As someone who who loves working on my own business projects, connecting with advisors, customers, and partners is a huge part of my life. So reaching out to people -- and then following up -- is also essential.
I used to hate the "following up" part, though. My emails inevitably sounded whiny. I never remembered to do it and I didn't have a good system to help me remember (a big part of the reason that we built those reminders into Wholesale In a Box, actually.) Worst of all, I always worried I was being a pest. I pictured them getting my followup email and grimacing in annoyance. "That Emily," I pictured them saying, "She's driving me nuts."
There was an experience I had that drastically changed my mind, though. I went to the Unreasonable Institute, a business incubator in Boulder, CO that was transformative for me. The incubator revolved around the involvement of mentors, and one day I was chatting with Teju, the wonderful man who runs it, about how they find those mentors.
"It takes persistence," he told me. When pressed for more details, he explained, "It's just that a lot of these folks are really busy and get a lot of email. So it's simply not respectful of that reality to email them once and expect to hear back. Sometimes I've emailed mentors as many as 17 times before they were ready to commit." 17 times?! I was a little incredulous until Teju showed me some of these email threads and I saw that, indeed, Teju followed up with extraordinary persistence but also with deep respect, impeccable manners and thoughtfulness, and unparalleled good humor.
And it worked -- mentor after mentor would say some variant of "Thank you so much for your persistence -- this does look interesting and I'd like to be part of it."
Since then, I've come to look at followup emails as an opportunity to be of service. When you send thoughtful followups, you take the onus off the recipient to keep your email top of mind. You give your project a chance to thrive in the world.
For Wholesale In a Box members, this process is a crucial part of makers' success. When connecting with retailers (who often receive hundreds of email per week), it's rarely enough to drop them a single note. Followups are part of the job -- and we believe it can be a joyful part that adds a lot of value to both you and them.
To that end, these are some Dos and Don'ts in sending followup emails to stores:
- Acknowledge that you're following up.
You don't need to sugarcoat it or pretend you're doing something other than what you're doing.
- Express respect and understanding of their situation, in a friendly and positive way.
Assume they’re well-intentioned AND busy. Expressing that understanding in your tone (and even explicitly in your words) is a wise thing to do.
- Include news or an update or additional discount.
You don’t have to, but if you just released a new product or have a discount you can extend, a followup email is a great spot for that.
- Decide ahead of time how much to check in and stick with it.
With Wholesale In a Box, we help makers set a followup schedule that is consistent -- so that they don’t have to mull over (or stress over) whether and when to follow up, every single time. Don’t decide anew with each one -- decide once what your plan is and carry it out.
- Don't be stern or act annoyed.
Scan your email once you write it and see whether it is obviously friendly -- if it’s not, soften it up a bit with a few friendly comments so that the retailer is at less risk of feeling scolded.
- Be sheepish.
You can be respectful and friendly without making yourself “less than” by using excessive qualifiers and apologies.
- Be too informal.
You should still use good formatting, good greetings and signoff, and a respectful tone in every email.
Let us know if you want an extra pair of eyes on your next followup email! We’re always glad to help with fine tuning (just forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Emily and Etan