How to Automate Follow Up With Email for Free

Studies show that attending a good training event will produce about 23% behavioral change. That’s not much change for the amount of time, money, and energy put into these events. The same studies show that if you follow up training with some kind of coaching, average behavioral change increased to 89%. That’s a huge difference. The problem is, we have more trainees than coaches to do the follow up. Rather than throw our hands up and say, “oh well,” let me show you a way to automate follow up for free. 

4 Keys to Follow Up Well

Follow up is essential because of “human nature.” Between procrastination, our lack of confidence in the new skill, and many other things competing for attention it’s easy to put off implementation of what we learned for a less busy time. However, there probably will never be a less busy time!

4 keys to follow up well are:

  1. Remind and encourage the use of what was learned.
  2. Share practical tips to implement what was learned.
  3. Share other people’s stories, especially recovering from failed attempts.
  4. Invite to action.

The fourth key is often overlooked. We think that talking about the topic will get people into action. It won’t. Inviting people to commit to a concrete action, even a small one, produces results.

For example, I lead workshops on coaching skills, the invitation to action could be something like:

  • Write down the word “Ask” on a Post-It Note and stick it somewhere you’ll see it. Decide to ask before saying something.
  • Read the 3 Outcome questions from your COACH Model Card and commit to using them today with someone.

The best follow up will include all 4 of the points above. Your purpose isn’t more information, it’s encouraging implementation.

Automating Follow Up

An easy way to achieve some measure of the 4 keys is to send emails at regular intervals to people who attend your training events. The technology for setting up – and automating it – is easier than you think. And it’s free.

The way it works is you write 6 to 10 (or more) emails to your training participants. Each email focuses on a practical tip or encouraging story related to implementation and ends with an invitation to action. The emails are sent to participants over the weeks and months following your event. All you do is add someone to the list and it triggers all the emails to go out automatically.

You can use this strategy to follow up events or after someone shows interest in one of your products or services.

How to Set Up Automated Emails

Determine the Email Topics. Imagine what would be helpful for participants to receive 2 days after your event, a few days after that, a week after that, in the second month after the event, etc.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are typical problems people might face with implementation?
  • What are some helpful implementation tips?
  • What questions do people have after beginning implementation?
  • What stories could you share that would inspire people to action?

Now that you have a list of problems, tips, and stories, put them in a logical sequence. The next step is to write the emails.

Write the Emails. Grab attention quickly by beginning with the problem you’re solving in the email. For example, I began one email with, “The question I’m often asked after a Coaching Workshop is: Where do I find people to coach? I want to share how you can find people to coach.” I used the question, “Where do I find people to coach?” as the email subject line.

Here are a few more tips to writing emails that will be read:

  • Make each email how-to. Don’t write about what it is, write about how to do it.
  • Only 1 topic or tip per email. Include a story that illustrates it.
  • Add value by giving something practical, something that can be used today, in each email.
  • A variation is to write a short value-added message and then refer them to a longer article. I refer people to my past blog posts. But you don’t have to have written the articles, you can link to any articles you see out there. Some people will just read your message and be encouraged, others will dig in deeper via the article. Either way it’s a win.
  • Write emails to be “evergreen,” which means they make sense any time, any where. Don’t mention seasons, months, news, politics, current events, sports, or holidays.
  • Forget your English teacher’s rules. Write with short 2-3 sentence paragraphs. Use bullet points to break up the text. And keep the emails short – 250 words or less. Why? Because most people will read them on their phones.

Set Up the Email Service. Creating an email automation for the first time can be confusing. The benefit of setting this up is you only have to do it once for each automated email series. I’m using several email series that I created 4 years ago and haven’t touched since.

  • Go to MailChimp and register for a free account for up to 2,000 names on your list.
  • Create a List. Follow the directions in MailChimp’s help. Search for “Create Your MailChimp List.” Don’t add people’s names yet.
  • Create your Automation. Go to Campaigns. Create Campaign. Select Email. Select Automated. Select Welcome New Subscribers, then Onboarding Series. Click Design Email to create each email. Keep it to text only, avoiding photos and graphics. Simple is better. In MailChimp’s help, search for “About Automation” and “Create An Automation” to learn how to do this.
  • Create each of your emails. Change the trigger to determine how many days after the previous email it will be sent.
  • Add people to your List. Follow the directions in MailChimp’s help. Search for “Import Subscribers to a List.”
  • Go back to your Automation and click on edit to see that it’s working. You’ll see people in the queue if it’s working.

Following up your training events is the only way you’re going to get the results you hope for from these events. Our measure of success is implementation of the skills, not how many people attended our events and gave us 5 stars on the “feel good” post-event surveys.

Personalized coaching, even peer coaching, is the best follow up, but emails are better than nothing and do produce greater results.

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. You own your comments but give me permission to use them. See My Comments Policy. Read my Permissions Policy to know how you can use my posts.

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