A study done by the Association of Sales Executives revealed that 81% of all sales happens on or after the fifth contact. If you’re a small business owner and you’re only doing one or two follow-ups imagine all the business you’re losing. Not following up with your prospects and customers is the same as filling up your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain!
But don’t be disheartened if you’re among the 90% of business owners I talk to that don’t do any follow up. The good news is you have ample room for profitable improvement. Consistent follow-up creates a predictable and profitable stream of prospects and customers that buy. Small businesses that capture leads and follow-up with them enjoy higher conversion rates and a higher percentage of referrals than those that don’t.
After asking many small business owners the reason they don’t follow up I often hear responses such as, "I don’t have the sales staff to chase down all our leads", or "We’re usually too busy to do a lot of follow up." These responses automatically set off red flags that tell me that they lack a systematic process for following up. The problem is not that they don’t have the capacity to follow up with prospects, it’s that they don’t have the systems in place to do it.
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What Does a Good Follow Up System Look Like?
A good follow up marketing system should have three attributes.
- It should be systematic, meaning that the follow up process is done the same way every time.
- It should generate consistent, predictable results.
- It should require minimal physical interaction to make it run, meaning it should be able to run on autopilot.
Sounds like a dream come true for most small business owners doesn’t it? Not only can it be done, it’s being done every day. The secret to "follow-up marketing" is to make it automatic so that you don’t have to lift a finger but the job still gets done. With today’s technology it’s simpler than ever. Automating your follow-up processes gives you more time to work "on" your business rather than "in" your business.
Three Types of Follow Ups
There are three types of people you should be following up with, suspects (people in your target marketplace), prospects (people who have responded to your marketing but have not purchased, and customers (people who have purchased something from you.) Each follow up message and offer will be different for each type of person. With suspects, you’ll want to entice them to call you or visit your store / office. With prospects, you need to persuade them to make their first purchase. And with customers, you want to convince them to come back and do more business with you and give your referrals.
Obviously the hardest type of person to follow up with is a suspect because they haven’t shown any interest yet in a pool or hot tub and you usually don’t have their contact information. But that’s not true with prospects and customers. You not only know who they are, but you should already have their contact information. And if you follow up with your customers with consistency you’ll find that they will help you turn your suspects into prospects and prospects into customers for you through referrals.
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Your Follow Up Marketing Tools
Your principal follow up marketing tools are the telephone, direct mail, and email. Many pool and hot tub business owners make the mistake of jumping right on the telephone to follow up; however, most prospects don’t want a pushy sales message right away and most prospects have been trained to consider anyone who calls up to be a pushy salesperson. Instead, you should try to develop a relationship of trust with your prospect by quickly sending informational items such as special reports, audio CDs, or videos before you make a phone call.
Remember to always include a "next-step-offer" to accompany your educational materials. If the next step is to visit the store, then entice them with an appropriate offer or if the next step is to call you, entice your prospect to call you immediately. People move through the buying process in baby steps, especially when considering buying high-ticket items such as hot tubs or pools. Your offer should always help them take the next step.
Your Follow Up Sequence
The power of your follow up will lie in your follow up sequence. Your follow up sequence is a series of communications with your prospect that are "linked" together, with each communication building on the previous message. For instance, you might start your second letter by saying, "10 days ago I sent you a letter..." You might also consider stamping the message, "2nd Notice" on the envelope to let people know this is the second time you’ve contacted them. Referencing the previous communication links what you’re saying with what you’ve already said and reminds your prospect that you care enough to continue the conversation.
Usually, when doing direct mail you should include three to five mailings spaced out about seven days apart. When using a sequential autoresponder you can have as many follow ups as you want because using email is basically free (that’s why you always want to get a prospects email address). One of my clients has over 20 follow-ups in his autoresponder sequence that go out over a six month period.
Each sequence should follow a logical argument and you might consider bolstering the offer with each communication using a deadline as a motivator to act now. As an example, in the third communication you could say, "I’m surprised you haven’t taken me up on my generous offer. What’s holding you back?" Or consider saying, "I’ve written you three times and you still haven’t taken me up on my offer so I’m going to pull out all the stops and make you an offer you simply can’t refuse." Notice how the language always links the previous communication and increases the boldness of the offer. It’s the same type of conversation you might have in a regular sales conversation.
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How to Put Your Follow Up Marketing System on Autopilot
What I’m about to reveal to you is the key to developing a powerful follow up marketing system because it overcomes the number one reason most businesses don’t follow up. You must automate your follow up system as much as possible so that there are few, if any, physical interactions from your employees with the system. It’s the required physical interactions (i.e. printing letters, sending emails, inputting leads etc.) where 99% of all the breakdowns happen in well-intentioned follow up marketing systems.
To automate your follow-ups you should consider using robotic marketing systems and outsourcing any manual interactions to a dedicated service. For instance, to capture your leads you should consider using a toll-free automated recorded message system that captures your prospects contact information and automatically transcribes it and sends your leads to you in a spreadsheet every morning via email.
If you’re using a direct mail follow up system (and you should be), find a fulfillment house to do the mailings for you. To find a fulfillment house, simply go to your local printer and ask them to refer you to a fulfillment house in the area.
Now step back for a moment and see the power of what I’ve just revealed to you. Imagine running an ad, having your prospect call up and give their contact information via your recorded message system. Then having your leads automatically sent to your fulfillment house via email, after which your prospect receives a five-sequence direct mail package containing your most persuasive marketing message -- without you lifting one finger!
You can set up the exact same type of "hands-free" follow up marketing system using an email autoresponder system. Your prospect will not only be receiving your direct mail messages, but you can insert your email messages in between your mailings.
What About Calling to Follow Up?
You’ll notice that I didn’t say anything about calling your prospect. That’s because you want your prospect to have already received your educational marketing messages and have most of their questions answered before they call you. An educated prospect is your best prospect.
They already know why you’re different, what your value proposition is, and how you’re uniquely qualified to meet their needs. In essence, they’ve pre-qualified themselves before you ever have to spend time physically speaking to them. This drastically reduces the sales cycle and increases your conversion rate because you have positioned your small business to be their only logical choice.
Follow-up marketing will boost your closing rate and dramatically increase your customer satisfaction. Following up with systematic processes allows you to leverage your salespeople’s time and enhance their productivity, which will result in more sales with less effort and isn’t that what you want? Start winning more sales today by implementing your own follow-up marketing system.
Happy follow up marketing!
© Copyright 2003 David Frey, Marketing Best Practices Inc.