:

Ready to try it out and see the results for yourself?

Follow-up emails: how many and how often

How do you know when to send the follow-up messages? How many should you 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.

Having said that, here are some numbers and tactics we’ve seen that worked.

How long should you wait for an email response?

Give your contacts at least 1-3 days to answer your email. Following up too soon will make you look pushy or even intrusive. Nobody likes that. Also, try not to wait too long with sending a follow-up email, because your recipient may lose the context.

How many times should you follow up after no response?

There’s no rule stating the maximum number of follow-ups. It’s rather a matter of common sense. There’s a fine line between being persistent and becoming annoying.

Also, as proved by our research, the 5th, 6th or 7th follow-up email brings just a tiny increase in the reply rate, so it may not be worth your time to send more than 3 or 4 follow-ups. 2 0r 3 seems to be the optimal number. Top performers usually send just that.

how many follow-ups to send

But even just 1 follow-up email can increase your campaign’s effectiveness. It may get even about 40% higher reply rate compared 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 your cold email campaigns, and it is you who has to discover what works best for your own group of prospects.

It seems like a better idea to work on the quality of each email, rather than quantity because if you overdo it, you may get labeled as a spammer by one of the irritated addressees – and that’s the last thing you want.

How often should you send follow-up emails?

Again, it depends on the purpose of your email and the characteristics of your 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.

Keep in mind that you’re addressing people

All your prospects are people. You 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 you address totally cold prospects, you can be sure that your 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 your group of prospects. If you send the follow-ups too frequently, they may feel stalked – and that’s not what you aim at (remember, “pleasantly persistent” is not pushy).

If you wait too long, they may forget who you were at all and if they are confused they won’t be eager to reply, either. (Especially because 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.)

How to send follow-up emails

Basically, there are two ways you can send follow-ups: manually or schedule an automated follow-up sequence in a tool dedicated for cold emailing, like Woodpecker or Mailshake. It depends on how many recipients you target and how much time you can devote to it.

Sending follow-up emails manually is de facto only possible on a small scale. And if you have a lot of patience, strong nerves, and above-average organizational skills. Trust us, we’ve been there and done that. Actually that’s how the idea for Woodpecker came into being. You can read the story here.

If you target more than just a handful of people, it’s much easier to prepare a follow-up sequence and let the tool take care of the sending for you. You won’t have to keep track of when was the last time you followed-up, who already responded and who you should follow up with again.

set up follow-ups in Woodpecker

You also get insights about how your emails perform, so you can use the saved time on A/B testing and polishing them up to improve the results. It’s like you hired an assistant who works round the clock for you.

What are the best practices for writing sales follow-up emails?

If you’ve been using sales follow-up email templates, you should take the time to write a copy of your follow-up email on your own. Not every template works well for each type of business and group of prospects. Discover what works best in your case.

Nonetheless, whoever you’re addressing, there are 5 crucial things to keep in mind when writing follow-up emails:

  1. Keep it short – just like in the opening email, or shorter if possible
  2. Keep it simple and easy to respond to – just like in the opening message, give them a clear instruction to the next step or a simple question to answer
  3. Keep it coherent – make sure the follow-up is logically connected with the previous message. Don’t forget to repeat the same CTA as in the opening email
  4. Keep it valuable – don’t treat a follow-up as a reminder that a prospect hasn’t replied to your previous email yet. That’s annoying. Try to smuggle some value into your follow-ups message instead
  5. And most importantly: keep it natural – your messages should not sound like automatic follow-ups or sales formulae learned by heart. You know the specifics of your group of prospects, you know how they speak and write. Adjust your opening message and sales follow-ups to them. They need to feel they are about to respond to a real person

TL;DR: a summary of follow-up email rules

Rule #1: Always send follow-up emails

Too obvious to mention it at all? Don’t be afraid of sending sales follow-up emails. If you craft and schedule them well, your prospects will not be irritated but grateful. Follow-ups are a chance to show your addressees you care for their reply more than those who resigned after their first attempt.

Rule #2: Make your sales follow-up email valuable

In the last sentence of Rule #1, I used the words “…show your addressees you care…”. Remember that the prospects do not owe you anything. They will reply only if they can feel you can provide them with some value.

That’s why we shouldn’t send follow-ups starting with “Just following up” and ending with “Looking forward to hearing from you”. That is not providing any value to the prospect. That’s just poking them in the ribs asking “Why didn’t I hear from you yet?”

And that may make them annoyed indeed. Even if they respond to such a poke, their answer is not bound to be positive. To get positive replies, you need to put some value in the sales follow-up email, just like you do in the opening message.

So how can you avoid being pesky and make your sales follow-ups more valuable? Think of your prospect’s business goals. How can you address them in your follow-ups? Perhaps a good idea would be to mention a relevant case study that shows how a similar company benefited from your product or service? Or send a link to a piece of content that they might find helpful?

Refrain from making your follow-ups just mere reminders. Yes, it means you will need to put a little bit more work in preparing your follow-up sequence, but I’m sure it will pay off in a higher response rate.

Rule #3: Send enough follow-ups at the right time

The two questions arise immediately:

  1. How much is enough?
  2. What is the right time?

These are both very good questions. Unfortunately, there are no straightforward answers to either of them. The general hint to find the answer is: it all depends on your group of prospects, your target market, the product you’re selling, and most importantly – the aim of your cold email campaign.

But why should you care about the optimal number and frequency of your follow-ups in the first place? What will happen if you send too many follow-ups in a very short time?

Well, you may trigger a chain reaction that ends in your domain being blacklisted. It starts with the prospects becoming irritated with such an email avalanche to the point of reporting the pushy email sender as a spammer. If there are enough spam requests, their domain ends up on a blacklist.

So the key here is to be “pleasantly persistent” instead of being pushy. To find out the thin borderline between the two, we need lots of common sense, research, and testing.

Rule #4: Use automation to never miss sending a follow-up

Sending sales follow-ups is a must if you want your cold email campaigns to bring satisfactory results. But sending personalized follow-ups manually is a real drag. Fortunately, that’s a process that can be taken off your shoulders by smart automation tools like Woodpecker.

What’s in it for you

I wish I could tell you there is a golden sequence of follow-ups 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 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.

If you’d like to dig further into the topic of sales follow-up emails, grab our Sales Follow-up Guide.


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