So you came up with a really great idea for a direct mailer. You did the market research, narrowed down your target audience, hired a great copywriting and design team to create the mailer for you, and shelled out a small fortune to get them sent off.
Then you sat back and waited for the sales to roll on in… and waited… and waited. Maybe you made a few sales, got a couple of responses, but nothing near the volume your research led you to expect.
What went wrong?
Why didn’t your genius campaign generate enough business to keep you in the black for the next six months?
Is it possible you forgot something, targeted the wrong audience, weren’t quite as clever as you thought? Or is it because, after the initial burst of creativity and effort was spent, you didn’t do anything else?
Failure to follow up can spell death to even the most ingenious marketing campaigns.
It’s like going on a really fantastic first date with someone you can just feel is perfect for you, then not bothering to call them again. No matter how impressive you were and how interested they may have been, if you don’t make an effort to get in touch again, they’re going to move on.
Planning an effective followup strategy
The first step in any effective direct marketing campaign is planning. Don’t ever skimp on the planning! Knowing in advance what you’re going to do, how you’re going to implement it, and what your contingency plan is in case what you’re doing isn’t working will be the difference between steady sales and a silent phone.
But how to approach a strategy?
Let’s stick with the date analogy.
During a good date, the initial part of the evening will include a friendly greeting, sharing a few particulars (small talk) and an expression of preferences (the meals you order). The next part of the date involves getting down to broader info, finding out more about the person across from you and sharing details about yourself.
By the time you part ways, you should have a fairly good idea of who the person is and whether there is potential for a deeper relationship. The end of the date brings with it the opportunity to take things further, set up another date, and promise to call – the vital ingredient in transforming this from a one-off date to something more.
On the contrary, on a poor date, effective communication is missing, whether it’s because one of you was arrogant, disinterested or distracted, or because there simply wasn’t any compatibility.
In the same way, once you have done the research and have found your ideal target audience, you now need to court them. How are you going to introduce yourself and lay the foundations to spark their interest? Next, how are you going to build on, develop and maintain their interest?
How are you going to set up a meeting, woo them with your company’s great products or services, or make that critical first sale?
And, when the time comes, how are you going to make sure this turns into a long-term relationship?
The importance of following up
So the date went well and you really liked each other. You’ve told your best friend all about it and you’ve done some low-level Facebook stalking. Then you do nothing. You don’t call, you don’t respond to their tentative text message a couple of days later, suggesting a visit to the craft beer festival happening next weekend and you don’t bother calling. A few months later, your best friend asks you, so what ever happened with that amazing date you went on? Your response? Eh, I guess they weren’t all that interested.
People – and this includes your potential customers – are busy. They have hundreds of demands on their time and attention and, if you aren’t maintaining their attention, they’re going to not only forget about you, but – even worse – move on to a competitor.
By sending well-timed, carefully crafted follow-up communication, you not only remind them that you’re there, but you also have another opportunity to sell them on a unique feature of your business.
Beware the spam filter
Tell me, how did you find your date? Was it an introduction by a friend? Maybe you met through your online dating profile, or made the decision to swipe right. But how did you choose? Are you a serial right-swiper who values quantity over quality? Have you been on twenty mediocre-bordering-on-awful dates in the last three weeks only to find you’re starting to wonder if there’s ever going to be a good match for you?
Targeted direct mail is always going to get a much better response rate than just flinging millions of messages into the ether and hoping one sticks. You also want to be sure that your follow-ups don’t irritate or overwhelm your customers and potential clients. Well-crafted mail is also going to come across less like spam or junk mail and will be read more often.
That magic combination of clear, consistent messaging that finds the right audience is a recipe for marketing success, with timely, relevant follow-up being the cherry on top.
So you set up a second date. You opted in on that craft beer festival and you’re having a great time when suddenly you decide to switch topics in the middle of an engaging conversation about the merits of hiking vs jogging and instead start complaining loudly about the poor craftsmanship that has clearly gone into that guy over there’s shoes.
Your date is clearly reeling from the sudden, whiplash change of subject, but you keep on and on about the guy’s shoes. Two weeks later, you’re perplexed about why your date isn’t responding to your overtures, no matter how clever or funny they are.
Keeping your follow-up messaging consistent with your pre-sales marketing is crucial.
You need to make sure every communication you have with your customers tells a relevant part of your company story, while taking into account their unique needs. Remember what you’re trying to achieve: more sales, good referrals and a long-term relationship that will keep your business in the black long after your competitor has closed their doors.
As I mentioned before, this is why planning is so important. Finding the right way to engage and maintain initial interest is important, yes, but keeping that momentum going is just as important – if not more so.
Planning will help you work out just how many follow-ups to send – chances are, one isn’t going to be enough; in fact, you’re probably going to need to send two or three of just the right kind of follow-ups to help secure new and ongoing business. There are quite a few things to consider while working out which and how many follow-ups to send.
Perhaps you’ll send a beautifully hand-written card thanking them for their custom, then follow that up with a phone-call to update them about a new product in your line. Maybe you’ll email them a link to your company blog post about an issue you discussed.
Whatever you believe works in your strategy, making the effort will make you stand out. By building a clear identity in your customer’s mind, and by consistently delivering on that implicit promise, you are making your customer feel as though you care about more than just selling a product. They feel looked-after, cared for and safe. They start identifying your brand with consistency and your company starts entering the sales and marketing golden circle: brand loyalty.