February 12, 2013

Contactually's Dos and Don'ts of Following Up


For those of you who didn't know, 2012 was Contactually's first full calendar year of existence. Over the course of the past year, we've learned a ton about... well, everything. From better managing our contacts, to adopting new social media best practices, to, on a much larger scale, learning how to run a company, it's safe to say that 2012 was a big year of learning for all of team Contactually.

One of the most important skills we've perfected as of late is the art of crafting a great follow-up email. It's a core principle on which we've built our company and our product, so by now we think we're pretty good at it as well. I took some time to talk to the Contactually team to compile a list of best practices and tactics that you should avoid in your own efforts.

Without further ado, I present to you the Contactually team's dos and don'ts of following up.


Penny: Know your objective. Regardless if it's your first point of contact or your hundredth, keep a clear objective in mind when you're reaching out to that important contact. What do you want to get out of the call? Are you simply touching base to help retain mindshare? Are you trying to make a sale? Are you spreading the word about a new company promo or deal? If you keep the content of notes and past emails as well as the goal of your follow-up in mind, you'll avoid running the risk of hitting that awkward, silent lull that every professional so desperately wants to avoid.

Sean: Make it easy. I've found that most email readers don't have the time, energy, or even worse, the desire to act on their emails. Keeping that in mind, you should make it as easy for the reader as possible to understand exactly what it is you're trying to accomplish with the email. Be sure to include any relevant links or attachments that will help drive your point home. The best part of that last tip? Your contact won't have to spend any time at all searching for the necessary information, which will greatly increase your follow-up's ROI.

Tony: Watch the clock. If you've just met someone for the first time, make sure you follow up within 24 hours of that first point of contact. As we all know from first-hand experience, the human mind tends to forget things, and the longer you wait to reach out the more likely you are to fall off the radar permanently. What's more? You'll make yourself even more relevant if you reference something specific from your previous conversation. Not only will you better stick in the reader's mind, but you'll also show how much the interaction meant to you.


Zvi: Don't beat a dead horse. If your follow-up efforts for a particular contact repeatedly falls on deaf ears no matter what you try, considering changing your patterns. Try adjusting the intervals at which you send your messages, or varying the content that you include. Often times people are incredibly busy (or simply unresponsive), so a repetitive "hey, how are you?" can do more harm than good. Try switching your routine up a bit so you don't risk look desperate and increase your likelihood of getting that coveted response.

Brian: Don't ramble. You'll want your follow-up efforts to be short and sweet, whether you're reaching out to someone initially or if it's the 30th message in your email chain. Putting too much text and information into your electronic follow-ups tends to convolute your objective and confuse the reader. Further, your follow-ups should serve two purposes: they should encourage further conversation, and should be easy on which to take action. Keeping them concise will help you a lot with both of these goals.

Ouzy: Don't beg. When crafting your follow-ups, keep in mind that all relationships, both personal and professional, are based on a system of give and take. Give first, and you shall receive, I've heard -- and it's true. While it's a great practice to offer the reader your help or services, I've found that asking for something off the bat almost never gets a good response, regardless of whether or not I've offered something first.

Do you have a particularly strong best practice that you employ for your follow-up efforts? Let us know in the comments. Who knows, if it's good enough, maybe you'll make our team's official dos and don'ts list!