Somebody reaches out regarding your services or products. You send over pricing, details, and other answers to questions. And then you wait to hear from the prospect. Either she responds or doesn’t—but you leave it at that.
If that sounds like you, my guess is that you’re leaving money on the table. And maybe even a lot of money.
So, what else should you be doing? Following up.
Following up is important because you’re able to learn more about your customers, it encourages people to make a decision, and allows you to make informed adjustments to your business whether it’s changing up your prices or the way you present your services.
Some people believe that following-up sounds desperate. Maybe you’re a high-end or luxury service provider and you think it would be off-brand to ask people where they stand. But following up doesn’t have to sound desperate. Really, it’s just way to continue moving someone from stranger to fan to customer.
Think about how busy your life is. Those people who just inquired about your services? Yeah, they’re busy, too. There’s a good chance they have other things to think about than you, they might have reached out to others who offer similar services or products, and–regardless–they probably have some more questions.
By following-up, you’re showing that you understand all those things.
You Learn More When You Follow-Up
Whether or not someone buys from you, there’s an opportunity to learn a whole heck of a lot about your prospects. But it requires that you’re intentional about the questions you ask.
We created a spreadsheet for our wedding photography business so we could track our inquiries and identify any trends.
When someone inquires, we record their information and the date they inquired in this spreadsheet. About a week later, we send a follow-up email asking if the prospect has any questions and if there’s a good time to meet in the near future.
This almost always prompts a response, and it’s almost always informative. Responses range from “you’re out of our budget” to “we decided to go with another photographer” to “sorry, we’ve just been so busy” etc.
But each response provides insight into how potential customers think. After a while you might notice that almost everyone asks the same question. Is there a way you can preemptively answer that question in your initial response?
Following-up Encourages People to Make a Decision
The buying process, especially for more expensive stuff, often involves a series of micro-commitments or “small-yeses” before one is ready to make the big purchase. This might include liking your work and then answering yes in response to your call-to-action to fill out the contact form. Then after receiving some information from you, they might say yes to a meeting. Each “yes” results in a slightly bigger commitment than the one prior, and is another step in building trust.
Following-up is an opportunity to move people towards the bigger decision. In our follow-up, we ask the inquirer if she has any more questions and if she wants to jump on a quick call. We’ve never received an email back from someone saying, “I don’t know.” And while we occasionally don’t receive a reply, we usually do.
Make More Informed Adjustments to Your Business
How many times have you entered a slow season and have had a panic attack because you’re not quite sure why things are slowing down? Following up and recording notes about each lead gives you insight into your business.
While it takes some time to collect enough data to see patterns, it’s invaluable when you do. Maybe you notice that things tend to slow down each year in May, but pick-up again by July. Now you know there’s no reason to worry, but you can be proactive in planning for June.
Or perhaps people are continually replying and mentioning that you’re out of their budget. You can either lower your prices, figure out how to reach a higher-end client, or better educate current prospects on why you’re worth the investment.
You can improve your client experience by paying attention to the questions people are asking you because those questions are often the obstacles in booking you. 7 of the last 10 people asked the same question? You’ll probably want to start incorporating the answer in your initial response to the prospect or in your marketing materials.
Your First Follow-up Email is Key
The first email that’s sent when replying to an inquiry is key. The biggest mistake we see in this email is a weak call-to-action (CTA) that goes something like:
If you’re interested in chatting more, we’d be happy to jump on a quick Skype call.
You know whoever reached out is interested—that’s why they reached out. Instead of asking whether they’re interested in chatting more, ask whether they have time to chat in the next few days. If you can provide a link or some automated way to schedule a call, that’s even better!
Here’s an example email that can be sent when responding to an inquiry:
Congrats on your engagement! We love shooting at the Magnolia Spring House. We actually shot there a few times last year, and you can check out one of our most recent weddings there by clicking this link.
I’ve attached some information about working with us below. Do you have any time to chat in the next few days? You can schedule a call using this link, or send over a few days/times that work.
We look forward to hearing from you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
That email will vary a bit based on your process when booking clients and how you send materials. It’s also become more popular to send video responses when leads inquire. Even if your response is in video format, we suggest including the same elements you see above.
In general, that first response should include:
- A strong call-to-action (CTA). Tell people how to take the next step and encourage them to do so!
- Social proof. Linking to past work that’s been published, similar projects, or content that might be relevant to the lead.
- Any qualifying information. This might include a link or attachment with your investment guide, or a few questions you send to make sure the lead is qualified to work with you. Remember, the more steps you make people take at this stage, the less likely they are to take the next step. This can be a good thing if you’re inundated with work, but it’s not helpful if you’re struggling to find work.
Dialing in your initial response can help improve the efficacy of all your follow-up emails.
Tips for an Effective Follow-Up
A good follow-up is about asking the right questions and then listening well to the responses. If you’re not asking a question in your follow-up, you’re probably not making the most of the opportunity.
Be sure the question you ask requires an answer, but also nurtures the prospect. I probably wouldn’t follow-up with a question like, “Have you made a decision yet?” Rather, I’d say something like, “Do you have any questions about the galleries or collections we sent over?”
