I’m always shocked when I ask a small business owner the question, ‘how often do you follow up with your customers?’ and I hear responses like ‘what do you mean?’ or ‘we don’t really have a follow up process in place, other than an invoice.’ If this is you, we really need to change this!
When you secure a new customer you should collect their name, address, and email, at the very least, and put it into your client database. I even want you to do this if all you sell them is a cup of coffee! (I’ll get to this example in a minute.) If you don’t have a database, use a spreadsheet in excel. I love excel and think it is completely sufficient for our purposes. I add the date of their purchase into a column next to their information and then add a follow up date in the column next to that. I put a reminder in my calendar to reach out to them, and I mostly do this using email. Often, I may only be sending a note checking in to see how things are going, but I am definitely going to contact them.
You may also want to consider adding another column that shows what they purchased and in yet another column add items that would be great additions to what they purchased. For example, if they bought a table, you could add items like table cloth, lamp, or others into the column for great additions. You will use this information for future promotions and marketing pieces.
This process is not just for tangible items, it can work with service industries too. If you provide services to customers, then consider what other services you offer that they may benefit from and set a time to follow up with them.
As for frequency, I follow up about two weeks after a sale and then every quarter after that. You can do a little research on this and find a time frame that works for your business. I also plan promotional opportunities around holidays in addition to my regular correspondences. If you are wondering how important this step is, consider going to a wedding where the bride and groom don’t send a thank you for the china set you bought them. How would you feel about that? Our relationships with our customers are just as important. Where small businesses are concerned, your customers keep you in business and should be treated like cherished guests at a wedding.
As to my earlier comment about the coffee, sometimes it’s harder to collect this information when we sell small, perishable items. For these instances, I suggest putting a business card bowl and blank information cards next to the register or strategically on the counter where customers wait in line. Offer a monthly drawing of something fantastic to encourage customers to participate. I know many businesses are communicating through facebook, twitter, and other social media channels, but don’t dismiss the email and direct mail opportunities.
How important is this process? I can’t stress the importance enough. Small businesses gain most of their business from repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing, so your relationships with your customers are paramount to your success.
Let me know if you have any questions. I’m here to help.