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A while back the headlight switch on our minivan quit working, so early one Saturday morning we took it to the neighborhood repair shop that has been mailing postcards to us the past three years. They said it would take 90 minutes to check things out.

Three hours later we call: still haven’t gotten to it, but it’s up next. Two hours after that we call again: he’s looking at it right now. Three more hours, another call: yep, it’s broken, but we can’t get the part until Monday. We decide to pick it up for the remainder of the weekend, arriving there as instructed 10 hours after this ordeal began: Sorry, we haven’t had a chance to put it back together. Another trip two hours later completes a very frustrating day.

Following up is one of the biggest challenges many businesses face. You see it when dealing with some vendors, working with some clients/customers or just trying to get an update on a car repair. When it comes to your marketing efforts, it’s essential to have a follow-up system in place, so you convert prospects into buyers.

Success Handler Action: With your team, develop a checklist of the steps you will take once you grab a prospect’s attention. For example, assume that as a result of reading your monthly E-newsletter a prospect sends you an e-mail asking for more information. The follow-up system you create for your small business might look like this:

Name: John Reed Company: Reed Mortgage Marketing responded to: E-Newsletter Initial contact date: February 5, 2004

X Respond by e-mail immediately with thank you for contacting us

X Visit website to learn more about their company

_ Send PDF of “Services” brochure

_ Mail personal letter explaining how we work with others in their industry

_ Make follow-up phone call three days later to ask if they have any questions

_ Schedule meeting appointment and mark on calendar

_ Send hand-written thank you note letting them know we look forward to working together

Have you ever considered what prospects do when they receive a marketing message from you that makes them realize you might be able to help them? Whether it’s a direct mail piece, conversation at a networking event, or receiving a recommendation from a mutual friend, what do prospects do once you grab their attention?

Success Handler Action: With your team, create some “in-motion” scenarios that depict how prospects respond to you. Think about when they call, respond by e-mail, send in a reply card, or walk into your small business. Visualization, role-playing and writing down different scenarios will help you see things from their perspective. Walking through the steps prospects are likely to take will prepare everyone for handling contacts.

Here are some things to consider when analyzing how prospects respond:

• Which message did they receive? Why did it catch their attention?

• What are they thinking about your company?

• What do they need from you? Why do they need it? What other options do they have?

• What is the first step they will take? What are subsequent steps?

Tracking and follow-up activities may appear to be time-consuming, but the more they become habit the easier they are to fulfill. It’s essential to have a follow-up program in place, lest your marketing efforts and dollars go to waste. The worst thing that can happen is to drive a prospect to make contact with you, then fail to follow up with her. That breaks the trust expectations of your relationship, making it extremely difficult to convince them to believe any further marketing messages they receive from you, or to make the leap to doing business with you.

By the way, it took two more trips back to the auto repair shop and eight more hours of our time to get the correct switch installed. Needless to say, they can take us off their mailing list.

Copyright © 2004 by Success Handler, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Coach, David Handler, is the founder of Success Handler, ( and specializes in helping small business leaders, franchisees and franchisors find clarity and take action. He understands the challenges of running a business, because he’s been there – as a small business owner, franchisee, franchisor, corporate leader and trainer. Much like sports coaches, his coaching will show you how to compete on a level playing field in your industry.

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This Financial Services article was written by David Handler on 8/19/2005

A while back the headlight switch on our minivan quit working, so early one Saturday morning we took it to the neighborhood repair shop that has been mailing postcards to us the past three years. They