Cold Email Follow-Up After No Response: What to Do (and What Not To)

Cold Email Follow-Up After No Response: What to Do (and What Not To)

The article ‘Cold Email Follow-Up After No Response: What to Do (and What Not To)’ was originally published in 2019. It has been reworked and modernized for 2021.


Every marketer has experienced it: you create an absolutely killer email that you know is going to outperform anything you’ve done before.


And then it doesn’t.


It’s disappointing, and leaves you with the question, “what now?”


Cold Email Follow-Up After No Response: What to Do (and What Not To)


Following up on an email when your recipient didn’t respond can be intimidating. Many marketers are reluctant to send follow-ups for fear of coming across as pushy and driving potential customers away.


While understandable, it’s an outlook that costs valuable leads. Cold email follow-up is a powerful, effective tool when done properly.


The Initial Email

Writing awesome cold emails in general is a major topic in itself. You can read our guide on cold email copywriting for a detailed look at how to craft powerful cold emails, but here are some quick tips:


  • Try not to sound like a cold email. Use personalization where appropriate, reference your contacts’ pain points, craft a powerful subject line. The more it feels like your email was specifically written for your contact, the more effective it will be.
  • Include social proof: If you’re going to make bold claims about how your product can benefit your contacts’ businesses, you’d better be able to back it up.
  • Don’t waste your contacts’ time: They didn’t ask you to email them. Give them a reason to engage with your message.



Why You Should Follow Up

Many marketers think a new design or a different style of content could drive a spike in responses. To an extent, this is true – you should always be testing new tactics – but a huge part of cold email success is your timing.


Think about it. How often have you received an email and made a note to get to it later, only to totally forget about it? It happens to everyone, all the time.


It also happens to your contacts. Some of them will see your message in their inbox, but allow it slip through the cracks.


Sending a follow-up reminds them that you exist. It’s important to break through the mindset that follow-ups are a bad thing.


Iko System performed a study of response rates across a series of follow-up sales emails. Here are their results:


cold email follow-up response rate graph


They kept getting responses to all seven emails. Imagine if they had stopped with the first email (like many marketers do).


Let’s say they sent to 300 people. At a response rate of 18%, that first email would have generated 54 responses.


In contrast, all seven emails would have generated a total of 212 responses. That’s an immense difference. You can see that cold email follow-ups are a very powerful part of your arsenal.


Following Up: What Not to Do

Here are a few things you should avoid doing in your follow-up emails.

  • Don’t be generic. Content like “just following up”, “just putting this at the top of your inbox”, “touching base” and so forth is stale. Stand out and make your email engaging instead.
  • Don’t be deceptive. A trick that sometimes gets used is adding “Re:” to the start of the subject line. Don’t do that. Tricking people into opening your email is a great way to annoy them into unsubscribing or reporting your email as spam.
  • Don’t resend the first email. It’s fine to rework the content with the same concept but different wording, but don’t just send a carbon copy of the first email out. People who opened it but didn’t answer won’t be thrilled to receive an identical email.
  • Don’t get impatient. If you send something like “Why haven’t you responded to any of my last five emails”, it comes across as petulant. Don’t mention their continued silence at all.

It can be summarized like this: don’t do anything that would annoy you if you had it in your inbox. You want to drive responses, not unsubscribes.


What to Do Instead

All the same tips that apply to writing a great cold email apply to follow-ups as well. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Spend at least as much time making your subject line stand out as you do writing the rest of the email.
  • Personalization is arguably your most powerful tool. It’s a great way to make your emails sound warmer and more tailored to the recipient.
  • Provide value, don’t sell. Your email should help the recipient solve a problem they have, not just try to get them to buy your product.
  • Keep it short and punchy. Be friendly and warm, but don’t ramble. Get straight to the point (which should be that value you’re offering from the point above).
  • Above all, don’t sound cold. The best cold emails sound warm. This applies to follow-up emails as well.


Getting the Frequency Right

As we saw above, Iko System saw strong success with their cadence of seven follow-ups. That’s a good number to set as your maximum follow-ups; if someone hasn’t responded after a total of seven emails, they’re probably not going to respond at all.


If six feels like too many, you can always just try one or two at first and see what sort of engagement you get. If you’re still seeing some responses from your second follow-up, add a third one on. If that one works too, add a fourth, and so on.


Everyone’s experience will be different – the cadence that worked for Iko System might not work for you. It’s important to test and make your decisions based on what worked for you.


Make a Good Exit

Often called a “breakup email”, your final follow-up should be a firm goodbye. Make it clear to the recipient that this is your final outreach without their response.


Far from being dramatic, this is actually backed up by psychology. It can be summed up in the expression “losses loom larger than gains”, meaning that people are much more motivated to prevent a loss than they are to make a gain.


If you make it clear that by not responding, they’re losing the opportunity you’re offering them, that offer suddenly becomes more important than it was before.


Again, this tactic may not work for everyone. Test for yourself and move ahead with what works best.


Hit the Inboxes

In order to do their job, those cold emails need to reach their recipients’ inbox.


Clickback is the best tool for sending cold email. It’s designed to make cold email campaigns successful with a range of unique, powerful features to maximize deliverability.


Get your cold campaigns into inboxes, not spam folders. Then, craft a cold email follow up if you don’t receive a response for best results. Get a 1-on-1 demo today and see it in action!


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