Despite the relentless growth of social media as a content-delivery platform, that old-fashioned email thing remains a powerful and relevant tool for engaging with and putting content in front of your customers. The shift in marketing approach from shouting at to talking to them, however, should be remembered when planning your direct mail activities.

And this is never more relevant than when it comes to the sometimes-slightly thorny issue of follow-up or reminder emails. You may have sent a piece of direct mail to your customers with a call-to-action that involves registering for an event, filling out a survey, or redeeming an offer code. A week or so later, whether you’ve had a decent uptake or not, you might consider re-sending the email in order to truly maximise the potential return.

Your initial email list will now be made up of four new sections:

Those who opened the email, but unsubscribed

Not a lot you can do with these guys now unfortunately, for now at least. They’ve fled the nest.

Those who opened the email and completed the call-to-action

Great! Your customers don’t get much warmer than that.

Those who didn’t open the email

They didn’t open the email for a reason. It may have been because it went through to their junk or promotions folder, it may have been because they weren’t grabbed by the subject, it may have been because they didn’t particularly register or recognise the from-name. When you re-send the email to these guys, go through the original content and strip out anything that could potentially trigger a spam filter, and try and make the subject line stronger.

Those who did open the email, but didn’t complete the call to action

It’s crucial that you now deal with these people in the correct way. Don’t just resend the same email in the hope that this time they’ll do what you want them to do, and don’t just resend the email with a simple change like the word ‘REMINDER’ added to the subject line or somewhere within the copy.

You think you’re saying:

“Hello! You either missed this email or saw it but forgot to act, because our call-to-action was just SO enticing that there’s no possible way that you wouldn’t otherwise have gotten back to us…”

But your recipient will read it as:

“How dare you not fill in our brilliant survey or RSVP to our amazing event. We’re going to badger you until you do so in an impersonal and spammy manner.”

30HIt’s barky, it’s shouty and it’s aggressive, and has no place in modern, engagement-led marketing. So try a different approach.

Write a new, much shorter email. The recipient has already received the more detailed communication that you sent first time around. Keep the tone humble and friendly, without being pushy or trying to sound like an automated reminder of any kind. Since they opened the first email, you can reasonably assume that they are at least vaguely aware of what you’re writing to them about, so just include a few sentences of text at the most – outlining only the basics and top level key points of the original email, with the call-to-action clearly visible.

Use the copy to humbly acknowledge that you’ve already written to the recipient on the topic of the email, but you just want to gentle make them aware of, for example, the closing date for the call-to-action. Put the emphasis on not wanting them to miss out on something beneficial, rather than a shouty announcement that they haven’t done what you asked the first time around. You could also try adding ‘Re:’ to the beginning of the original subject line, indicating (okay, slightly deviously) that the email is part of an existing conversation and potentially increasing the chance of being opened.

You’re at a key conversion point with these contacts. Don’t make your business communications appear automated or spammy, and don’t push or pressurise.  Keep things human, keep things friendly, keep things short and keep things clear. And by doing so, hopefully increase your chances of building and retaining goodwill, increasing conversions, and reducing unsubscribes.