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Following up with potential and established customers is an effective way to build business

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Imagine you’ve met a potential new customer at a networking event and exchanged business cards. Or your crew has just picked up the last of the portable restrooms your company rented out for a huge special event. What do you do next?

If you are great at customer service, in both of these scenarios your next move is to follow up. A thoughtfully worded follow-up note will leave a positive impression about you and your company with both existing and prospective customers. It’s a simple thing to do, but amazingly, many business owners neglect to do it.


Follow up to gain customers

Sometimes it’s the little things that give one company the competitive edge over another when it comes to making the sale. Here’s an example:

You are considering buying a pickup truck from two different dealerships and the trucks are roughly the same make, model year, size and price. The salesperson from Dealership A sends you a friendly follow-up email thanking you for taking the time to visit his business and reminding you of some of the truck’s features you seemed particularly interested in. On the other hand, the salesperson from Dealership B never contacts you again.

You may be more likely to buy from Dealership A. You deduce that if you get quick, friendly service before you buy, that professionalism may carry over into all your dealings with this business. When it comes to Dealership B, you get the feeling you aren’t a priority.

The same is true for your business. If someone showed enough interest in your business to have a conversation with you about it and take your business card, show enough interest in them by following up with an email or a mailed note of thanks including a business card. Even a quick phone call will do if there is something you regret not discussing with them, or if you came up with the answer to a question you couldn’t give them in person. Any form of follow-up communication keeps you and your business in the mind of the potential customer.

Send the follow-up note or email no later than two days after your face-to-face meeting. This way you are still fresh in the potential customer’s thoughts. State the purpose of your note clearly, simply expressing gratitude to them for taking the time to talk with you. You can review some of the points you discussed, but keep it brief. Sum up by thanking them again and inviting them to contact you if they would like more information. Make your message pleasant and sincere. Include enough detail so they are sure to remember who you are, but don’t go on and on. Personalize it so it doesn’t appear to be a form letter that you copy and send to everyone.

If you really thought you were dealing with a hot prospect but don’t get a response to your follow-up, you might want to reach out again in a couple of weeks. But don’t be a pest. You can’t expect to get a response to every piece of correspondence you send out.


Follow up to keep customers

Following up after your company has provided service to a client is simply an extension of good customer service. Aside from being a gesture of goodwill, it is an effective way to find out if anything about your service made the customer unhappy. Not all customers will take the time to call and complain, but if you call them and ask how satisfied they were with your service, they’re likely to be truthful. Immediate follow-up can help you nip a problem in the bud before a customer has time to badmouth your company for a mistake you weren’t even aware of. Getting customer feedback through follow-up shows you where mistakes are being made and helps you avoid them in the future.

Following up with customers helps them get to know you better too, and people like to do business with people they know. When you follow up, customers will feel like they are really important to you. Follow-up helps build long-term relationships with customers, which means a greater return on the initial investment of time and money you put into landing them as customers in the first place.


An Attitude of Gratitude

Follow-up doesn’t just provide vague benefits in goodwill for your business. It can be used to target customers with specific, tangible, business-building invitations. For example, I recently hired a carpet-cleaning company to clean an office. It was the first time I had used this contractor and within two weeks I received a follow-up thank-you card in the mail. This mailing also invited me to join their preferred customers club, which would reward me with a discount if I agreed to contract with them for regularly scheduled carpet cleaning.

Follow-up is not complicated or time consuming. It’s simply displaying good manners in business, in a systematic way. Regularly following up by formally saying “please” and “thank you” to customers may provide a noticeable sales boost for your company. As a bonus, if the authors of the many popular self-help books promoting a spirit of gratitude know anything, follow-up will make you feel good too.


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