How to Design a Follow-Up System That Rocks

When someone buys a product or service from you, what happens next? Do you have a system in place? Do you and your people use it consistently? Is it generating the kinds of results you want? Have you tested it lately? If not, you’ll definitely want to read on.

Why? Because if you don’t, the following will probably come true

  1. You’ll lose out on additional sales you could have had
  2. You’ll decrease customer satisfaction and delight
  3. You’ll virtually annihilate any chance for word-of-mouth referrals
  4. You’ll increase your cost of client acquisition
  5. You’ll hinder the growth of your business

In light of all that, why would you ever NOT want to have a follow-up system that rocks? It makes no sense. Yet, most small businesses have no follow-up system in place (or a very ineffectual follow-up system in place). So, how can you turn that around? Well, here are five hints to get you started.

1. Start with the End in Mind

One of the problems for a lot of business leaders when they begin to create a system is that they don’t take the time to get clear on what the outcome/result is that they want. They simply start with tasks (i.e. “After someone buys, what’s the next thing we should do?”).

But starting with tasks before knowing the overall strategic objective is simply a foolish choice. A wiser choice would be to start with the end/objective/result that you want with your system.

For example, do you want your follow-up system to produce new sales? Or, do you want them to upgrade to a higher investment category? Or do you want to WOW them to encourage more word-of-mouth referrals? Or do you want to encourage more direct referrals given to you? Do you want the connection to be with you? Or with your business? Are you looking for a short-term repurchase or a long-term repurchase? Etc.

In other words, if you’re not clear on the ends (the what), then the means (the hows) will probably be off and you’ll have wasted your time.

2. Differentiate Between Different Kinds of Customers

I was having a conversation with a client recently who happens to be in the real estate industry. As we were working through this process, we realized that he had three very distinctly different categories of clients that needed very different kinds of follow-up.

  1. People who purchased a home who were moving to his area from another area of the country
  2. People who purchased a home as a second home (i.e. a vacation property)
  3. People who purchased a home who lived in his area

All of these are different kinds of buyers for his business—and they all have different interests, needs and wants.

In other words, trying to treat all your clients and/or customers as one monolithic group is probably a bad idea—what they want and consider relevant is different. For example, someone in category one might find it helpful to know that they only have 45 days in that state to register their car; after that, there’s a fine that increases. On the other hand, someone in category three would wonder, “Why are you telling me that? I’ve lived here for 35 years!”

3. Think About What Would Be a WOW!

Another mistake a lot of businesses make is that they just do the minimum (or what everyone else is doing). For example, they may send out a follow-up email (boring). Or maybe they’ll send out a form letter (boring). Or maybe they’ll send out a newsletter (boring). Everything is just … ordinary. In fact, think through the follow-ups you’ve experienced from the vendors you use. When was the last time you were WOWed?

The problem with creating a follow-up system that’s just like everyone else’s is that it’s not remarkable. And if something isn’t remarkable, it’s forgettable. Why would you ever want to set up a system that’s forgettable? It makes no sense.

Now, in order to figure out what’s remarkable, you need to know the Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV) to you and your business. For example, if the LTV is only $100, that limits what you can do. On the other hand, if the LTV is $5,000 or $15,000 or more that gives you a lot more leeway to be remarkable.

Once you know the range of what you could invest to WOW a customer, then you should regularly ask, “What would be an unexpected surprise/gift?” Or, “What would take their breath away?”

Note: Two posts you may want to read about this are, The Key to WOWing Your Customers and How to Avoid Wow becoming UnWow.

4. Think About How You Can Add Value

If the only time you contact a customer is when you’re promoting something (maybe a sale or a new program) or to ask for a referral or to say, “Happy Birthday!”, you’re not really furthering the relationship.

What you want to be is to be seen as a value provider for your customers or clients. You want them to take your calls or to open your emails or to read your direct mail etc. And the ONLY way that happens is if the recipient believes that what you’re sending them will add value to their life.

So, what you design your follow-up system you want to think through, “How can I add value to my clients/customers?” Ask yourself (or have your team ask), “What are their needs? Wants? Desires? Fears? Frustrations? Obstacles? Limitations? Goals? Dreams? Etc”. And then once you have clear answers to those questions, deliver the answers. If you do that, you’ll always be seen as a trusted advisor and friend.

In other words, if you focus most of your follow-up system on your customers and helping them get what they want (vs. focusing on you and what you do/offer), they’ll keep opening up your content and continuing to see you as a value add to their life.

Then when you do need to make an ask (let’s say for a referral) or you want to pitch a new offer (a new product or service or program), you’ll have a much higher response rate.

5. Design Your System to Include Testing

Optimization should be near and dear to every business leader’s heart and mind (i.e. getting better results with less or the same input). What you and I THINK will work best and what WILL work best are often two radically different things.

For example, in my old profession (I used to pastor a large church), most senior pastors think that if they make a call to a new person attending a church, that should make the greatest impact. Why? Because in their minds, that’s the most valuable thing that could happen (them calling someone :-).

However, when you test a typical church member calling a new guest vs. a senior pastor calling a new guest, guess what? The average church member gets higher scores. Why? For a number of reasons (I’ll share two here).

1. Because when a paid staff member calls, it feels like something they’re supposed to do. But when a lay person calls, that means something (i.e. someone like them, who isn’t paid, took time out of their busy schedule to make this call).

2. Because most people feel more comfortable asking someone like them questions about a church more than asking the point person of that organization.

In other words, just because you, the leader of your business, think that something will get a better result doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen. You only know from testing. Does sending a gift basket outperform a gift card for dinner? Who knows (until you test). Should you ask for a referral after the second follow-up or the fourth? Who knows (until you test).

So, whatever system you create for follow-up, make sure you add a testing element to it.

Well, there you have it. You now have five critical keys to creating a follow-up system that rocks. The only question left is, “What’s your system going to look like moving forward from today?”

To you accelerated success!

P.S. If you have any other ideas or hints about how to create a great follow-up system (or have a story to tell of a business that does this well), make sure you add that to the conversation below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by email or RSS)

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