Please stop following up

Possibly the worst email subject line ever written is “Following up”. What this really means is: “I’m writing to you because I want your money.” This self-serving subject line tells your prospect that you’re more interested in your sale and less interested in adding value to the prospect’s problem.

I’m going to give you a much better email template that you can use later in this article.

When do people buy? Not when you’re ready to sell…

No matter how much you want to make a sale, the reality is that people will buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell. You can fight that reality and keep sending sales-based (or follow up) emails but ultimately the reality will win and you will lose.

Worse, you won’t just lose the prospects who are reading your annoying emails.  The effect multiplies because as people delete emails without reading them or press the ‘spam’ button out of frustration, your future emails are less likely to enter the Inbox and instead will likely go to the Promotions Tab or Spam Folder.

A much better approach is to forget the sale. Yes, FORGET SELLING. Just help your prospect. Instead of thinking of it as a follow-up email, think of it as an add-value email. In this vein, a subject line with “I thought of you…” shows that you care. It shows that the recipient of your message is not just a number, but a person with real needs.  When your prospect is ready to buy, he or she will appreciate all the great things you’ve done and let you know. Imagine making sales without having to sell. That’s what happens when you take a value-based approach to your emails, instead of a sales-based approach.

To move from a sales-based approach to a value-based approach, you need to forget about closing the sale and more about how to make your marketing more valuable to the point that there isn’t a trace of selling that can be detected. You then need to come up with useful content for your prospect.

And that begins by deeply understanding your customers’ specific challenges.

How to send emails that people actually want to read

The mistake that many marketers make is that they talk in general terms. Real agents, for example, tell us they have a ‘unique opportunity’. We’ve heard this phrase so many times that it has lost its meaning. This equally applies to phrases like ‘how to get more sales’, ‘how to generate more leads’ and so on.

The solution is to move from the general to the specific. You need to move from a ‘vague idea’ like ‘I need more sales’ to a general problem like ‘I need to convert more quotes into sales’ to specific scenarios like

  • How can your customer get people interested in something other than a quote?
  • Is your customer getting any feedback on the quote, and if so, what is it?
  • What exactly is your customer putting in that quote?


When you’re communicating with your customers, you want to be talking about specific scenarios, not general problems and vague ideas.

Another way to think of it is this: Could your message apply to any person, or just the recipient you’re currently targeting? If it could apply to anyone, then you’re probably not adding much value. This is why if you are sending a message to a group of people, dynamic content is particularly important.

Ultimately, you want to get to the point that you are so specific that you give your prospects more clarity about their problem than they have ever had before. You then automatically become the solution. Your prospect is shocked that you understand the problem so well, the natural assumption is that you must have the solution. You are perceived as an authority on the subject and the sale follows easily from there.

Tools for uncovering what your prospects want to hear from you

If you’re not exactly sure how to add value for your customers, you can try send them a survey using survey software or simply send them an email:


Here’s the text to copy and paste:


I want to send you the most useful content in my emails that’s possible. So, can you please reply to tell me: What is the single biggest challenge you are facing in relation to [your business]?

You could even email them to ask them to click a link to schedule a time with you with scheduling software like timetrade or schedule once.

If you have a basic idea of what your recipients’ challenges might be, you can try sending an email that says something to the effect of “I want to send you email that is most useful to you… so please select one link below so I only send you relevant content” and then offer 3 links, one for each topic. Then you send different emails to people based on the link which they have clicked.

People love locals

Another tactic you can use is timing and location. If you know of a relevant event coming up in a customer’s area, invite him to attend:

You mentioned that you were experiencing [describe challenge in detail]…. So I thought you’d like to know that we have an event in your local area in the next few weeks.

Timing matters

Use timing to your advantage. Let’s say you’re a provider of prenatal yoga services. You can send out varying emails depending on where your recipients are at in their pregnancies, so that, for example, a message you send to someone in her first trimester differs significantly from a message you send to someone in her last month.

When you have a super important prospect, use these personalization tactics

Another way to engage your customers and keep the conversation going is to send out news or updates specifically related to them. If you have important customers or want to keep tabs on news related to certain topics, you can use Google alerts to help you out.

Let’s say one of your customers is an up and coming motivational speaker. If you set up a Google alert and find out that he’s quoted in an article, you can send an email that says “I saw you mentioned on [Article Name],” which would make him feel important and increase your chances of getting a response.

Similarly, Newsle is a service that provides information on everyone on LinkedIn and Facebook every time they are mentioned in a major online publication. This gives the added bonus of creating a situation where you can contact customers to say that you saw they were mentioned. It makes them feel good that they are being noticed and means that you can respond directly to their situation.

Put it all together with this template


Again, here’s the text to copy and paste:

Subject: I thought of you…

Hi [Name],

You mentioned you had an issue with [problem], and so I thought of you when I saw this….. [insert link]

Attraction Versus Pursuit

There’s a very clever Dove commercial that you’ve got to watch….

