How to Write a Follow-Up Email After No Response (Updated 2021)

How to Write a Follow-Up Email After No Response (Updated 2021)

Should you write a follow-up to your prospects after no response?

Definitely yes.

As research shows you can boost your reply rates by 65.8% by sending a single follow-up.

When it comes to writing and scheduling cold email follow-ups, a lot of questions arise:

  • How many follow-ups should you send?
  • How often?
  • What should you write about?

In this guide, we will try to answer the most common questions sales and marketers face, and provide detailed guidelines on how to write follow-ups that work.

If you already know the answers to these questions, click here to jump right into the follow-ups writing section.

Why send follow-up emails
How many follow-up emails to send
How often to send follow-ups
How to send follow-ups on autopilot
How to write a follow-up email after no response
1. Add value with each follow-up
2. Write a catchy opening line
3. Make it short
4. Personalize on a high level
5. Add a persuasive call-to-action
6. Avoid sounding passive-aggressive
7. Craft a perfect subject line for your cold follow-ups

Why send follow-up emails

Considering that the average professional receives 126 emails per day, it’s quite easy for your cold email to get lost in prospects’ inboxes.

For most of your prospects, the priority would be to answer their colleagues, clients, and partners. Responding to cold emails would typically be a secondary priority, which is one of the reasons cold emails are often lost in prospects’ inboxes.

In this case, follow-ups are kind reminders of the previous email if your prospect missed it or just forgot to get back to you.

However, just asking if the prospect had an opportunity to check out the previous email is not enough.

Quite often, I receive emails like this...

Bad follow-up email

… or this one:

Bad follow-up email 2

Well, they work as reminders, however, such emails miss a second important ingredient—additional value.

You have a product or service too complicated to describe? Send additional information in the next email, together with the benefits for your prospect.

Not sure if your offer was crystal clear? Show it from a different angle to spark some interest.

Follow-ups create a unique opportunity to catch prospects’ attention once again and provide them more information on your offer.

How many follow-up emails to send

Before we dive deeper into the ideal number of emails, there is one simple rule you should know and follow every time you think about sending follow-ups:

Send follow-ups only if you have a reason.

You may ask “What if my reason is that I didn’t get a reply?”

Well, it makes sense with your first follow-up to politely ask if your prospect had an opportunity to take a look at your offer or discuss it with colleagues. But in any case, I recommend you to deliver additional value with each new message.

You can’t ask in each of your follow-ups “Why am I still waiting for your response?”

Hence, once thinking of the number of follow-ups to send to your prospects, think of whether you have a reason for them.

Want to send three follow-ups but have a reason for one? Send one. It’s easy as pie.

There are tons of studies on the ideal number of follow-ups for cold email campaigns. For example, Steli Efti sent 48 follow-ups until he got a meeting with an investor. At the same time, Joshua Hardwick recommends sending not more than one follow-up for the link building so as not to annoy people and burn bridges.

At Hunter, our key rule is to focus on writing irresistible emails instead of adding too much follow-ups. So we recommend limiting to three follow-ups for your cold email campaigns. If you are sending too many follow-ups to someone who’s never heard about you, you may seem an annoying person and damage your company brand.

If you still feel three follow-ups is not enough or that you can provide more value/spark interest for your prospects—don’t hesitate to use other channels. Twitter or LinkedIn could easily help you to deliver your message on a personal level.

On the other hand, the number of follow-ups can depend on the type of outreach campaign and your audience.

Define the number of follow-ups depending on the outreach campaign

For the link building campaign, from my experience, almost half of the links we get are coming from a single follow-up. Send more than one follow-up, and you annoy your prospects begging for backlinks. Don’t send any, and you’ll miss half of the links.

For example, this single follow-up showed us the best results for link building: it’s short, straight to the point, and perfectly reminds of the previous offer.

Link building follow-up

At the same time, if the primary goal of your outreach campaign is sales, you will probably need more than one email. Depending on your goal, you can provide additional value with follow-ups, trying to identify prospects’ pain, delivering additional useful information, etc.

Define the number of follow-ups depending on the audience

If you send emails to a completely cold audience, you’ll need to send more follow-ups to warm them up. It also takes more time from their side to learn about your product/service before getting back to you.

However, if it’s an audience familiar with you (for example, they previously downloaded your lead magnet), fewer follow-ups could be needed.

Overall, my best advice is to build a system that works for you: try to find a balance between being too pushy and not proactive enough, test different lengths of follow-up sequences, and stick to the one that works best for you.

How often to send follow-ups

Around 90% of emails are opened on the same day they are sent. The same for the responses—the chances are that your prospects get back to you the same day your campaign was sent are much higher.

So don’t wait for too long to send your follow-up email. Typically, 2–5 days is the best timing to remind prospects about your offer.

Sometimes it could take a bit longer. For example, if you send your cold campaign on Wednesday, it’s better not to send follow-ups during the weekend and wait for the workdays.

