Of Course I have a Referral and Follow Up System!

A referral and follow up system…  You may be asking yourself what do I need that for?  I was reminded about a pretty well know fact after reading yesterdays post on Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch titled My Most Excellently Flawed Referral Survey.  The survey questions had to do with the percentage of your business coming from referrals or word of mouth.  Here is what John found:

69.3% felt over 50% of their business came by way of referral and yet, 79% further admitted they had no well-defined system to promote referral generation.  The conclusion is we know how important referrals are yet we don’t take the time to create a system to attract them!

John also asked if you are not getting a consistent flow of referrals why not?  20% of the participants of the survey just skipped this question!  Maybe after realizing so much business comes from referrals and acknowledging they have no system that thinking about why was just too much must for those in the survey to handle?

For years I have heard and seen similar numbers like this.  Business owners and top sales professionals say things like the live for referrals yet if I ask the simple question of what do you do when you receive a referral I more often than not get a blank stare.

Receiving more referrals is pretty simple and there are many ways to do this.

  • Simply asking your customers for referrals or people they know who can also use your product or service is a great place to start.
  • Making sure you acknowledge and reward the referral senders will naturally grow the amount of referrals you receive.  People will enjoy helping you and when you acknowledge and appreciate them and will in turn help you more.
  • Staying top of mind with your customers, prospects, and referral sources will generate more business and referrals for you.  You can do this by calling, emailing, sending greeting cards, and newsletters.  Staying top of mind is customers and prospects is about creating a relationship.

The best referral and follow up system I have seen and used for years is SendOutCards.  When used correctly you can create an explosion of referrals with very little effort.  The reason for this is SendOutCards is a great system and once set up can go on autopilot.  You can learn more about SendOutCards and how it might work for you by visiting this site.  Fill out the contact information and I will call and talk to you about it personally.

Whether you use index cards, Excel, Outlook, SendOutCards, Act!, Goldmine, Saleceforce.com, or any of the many other CRM tools on the market the important thing is you use one.  Commit to a system, spend the time to get it set up to work for your business, and then use it no matter what!  The benefits of using your referral and follow up system will outweigh any time or pain you might feel getting it started!

So tell me, what system do you have?  What are you doing to increase your referrals and follow up with your clients and prospects?

Top 10 List of Books To Help Your Clients Kickoff a Fabulous 2009

So here we find ourselves past the holiday season.   We now have a great opportunity to make a positive impression on our top clients and referral sources!  Sending books to top clients and referral sources is one of the most memorable follow up strategies I use. It’s creative, different, and is just not done enough!  The following are my Top 10 books to send to a business owner or top sales professional for 2009.  In choosing this selection I found myself thinking of the many types of clients and referral sources i have.  This selection should include a great title for any possible business owner or sales professional which may be on your list.

#1 The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

“At last!  A book on sales and salesmanship that can be read and enjoyed by veteran and recruit alike!  I have just completed The Greatest Salesman in the World for the second time-it was too good for just one reading-and in all sincerity, I say that it is the most readable, most constructive and most useful instrument for the teaching of sales as a profession that I have ever read.” F.W.Errigo, Manager U.S. Sales Training Parke, Davis & Company

#2 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
“At American billionaire Andrew Carnegie’s bidding, Hill studied the characteristics of these achievers and developed 15 “laws” of success intended to be applied by anybody to achieve success. Think and Grow Rich! condenses these laws further and provides the reader with 13 principles in the form of a philosophy of personal achievement.” Wikipedia

#3 Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
“Rich Dad Poor Dad is a starting point for anyone looking to gain control of their financial future.” USA Today

#4 The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
“Fascinating enough for the general reader, Gladwell’s work is a particular boon for businesspeople looking for inspiration on how to top their own ideas into popular crazes.” Publishers Weekly

#5 The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey
“An absolute must-read for aspiring business executives who want to significantly increase their personal effectiveness in the workplace and at home.  Covey has created a brilliant blueprint for both career and personal success in the new millennium.”  Douglas Conant, President and CEO, Campbell Soup Co.

