The networking event went better than you imagined. You met some interesting people who share your values and aspirations and you exchanged business cards. You think you could help each other.
Or maybe you attended a conference or client meeting and you’re keen to stay in touch with one of the delegates or you want to follow up about a client project. Or perhaps you’ve just been interviewed for your dream job and you want to stand out from the other candidates.
Whatever your reason for deliberating over what to do next, it can be easy to take a wait-and-see approach and hope that someone will contact you. But why not take control and demonstrate your skills in business communication as well as your initiative?
Follow-up emails can give you the edge in business
For certain job positions, prospective employers look more favourably on applicants who follow up after interview, especially for client-facing roles.
After a client meeting or networking event, a prompt follow-up email could secure the project or a further meeting that could be the start of a business relationship.
Sending a follow-up email while you are still in people’s minds can help you get the result you want. But before you bash out a quick message and hit ‘Send’, take time to plan, write and revise your message.
Step #1 - Planning your follow-up email
What do you know about your reader?
Find out more about them so you know who you are writing to and how you might personalise the email. For example, you might comment on their business website or an aspect of their work you admire, or you might break the ice by mentioning a hobby or interest you share or a company or industry that you have both worked for.
What do you want to achieve?
This is likely to be a self-interested outcome. Perhaps you would like to meet again to learn more about their business or organisation and find out if your services would be valuable to them. If you’re following up on an interview, you might want to know if you’ve got the job, but it may not be appropriate to ask directly. Perhaps there was some doubt about your suitability that you would like to clarify—be sure to emphasise the positives and overcome any negatives to help persuade the interviewer to hire you. If there are rounds of interviews, your first follow-up email might ask if there is any more information you can provide. Mention aspects about the company or role discussed during the interview that excite or interest you. Don’t be afraid to show genuine enthusiasm!
What you can do for your reader?
By showing ‘you attitude’ and considering your reader’s needs before your own, you are more likely to get a positive response. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes—why should they give you their time and attention? What is in it for them?
So, how do you write a follow-up email that’s professional but not formulaic?
Step #2 - Writing your follow-up email
Email is a popular method of digital communication, but we receive so many each day. If we want our business emails to be opened and read, it’s important to make sure they are relevant, personalised and professional.
Subject line. Your subject line needs to be clear, informative and specific. While the debate goes on about the ideal length of a subject line to improve open rates, it’s worth bearing in mind that more people now use mobile phones to access emails. Research suggests a concise subject line of 40 to 70 characters caters to people reading on a range of devices. It’s also worth checking which words might relegate your email to ‘Junk’ by spam filters.
Professional salutation. Address your reader with ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ or ‘Dear’ followed by their name. Avoid ‘Hey’ or ‘Hiya’ for a business email, especially in the first contact.
Tone and content. The tone of business communication should be friendly, genuine, confident and polite. Confident doesn’t mean arrogant but avoid wishy-washy language that could put doubt in the reader’s mind about why they should hire you, connect with you or work with you. Insincerity or grovelling are a turn off too. Show ‘you-attitude’ by talking more about the reader and less about yourself. This can be as simple as using ‘you’ more than ‘I’.
Structure your email by starting with a thank you. Follow this with information that supports the reason for your email, whether it’s to reinforce your suitability for a job or secure another meeting after a networking event. Frame this in a way that shows benefits for the reader. Anticipate any objections your reader may have and make it easy for them to take the action you desire.
Emotional devices. For business emails, it’s best to avoid emoticons and full capitalisation of words, which are less professional. Exclamation marks should be used sparingly and never strung together like this!!
Call to action. Before you sign off, ask for the action you would like the reader to take or summarise what you’ve already suggested. Aim to phrase your request in an inviting rather than a commanding way.
Sign off. For a professional tone, end your email with ‘Best regards’ or ‘Kind regards’, which are less formal than ‘Sincerely’.
Email signature. Set up an email signature with your name, contact number and website (if you have one), so your contact details are delivered automatically at the end of the email.
Step #3 Revising your follow-up email
Every communication with prospective business mentors, colleagues, clients, customers and suppliers puts your reputation on the line. Rightly or wrongly, you may be judged on your written communication, so make sure it’s well-written and error-free. Before sending your email, reread to check spelling, punctuation and grammar. Also check your message is clear, friendly and respectful.
These email templates from inbound marketing specialist Hubspot might be helpful when you draft your email. Remember to adapt any template to suit your audience, making sure that your word choice is appropriate for your reader’s culture, religion, age and gender, that your tone is friendly, and that your message cannot be misunderstood. Personalise your emails too—no one likes to receive a generic email!
Professional business communication can make all the difference to your networking, career and business success. Why leave it to chance?
If you would like help to improve your business English, we offer business English training as well as more specialised executive business English coaching. If you need help with writing emails that get results, we also offer copywriting. And if you just need help with copy-editing and proofreading, we have that covered too.
Written by Tracy B.