How to Automate Your Follow Up

In the last post I mentioned that capturing leads and following up is the blocking and tackling of marketing. The last post covered capturing leads, so lets talk about following up. We tend to focus on ways to generate new leads (networking, advertising, etc.), but without proper follow up, those activities are a waste of time and money.

Some studies show that while it takes an average of 5 sales calls or contacts to close a deal, most salespeople quit following up after one or two calls. Are you leaving money on the table because your follow up activities are falling through the cracks?

Two Broad Categories of Follow Up 

Some of the people you meet, either in person or virtually, will have an immediate need for your products and services. Most of them, particularly in the B2B world, will not have an immediate need, but over time a need will arise or they will know someone who has a need for what you do. To accomodate this fact, you will typically have a short term follow up sequence to address those with an immediate need and a long term nurturing sequence to help you stay top of mind until a need arises. There are several strategies for achieving this, I’ll outline two of the more popular ones below.

The first strategy is to follow up with a short series of emails (3 or 4) and then present an offer to see if the contact is ready for a sales conversation. Depending on your business the offer may be for a free consultation, a demonstration, a free trial, etc. If the contact does not respond to the offer, they are put into a long term nurturing campaign – for most businesses this means they are added to the newsletter list.

A second popular strategy is to have a longer series of emails, but to space their deliverary dates out by using a Fibonacci Sequence. A Fibonacci Sequence is a series of numbers where the next number in the series is determined by adding the two numbers preceding it in the sequence. For a series of 8 follow up messages, your Fibonacci Sequence may look like this:

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34

Using this sequence you would send out a message on days 1, 2, and 3, then you would wait until day 5 to send the next one, etc. By communicating more frequently at the beginning of the relationship you have a better chance of achieving top of mind status and you also have a better chance of connecting with your hot prospects are ready to buy. The sequence automatically adjusts for those who are not ready to buy now, but who you want to stay in touch with over time.

Tracking and Testing

While there are all kinds fo benchmarks and rules of thumb you can use to get started, you best course of action is to get started and use your analytics to review what is happing, form hypotheses about how to improve your results, run tests and see what happens. If the latest marketing book tells you to have a sequence of 5 emails and all of your leads stop reading after the third message, you need to try something different.

Automated Doesn’t Have to Mean Canned

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that all of your follow up has to be canned email messages.

Some CRM systems will help you accomplish this via the creation of actions sets or task series. These are a series of follow up actions that you define that you can later assign to a contact in a single step. For example, lets pretend after you meet someone at  networking event you like to follow up by:

  • Sending a handwritten note
  • Emailing them a helpful article
  • Introducing them to someone on LinkedIn
  • Calling them on the phone to see how the introduction went

Many CRM systems will allow you to create these task, bundle them as a unit, and give them a name, i.e. “Networking Follow Up”. Once created, these bundles can be assigned to a contact record, saving you time and making sure all steps are followed every time.

These systems also let you specify how much time should pass between each task so you can send the thank you note the same day, the article 7 days later, etc. (or use your Fibonacci Sequence from above). Depending on the task to be performed, the system can either perform the step automatically (send an email) or it can create a task or appointment and assign it to the appropriate person on your team. Sophisticated systems like Infusionsoft can also send text messages, recorded voice messages, and send lists to fulfillment houses.

Get Started Today

Because there are so many ways you can follow up, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to create the perfect 37 step follow up sequence before you launch – don’t fall into that trap. Start with one message and have a goal for that message – an action you want the reader to take. After you create that message (or dig it out of your email Sent folder) ask yourself 1) If they do what I ask, what do I want to happen next? and 2) if they don’t do what I ask, what then? Use the answers to these questions to craft your next messages and then rinse, lather, repeat.