#6 Tribes by Seth Godin

“Tribes is a must read for all of us.  It’s up to each one of us to lead in today’s new kind of world.”  Bill Bradley, Former U.S. senator  Tribes is one of my favorite reads of 2008!  It’s is truly inspiring, showing the value and simplicity of becoming a leader.  Keep an eye out for my future post on Tribes.

#7 Beach Money by Jordan Adler

“If you plan on building a large successful network, I recommend reading Beach Money.  Jordan’s stories are inspiring and each one has something that you can put to use immediately.”  Ivan Misner, NY Times Best-selling Author and Founder of BNI

#8 E-Myth by Michael Gerber
“The mythic and often disastrous assumption is that people who are experts regarding technical details of a product or service will also be experts at running that sort of business.  Many small business owners eventually realize that just as they had to learn the technical skills, they have to learn business growth and management skills.”  Wikipedia

#9 Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn

“I can’t believe it.  In the three months since reading this, I’ve almost doubled my sales and settled a couple of long-standing problem in my marriage.  I’m recommending this book to management.” O. T., Regional Sales Manager

#10 The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
“Stunning and amazing, from mini-retirements to outsourcing your life, it’s all here.  Whether you’re a wage slave or Fortune 500 CEO, this book will change your life!”  Phil Town, #1 New Your Times bestselling author

#11 101 Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies by Gwen Steege
Number 11 in my top 10 just to check and see if you are still reading!  Honestly the best gift and easiest way to bribe me is with homemade chocolate chip cookies!  Who can resist that?

I could have easily listed 20 more books in this top 10 so if I am missing one you think should be on the list please leave a comment with your suggestion and why you think the book should be on the list.  The more selection and recommendations the better!

In writing this post I kept thinking back to my corporate career.  During the holidays I would receive well over 20 boxes of candies from clients and vendors.  The candy made no lasting impression due to the amount I received.  A book is completely different!  If I received a book during the first few weeks of the New Year it would stand out amongst all the previous gifts.  I would remember who sent the book to me and it would positively affect our relationship.

Follow Up Strategies: Two Days Before Christmas

This morning I had a completely different post in mind.  I was going to write about sending books to your top clients and referral sources for the New Year.  In thinking about follow up this morning I decided to write about a simple and highly effective follow up strategy for the two days before Christmas.

Take a look at your top 25 clients and referral sources for the year, print out a report or simply write them down.  Once you have them pick up the phone and call each one.  Call them and wish them a Merry Christmas.  If you are not sure if they celebrate Christmas wish them a Happy Holliday weekend.  Thank these clients and referral sources for the business and referrals from the past year.  Ask them what they are doing for the holiday.  In general you want to touch them right before the holiday.  Don’t ask for new business or referrals, just thank them and wish them a great holiday.

You may not be able to reach everyone as I am sure some have already taken the week off, so just leave a message or a voicemail.  It may seem simple because it is!  These simple touches build your relationships with your clients and referral sources.  By doing this simple task you are showing your clients and referral sources that you care about them and appreciate them.

It’s a bit difficult for me to call you and wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday weekend!  Please know that I appreciate you for taking the time to visit my blog and I truly appreciate the many emails and comments I receive from my posts.  I wish for you a wonderful holiday filled with great moments which create lasting memories.

Do You Still Need to Send Your Holiday Cards?

You still have time to get this important follow up strategy completed!  However at this point you are a bit limited on how you can get this done.  One way is to make a mad rush to the store and buy boxes of holiday cards only to spend today and most of the weekend writing them out.  I must say the thought of you actually doing thing is making me tired!  I know as I have done this so many times in the past!  I am sure if you have not yet sent your holiday cards you know you need to and have just been procrastinating to the very last minute!