As you can see, the ad brilliantly demonstrates that with all the styling and photoshopping, amazing models don’t even look anything like themselves. Dove successfully creates an enemy – the impossible pursuit of perfect beauty. The consumer is left feeling that the only option is to pursue their natural beauty and it just so happens that Dove sells products for this very purpose.

This video educates and only when you understand the message do you realize that Dove must be the solution. Dove never needed to mention their products in the ad. There’s also no 10% discount if you buy by next Tuesday.

Similarly, your emails need to be focused on real problems that your prospects are facing. Help them solve these problems and you will find that purchasing your product is the natural outcome.

Here’s the big reason why most emails don’t work…


People get tons of messages in their email trying to sell them a wide range of products and services. For many of us, our default setting when receiving emails from sources other than friends and family is to simply delete.

Many marketers make the mistake of focusing on sales at the expense of customer engagement — and that’s where the 9-word email comes in handy.

The origin of the 9-word email

The 9-word email was developed for a re-engagement campaign for the real estate industry by Dean Jackson. It’s a simple email that takes almost no time to put together, yet it’s far more effective than the overwhelming majority of emails you see marketers churning out.

In its original iteration, the 9-word email featured a subject line with just the recipient’s name and a body with a one-line question. It looked something like this:


That’s it.

The point of the email was to ask a relevant, engaging question that would get a reply.

Note that the wording here is significant. The email above is very different from one that reads as follows:


This second version highlights an overused tactic—the blatant sell. The first email is also trying to sell you something, but there is a big difference. The first email works to nurture a need, the second jumps straight to the solution, and that is why it fails.

The first email works because it’s:

  • Not pushy
  • More conversational
  • Focused on the need

As result, it’s much more likely to solicit a reply.

Remember, replies are one factor that keep your emails out of your recipients’ Spam and Promotions folders. This is because Google/Hotmail/Yahoo reason that if you reply to a friend or colleague, they are not likely to be sending you a promotion.

Here’s another example, this time for a recruitment email:


Again, notice how nuanced the language is. This question is far different from one that reads like this:


The second version omits the word “still,” and in doing so sends a completely different message. The second version is trying to sell a service, while the first version is engaging (or re-engaging) the reader and, again, nurturing a need.

You can also customize this type of email based on dynamic inputs so that it’s even more personalized and relevant. For example, if you’re a recruitment firm with a former client in banking, you could send an email that reads:


If the recipient of an email like this is even remotely interested in pursuing a new job opportunity, he’s highly likely to respond.

Let’s now delve into why exactly this email works so well…

The WhatsApp Effect

WhatsApp is an instant messaging tool that makes it easy for all types of mobile phone users to communicate via text message.  In April of 2015, WhatsApp reached 800 million users, and in 2014, Facebook paid $19 billion to acquire it.

Why is this significant? It demonstrates a shift in the way people are communicating today.

Remember, mobile phones were originally made for calling purposes, and text messages were an afterthought. Now, people texts as much as they call, if not more so—especially younger users. Text messages are typically short and to the point, as compared to emails which are longer.

Whatever email you’re creating, make sure you don’t forget the WhatsApp Effect.

Commitment and Consistency

You’ll often see promotions on Facebook or similar outlets along the lines of: Why do you like [product name]? Tell us and enter our competition.


The underlying idea here is that if you make a commitment, you will be consistent with that commitment. So if you stumble upon this competition and take the time to say something positive about the product or service in question, you’ll be more likely to use that product or service again.

The way we apply this to email marketing is that if you get a reply, that’s a commitment. So when you respond to the reply, the recipient is more likely to be consistent with the prior commitment.

So when you go to compose your marketing emails, here’s an effective derivation of the 9-word email in the context of promoting a marketing seminar.


This email does a great job of getting the recipient interested. Notice how details are intentionally omitted? That’s because we’re trying to be respectful. We’re not hitting the recipient over the head with a hard sell. We’re not overloading him with information. We’re simply engaging, or piquing his interest.

Here’s one reply that I got…


And here’s another…


These replies are all small commitments which the sender is likely to be consistent with. Even if they do not attend the upcoming seminar, they are likely to be interested in future sessions.

As an added bonus, you’ve got a more direct path into the recipient’s inbox rather than his promotional or spam folder—so even if that recipient doesn’t end up attending your next seminar, your follow-up emails will still get through to him, thus increasing your chances of getting that commitment in the future.

So, the next time you launch an email marketing campaign, stop to think about how you can get someone to reply to your email instead of immediately going in for the kill.

If you found this post useful, and you’re located in Melbourne Australia, come to our next seminar on online marketing.

