The true impact of a meeting is determined by what happens after it ends.
And the first step of that post-meeting phase is a follow-up email.
Following are a six things I’ve learned increase the effectiveness of follow-up emails and a template you can use to guide the next one you craft.
1. Have one clear goal for the email.
Don’t just send a follow-up email to be polite.
Every email you send should have a specific purpose and be designed to accomplish a goal.
Get clear on your goal before you write the email and decide what action you want the recipient to take as a result of it.
Do you want them to request a proposal? Are you hoping for an introduction to somebody else they know? Is it about strengthening your relationship with them? Getting another meeting? Making a sale?
It doesn’t matter what your goal is, but it matters that you have one so you can optimize your email to generate that action.
And if you can’t come up with a goal for your follow-up email, you probably shouldn’t send one.
2. Write like a minimalist.
Less is more.
Everything in your email should be there for a reason. You’re writing an email, not a novel.
You don’t need to repeat what you told them in your meeting — they were there.
You don’t need to give them your life story or validate yourself — they already thought you were valid enough to warrant a meeting in the first place.
The longer your email, the less likely the recipient is to read and act on it.
No rambling introduction and concluding paragraphs — just get into it, get to the action you want them to take, and get out.
The less of their time you occupy, the more they’ll appreciate it.
3. Make it skimmable.
Lots of white space.
- Bullet Points
Short sentences. Short paragraphs.
Bold things you most want noticed.
The easier your email is to read, the more likely it will be.
4. Write like a friend, not a stranger.
A follow-up email is not a cold email.
You’re writing to somebody you’ve spent time with and now have a relationship with so your follow-up email shouldn’t sound like it comes from a stranger.
Your tone should be familiar, friendly, and emphasize the connection you made with each other in the meeting.
Here’s a trick: Write as if you were writing to a friend because in that scenario you’d likely use the kind of informal tone you want for a follow-up email.
5. Don’t use a boring subject line.
Would you be excited to open an email with a subject line like “Meeting Follow Up?”
Probably not. Neither will your recipient.
Subject lines are an opportunity to express your brand, connection to the recipient, and/or the action you want them to take.
They don’t have to be boring.
(Side note: Do you know what the subject line of the single most opened email the Barack Obama campaign ever sent was? “Hey.”)
Your subject line should relate to the specifics of your situation so it’s tough for me to give you concrete direction on this one, but here are a few sample subject lines to give you a feel for it:
“That thing you asked for? Here it is.”
“I warned you this was coming.”
“Awesomeness for you to send to Susan.”
“You really got me thinking…”
“For your eyes only.”
“This is the secret.”
“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”
There are infinite options, so don’t feel like you have to settle for “Meeting Follow Up.”
6. Include a postscript.
Do you know what happens at the end of a meeting when a person wraps up and says, “Oh, there’s just one more thing?”
Everybody in the room suddenly pays attention.
That’s because people pay closer attention to anything that comes after a pattern break.
The same is true for email.
If you include a “PS” at the bottom of your email, people will read it — even if they only skimmed the rest of the email.
You can use the postscript to include a bit of information you want to make sure people notice or use it as a place to share something slightly off topic, but relevant to the other person’s interests.
It’s a way to strengthen your relationship with the person and use information you learned about them in your meeting to build your bond.
For example, if you chatted about the recipient’s crazy cat in your meeting, maybe you use the postscript to share a link to a funny cat video.
If you talked about your shared admiration for female entrepreneurs, maybe you use the postscript to share a link to an inspiring interview with one.
If the action you want the person to take is to get you a meeting with somebody else, maybe you use the PS to tell them you’ll take them out to a fancy dinner as a thanks if they can get the meeting for you.
How you use your postscript is up to you, but there are definitely opportunities to be found there.
And now, here’s that follow-up email template I promised you…
So, what might it look like when you pull all these tips together into an actual email?
Here’s a rough template you can follow:
* * *
It was great to meet you on [Day] and I’m still thinking about [Interesting thing discussed in meeting].
I’m excited to find a way to work together and [Accomplish shared goal].
There are a few ways we can do that:
- Option 1
- Option 2
- Option 3
As a next step, I suggest we [Recommended next step].
Thanks again for your interest and I can’t wait to create something awesome together!
PS — You know how you mentioned [Thing they mentioned in meeting]?
Well, you’re going to LOVE this. [Link to fun/smart/interesting thing.]
* * *
Well, that’s the point.