Language Matters: Writing Follow-Up Emails That Actually Get Read

We’ve written several articles about email automation, a.k.a. follow-up emails ever since they’ve become the go-to method for extra review generation. However, there’s an unfortunate consequence of something becoming a go-to method: everybody starts doing it.

In the case of follow-up emails, that means a lot of Amazon customers are suddenly getting a lot of emails after every order, and some of them might be getting annoyed. Now, follow-up emails are still a great strategy for getting reviews in concept, but once they’ve reached critical mass, no amount of conceptual rejiggering will get past an irritated customer who deletes third-party seller emails on sight.

(If you don’t believe me that customers are getting annoyed, check out this Amazon forum thread.)

If every seller and their dog is sending follow-up emails, it’s not enough to just slap together your own emails and start sending them off. You need to stand out from the crowd. How do you do that?

Two methods: quantity and language. Quantity is the easy part: don’t send more than 2 follow-up emails, at the absolute maximum. We recommend sending just one email if you can manage it, but two emails with sufficiently different content can also work depending on your situation. It’s very easy to annoy your customers, especially if they’re regular Amazon shoppers and they’re already receiving tons of emails from other third-party sellers who’ve read their how-to guides.

Language is harder, so that’s what we’re focusing on in this article. First of all, you have to figure out what content you actually want to include — what will get people interested enough to read your emails? Second, you have to approach the daunting task of a subject line. It may be shorter than the actual email, but it’s oh-so-important; what good is all that content you wrote if people don’t even open your emails?

The Content: What Does Your Audience Want To Read?

Before you even begin thinking about what people want to read, you should start by thinking about how they’re reading it.

It’s a well-known fact at this point that a growing majority of people read emails on their phones. This means that to get the best results, your content has to be oriented towards a smaller screen, and towards people with smaller attention spans. No one wants to read essays on their iPhones while they’re on their lunch break. Short paragraphs — or better, bullet points — are great; images can help, but don’t overdo it.

Knowing your audience’s preferred method of consumption is great and all, but what should you actually write?

If your first answer is “well, I’m trying to get them to leave a review, so I should just come out with it and ask for them to write a review,” then you should take a step back and reassess your priorities.

There are a number of problems with the above approach. On some level, sending an email just to ask for a review is rather selfish. The customer isn’t getting anything out of it, and shouldn’t your goal be to help the customer as much as possible? You want the customer to like you — a happy customer will be more likely to leave a review! Plus, customers can tell when you just want to squeeze a review out of them. No matter how many platitudes, niceties, and jokes you try to cover it up with, the stink of a review request always rises to the top, and customers will notice. Finally, review request emails are now some of the most common kinds received! They’ve become a delete-on-sight occurrence for most customers. If you want your emails to actually stand a chance of being read, you need to offer something else, something that’s compelling, adds to the customer’s experience, or otherwise shows your goodwill.

So, what types of content actually help you stand out?

Whatever it is, it should be something distinctly tied to the product you’ve sold them. It should also be truly helpful, something that enhances the customer’s experience. Finally, it should be concise. What sorts of things check all those boxes?

  • Useful tips: Maybe your product has some special care instructions, or some special use cases that someone normally wouldn’t think of. Include those as a bulleted set of tips in your email to give the customer a leg up before their product arrives!
  • Frequently asked questions: A slight variation on the “useful tips” template, an FAQ section will provide a lot of information to customers in a more compelling format — it’s not just what the seller thought they should know, it’s what their fellow shoppers were wondering about. Plus, if you’ve got a question/answer section activated on your listing, you already have a source for those frequently asked questions!

There are many more options — “hacks,” lists of known issues — and you could mix and match these categories between products. You also shouldn’t limit yourself to one approach — try out multiple, and check your conversion rates to see what works best!

As for the actual review request, just ask politely at the end of your email. Don't be pushy, don't ask for only positive reviews, and don't beg. The most important part about the review request is that it shouldn't be the main focus of your email. You really need to have helpful content as your number one priority. The review request comes as a nice bonus. Plus, if you've truly helped the customer out with great content, they'll be much more inclined to actually leave a review!

The Subject Line: Why Should They Want to Open It?

The subject line of an email is more important than you might think. Especially in the age of follow-up email saturation, the subject line is the only thing that stands in between your message and the trash can. With customers receiving so many emails, you’ve got to give them a damn good reason to click on your email; prove to them that you’re not like the other sellers.

First off, a big no-no: don’t leave your subject line as something like “Message from Amazon seller” or “Your Amazon order.” Unmemorable, uninspiring, and straight into the trash. At the same time, though, you don’t want your subject line to get too descriptive, such that it gets long and unreadable on a mobile screen. People only have the patience for so many words in a subject line. So, what does a good subject line look like?

First of all, the length: a sizeable body of market research from the likes of Hubspot, Wordstream, and Mailchimp shows that the most-opened subject lines range from 50 to 65 characters. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule — if you come up with a super-short, super-punchy subject line that you absolutely love, go for it! — but this seems to be the optimal character range by most measures.

Second of all, what to actually write: here, you can take a page out of the journalist/copywriter playbook. There’s a huge body of knowledge about article title formats that get the most clicks, and for the most part, that knowledge transfers nicely to email subject lines. Of course, your choice of title will depend on the actual content of the email — that’s why it’s always better to write the body before you start thinking about a subject line.

Here are a few examples:

  • Ask a question:
    • It’s a psychological thing — ask a question, and people will want to know the answer.
    • For example, “What’s the Most Common Mistake People Make With a New Garden Hose?”
  • Use a numbered list:
    • Be sure to use actual numerals (2), as those stand out against regular old words.
    • This is an article-title strategy as old as time; even though the most common name these days is “clickbait,” you can’t argue with results — numbers and lists really do get catch people’s eye in an era of short attention spans.
    • For example, “5 Creative Uses for Hair Clips You Hadn’t Thought Of”
  • Solve a problem:
    • Your main goal with these emails is to be helpful, right? Letting customers know that you can solve their problem right away, in the title, is a solid strategy for getting them interested.
    • For example, “Trendy Summer Styles that Best Match your New Shoes”

Of course, the list goes on. The content of your article will dictate which titles you can and can’t use, but there’s a flashy and compelling title for every type of article.

A final piece of advice on this subject — stay flexible! A subject-line template that works for one seller or product might not work for the next. Try out all of these options, and more. Be creative, keep sending emails out with adjusted titles, and track your metrics; you’ll land on something that works sooner or later.


Of course, there’s one big rub to all this advice: writing is hard. Copywriting, especially so. Not everyone can be Stephen King, and your first attempt at a compelling email probably won’t be your best. But that’s okay! At the expense of sounding wishy-washy, what really matters in these follow-up emails is that you come across as genuine, and wanting to actually help the customer. With so many other sellers out there who just want to milk reviews out of customers, you have a chance to offer some actual value to your customers and build a relationship through the tone and content of your emails. You don’t need a Pulitzer Prize to do that. Keep trying, ask friends and colleagues for help, and if your heart is in the right place (ok, that’s starting to get a bit too cliché), it should come across to your customers.

Karon Thackston Ebook

If you want to know more about crafting the perfect follow-up emails, we have a great deal for you! Karon Thackston of has released a new ebook that goes over every detail of creating follow-up emails that actually work. Here’s the best part — as a loyal Efficient Era blog reader, you can use the promo code review10 to get this excellent ebook for $10 off! Check out and purchase the ebook by clicking here.

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