How to convert more prospects into customers by using dynamic content in your email marketing

Are you using dynamic content to convert your leads into customers? If not, you’re missing out on a valuable tool.

Dynamic content for the purpose  of email marketing is sending different content to different prospects based on the information you know about each prospect.

It’s the same concept as visiting an online retailer and seeing recommendations based on items you’ve previously viewed or purchased. If the recommendations that pop up on your screen are appealing, you may be tempted to make an additional purchase; but if they’re totally off base, you’re probably going to just move on without buying anything.

The point of dynamic content is to create a customized experience for each prospect, so the prospect notices that you care and doesn’t feel like another person being processed through a machine (even though it is automated).

How it Works

Let’s say you’re a company that teaches Spanish and have a form on your website’s contact page. The form might contain questions such as:

  • Have you ever learned Spanish before?
  • Why are you interested in learning Spanish?

Ideally, when a prospect  comes across this form, he’ll put in his contact information and select the appropriate answer to each question based on options from a drop-down menu. Based on his answers, the user will then get an email in which every paragraph is customized based on the responses from the web form.

It would look like this…


Let’s say the user selects “no/very little” in response to the first question: Have you ever learned Spanish before? The email he receives after submitting his form could then open with the line “We see you’re just starting to learn Spanish.”

On the other hand, if the user selects “Yes-I am an advanced speaker of Spanish” in response to that same question, the email could start with “We noticed you’re an advanced Spanish speaker.”

The same personalization can be applied based on each response on a given form. So in our example, let’s say the user selects “I am travelling in less than 3 months” in response to the second question: Why are you interested in learning Spanish? Then the email might say “Our classes will help you make the most of your upcoming trip.”

However, if the response to that second question is “school or university,” the email might say “Our classes are designed to help you improve your grades.”

Let’s compare two different versions of the same email based on the questions and responses above.

Question: Have you ever learned Spanish before?

Response: No/very little

Question: Why are you interested in learning Spanish?

Response: I am travelling in less than 3 months

Here’s how that email might read:

Dear Steve Johnson,

We see that you’re just starting to learn Spanish in time for your upcoming trip. Our classes will help you understand the basics so that you can enjoy your travels and have an easier time feeling comfortable with your surroundings. Call or sign up online today to get started with our beginner’s course.


The Spanish Source

Now let’s look at a different set of responses:

Question: Have you ever learned Spanish before?

Response: Yes–I am an advanced speaker

Question: Why are you interested in learning Spanish?

Response: School or university

Here’s how that email might read:

Dear Steve Johnson,

We see that you’re an advanced Spanish speaker. Our classes are designed for expert speakers like you. We’ll review the most complex concepts, focusing on key areas such as grammar and vocabulary, so that you can excel academically while also mastering skills that will be useful later in life. Call or sign up online today to get started with our advanced course.


The Spanish Source

See what just happened here? Two simple questions generated two totally different emails, and it was all done automatically.


Online Quizes Typically Generate a 60% Opt-In Rate

Now let’s take another example, this time using an online survey for a leadership program. 60% of users tend to opt in for these types of surveys, and once they’ve taken the time to enter a series of answers, they’re going to want to see their results.

So let’s say the user is asked:

  • How clear are you on your purpose?
  • To what degree do you feel you inspire others?

And let’s say the options on the drop-down menu consist of:

  • Unexplored
  • Beginning
  • Developing
  • Well-developed
  • Expert

Applying the same concept as above, the user can be placed in a category. The first three responses—unexplored, beginning, and developing—indicate that the user is a beginner, whereas the last two indicate that the user is advanced. That is…


From there, every report that’s generated is personalized based on the responses given.

  • For the beginner, a simple strategy is sent.
  • For the advanced professional, a more advanced strategy is sent.

That is…


And the text of the email will reflect the answers selected during the survey so that a beginner, for example, might get a message that starts with “Based on your response, you’re about to learn something new…”

The great thing about dynamic email content is that the recipient isn’t getting a boring, generic message. If you use dynamic content, each recipient will get an email that is:

  • Personalized
  • Relevant
  • Engaging

And each of these components is critical when it comes to converting leads.

People want to feel recognized. They want to feel like individuals. That’s why even little things like addressing a recipient by his name can go a long way.

Furthermore, email content needs to be relevant and reasonably interesting if you want your users to actually read your messages and take action based on their contents. If you send a message to your entire contact list that sounds auto-generated, most recipients will not react, or worse they might start deleting your emails. On the other hand, if you engage your readers and draw them in by addressing their specific needs or concerns, you’re more likely to see them call or sign up for your service.

And the best part about using dynamic content in emails? Once you set it up, it you’re done. You get the benefit of personalized messaging without having to spend the time or money targeting leads as individuals. It’s an extremely efficient way to manage and optimize your marketing campaigns.

Here is a summary video of this post

Here are the slides used in the video