Lately practically every seminar I've attended has included mention of the importance of follow-up with your leads. We've probably all heard that it can take seven or more touches with a potential client, before they will be receptive to your sales message. There is simply too much "noise" in the current environment and you have to be in front of the customer regularly to get heard. (If you want to really dig in, there's tons of data on the web about this topic - for a starting place, check out "107 Sales Statistics That Will Help You Sell Smarter" on Hubspot. On the flip side, I hear frustration from clients, from the difficulty they had in getting responses to initial messages to getting nervous because they're not hearing from their vendors during the time before their event.
From the very first contact through to converting happy customers to evangelists for our businesses, following-up and following-through are possibly the most critical business development activities. Without them, we're losing money, not only in the form of direct business, but also in referrals and repeat customers. Customer acquisition costs are one of the largest expenditures that a business has, and is an especially great challenge for the wedding industry. So it is vital that we capture, convert, and nurture as many customers as possible. Developing consistent follow-up can directly impact your bottom line, by converting more leads into customers and increasing your revenue. In turn, applying a process for follow- through that runs beyond the event improves the client experience and turns them into ambassadors for your business.
It can be very challenging to employ consistent follow-up and follow-through with your sales leads and clients. Leo Melendez came to speak to us in Kansas City last week, and one of my primary take-aways was the importance of having a system for critical processes in your business. Whatever it is that you're doing, whether it's tracking a sales lead, producing your product, or keeping contact with your clients after the sale, you should have a system for following through to the endpoint (as you've defined it). This system outlines each step, has measurable metrics and timetables, and a method for monitoring each lead, client, or project as they move through a "life-cycle".
How do you develop these systems and processes? Of course there's a variety of ways to approach this. Once upon a time I used a simple Excel spreadsheet for lead tracking. Every incoming lead was added to the spreadsheet, with event date, current status (waiting for contract, etc.), last action taken, next action
needed and a date to take it. This worked well, but recently I migrated all of my lead and contract management to Honeybook. Now I'm able to organize all my leads and active events in one place, with the added ease of having incoming contacts, email threads, contracts and event files all together (the system even does billing, which is such a relief!). There's a variety of similar programs, so I highly recommend looking into one, especially if you are still using paper contracts. Whatever tool you use, your system should have a way of tracking where every lead, current customer/event, and completed customer/event is in your process.
Developing processes can be fairly high-level, like my spreadsheet was. Or, if you really want to work "on" your business, you can go much more intensive into understanding your process. Leo described taking large sheets of paper, hanging them on the wall, then detailing every step - and potential step - of the customer experience. Once you have this level of understanding (and knowing that this can change and grow over time), you can develop a workflow to address it. For example, think about what happens after the event:
*Is all your product delivery done at that time, or do you have deliverables still to be made?
*If you're still delivering, is there a standardized email you could send, letting the client know when to expect your product? Are there multiple stages in the delivery process, that you could give the client a timeline for? What should the client do if they have questions or concerns?
*If you've fully delivered, how do you thank the client for their business? How do you ask for reviews, and then follow-up to ensure that you've received them? How do you thank the client for the review?
*What other products do you offer that the client might be interested in, and how do you let them know about those? Is there any discount or perk for repeat/ongoing business?
*What's your referral collection and acknowledgement process? How often do you remind past clients of how much you appreciate referrals?
Once you've put time into understanding your client's soup-to-nuts experience, you can map out actions relating to each step and start automating. Automation doesn't have to mean using one of those generic auto-response features - you know the ones, "Thank you very much for contacting us, we'll get back with you blah blah blah". Rather I'm using automation in the sense that you automatically do X when Y happens, because you're following your process. So when a client signs a contract, you automatically send out a welcome packet that includes important dates, FAQs, and $5 Starbucks e-giftcard, "because I know how much you're going to need the caffeine!" Or you're tracking a lead so you know that you sent two messages over two weeks and got no response, so now you're going to send your "special offer" email to get them to act. Don't feel like you have to do the whole lifecycle at once. Break it into parts - leads, contracted clients, post-event - or even subsections of these - fresh lead, leads that you've met with - to make it easier to get started.
Once you get a system in place, commit to using it - learn to follow-through by actually following through! Look at your calendar for the next month, and carve out time every day or every other day to apply the system. Practice being consistent in your use of it. This time will allow you to see where tweaks are necessary, or where you may have missed a step. These automated systems are also a great thing to hand over to an assistant, intern, or even virtual assistant, because they are clearly defined paths of action. This will free up your time to handle the touches that don't fit within the system (that bridezilla that insists on speaking over the phone...every time...). It's helpful to check your metrics before starting the new system, and then again at intervals like three or six months, so you can see the measurable impact. Remember that, while you are likely to see results quickly, this is an overall adjustment in how you do business that will take time to fully pay off.
I would love to hear what systems you have in place for follow-up and follow-through, or if you've given this an "one-month trial", how did it go? Please leave your comments below!