A good follow-up is also timely. The timeframe will depend on what you’re offering. It’s generally easier to make decisions about lower-priced items, so you might want to follow-up within a day or two. Higher priced items require more deliberation (and probably input from a significant other), so you might have more time to follow-up.
And always reply–even if the answer is “no.” It might be as simple as saying something like, “I understand. Thanks for your consideration!” You might even suggest a few alternatives that are in their budget or a better fit. That kind of stuff can go a long way, and might result in a sale down the road.
Here are my favorite tips for following up:
- Be concise. Limit your follow-ups to 1-2 sentences.
- Ask a single question. Asking a question makes it more likely someone will respond; however, too many questions might delay a response.
- Follow-up quickly. Don’t let too much time pass between emails.
- Follow-up often. No response doesn’t mean people aren’t interested; if often just means they’re busy, which is why it’s important to follow up at least a few times.
- Provide context. Remind people why you’re following up.
- Create urgency. Encourage people to respond.
- Use a tracking tool. Something like mailtrack.io will give you insight into whether your email has been opened, how many times it’s been read, and if links have been clicked.
Here’s one of our favorite follow-up emails to send. It’s short, simple and frequently elicits a response:
Do you have any questions about the materials I sent over?
Typically people will either respond by sending over a few questions or by taking whatever action we mentioned in our first email, such as scheduling a call.
How Long Should You Wait Before Following Up? And How Many Times Should You Follow Up?
Don’t wait too long! People typically reach out to more than one service provider when they’re hiring someone, and you better believe that someone else they’ve reached out to will follow-up. Try to reply to inquiries on the same day that they’re sent. This way you’ll likely catch them at a time when they’ve made the mental space to deal with finding a solution to whatever problem they’re trying to solve.
Your first follow-up email should be sent within 1-2 days if you don’t hear back from your lead. You’ll want to reach out to people while you or the problem that you can solve is still top-of-mind for your lead.
The next follow-up email should be sent around 2 days after the previous follow-up. We think following up every 2-3 days is a good interval, and balances being too pesky with also not letting a lead go cold. There’s a lot of research out there about how many times one should follow-up to get a response. Most of it typically says somewhere between four and seven attempts, so try following up at least four times with a lead before moving on.
Here’s an example of a follow-up email you can use if your first few haven’t received a response:
Are you still looking for a photographer for your wedding this October? I shot a wedding this past fall at your venue that was recently published that reminded to reach back out.
Do you have any time to chat this week? You can use this link to schedule a call, or send over a few days/times that work for you.
I’m looking forward to connecting!
Incorporating some social proof while reaching out is an effective way to catch people’s attention. It also doesn’t have to be work that was published. It could just be a recent gallery. If you’re using something like Mailtrack (mentioned above), you’ll be able to see whether or not the lead clicked on the link you provided.
‘Going Negative’ and ‘The Magic Email’ Follow-Up
You may have heard of ‘The Magic Email’ follow-up. It’s typically an email that’s sent at the end of a follow-up campaign that utilizes a principle that Mark Roberge of The Sales Acceleration Formula calls ‘going negative.’
‘Going negative’ typically looks something like this:
I haven’t heard back from you so I’m assuming that you are no longer interested in a family photography session at this time. If something changes in the future, please let us know.
‘The Magic Email’ is even more brief than this, but essentially the same principle is applied. It might feel a bit ‘short,’ but it works!
Why does it work? I’m sure there’s a psychological reason that this email encourages a response.
Following Up After Sending a Contract and Invoice
There’s nothing worse than a lead saying she’s going to move forward and then disappearing off the face of the earth. It happens occasionally, and sometimes it’s for reasons out of your control. Often, however, there are things one can do to prevent this from happening.
Here are a few tips for preventing a lead from ghosting you after he or she has committed to moving forward:
- Make sure you’ve been speaking with all the decision makers. For instance, if you’re a wedding photographer, it’s best to do a call with the couple so you can answer any questions or concerns at once.
- Give people a deadline. Remind people that you can only hold a date for 24 hours after a contract is sent, or that the deal you’re providing expires after 72 hours. Anything longer than 72 hours is generally too much time to give people.
- Provide a ‘fast-action’ bonus. Is there some sort of bonus that you can provide people for acting quickly?
- Send the contract quickly after commitment. Don’t wait days to send the next steps after someone has committed to moving forward.
Here’s an example of an email that you can send:
You can find the contract and invoice attached. Once you’ve signed the contract and paid the retainer, your date will be reserved! As a reminder, we can only hold your date for the next 24 hours.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. We’re so excited to work with you!
Of course, you can punch this email up however you’d like. We’d recommend including a personal note at the beginning of the email.
Track Your Inquiries and Don’t Skip the Follow-Up
Whatever you do, don’t skip the follow-up! It can be a powerful way to gain insight into your customer and your business, especially when you’re just getting started.
If you’re not tracking your inquiries, it can be difficult to understand what’s working and what’s not when it comes to nurturing leads. Many CRMs will track inquiries, automate your follow-up campaigns, and provide helpful reports. However, if you can’t invest in a CRM, you can still create a simple tracking spreadsheet.