I don’t believe in love at first sight.

In fact, I had known my husband for 10 years before we got married.  We were engaged for more than a year.  And he’s a really phenomenal guy!

Most people that would buy your products or services, especially in this economy, also don’t believe in love at first sight.  Aside from candy at the checkout counter (although I understand candy sales are down as well!) the “impulse buy” seems to be pretty much extinct.

This doesn’t mean that customers are cynical, it just means that they consider purchases very carefully before they spend money. They want to do their homework and consider every purchase very carefully. Unfortunately, they’re also very busy and don’t have time to spend doing the extensive research that would make them comfortable with a purchase. This is true of most industries, and even more so in aviation. Given the demographics and psychographics of people in this industry, they didn’t get where they are (and stay successful in a very competitive, passionate business) without being very smart and discriminating.

Even if you have a product that’s neater than sliced bread, or a service that you think your potential customer can’t live without, please think again.  They’ve lived without it until now, and they’re probably not going to make a different decision overnight.

So, how do you get these smart, discriminating customers to “fall in love” with your product or service?  You take your time. You make information available and convenient, and you put together a long-term, sustained marketing plan that brings you to the front of their mind on a regular basis without making a pest of yourself.

Most people that contract with me for marketing services take a minimum of three weeks from the time I meet them to the time we get started on a project.  And more often, it takes a couple of months.  Some customers have known me for years before they hire me.  (Which is not to say that I don’t make a pest of myself, you’d have to ask them about that.)

A person finds out about your company through your website, a social media connection, a trade show, or some other means. Then there’s some amount of time during which the customer is not yet ready to buy, for any number of reasons – he could be waiting for a decision from superiors, or looking for more information, or wanting to shop around before making a decision.  Or they’re just too busy with other things.

In any case, during this timeframe (whether it lasts days, weeks or months) there is a danger that your prospective customer will forget about your brilliant website or the scintillating conversation they had with you at a trade show. Other priorities will encroach on their time, their attention, and their budget. And they’ll forget all about you and your product or service.

If I’ve done a consultation for you, or if you’ve taken a marketing class, you’ve seen some variation of the following diagram.

In this model, there is a Pre-Sales Cycle.  You could also call this “Post-Contact Follow Up.”  You can call it anything you like, but whatever you call it, you should be performing some tasks to continue your contact and build a relationship.

Secrets of Great Follow Up Timeline for Sales

Use Different Media.

Since I specialize in online marketing, I would love to say that you can run a complete marketing campaign online and never have to do anything else.  Sometimes, for some projects, that may be true. But ANY marketing plan will benefit from some off-line contact. Mix it up.

  • Email – This can include a well-written sales letter, a newsletter, or video explaining more about your product.  Using an effective programmed series of emails can deliver information in digestible chunks and ensure that you’re at the front of the list when your prospective customer is in the market for your product or service. The key to successful email marketing (and what separates your emails from run-of the mill SPAM) is that your messages need to be thoughtfully targeted and full of valuable information that your potential customers will find useful whether or not they buy your product or service.
  • Web Site Content – If your customer subscribes to your news feed or RSS, adding more content to your blog might serve this function and keep him apprised of new developments with your product; provide case studies of how another company is using it, or valuable industry information.
  • Postcards – There are still a lot of people who subconsciously (or consciously!) think that a company isn’t real unless they have had some contact with that company that occurred somewhere other than cyberspace.   It makes your company seem much more “real” if you send a tangible piece of mail. I like postcards because a well-designed postcard can be a very efficient and effective reminder without being expensive.

Make it Regular but Not Intrusive

We’ve all had the pleasure of dodging phone calls from an overzealous salesperson who calls three times a week. That’s irritating, and it doesn’t work. I suppose there are things to be said for phone calls, but  since they interrupt your prospective client’s day and demand his immediate attention, I think they should be used very, very sparingly, especially in the pre-sales follow up stage.

Here’s a sample timeline that includes quarterly postcards, a product-related informational email (perhaps a tutorial or new feature announcement) and a monthly emailed newsletter.

Your plan will be different, depending on the product or service that you’re selling and the schedule that matches your style.

Follow up timeline for sales

Make It Easy

You don’t have time to write a newsletter, or supervise a print run of postcards once a month, or even fetch stamps and keep track of all these lists.

If it’s not easy, it doesn’t get done.

We recommend automating everything that can be automated.

  • Email systems like Constant Contact or MailChimp allow you to set up an autoresponder, which is a system that sends scheduled emails by a predefined schedule.  After you’ve added a contact to your list, (or your contact has signed up on your website) the system takes care of sending your emails on a predefined schedule.
  • Postcard systems like SendOutCards will allow you to design postcards from any computer. You can import your contacts and schedule postcards to be sent out on a schedule you determine.  I generally send a postcard right after meeting a prospective client for the first time, (it might be waiting in their mailbox when they get home from a trade show or conference) and then on a predefined schedule. A postcard also doesn’t have to be opened to be effective, and many people don’t open mail unless they’re expecting it. (Or unless the envelope is remarkable in some way, which is usually much harder and more expensive to do.)

So, now you have some great tools and know how to improve your sales by mastering the art of follow-up, rather than expecting your customers to fall in love with your products or services at first sight!