Like most things in marketing, there is no one-size-fits all solution or magic wand answer. You can develop great marketing messages (created from thorough research) and powerful marketing materials. But what is of prime importance in your marketing arsenal is… ‘The Follow-Up’.
Some marketers will tell you that perfecting marketing messages is a myth – I don’t agree. You can develop resonating marketing messages because you can easily research your target market using some simple tools, such as ‘Professional Tips for Mistake-Free Surveys’.
Whilst developing resonating marketing messages is achievable, they are of no use unless you follow-up on virtually every marketing activity you implement. Let’s say you place an advertisement, send a direct mail letter, have enquiries at your trade show stand, people attend your seminar, or they contact you via your website – any one of numerous activities.
The next step is to follow up. They have shown interest in your product or service, so you need to deliver further information and, above all, seek to identify their need so that you can provide the solution. So, you need to follow up to determine if there is deeper interest.
This is where the Insanely Clever Marketing information on non-manipulative selling and hot-button marketing will be very useful to you.
If there is solid interest (not time wasters) then you need to follow up with an appointment. But that’s not all. Follow up never ends, but it needn’t be a chore – as you are genuinely trying to ascertain whether you can provide a solution to a customer problem; aren’t you?
Once an appointment has been made, follow up to confirm the appointment. People do get ‘cold feet’ especially if they feel they are being ‘sold to’ and not being allowed ‘to buy’. After the appointment, you may need to follow up with a proposal or to close the sale.
Secrets to Mastering the Follow Up
There are some important secrets that I have learned over the years and which I am happy to share with you.
1. Know your position in the game
Following up is designed to move you from one position to the next, like baseball. But you have to pass the bases in order. If you try to skip a base or move too fast you risk being rejected by your potential customer. If you move too slowly your potential customer could lose interest.
2. Don’t move too fast
Say you meet someone at a networking function and they express interest in your product or service. The first call you make to them after that event shouldn’t be specifically to make an appointment. If you appear too pushy you may find some resistance. Instead, use that call to ask questions about their needs. Ascertain if your product or solution is likely to be of the most use to them. Ask questions, don’t make statements.
People do business with people they know and like. Build relationships. Send further information if required. Build in to your ‘Follow-Up System’ the use of pre-written e-mails, letters and links to articles on your website.
3. Don’t move too slowly
Follow up the next day people you meet at networking functions, business cards collected if you have given a talk, trade shows and similar types of events. For each day you don’t follow-up, interest wanes. If you have only a few follow-ups, use the phone. If you have many, send an email to set up a time to talk in the upcoming week.
Stale follow-ups are just that. They’ve forgotten what interested them in the first place, so when you call back after several weeks it’s like starting all over again.
4. Balance fast and slow
Maintaining balance is the key to effective follow-ups. Don’t get back to someone fast but then get to know them slowly. Don’t be fast to send a proposal but slow to discuss the details. Don’t be fast to provide further information but slow to discuss what that information means to their business.
5. Keep your assumptions in check
We are too quick to jump to negative assumptions when things don’t happen the way WE think they should. Just because someone doesn’t get back to you promptly doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interested. There could one of a variety of reasons.
Don’t jump to conclusions – they could be sick, on holiday, working on a bigger project, etc. Keep following up in a professional and friendly manner but don’t sound desperate.
6. Stop following up when…
Assuming you have followed up correctly and you thought everything was going well, if the potential customer isn’t returning your calls, do you keep leaving messages or do you just give up? I suggest leaving one last message such as;
“Hi Peter, I have been trying to reach you regarding the XXX but haven’t heard back from you for a couple of weeks. I don’t want to hassle you if I can’t provide what you need, so if I don’t hear from you in the next few days I’ll assume you have an alternative. Please call me on (number) if you are still interested, I’ll leave the ball in your court so I won’t ring again. I do hope to still hear from you though. My number again is (number). Thanks.”
This approach does work. If the person is genuinely interested, they’ll call you back. If they don’t, well, there’s your answer; it’s time to move on.
7. Create a follow-up system
Having a systems approach will allow you to streamline your business, save time, and create processes that can be used over and over. Your follow-up system should suit your particular business but may be similar to the following.
Develop systems depending on the marketing activity i.e. trade show, direct mail, networking event, web site visit, etc. Please balance fast and slow with a genuine desire to provide a solution to a problem. People like to buy, they don’t like to be sold to.
a) Prospect learns about your product / service and visits your website
b) Prospect fills out a form on your website requesting more information
c) Prospect receives an automated email from you with a web link
d) You send out personalized email requesting an appointment
e) You follow-up by email until appointment is set
f) You meet with prospect by phone
g) After phone appointment you send further information
h) After a few days you send another email
i) After a few more days you leave a phone message
j) Prospect ultimately gets back to you with a yes or no
Skilful follow up is the glue that holds together all of your marketing activities. It bridges gaps between initial connections, providing information, setting up meetings and ending proposals.
Once your follow-up system is designed and fine-tuned, you can use it reliably to turn many prospects into clients.