What Follow-up Emails Can Teach Us About Email Marketing


A follow-up email sets the tone – and expectations – for your business. These messages can be either automated or sent personally. Prior to the sale follow-up emails (such as the response to a consumer inquiry) can help close the sale. After the sale, follow-up emails are all about customer loyalty, retention and cross- and upsell.


What makes a good (or not so good) follow-up email? Let’s take a look at how some companies follow up on customer contact and what you can learn from it for your own email marketing.


Express interest

Symantec gets points for persistence. Its definition of my “expressed interest” – as a follow-up from a virtual trade show – is a bit of a stretch. The subject line reads: Follow-up to your Symantec inquiry. Of course, it wasn’t an inquiry, it was a visit to their virtual trade show.





Reference the event

Make sure you reference the actual event if possible, even if it is e.g. a whitepaper download. Stretching it too far so that the recipient doesn’t recognize what led to them getting that email is a definite email marketing no-no. Recognition is very important, especially if your brand isn’t a household name. The following message from Symantec is a bit less cryptic.





If you still didn’t respond, you would receive this third email. Note that these emails are written by a person. That is totally in line with their personal sales funnel / route. But probably they are totally automated. Of course you can take it your way and create a follow-up that fits with your business. That can be a direct offer or incentive instead of a call to connect and discuss.





As email marketers, whether B2B or B2C, we need to be careful how we market to our prospects. An overly eager or too-friendly email could be misinterpreted or off-putting and have the reverse effect to the one you’s like to achieve. However, the Symantec emails are short and to the point; this is important when reaching out to busy businesspeople with overcrowded inboxes.

Hit the right tone

A friend passed this follow up email from  Merrill Lynch along. When I asked for a “could work, but not very probably”-email. There’s a bit of a disconnect with the subject line and the content, mainly in tone. The subject line is rather in-your-face and suggests urgency, with the exclamation point to boot. That, coupled with the timing – not long after one first signs up with a 401(k) plan – is very direct (and maybe a bit pushy) sell.

The email itself, however, is a much softer sell. It has three money-saving tips, although they should test these too. Myself, I would be rather mixed about the tips and wasn’t planning on going on a treasure hunt. So they should definitely run some smart email split tests on this if they can.

There’s a politically correct scene, one that’s meant to play the emotional card. The copy is bulleted with bold lead-ins for easier reading. Lastly, there is a distinct call to action, with options to do so either online or by phone. That all sounds like there has been some thought put into this follow up email.

But not everyone is going to appreciate it (at all). Would you act on this? Why (not)?





Service to sell

Luke from LinkedIn starts his response to a customer service inquiry with an apology. Whether Luke’s actually his name and whether this is an automated response is irrelevant; you could very well put these transactional emails in place with autoresponders. But what matters is that the email provided answers to all the questions and included links for further information. Even Luke’s signature as a “Customer Experience Advocate” and the personalization in the last line are nice touches.



What can we learn from this LinkedIn email? First, no matter your company size, you can’t separate Customer Service from other areas of your business. It ties in with branding, marketing, sales, etc.

Sometimes a service based email can get better results than a direct selling one. For example: A bank tried to increase the number of people that do a regular deposit in their savings account once they open it. Especially if people opened the account but haven’t deposited anything yet. So they did several tests with different types of welcome emails. What turned out? The email where the asked people to deposit directly, didn’t do nearly as well as the one where they had a service angle.

It does make the case for testing and how much you can learn from customer service for your email marketing, don’t you think?

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