Okay, so you sent the prospect a letter. Or you had a great meeting. Or the prospect came to a seminar. And nothing happened.
You've learned the basic lesson. An initial contact, no matter how friendly, is not a marriage vow. Follow-up is necessary.
The fact is that in professional services marketing you've got a few distinctive things working.
- The prospect may like you, but doesn't need your services at this moment.
- The prospect is not in a position to make a decision on his or her own and must discuss it with others. After all, you're not selling vacuum cleaners.
- The prospect has seen you—plus half a dozen of your competitors. He can't make up his mind, partly because he doesn't quite remember which of you said what.
These are basic realities for both large firms and small, which is why the follow-up was invented.
The idea is to keep in touch with the prospect—to keep your name and service very much in the forefront of his or her mind without being counterproductive. How counterproductive? By being a nuisance. By calling too often. By pressing too hard. What does that leave?
- The follow-up phone call, to say thanks for the opportunity to meet, and to offer additional help and information if it's needed. Short, to the point, wasting no time.
- The follow-up note. Same as the phone call. Short, to the point, not a tome.
- The brochure. With a card or a little note attached, the firm's monograph on "a subject we were discussing," or "a brief description of our capabilities and facilities."
- The reprint. With a little—little—note and a card attached. The note says, "Here's an article you might have missed on the subject we were discussing the other day."
Follow-up is also essential for the direct mail campaign. It doesn't matter that the letter said, "If you're interested, call me..." You call anyway, and ask for an appointment to discuss his or her problems and how you can help solve them. Then after the first meeting, go to the above.
The idea of follow-up is to take the spark of an initial contact and slowly...carefully...gently...blow it into a flame. This means that whatever you do, it must be done with sensitivity. Insensitivity to your prospect's mood, reaction, time and schedule constraints, and personal likes and dislikes can turn an otherwise successful first meeting into a horrible disaster.
One key to it is timing. Not too often, not too infrequently. A letter should be followed by a phone call or an email within a week to 10 days. Too soon is a nuisance. Longer than that there's no continuity or memory of the letter.
A person you meet at a seminar should be called the next day and invited to lunch, "to continue the interesting conversation we were having yesterday."
Articles, reprints, and brochures should be sent out only when they are very relevant, and certainly no more than once a month, unless you have reason to do otherwise (you have a mutual interest in a very hot topic, for example).
There's an old joke about the guy whose wife was divorcing him after 20 years. When the judge asked why, she said, "He never tells me that he loves me." The guy's response was, "I told her I loved her when I married her. It holds good until I revoke it."
In marketing follow-up, as in real life, it doesn't work that way. You have to keep saying it.