The age of information makes it very easy to stay constantly connected. We can connect with others on a plethora of platforms, be it email, text messages or instant messaging. This state of perpetual connectivity, however, has also led us to do something else—‘check-in’ with people to gauge whether they’ve received and read our message.
Checking-in or following-up is a process where you prompt the recipient of your message to respond. Follow-up emails are one of the most effective tools of written communication that allows you to take the next step after the initial conversation. Not only does it help establish trust, but also makes way for a new professional relationship.
Let’s see why following-up is a crucial practice and read about the ways to craft effective follow-up communications.
What Is A Follow-Up Email?
Electronic mails or emails have become one of the most common forms of business communication. Whether you’re applying for a job, sending a project report to your manager or closing a sales pitch, emails have become an integral and inevitable part of our lives. However, at times, an email conversation falls through—either the person doesn’t respond or it ends up in the spam folder. Follow-up emails help address this communication lag.
In a nutshell, a follow-up email is a personalized message you send someone to show that you are still interested in taking the conversation forward and making them feel valued. For example, you have a client meeting and you want to thank them for their time. A follow-up email seals the deal. Following up is just as significant as the meeting itself because it lets you establish your credibility and convinces the recipient of your intentions.
What Is The Significance Of Following Up?
A simple thank you email after a meeting may seem like a redundant activity but it can make or break your professional relationship with the recipient. Here are some benefits of a follow-up email that’ll explain why we need to follow-up after the initial conversation:
Makes Them Feel Valued
Following up helps you show others that you value their time and efforts. For example, a thank you note after a job interview helps you respectfully communicate your gratitude to potential employers. Thanking them for their time and consideration not only makes them feel valued but also reflects well on you professionally.
Sets You Apart
It’s highly likely that your potential client, customer or employer is meeting with multiple people or candidates at the same time. A follow-up mail can set you apart from your competitors as you continue to show your interest and dedication. It’s a proactive way to communicate that you are serious about the opportunity and ready to take the next step.
Creates New Opportunities
It’s no secret that people often get so busy that they forget things. They may even forget to update you on the next steps of a business agreement and it may seem like they are not interested. Following-up helps prevent that. You are clued in on important matters and updates. Moreover, frequent communication becomes the foundation for building trust and enhancing professional relationships. This further helps in career advancement as you continue to expand your network.
Why Do We Need To Follow-Up?
Here are a few reasons that emphasize the need to follow-up and go beyond the initial conversation:
The Power Of Second Email
A subsequent email has a greater power to convince and persuade the recipient than the first one. People are more likely to respond to a second email since it acts as a reminder. Once you’ve sent the follow-up email, you put the ball in their court, i.e., you’ve done your part and the next step is up to them. You may, however, want to avoid sending too many subsequent emails since it may annoy the receiver. Allow them enough time to get back.
Email Could Go To Spam
Over time, the filtering process of several accounts has become so rigorous that a lot of important emails also end up in spam. One effective way to avoid having your email being directed to the spam folder is by carefully planning the subject line. In addition to stating your purpose, a subject line should be short and simple. Make sure that you use your official business address. The best thing about a follow-up email is that you can refer to the first (probably lost) email and restart the dialogue.
Email Could Get Deleted
Studies show that many people regularly clear their inbox—accidentally deleting even the most legitimate emails. It’s likely your email may have got bundled away with other messages. A follow-up mail gives you a second chance to communicate your agenda. If you still don’t receive a response, it’s best to move on.
It May Be Bad Timing
Do you pay attention to the time when you send emails? Timing matters because your email may get piled under other emails. For example, if you send an email on a Friday, it’s likely the recipient will check it only on Monday. Follow-up emails help to put your email on top of the pile, allowing your recipient to take notice.
They May Be Unhappy
A bad meeting or interaction is not only harmful for your organization but also your professional image. A follow-up email provides an opportunity to make up for poor interactions and prevent an unhappy customer or client from giving a bad review. Before it’s too late, take active steps to rectify and improve the relationship.
How To Write A Follow-Up Email
You are probably wondering how to write an effective follow-up email that not only achieves your end goal but also goes beyond mere rapport-building. Here are a few tips that’ll teach you how to write a powerful follow-up email.
Identify Your Objective
Before you start to craft an email, take some time to determine your end goal. This way, you can determine whether you need the respondent to incorporate a call-to-action (CTA). Let’s look at some ways in which you can identify and clarify your ultimate objective:
When You Need Information
After the first interaction, you may realize that you forgot to ask for something or need more information. In the follow-up email, you can state what you are looking for and even provide directions to communicate it to you.
When You Want A Meeting
Whether it’s receiving feedback for your performance, pitching a business idea or even asking for assistance, you are likely to write a follow-up email. To make things easier, you can include a meeting (or calendar) invite.
When You Want To Catch-Up
If you haven’t spoken to someone for a long time, a follow-up mail can help you catch-up. For example, if you haven’t heard from your client after the winter break, send them an email.
When You Want To Show Gratitude
Follow-up emails don’t always have to necessarily incorporate a CTA. Sometimes you may just want to say thank the recipient and make them feel valued. For example, you can send a ‘thank you’ email to someone who took time out to listen to your ideas.
Establish context at the beginning of your email to remind your reader about the last interaction between the two of you. You may use phrases like “picking up from our previous conversation” or “I was so inspired by our chat last week that I had to reach out” as openers. Setting context provides clarity and helps your reader jog their memory.
State Your Purpose
Don’t appear vague in your emails by providing unnecessary information. Many people receive high volumes of emails on any given day—it may be difficult for them to read through every single detail. If you want your reader to take notice of your main agenda, avoid beating about the bush. State your purpose directly and communicate your CTA immediately after your introduction.
Double-Check Subject Line
A powerful subject line is the cornerstone of effective email communication. Make sure that you write a short yet impactful subject line that helps the recipient take notice. Poor subject lines may push your email to the spam folder. Your subject line should clearly state the purpose of the email and should be three-five words long.
Think Before Hitting ‘Send’
Double-check your email, subject line and recipient’s address before you hit send. Make sure there are no grammatical errors and the language is appropriate. Here are a few time frames to choose from, for sending different kinds of follow-up emails:
Within 24 hours (e.g., thanking your interviewers)
Within 48 hours (e.g., after any type of submission that needs urgent attention)
Within 1-2 weeks (e.g., following-up on meeting requests or job offers)
How Does A Follow-Up Email Look?
Here’s a sample of a follow-up email to help you create a meaningful and impactful message. Imagine that you’re an entrepreneur who had a meeting with an investor recently. This is what an ideal follow-up mail will look like:
Dear <Recipient’s Name>,
I’m writing to follow-up on our previous conversation. It was wonderful meeting you and communicating my business idea.
Have you given any thought to my proposal? I’d be happy to get on a quick call or e-meeting and provide a brief review. I’ll also be happy to answer any pending questions you may have.
Let me know if you are free sometime this week and I’ll send a meeting invite once you confirm.
Learn how to structure your thoughts and write clearly, concisely and compellingly with Harappa Education’s Writing Proficiently course. The Pyramid Principle in particular will help you present key points in a direct and succinct manner. On the other hand, the GRT (Goal, Recipient and Tone) Framework will help you identify your objective and audience while being mindful of the style and language. Make your email communication effective and tell your story in ways that make people take notice. Become an effective communicator today!
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