For the longer follow-up sequences, more days gap needed for each new follow-up email you send. This will help you to stay in the loop and at the same time not look annoying.

How to send follow-ups on autopilot

It’s not always possible for huge email volumes to remember when you need to send each follow-up and stick to your schedule.

Fortunately, tools like Hunter Campaigns can help you save time preparing and scheduling highly-personalized cold email follow-ups.

Once you find your prospects’ email addresses and upload them into Hunter Leads, you can start scheduling your first email and follow-ups.

With Campaigns, you can choose how many follow-ups after no response you want to send, specify the time delays between each follow-up, personalize the subject line, and work on the email copy.

Automate follow-up emails

Once you set this up, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting to send a follow-up to your prospects. Everything will be sent on autopilot.

How to write a follow-up email after no response

1. Add value with each follow-up

With each follow-up, you should provide additional value for the prospect.

Quite often, I receive follow-ups like this one:

Follow-up email with no value

Yes, I saw the first email, but the initial offer was unclear, and I didn’t know what Lauren wanted to achieve, so I decided to not get back to her.

If only she provided more information with her follow-up, tried to collect more information on me (her prospect), and sparked interest with something relevant, I’d be happy to reply.

There are tons of opportunities to make follow-ups work by providing something valuable.

For example, if you are a digital marketing agency, you can provide proof of how your current clients are growing using your services by sharing their success studies, results or feedback.

Here is a great example of such an email (with a reply rate of 16%) that Donald Chan, founder of IMPACT, shared with us:

Agency follow-up email example

In this follow-up, Donald name-drops a company that he worked with in the past as a form of social proof. This company should be either familiar to the email recipient, whether that’s because they’re an industry peer, a competitor or just a famous brand name.

And by offering to share how they achieved certain results for this company, they provide the email recipient with a compelling reason to respond to them.

Check out directory of the best-performing cold email follow-up templates

2. Write a catchy opening line

If you start your cold follow-up with something blurry, dull, and not personalized, the chances are that you’ll never get a response from your prospect.

I recommend polishing your opening line to make your prospects interested in learning more about what you have to offer.

Try to avoid such opening lines:

  • Just checking in
  • Thought I would just check-in and find out
  • Just wanted to check-in to hear about
  • Touching base

Instead, you can spark interest with a question, mention mutual connection, start with the prospect’s problem, or use a recent trigger event.

Besides that, in your opening line try to give the context as to why you’re emailing the  prospect. It could be a simple and short recap of your previous email.

3. Make it short

As Sleeknote discovered, emails with shorter copy of 95 words significantly outperformed emails with longer copy of 170 words. In fact, shorter emails had a 5.81 percent higher CTR.

In your follow-up emails, try to eliminate unnecessary greetings like “I hope you’re doing well.” Being polite is a must, but it could be easily achieved by using the right style for your email.

Also, don’t use wordy sentences. Give your writing a confidence boost by eliminating words that weigh down your writing and make your sound uncertain.

Here is an excellent example of a short and straight to the point email Katia from Audext sent for pitching her idea with a guest post for the prospect’s blog:

  • She made a quick reminder of the previous email (discuss content cooperation).
  • She added a CTA offering to convenient options to proceed with conversation (via email or phone call).
  • She asked for the decision-maker’s contact information, in case the prospect she is reaching out to is not a relevant one.
Short follow-up email

4. Personalize on a high level

Personalization is essential when it comes to sending a successful cold email follow-up. The more personal your follow-up is, the better your response rate would be.

There are two key approaches to personalize your follow-ups:

1. When you have a small number of prospects, you can write each follow-up from scratch, making them unique and personal to each prospect

A great example of such an email is the one I received from HubSpot’s Growth Manager after not talking to him for a month since our first conversation:

Personalized follow-up email

This email is great because it’s super personal. Adam did a lot of work by conducting such in-depth research. Besides including essential personalization, he made the follow-up effective by:

  • Mentioning a mutual connection (he previously talked to our Customer Success Manager Giovanni).
  • Providing a new offer relevant to our marketing strategy based on the information he previously received about putting our customer success project on hold.
  • Showing his expertise (mentioned the companies he previously worked with).
  • Finishing with a clear CTA.

2. Automate personalization for the larger volumes of emails

For bigger email volumes, it could be time-consuming to edit all of the emails manually or even create them from scratch.

Fortunately, you can use tools like Hunter Campaigns that will help you to save time preparing and scheduling highly-personalized follow-ups.

Hunter Campaigns doesn’t “automate the whole process” but still save hours of your time. It’s always better to spend a bit more time to add a personal touch to each message, even though they will ultimately be sent on autopilot.

  • All you need to do is to create a CSV file with detailed information about your prospects.
CSV file for personalization
  • Upload it into Hunter Leads (a simple CRM tool that allows you to structure information about your prospect).
Hunter Leads
  • Use the data from the CSV/ Hunter Leads to personalize emails in bulk automatically.
Follow-up with custom attributes

5. Add a persuasive call-to-action

When you send a follow-up to a cold prospect, you should be very clear with what you want to achieve with it.

