It’s Valentine’s Day this week. Some call it a made-up holiday. Some look forward to it while others loathe it. My problem with Valentine’s Day is that true, real relationships take work. They require more than one day to make them last. Romance? Sure. Big gestures? You bet. But consistent follow through is what makes a relationship last. And the same can be said for your business. Follow-up marketing, follow-up contacts, that what’s makes a good business to client relationship last.
Follow-up by the numbers
There are some surprising statistics and cold hard facts when it comes to small businesses and follow up marketing. Let’s look at some of them:
- 85 to 90% of ALL small businesses do NOT engage in follow-up marketing of ANY kind
- 80% of those that DO follow-up marketing rely on a loyalty program of some sort as their ONLY follow-up system
- It costs 5X MORE to MAKE a customer than it does to KEEP a customer
- Follow-up sales typically account for 50% or more of a businesses income
- Follow-up marketing efforts can increase sales by as much as 25%
- Repeat customers spend 10X as much as they do on their first sale
It’s more than obvious that many, many small businesses could be doing MUCH better if they only engaged in follow-up marketing of some kind. (Other than a passive loyalty program. We’ll discuss those another day.)
Creating a Follow-up System
Follow-up marketing works best when it’s systemic. A system allows you to do it the same way, every time. A system allows you to somewhat put follow-up marketing on auto-pilot, making it easy for both you AND the customer to use. And a system allows you to concentrate on other areas of your business, knowing that your follow-up marketing is in place and doing its job.
You have three main avenues of follow-up available to you. You should create a system that uses at least two of the three for maximum results. Which three will more likely depend on the nature of your business than anything.
You’ve got direct mail, email, and phone conversations at your disposal. For retail, restaurants, entertainment, and other “hands off” businesses, direct mail and email would be the best choice. For consultants, medical, financial, and other “hands on” services, you can add phone calls to the mix if you like.
The key is to set a follow-up schedule – 5 days after purchase or initial contact, 2 weeks after first mailing, once a month emails – that both you and the customer can count on. It doesn’t really matter what time frame or schedule you choose. It just has to be consistent.
Next, you should mix up your follow-up contacts. If you start with an email, switch to a mailing, or a phone call, or a drop in meet-and-greet. Keep the follow-up contacts and their content varied. Even if all you choose to do is email follow-up, mix things up. Send an offer this time and valuable information the next, followed by a video the third time and a freebie of some sort the fourth. Constant messages of “buy my stuff” don’t form customer relationships. They make people unsubscribe, chuck your mailer in the bin, and add your number to the “block” list on their phones.
Follow-up is about relationships, not sales
Read that again. And one more time. Let it sink in. The purpose of follow-up “marketing” is to establish a relationship with the customer or prospect. Business, whether it’s B2B or B2C, is still H2H – human to human, and even more so in today’s impersonal digital world.
Follow-up efforts should not be all “buy my stuff”, traditional, sales pitch marketing. (That’s why passive loyalty programs are poor excuses for follow-up marketing programs.) Customers buy from those they like and trust. They buy from those who make them feel special. In a world of ever-increasing commodities, where everyone and anyone seems to offer the same things, businesses that can make the customer feel special, feel like one of the family and not just another dollar sign and open wallet, get the repeat sales.
Follow-up marketing should be focused on the people, not the profits. The profits will come, sure enough. It’s been proven over and over again. The relationship, the people, always come first.
So, is it wrong to ask for a buy in your follow-up marketing? No. In fact, you should always have a sale as your end goal. The trick is to get it without asking for it directly. That’s where the types of follow-up messages you choose are so important.
Follow-up marketing the right way
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making an offer in a follow-up message. Nothing at all. It just can’t be ALL that you do. You don’t propose at the end of that first date, and you sure don’t ask for a sale right on top of the first sale. What do you do? You nurture. You tell stories. You get to know the other person and their needs and wants better. And you let them get to know you. Dating, Valentine’s Day, follow-up marketing. They all kinda work the same way.
Valentine’s Day is the time for the big, grand romantic gesture. And there’s a place for those big, grand gestures in your follow-up marketing efforts, too. They can include special “valued customer” programs, events, or offers. They can be a time to make your customers – select customers, to be sure – feel even more special and valuable. Put on your best outfit, reserve the best table, go all out. Your customers will love you for it.
The right way to go about following up with prospects and customers is
- Be consistent so they keep you top-of-mind
- Be creative so they don’t get bored
- Be valuable so they have a reason to stick around
- Be personable so they feel they are more than just a sale
- Be systematic so it’s easy and pleasant for your to keep at it
Follow-up marketing isn’t rocket science
Follow-up efforts don’t have to be complex or complicated. They don’t have to be expensive or expansive in nature. And they sure as heck don’t have to be difficult or unpleasant to carry out. Your customers probably aren’t that used to being treated as truly something special, so like the unnoticed, gangly wallflower at the dance, it usually doesn’t take much to win them to your side.
All you really have to do is try. Most of your competitors aren’t doing that much, so what have you got to lose? It could be a big gain in your profits. In your relationships. And in your love affair with both customer and your business