Follow Up or Fall on Your Face

Guerrilla affiliates know well the importance of customer followup and prospect follow-up because they know what it takes to succeed in business.

Why do most businesses lose customers? Poor service? Nope. Poor quality? Nope. Well, then why? I say, it’s apathy after the sale. Most businesses lose customers by ignoring them to death. A numbing 68 percent of all business lost in America is lost due to apathy after the sale.

Misguided business owners and affiliates think that marketing is over once they’ve made the sale. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Marketing begins once you’ve made the sale. It’s of momentous importance to you and your company that you understand this. I’m sure you will by the time you’ve come to the end of this article.

The Guerrilla Way to Follow Up

First of all, you need to understand how guerrilla affiliates view follow-up. Although, affiliates are not actually making the sale, the merchant they promote is; often the customer doesn’t really understand that. So, a good affiliate makes it part of their DNA to have good follow-up because they know it costs 10 times more to sell something to a new customer than to an existing customer.

They have a follow-up strategy, just as they have a marketing strategy. That follow-up strategy dictates what they’ll do in the way of follow-up and how often they’ll do it. It helps them stay on track. It helps them remember that follow-up is part of their day-to-day business.

When a guerrilla affiliate makes a sale, the customer receives a followup thank-you note within 48 hours. When’s the last time a business sent you a thank-you note within 48 hours? Maybe once? Maybe never? Probably never. Now that email is part of business, the answer should be “always” because email follow-up is so easy. I buy things online and usually get a thank-you email not in two days, not in one day, not even in two hours, but often in two minutes. Technology makes that possible. Your customers know it, so they’re learning to expect it.

The guerrilla affiliate sends another note or email or perhaps makes a phone call 30 days after the sale. This contact is to see if everything is going well with the purchase and if the customer has any questions. It is also to help solidify the relationship. Guerrillas know that the way to develop relationships – the key to survival in an increasingly entrepreneurial society – is through tenacious customer follow-up (and prospect follow-up, which we haven’t even addressed yet).

Guerrilla affiliates send their customers another note within 90 days, this time informing them of a new and related product or service. Possibly it’s a new offering that the guerrilla business now provides. And maybe it’s a product or service offered by one of the guerrilla’s fusion marketing partners (those who enter into business agreements such as mutual links and advertisements).

Guerrilla affiliates are very big on forging marketing alliances with businesses throughout the community and – using the Internet – throughout the world. These tie-ins enable them to increase their marketing exposure while reducing their marketing costs, a noble goal. More marketing, less expense. That’s a pretty healthy formula to follow.

After six months, the customer hears from the guerrilla again, this time with the preview announcement of an upcoming sale. Nine months after the sale, the guerrilla sends a note asking the customer for the names of three people who might benefit from being included on the guerrilla’s mailing list. If the company chooses to use surface mail for this, a postpaid envelope is provided. Because the guerrilla has been keeping in touch with the customer – and because only three names are requested – the customer often supplies the names.

After one year, the customer receives an anniversary card celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first sale. Perhaps a coupon for a discount is snuggled in the envelope or attached to the email.

Fifteen months after the sale, the guerrilla sends the customer a questionnaire, filled with questions designed to provide insights into the customer. The questionnaire has a paragraph at the start that reads, “We know your time is valuable, but the reason we’re asking so many questions is because the more we know about you, the better service we can provide you.” This makes sense. The customer completes and returns the questionnaire.

Perhaps after 18 months, the customer receives an announcement of still more new products and services that tie in with the original purchase. And the beat goes on. The customer, rather than being a one-time buyer, becomes a repeat buyer – the kind of person who refers others to the guerrilla’s business. A bond is formed. The bond intensifies with time and follow-up.

Let me put this in numeric terms to burn it into your mind. Let’s say you earn a $200 profit every time you send a customer to a merchant and they make a big sale. If you send the customer a thank-you note, the one-month note, the three-month note, the six-month note, the nine-month note, the anniversary card, the questionnaire, the constant alerting of new offerings, the customer, instead of making one purchase during the course of a year, might make three purchases. That same customer refers your business to four other people. Your bond is not merely for the length of the transaction but for as long as say, 20 years.

Because of your follow-up, that one customer is worth $400,000 to you (assuming three purchases per year and the referred sales, both initial and repeat). So that’s your choice: $200 with no follow-up or $400,000 with follow-up. And the cost of follow-up is not high because you already have the name of the people with whom you’ll be following up.

Following Up With Prospects

Some wise affiliates have already figured out the crucial importance of customer follow-up but still haven’t got a clue about prospect follow-up. Heed the words of author Harvey Mackay, who wrote, Swim with The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. At a 1992 presentation in Calgary, Harvey faced the audience of more than 1,000 people and claimed, “We have never failed to close the sale with a person we have identified as a prospect.”

I admit that I was shocked to hear that. A 100 percent close rate. I knew that Harvey was a great closer, but 100 percent? Then I heard what he said next: “Sometimes, we close that prospect within two weeks. Other times, it may take as long as seven years.” Seven years?

Prospect follow-up is not a single act, but a process that goes on and on. That proves to prospects that you really care, that you really will work hard satisfying them because you’re working so darned hard to get their business. The truth is that prospect follow-up is lush terrain for guerrilla affiliates. Prospects who have been contacted by others and then ignored are ripe and ready for the company that will contact them and stay in touch. They know when they are being ignored and they know when their favor is being curried.

The cost of prospect follow-up is also not high – for the same reason as with customers. Prospect follow- up, however, is different from customer followup. For one thing, you can’t send a thank-you note – yet. But you can consistently follow up, never giving up and realizing that if you’re second in line, you’ll get the business when the business that’s first in line messes up. And they will foul up. Know how? Of course you do. They’ll fail to follow up enough.


JAY CONRAD LEVINSON is the acknowledged father of guerrilla marketing with more than 14 million books sold in his Guerrilla Marketing series, now in 41 languages. His website is guerrillamarketingassociation.com.