I got a great compliment from a prospective customer the other day, a fellow named Adam Katz. I called him for our initial consultation, right on time. He answered the phone and commented on my punctuality. Then he said, “I’m very impressed by your marketing and your follow-up.”
This was very nice to hear, because I make an effort to follow up with everyone who contacts me about my copywriting business, and not just because they might be potential clients.
I’ve had a few folks contact me since I was interviewed on Ed Gandia’s podcast who were interested in learning more about freelancing. I’ve taken time to talk to all of them.
Why do I do this? Because following up with people is important. Whether you’re a freelancer or solopreneur like me, following up with potential clients, or you’re a brick and mortar business working with customers. It gives your business a better reputation.
Here are 3 excellent reasons, and good ways, to follow up with your customers:
1. Acknowledging You’ve Received a Message.
I am always amazed by how many companies, from small businesses to major corporations, utterly fail to acknowledge they’ve received your message. Or if they do, it’s something to the effect of “Your message has been logged in our system.”
Okay… So somewhere, a computer has logged my message. Is anyone going to respond to it? Will my question be answered? Or am I stuck in eternal limbo?
I had this occur recently at my car dealership. They had to order a part for my car, and they may have to order a second one, because they don’t know which part is actually causing the problem.
Well, I found another problem that may be able to diagnose which part is the faulty one. So I called the dealership and asked to speak to the fellow I worked with when I came in for the first appointment. He was unavailable, but I left a message.
No one has called to follow up with me. Not even to say, “Hey, we got your message and we’re looking into this. We’ll get back to you as soon as we have an answer.”
As a customer, it’s nice to at least know that someone is working on my problem.
Now, switch that around to your business.
If you don’t respond when someone calls with a question, to place an order or to hire you to do something, they’ll assume you’re not interested in their business and go elsewhere. That means you’re out a customer, and you’ve lost income.
Following up with that person, even if it’s just a quick email to say “Hey, I got your message” can be the difference between a good month and a bad month for your business.
Personally, I follow up in 2 ways.
- I have an autoresponder connected to my contact form that sends a short email to tell them I’ve received their message and will get back to them shortly. I also include a link to my online calendar so they can make an appointment with me at their convenience.
- When I get the information from the contact form (via my email service provider) I send a personal email. Again, I say I got their message and I’m interested in talking to them about their project.
Both of these show that I’m interested in working with the people who contact me for my copywriting services. And, most importantly, it shows that their message hasn’t disappeared into a black hole, never to be seen again.
2. Following up after the initial contact.
If people who have contacted me don’t make an appointment or respond to either email, I send another one in a few days.
Because people are busy. Generally speaking, we’re all much more involved in whatever is going on in our immediate lives. (Or as I like to call it, whatever is on fire on your desk at the moment.)
By taking the time to follow up with someone, you’re saying “yes, I know you’re busy, but you had a concern that I can help you with. What can I take off your plate?
Years ago, when I was a professional touring musician, I had the pleasure of hearing Derek Sivers speak at a music conference in Cincinnati, OH. Derek is the founder of CD Baby, an independent music distribution company. (It’s an awesome company, and yes, you can still find my music there.)
Derek was talking about how to market yourself as a musician, and in particular, how to get the attention of the person you’re trying to reach. He said something during that speech that stuck with me over the years. “Persistence is polite.”
In context, here’s what he was saying; if a music venue coordinator or booking agent didn’t get back to you right away, you should keep trying. A lot of musicians get frustrated in this situation, swear a lot, claim they’re “too good to play this dive” and call the next venue on their list. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work out well for some of them.
I took this to heart at the time, because I was one of those musicians who spent her days calling music venues to book my band. And I made it my mantra.
When I first contacted a venue, I would make a note in my Outlook journal of when I had contacted them, how I had contacted them (phone or email) and what had happened. Then I’d set a calendar alert to contact them again in a few days to a week.
I did this over and over and over. I was always polite, and I deliberately said in each of those messages, “Please let me know one way or the other, so I know what’s going on at your end.”
I wasn’t interested in wasting my time trying to contact people who weren’t interested in talking to me. I’d rather have them say, “No thank you” so I knew and could move on to whatever was next.
Several times, I had venues who would call or email back, weeks or months later, and say “Yes, we want to book you.” Somewhere in the booking process, a couple of them said “We’re really excited to have you, and thank you for continuing to follow up with us until we responded.”
Yes. Persistence is polite. Do it. I think you’ll like the results.
3. Checking in to see if you can help
This is a great idea, especially if you’ve been contacted by people who are interested in what you’re selling, but may not need it right away.
This lets your customers (or potential customers) know that you’re still interested in doing business with them whenever they’re ready. And it keeps you top of mind when they are ready.
Again, I do this in two ways:
- I write a monthly email newsletter that I send to current customers and people who have expressed an interest in doing business with me. It’s a quick update about what’s going on with me, an invitation to contact me if they’re ready to talk about their next project and a special business tip I only include in these letters.I also include a list of the month’s blog posts from my blog, so they can see what I’ve been writing about. (This sneakily acts as a set of samples and a reminder that I do content writing, among other things. Now everyone on my monthly newsletter list knows my secret.)
- Occasionally, I’ll send a personal email to clients I haven’t heard from in a while, just checking in to see what’s going on and whether they need my services.
Both of these techniques have gotten me work. And I’ve gotten to help out some folks who were in a bind and needed something done quickly.
How Do You Follow Up In Your Business?
Now that you know the importance of following up, I hope you’ll make it a regular part of your business. If you are following up with current and potential customers, how do you do it? If not, why not? Tell me about it in the comments.