Don’t worry!  You have another option available to you which will allow you to send all of your holiday cards within a few hours.  Whether you need to send 100 or 2,000 holiday cards you still have time to get it done!  It all starts with having access to a powerful system called SendOutCards!

SendOutCards is a very simple online tool which allows you to upload all of your addresses, choose a holiday card from over 1,000 choices, type out a nice holiday message, and with a few clicks send to your entire database!  Your cards are then printed, stuffed in envelopes with a real stamp, and placed in the mail the next day! The best part is you can actually send the same holiday card to 500 customers and prospects and then go back and write additional messages to your top 25 customers and prospects to make them more personal.  This means no customer or prospect is forgotten!  SendOutCards also allows you to add gifts to your cards!  So if you should be sending a little something extra to those top clients you are covered!  To learn more about this tool visit SendOutCards and click on the top banner to send a free card and get the tour.

There is just no other service on the market that can do this with such ease!  I have used this service for the past few years for holiday cards as well as all the different business greeting card occasions with great success.  This is not just a holiday card tool!

If you happen to be one of those thinking “it’s too late to send holiday cards at this point” or “does sending holiday cards really make a difference in my business?”, I would encourage you to consider recent research by Hallmark:  Hallmark found that businesses say they use greeting cards as a “kind of investment in their business…  They’re investing in customer relationship with the hopes that it will pay back”.  The company has conducted research that found at least half of customers who received holiday cards from businesses say they are more likely to continue doing business with that company versus another one.  You can read more on this by reading the article in the Washington Post.

So the question to ask yourself is not whether you should send holiday cards or not…  The question is whether you want your current customers to continue doing business with you!

Holiday Follow Up: Greeting Cards, Postcards, and E-cards

Today you have many choices when it comes to holiday cards.  The choice of holiday greeting cards is enormous, and we cannot forget holiday letters, postcards, and e-cards.  As business owners and sales professionals what are the best practices?  In my opinion, holiday greeting cards should be your only choice!

Holiday cards: You have many options here!  Sure you can go to your local Hallmark store or grocery store to pick up your greeting cards.  In fast the top two greeting card companies Hallmark and American Greetings which print most of the greeting cards on the market would love for you to do just that!  It’s fairly simple, find a greeting card selection which will reflect your business in a good light, lock yourself in your office for the day and get to work!

Holiday letters: I have already received a few holiday letters from friends and businesses.  These are nice and typically very personal when coming from friends and family.  I would not recommend these for a business greeting.  Sending a gift with a letter is a pretty common practice but in my opinion if you are spending the time and money to send a gift why not include a greeting card as well?  Skip the basic form letter and add a personal note to a greeting card instead.

Holiday Postcards: Thinking this is a great cost saving alternative to mailing holiday cards is a big mistake. When I think of postcards the first thought that comes to mind is junk mail.  It does not matter how much time you put into your postcard design or the amazing copy you have come up with, in the end it’s just a postcard and it will leave a neutral or negative impression.

E-cards: The crazy popularity of e-cards has come and gone.  Some may say this is a great alternative to sending holiday greeting cards in the mail.  I would encourage you to consider the conversation I had with Jeff Hans real estate agent on Team-Q at Re/Max Realty.  Jeff mentioned a conversation he had with another business owner just last week.  The business owner asked if he had received his e-card.  Jeff had to think about it for a minute and then acknowledged he had received it.  The business owner asked what Jeff thought and his response was the following: “I receive over 200 emails per day so receiving your e-card was just another email”.  Jeff suggested that next year he mail holiday greeting cards instead of sending e-cards!

My last thought for your holiday cards choices.  I mentioned the top two greeting card companies Hallmark and American Greetings so I thought I should mention the greeting card company I have used for my holiday cards, birthday cards, thank you cards, and just everyday cards for the last two years.  The company is called SendOutCards and it just so happens SendOutCards is the number three greeting card company.

