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Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to Follow Up with Customers and Prospects After Your Initial Contact

How often do parents call you on the phone and say, "I'm ready to sign up for camp right now"?

Maybe it happens from time to time. But more likely it takes a series of contacts with people before they're ready to register for camp. This is why customer follow-up is so important.

Since people sign up for camp when THEY'RE ready, not necessarily when YOU want them to, you need a follow-up strategy that gets people to register for camp sooner rather than later. Here's what I suggest.

Keep a list of EVERY prospect you speak with. At the very least collect their email addresses, phone numbers and physical addresses. I can't tell you how many times I've seen camp directors have promising first contacts with people, only to lose the enrollment because they failed to get the required follow-up information.

However long you wait before following up is up to you. I follow up with my mine prospects every seven to 10 days. Any longer than that, people start to forget who the hell you are. You also give your competitors too large a window to swoop in and "steal" the enrollment.

There's lots of ways you can follow up with people. Call, email or send them a note. But don't be pushy unless you wanna come off like a jerk. Don't be like, "Hey, why aren't you ready to sign up for camp yet?"

When you follow up with someone, you might start with a soft sell, then increase your tone as you go along. Be subtle, but at the same time you MUST motivate the the prospect to register for camp as soon as possible, otherwise they'll put it off as long as possible. So here's what you might do.

You might start out by calling them on the phone and saying, "Hi Jennifer, it's Eric from Aloha Beach Camp. You know what, I just wanted to follow up to make sure you got the brochure you requested and see if I could answer any questions for you."

Now we all know what Jennifer's gonna do. She's gonna thank you for calling, but she's also gonna make up some lame excuse like, "Well, we're very interested in your camp, but we've haven't even had a chance to look at your brochure yet. In fact it's sitting right here on my desk! I just need a little more time to look it over and speak with my husband..."

Blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. Whatever Jennifer can do to delay trading her hard-earned money for camp, she's gonna do for sure. So here's what you say back.

You say, "Oh, I understand. I know it's a big decision. Maybe we can touch base again in another week or so. Just real quickly though, before we say goodbye, the other reason I called is because our Early Bird discount is expiring soon, and I thought you'd be interested in saving a little money..."

Or here's something else you could say:

"Oh, I understand. I know it's a big decision. Maybe we can touch base again in another week or so. Just real quickly though, before we say goodbye, the other reason I'm calling is because we just got a bunch of enrollments today in your son's age group and now we only have a few spots left. I just felt compelled to let you know while you still had the opportunity to get in..."

Granted, the second example is a harder sell than the first. You need to decide for yourself what you're comfortable doing.) But in either case, you've got Jennifer on the ropes...she's almost hooked, and here's why.

She's either gonna be fearful, guilty or both if she doesn't sign up NOW. Why?

Because 1) she'll have to pay full price for camp (which NOBODY wants to do), and/or 2) her kid might miss out on the great camp experience you're providing (which she'll kick herself about later).

Fear and guilt are HUGE sales motivators. And please don't mistake "motivate" for "manipulate." You're not trying to manipulate anyone into anything; you don't want anyone attending your camp if they're not ready or don't want to go.

But for the most part, your goal should ALWAYS be to motivate people to sign up, and to sign up NOW, otherwise they'll put if off as long as possible if you don't give them a push.

You know what? I just reread this post and said to myself, "Man, wouldn't it be sweet if we could just say, "OK everyone, it's time to sign up for camp now," and then all our enrollment spots would be filled? LOL! If only it were that easy...

But of course marketing's not that easy. It's hard. So I hope you'll take time to develop a consistent and effective customer follow-up strategy that combines relationship-building and sales skills directed at motivating people to sign up for camp sooner rather than later.

As someone responsible for marketing a summer camp, that's your #1 job.

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