Good communication is the foundation of any good agency-client relationship. But as with any kind of relationship, certain types of communications are more challenging than others. Sending an email to let a client know that a recently launched landing page has a conversion rate that's through the roof -- that's easy. Having to send (another) email asking the client to give her approval on the latest design comp -- less easy.
The goal with any follow-up email is to get what you need without putting the client off. We'll follow with a few email templates you can use in common situations in a minute, but let's start with a list of general tips.
4 Tips To Consider While Following Up With Clients
- Keep the email short
- Don’t be coy
- Be specific
- Don’t take a tone
- Keep the email short. Maybe clients aren't responding to your emails because they look at them and think TL;DR. If you do have a lot to say, how you format your emails can help boost reading rates.
- Don't be coy. Ask directly for what you need from them.
- Be specific. That means communicating what you want and by when.
- Don't take a tone. There are thousands of reasons a client hasn't gotten back to you and none of them (most likely) have anything to do with you. So don't be nasty or aggressive. And don't be passive-aggressive. You're not fooling anyone, and it sets people's teeth on edge. Not an effective way to maintain a healthy client relationship.
The format of the short emails should follow this basic pattern:
- Open with the context for your email. Writing "Are you ready to approve the whitepaper?" may not be helpful if she has multiple pieces of content being created.
- Define the ask. What should the client be reviewing? What type of project materials do you need and in what format?
- Close by framing the request in the recipient's own interest. The client isn't here to help you out. You need to let her know why taking the action you requested helps her meet goals more quickly.
Now on to some templates you can copy. We're not including the greetings and good-byes. You have your own style for those, so just be sure to include them.
Email #1: Requiring background information or content from your client for the team to get started or to complete the project.
A classic. The team can't move forward without something from the client. If this client has a past history of not sending you stuff in time, you can send this email:
If the due date has already passed, try:
The point here isn't to scold. The whitepaper can't get promoted and distributed without the images. It's just the facts.
If timing is getting desperate, you can add a line asking what you can do to help them out. In the current example, you might offer to follow up with their admin who can pull the image files for you.
These email templates are also useful when you need client approval. The client's interest is plain. Without the content or approval, you can't meet the predetermined deadline.
Email #2: Moving forward without the client's approval.
You can start off using the basic template above. The situations are similar as your team needs something from the client to get their work done. Where this situation differs is that you (or the agency) can ultimately make the decision. It's risky, not least of which because it may mean doing work that doesn't get used. The key is how you frame it.
Let's say the client in our scenario sent five images to be used in the campaign, but can't decide which two to use in the whitepaper itself. After a few emails based on template #1 but no response from the client, you can send:
Email #3: The client has failed to pay an invoice.
This is never a fun situation to be in. The email you send if it's a client's first overdue invoice is very different than the email you'd send to a habitually late payer who is has multiple outstanding invoices. If the problem is really that bad, senior people at both the agency and client will likely discuss it in-person or over the phone before any more emails go out.
Here's a template for a situation where an email is appropriate: the first-time offender.
You can set up your invoicing system to automatically send out these emails if needed.
Final Tip: Never email when annoyed.
Everyone is busy, and a well-written email reminder may actually be appreciated by some.
But the quickest way to get thrown into the annoying bucket is to send out emails when you're annoyed. That means you're probably sending out too many emails and not giving people a chance to respond. Writing while annoyed also increases the chances of snark sneaking into your email.
If you're annoyed because you've already sent three carefully worded emails asking for client feedback and now you have to a write a fourth, wait to write the email once you're a bit more relaxed. Then once you've written it, wait another 10 minutes and re-read (and edit) it before actually sending it.
You'll thank me later.