I think the most important thing to remember is to get your holiday cards out.  It is by far the easiest follow up touch you can do this week and with each follow up touch you do you increase the awareness your customers and prospects have with you.  This increased awareness will result in increased business and referrals!

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Mailing Holiday Cards

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Mailing Holiday Cards

Do’s:

1)  Do send a quality card with a nice seasonal image
This is not the time to send a naked Santa because you think it’s funny.

2)  Do hand write your cards and envelopes
There is nothing like getting hand written cards in the mail, it shows you have taken the time to really reach out to your customer

3)  Do sign your cards
Your signature on the holiday card makes it personal

4)  Do write few lines of thoughts in each card
You might say something like “I have truly enjoyed working with you this past year.  I hope you have a fantastic holiday season and a great start in 2009!”

5)  Send your cards out with an actual stamp
This is not the time to save time by running them through the meter.  Take the time to place a stamp on each card as this small step makes a big difference.

Don’ts

6)  Don’t send holiday cards with just your signature
Saying Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukah above your signature will not make this better.  Add a few lines to make them personal!

7)  Don’t enclose a business card with your holiday card
I find there is nothing tackier than opening a card and having a business card fall out.  It takes away all positive impact from the card.

8)  Don’t add your logo to the card
Sending holiday cards should be an opportunity to appreciate your clients.  This is not the time to promote your brand!

9)  Don’t use mailing labels on the envelope
Mailing labels take away from the personal experience of the holiday card.  Take the time to hand write the envelopes or have someone in your office do this for you.

10)  Don’t send e-cards
No matter what you believe or what someone has told you, e-cards are not the same and actually create a negative impact with most receivers.

Hopefully you will avoid some of the don’ts and remember all the do’s!  Do you have some top do’s and don’ts to add to this top 10?  Leave a comment so I can add to the list!

Where did the idea of sending holiday cards come from anyway?  If you are interested check out the history of holiday card sending.

Look for tomorrows post about e-cards vs. real printed cards, and handmade cards.

Increase Referrals and Attract More Clients by Sending Holiday Cards

For years I have been sending holiday cards.  I remember back in my corporate days signing hundreds of cards to clients and vendors.  The process then was to have a stack of 300 to 500 cards passed from one office to the next as we attempted to have all the employees sign the cards.  I admit some years I signed the cards and at times my assistant signed them for me.  I did not fully understand why I was sending them to begin with.  What difference is one holiday card going to make?

After completing my corporate ladder climb and realizing I no longer wanted to work for someone but instead wanted to build my own company, I began the journey of owning and building a promotional marketing company.  Through this process I had many great experiences.  One that comes to mind is sending holiday cards each year to my clients and prospects.  One of these prospects never actually purchased my services but I sent them a holiday card anyway.  The result of this simple holiday card came six months later.  The prospect called me for a new project and became a new customer.  I remember asking her why she decided to call almost one year later.  Her response was surprising!  She said she received my holiday card and actually kept it for months after the holiday as she was so impressed I would spend the time to send her a card even though our project never materialized.  She called me because I sent her a holiday card!

Here are few of the most important reasons why you should be sending holiday cards:

  • Holiday cards are another touch in the connection process with your customers.
  • Holiday cards give you an opportunity to express your appreciation to your customers.
  • Your customers will receive holiday cards from your largest competitors!
  • Customers will not always remember who sent cards but most will remember who did not!
  • Holiday cards put you at the top of your customers mind, this allows for more business and referrals.
  • Sending holiday cards is an example of great customer service.
  • Sending holiday cards gives you an opportunity to touch people within a company that you may not have access to.   An example of this could be the CEO of your best customer whom you have only met once.

Holiday card sending used to be a huge time commitment; this is not the case anymore!   Holiday cards can be very expensive however now you have very cost effective options which you cannot afford not to take advantage of!  (Future posts will have some great time saving and cost effective services for holiday cards.  If you need help now let me know by leaving a comment and I will send you my favorite resources.)