Just imagine you receive a similar follow-up to the email that you didn’t have an opportunity to open:

Cold email without call-to-action

The first question you may ask yourself would be, “What does this person want from me?”. There is no context, no personalization, no CTA. Even if you read the context from the previous email, how do you know what you should do?

CTA is uber important for the follow-ups. If you don’t guide your prospect with the next steps, highly unlikely they will take this initiative.

Make it easy for the recipient to respond.

For example, if you’re arranging a meeting, suggest a specific date and time: “Does 4:20 PM on Monday work for you?”.

If you’re building links for your content, you can ask an open question: “Would you be interested in linking to our guide, perhaps?”

If you want to find the right person in the company to discuss a specific topic ask, “Are you the right person to talk about this? If not, could you point me in the right direction?”

Many cold emails are missing or have an ambiguous call-to-action that wastes you and your prospects’ time. Make your call-to-action crystal clear, persuasive, and hard to resist. Tell your prospects what you want them to do.

6. Avoid sounding passive-aggressive

In your follow-up email, avoid sounding passive-aggressive or desperate.

Direct aggression is relatively easy to spot, but more subtle passive-aggressive phrases can sneak into your follow-ups almost without thought. These kinds of microaggressions can exasperate your prospects and quickly chip away at the goodwill and all and mutual trust you have established.

Will you ever respond to a follow-up similar to this one?

Passive-aggressive follow-up email

The answer is no.

Even if the prospect wanted to reply back to the first email and forgot (or just missed it), there is very little chance to get a response after such a follow-up.

Hence, try to omit such passive-aggressive phrases in your follow-up emails:

  • I’m following up because you haven’t responded to me yet
  • I’ve tried to reach you a few times now
  • I know you’re busy, I’m busy too
  • I know you opened my first email a couple of times
  • Any updates on this?
  • Just checking in
  • Friendly reminder

Besides that, try to remove desperation from your follow-ups. Yes, you might be upset because your prospect didn’t respond to your previous four follow-ups, but don’t show them your distress.

Try to reassess what you can improve in your messages, what reason your prospect could have for not responding to you (wrong prospect, not relevant offer, etc), your CTAs, and your offer.

These phrases are a right signal you sound a bit desperate, so try to omit them as well:

  • If it’s not too much trouble
  • I apologize in advance for bothering you
  • Sorry for being so persistent

7. Craft a perfect subject line for your cold follow-ups

Creating a perfect subject line is one of the first things you should do while setting up your follow-ups.

The subject line is the first thing your prospects see, and they may make a decision whether or not to read your emails based on the subject line only.

So try not to be too obvious by having “Follow-up” or “Just checking in” as subject lines for your follow-ups. Be a bit more creative and write a catchy copy that makes users open your email.

These are the key rules to follow while writing subject lines for your follow-ups:

  • Make them personal
  • Keep copy short
  • Ask intriguing questions

Read: How to Craft Perfect Cold Email Subject Lines (55 Examples)

Do I need to create a different subject line for each follow-up?

I typically send and recommend using the same thread with the same subject line for cold follow-up.

This way, prospects quickly get reminded about the offer from the previous email. Moreover, in this case, you can use follow-ups to continue telling the story or offering additional benefits.

However, you can send a different subject line for your follow-up email if your follow-up also contains all the key information. In this case, you give yourself another chance to get attention. At the same time, I don’t recommend changing the subject line more than once to not look spammy.

Here is how you can set up everything with Hunter Campaigns:

  • Just keep the subject line field empty if you want to send a follow-up in the same thread automatically.
  • Add a subject line for the follow-up if you want it to be sent as a new email.
Subject line for follow-up email

Examples of great subject lines for cold email follow-ups:

  • Our next step
  • Sending the info I promised you
  • I hate follow-ups
  • Great speaking with you
  • I forgot to mention
  • What would you say?
  • Just {{number of days}} day(s) left
  • Nice to meet you {{first_name}}

Wrap up

It’s quite difficult to catch the attention of someone who previously didn’t respond to you.

That’s why while composing your follow-ups, make your primary focus on delivering value and providing irresistible offers instead of bombarding your prospects with many follow-ups.

Write a catchy opening line to make your prospects read your message, keep them short to not lose attention, and do your research to personalize follow-ups on a high level.

By following these simple rules, we are confident you’ll be able to quickly initiate a conversation with your prospects.

What other tips do you use to write successful follow-up emails? Feel free to share them with me on or on Twitter. We will update this guide with the best fresh examples and tactics.

Irina Maltseva

Irina Maltseva

Head of Marketing at Hunter. I enjoy working on inbound and product marketing strategies. In spare time, I entertain my cat Persie and collect airline miles.

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