November 26, 2013

4 Tips to Avoid a Follow Up Nightmare

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We've all had it happen: the follow up nightmare.

It started with the best intention. "Hey Tony, it's been a while. How are you?" A day later, your inbox shutters. Turns out Tony is doing REALLY well, and he's written 2 paragraphs to tell you about it, along with another paragraph asking about your business and another few sentences asking for pictures of your dog. You tell your assistant to cancel your calls for the day and prepare to email Tony back.

Relationship marketing is a tricky balance: write a message through email/social media that is too general and you run the risk of losing personal connections. Write it with too much interest and inquiry, however, and you will end up burying yourself in a huge pile of work responding back. Or worse, not responding and hurting key business relationships.

Seeing some of the best email habits of highly successful people, I've compiled a list of tips to help craft your messages:

1. Avoid too many open ended questions

Outside of a customary 'How are you?', avoid questions that could potentially elicit a lengthy reply. The most common mistake I've seen is signing off with an open ended question. It seems natural to end an email like you would a chat: 'So.. how's your business going?' Think about your follow-up as more declaratory and strictly as a vehicle to add value.

2. Use a NNTR (No need to reply)

While it may seem a bit awkward, writing "I know you are busy, no need to reply" is actually a huge relief to the recipient of your follow-up. It relieves the burden of a courteous response and lets them know that your respect their time.

3. Carefully design your call to action

Be deliberate about the response you would like to get. If you leave it open, you may find yourself getting buried in response emails. If sending out an article to 50-100 contacts, try this method. 'Thought you'd enjoy this article. If you find it interesting, let me know by tweeting @Myname. Best way to get a hold of me' This serves a dual purpose: you will build social media engagement and also limit their response to 140 characters.

4. Escalate and qualify

A well-executed follow up is a great opportunity to gauge interest. Set a higher hurdle for getting back in touch with you - only those who are truly interested will follow. A good example is through a phone call, office visit, or Skype video chat. 'If you liked what I wrote and want to talk more about my industry, give me a call. Tuesday afternoons are usually best. Due to high volume, email is not the best way to get in touch with me."