If you are one of those companies who have already mailed your cards I congratulate you!  Sending holiday cards should be a part of every companies marketing plan, it’s one of those personal touches you must do.  If you are in the procrastination stage of holiday card sending, I encourage you to get it done.  Get it done today!  Commit to yourself to mail all of your cards out this week, it will be worth it I promise!

A special note to those who have already decided not to mail holiday cards this year.  I challenge you to rethink your reasoning.  Many people have decided to cut this out because of time, cost, or just clear laziness.  You cannot afford not to connect with your clients and vendors.  Take the time to mail out holiday cards!  Consider sending cards to your top 100 clients and referral sources.  Sending holiday cards is one of my favorite follow up methods because it is an opportunity to create a personal touch in your business s relationship.

Look for my post tomorrow on the do’s and don’ts of holiday card sending!

Remember if you need help with your holiday card or gift sending options this year make a comment and I will respond to you with a few great resources that I will be covering this week.

Today is a GREAT day for Follow Up

Yesterday I was thinking about all the different long holiday weekends from the past.  Often times I would dread going back to the office after a long holiday or I would have a hard time getting back into the habits of production.  Holidays are very different for me now!  Many people think I am always working but the reality is I really enjoy what I do.  So coming back to work for me is just doing what I love.  For those of you that are not in love with what you are doing here is a simple way to get back into work mode:

Take today and focus on follow up.  Reach out to your customers and prospects and ask the question “How was your Thanksgiving?” and then follow up with “What can I do to help you this week?”.

The reason why I bring this up is today is a great day to follow up with new and old customers as well as all those people in your pipeline.  After completing this post the majority of my day will be spent on follow up.  The reason I enjoy doing this after holidays is it allows me to ask the question “how was your Thanksgiving?”.  This simple question starts the conversation on a personal tone and allows me to create a bridge from a business conversation to a more personal conversation.

The rewards from creating personal relationships with your clients and prospects are enormous and this week is another opportunity for you to further these relationships!

If you choose to use today for follow up please let me know how did!  Simply leave a comment and share your experience with me and your fellow readers!

SWOT Analysis: Defining Your Strengths

In my last post, SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business, I gave an overview of SWOT and talked about a few of the benefits of applying a SWOT Analysis to your businesses or to yourself as a business professional. As I mentioned in my previous post I am part of a small group of business owners and sales professionals who have committed to SWOT exercise for the next four weeks. The format for our SWOT exercise is fairly simple. We meet each week prepared to discuss the current element of SWOT as it pertains to our business or ourselves. We then discuss our findings with the group getting valuable feedback from the other participants in the exercise.  This allows us the ability to further refine our SWOT Analysis.

Today I will review our discussion on Strengths (the “S” in SWOT) as it applies to my business as well as the 15 other small and mid size companies in the exercise. The discussion on Strengths was led by Kerry Klindtworth a realtor with Keller Williams. Kerry started out the discussion with a brief description of SWOT using sites like Mind Tools as references and discussed examples of different strengths from the site. These included the following ideas:

  • What advantages does your company have?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What unique or lowest-cost resources do you have access to?
  • What do people in your market see as your strengths?
  • What factors mean that you “get the sale?”

Kerry started engaging the participants asking them to share their strengths with group. Once they were complete the group would question, add, and help refine the Strengths of that person. Here is some of the discussion:

