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Just Checking In: 7 Better Ways to Follow up on Email

Updated on August 24, 2023Writing Tips

Nothing induces a world-weary sigh from working professionals like a “just checking in” email. They’re the bane of our inbox existence. Here are a few ways to make sure your follow-up incites action, not apathy.

Table of contents

What’s the problem with “just checking in” emails?

Requesting status updates

Maintain a connection

What’s the problem with “just checking in” emails?

As a writer for a popular blog (this one) and a freelance PR professional, I get follow-up emails regularly. They come in for different reasons, from different sources, but they all have something in common—the person sending them wants something.

A check-in is an indirect request for our time or attention, and we find ourselves wishing the sender had gotten straight to the point (not unlike the classic “I hope you’re doing well email”).

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a one-size-fits-all alternative to “just checking in?” Unfortunately, variations on that phrase (like “I’m following up on . . .”) all spark the same visceral response. We prefer a more straightforward approach.

When it’s time to follow up, you need an entirely new strategy. Here are a few unique ways to follow up without making your contact tune out.

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Requesting status updates

Sometimes you need to know where a project or task stands. Although this is a perfectly good reason to check in via email, there are ways to avoid the “just checking in” language we all dread.

1 Ask

Drop the “checking in” wind-up and ask for an update politely and directly. Use the request for a status update as a call-to-action, and make it time-sensitive so you’re more likely to get a response.

I’d love to hear how things are going with the Great Big Infographic design brief. Could you give me a quick status update by end-of-day?

2 Open with context

If you’re concerned that a task may have fallen through the cracks, start with a little context. It can be helpful to explain why the task is important to you, too.

Last Friday, we talked about growth strategies over lunch, and you shared some thoughts. You offered to put together a list of project ideas for further brainstorming. I’ve been excited to get your input. Have you had a moment to jot those ideas down?

3 Send a friendly reminder

Emails get lost in busy inboxes. It happens. Your contact might appreciate a reminder that there’s still an open email chain needing attention.

If your inbox is anything like mine, it tends to get unruly fast. Did this thread get buried? I wanted to make sure things were still in progress. Let me know if you need any help.

Maintain a connection

Whether you’re networking or pursuing a sale, when you want to stay on your contact’s radar, begin with one of these approaches. If you’re hoping for a specific result, conclude with a Call To Action (CTA) that points your contact at the next step and prompts action.

4 Offer something of value

Even when you’re ultimately trying to get something, it can be helpful to give something useful as a lead-in.

Are you still looking for solutions to convert [company] website visitors to subscribers? I read a great article this morning about the power of using quizzes to ease visitors into your sales funnel, and I thought you’d appreciate a link.

A quiz plugin like [your app] could be the answer to the conversion problem you mentioned. Do you have a few minutes Tuesday at 2:30 Eastern to chat about it?

 5 Reference a blog post they (or their company) published.

It’s likely you and your contacts and sales leads have some common interests. When a contact or their company posts something relevant to you, that’s a perfect reason to check in.

I read your blog post about email funnel strategies yesterday. I liked what you had to say about building trust with new subscribers. That’s the email marketing philosophy we embrace at ABC Consultants, too.

I’d love to meet for coffee this week to talk about potentially working together. Are you available Thursday at 10:30 a.m.?”

6 Drop a name

It never hurts to mention the connections you and your contact have in common as long as they’re relevant to the ongoing conversation.

I had lunch with Kristina Smalley yesterday and your name came up. (All good things!) She said your team is still looking for the right project management tool. I wondered if [software] is still on your radar.

I could set you up with a free trial account. Then we could meet for a 15-minute video walk-through so you can see if [software] is the best solution for you. Should I make that happen?

7 Recommend an event you’re attending in their area

There’s no better way to network than going to events, so why not invite your most valuable contacts to join you?

I was making plans to attend the Great Big Event the weekend of July 7th and it occurred to me you might be interested in going. If you decide to register (or you already have), let me know so we can get together for coffee or lunch. I hope to see you there!

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