How NOT to send a World of Concrete follow-up email

Oh, where to begin...

Alright, I'll start by saying something nice. I am glad to see this company, unlike many of the ones I spoke to at World of Concrete, bothered to send any follow-up email at all. Even at a small trade show you will make dozens of new contacts; at one the size of WoC that number can easily get into the hundreds. And each of those people you met also made hundreds of new contacts. Meaning the odds of them remembering you are slim unless you do something to make yourself memorable.

Which is why a follow-up email is a good idea. It reaches everyone quickly, sends them to your webpage (or other important destination), and maintains that contact until you have time to reach them personally. I usually tell clients that, in general, any follow-up email is better than none at all.

Then I got this.

Click for large version
The text has been heavily redacted to protect the guilty, but the basic structure and every part I want to discuss are still viewable.

  1. First and foremost, look at the subject line. Yes, the subject to this email, the one that is supposed to convince me to renew my contact and do business with them, is actually "FW:    ".

    This is so bad for so many reasons. Many email systems tag forwards as SPAM, especially if it's coming from someone not in your contact book, has no subject line, or seems to be a commercial message. This hits all three counts. Honestly, I'm a little amazed it even made it to my inbox; I should probably tighten my SPAM filter.

    Worse, though, is the missed opportunity. The subject line is your chance, your only chance, to get the reader's attention. To convince them to open your email, instead of hitting delete. Like the advice given to novelists, you should spend as much time on your subject line as on the rest of your email, if for no other reason than it may be the only piece they read. Even a stock phrase, such as "Thank you for visiting our booth!", would have been better.
  2. The show ended Jan. 21. I received this email Feb. 11. That's three whole weeks! Do you think I still even remember who these people are? The window of opportunity for sending out your post-show email is very small; that's why I recommend prepping the email before you head to the show. If the email is coming this late, it's essentially a digital cold call. Which means it's getting deleted.
  3. It may not show well on this screen shot, but the font in the salutation is a different color than the body text. Ignoring the questionable grammar and business-letter formatting, that tells me instantly this is a form letter, and makes it feel impersonal. 
  4. The writing is bad. Flat out bad. The product names (hidden behind the thick black lines in the body of the text) are dropped in with no description or context, making it awkward and hard to read. And repeated, but again with no context! There is no call-to-action, no incentive, no reason for me to do anything after reading but delete.

    And despite what I said before, grammar counts. Your customers and prospects are very intelligent people; many of them are professional writers of some form. They may not reward you for good grammar, but they will definitely punish you for bad.
  5. The attachments. There are five of them! Six, if you count the company logo graphic! This is a major no-no. Do not send people attachments without their request and their permission. Period. Even if you understood your in-booth conversation with them to be a request for your guide specs, they probably did not.

    If, for some reason, you must send an unsolicited attachment, no more than one, not counting graphics, and nothing over 1 MB. Heavy graphics lowers the permissible file size; remember, they have to be able to get this on their phone. 
  6. There are not enough links. The only link in the whole email is to their homepage. In the second paragraph they mention their photo gallery and instructional videos; why not link directly to those? Why make me hunt for them? I understand not wanting to include product pictures, but at least make them easy to get to.

    Consider carefully where you want your email to take them. I recommend using a dedicated landing page with show-specific information, rather than your standard home page. Our typical follow-up email includes links to subscribe to our newsletter, and visit our Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, be sure to have "Click to view online" and "Click to unsubscribe" links.
They did include their contact information; I removed it, rather than black it all out. I don't know why they thought I needed their mailing address in an email, but they sent it. Also, their logo is much nicer than the big red block makes it look.

I do not have a problem with the minimalist style of the email; simple is good, and this email is almost guaranteed to open easily and display correctly on every system and device. I also like that it is short. No one will read your multi-page follow-up email. If they really want more information they will go to your webpage; make it easy and inviting for them to do so.

In summary, think of these emails like thank-you letters after your birthday. Do them, do them early, and make them nice enough that the recipient wants to send you another present next year.