  • Paula Sassi, Certified Graphologist and owner of Handwriting Consultants International listed her strengths as; 28 years of experience, knowledgeable, timely response (responding to client requests within 24 hours), very easy to contact, great speaker, and entertainer for special events as well as tradeshows. Kerry added “Paula is an expert in her field”. Rufino Autus, Financial Advisor with Autus Financial Group added “Paula is a straight talker and has a unique business for her market”.
  • Justin Stewart, Customer Service Supervisor with San Diego National Bank listed his strengths as; builds rapport with customers quickly, passionate about what he does, thinks outside of the box to find solutions, privately owned local bank, 11 years in banking, and constantly expanding his banking knowledge. Rufino added “Justin loves what he does”. Jexter Isip, IT Consultant and Principal of Dedicated Network Solutions added “Justin is amazing with followup insuring his customers know he values them”.
  • Cathy Peterson, Insurance Agent with Farmers Insurance listed her strengths as; great followup, vast insurance knowledge, and a personal passion to insure her clients have the right coverage. I added “Cathy not only has great followup, she has great follow thru! Always keeping you up to date with referrals she has received”. Jexter added “Cathy has great communication during and after the process of buying insurance”.

So how did I do in this process? What are the strengths of Alan Underkofler, Blogger for Follow Up Success, Consultant on followup strategies for your business, quickly becoming a go to person in the world of Social Media, Speaker, and soon to be published Author. Like everyone else in the process I took time to really reflect on my strengths in regards to my business. The strengths that I listed were; simple tools, unique solutions, cost effective, ease of implementation, 12 years of marketing experience working with both Fortune 500 companies and brand new at home startups, passion for followup, and enthusiasm to help clients achieve desired results. The group confirmed my strengths and added passion and enthusiasm.

Passion and enthusiasm have been strengths of mine for a long time! Passion and enthusiasm has always propelled me to my next challenge in business. Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to go after clients that everyone said were impossible to get, I was blind and deaf to the reasons they gave me! Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to commit to writing inventory and category management software that was unprecedented in our industry, I was blind to the fact that this was not possible! Passion and enthusiasm is what pushes me now… Right now! Pushing to be a blogger, pushing me to complete my book, pushing me to be a better speaker, pushing me to be a top producer in everything I do! I am blinded by my passion and enthusiasm! For me passion and enthusiasm allows me to be blind to failure and negativity, when you can’t see failure or negativity you can’t fail and you have no choice but to be positive! No choice but to be positive!

Obviously I got a bit more out of this than I ever expected! Hopefully you did too! This last paragraph was not about this post. It was about me and what I needed to hear! So, thank you for being a part of it!  What are your strengths, what inspire your passion and enthusiasm, what propels you to succeed?

Look for next week’s post as we take a closer look at Weaknesses (the “W” in SWOT).

SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business

SWOT Analysis is strategic planning method and effective tool to help you understand your Strengths and Weaknesses, and identify the Opportunities and Threats facing your business.  The analysis was created by Albert Humphrey during a research project at Stanford University using data from Fortune 500 companies.  Using SWOT you are looking at the internal and external factors of your business.  Internal factors would be your strengths and weakness while the external factors are the opportunities and threats.  Taking a look at these factors can help you apply your resources and capabilities to your market.

The reason SWOT is so powerful is that in a few hours you can discover opportunities within your business to expand or develop.  Exploring your business weaknesses will allow you to change or eliminate a negative pattern or element of your business you may be unaware of.  As you look at your businesses as well as your competitors using SWOT you will begin to see what sets you apart from your competition and then focusing on these discoveries can give you the competitive edge you are looking for.

SWOT Analysis can be completed by you, with a consultant or coach, with your management team, or with a group of business owners in your network.  The value of bringing others into the discussion is the discovery of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats you may not see on your own.  This should make your analysis more complete and powerful.

The benefit of participating in a SWOT Analysis for small and large business as well as solopreneurs and individuals are dramatic.  Starting next week I will be discussing each element of the SWOT Analysis with a group of small business owners and will share with you what we discover.  The goal is to give you real life examples of how to use SWOT and how it can make a difference in your business.

So you might be asking yourself how does SWOT relate to followup?  Followup will show up as a strength or a weakness for you and your business.  If it’s identified as a strength you might look for ways to improve on what you are already doing.  If followup is identified as a weakness then focusing on followup systems for your business will give you a huge advantage in your market.