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June  2013
Issue #44

The Road to Never Land

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The subject line read, "Today or Tomorrow?"

Usually when I see emails sporting come-ons like this, I trash 'em in an instant. But something told me to sneak a peek at this one first.

Turns out the email was legit and came from a well-known software vendor. The nominal sender, Kyley, thanked me for researching marketing automation software and asked to set up a Web conference to discuss her product's astonishing features. Then, evidently concerned that I hadn't replied within eight milliseconds, she left a voicemail in which she pretty much just read the email.

Problem was, no matter how hard I scratched my head, I couldn't recall looking at this vendor's website or providing them with any contact information (although my head did stop itching). Even after rummaging through my inbox, all I turned up was an email from an analyst firm offering a whitepaper that this vendor had sponsored. But I had never registered to download the thing.

I dunno, maybe the inside sales folks were contacting everyone on the send list and not just those who acted on the offer.

Anyway, I know I'm making a bigger deal out of this than it deserves. But the episode got me thinking about why it's crucial to coordinate outbound campaigns (whether digital or direct) with their follow-up actions.

Because few people will go to the trouble of doing what I did and hunt down the reason behind the email.

So after creating the content, emails, direct mail pieces, thank-you notes, landing and registration pages, blog posts, banner ads and PPC keywords, there is still more to be done. That is, to create a follow-up process and toolset.

And although the responsibility for this work lies in the nether region between marketing and sales, it is critical to making a connection with your recipients and getting the response you're looking for.

Here are some things to consider when creating that process...
  • Write clear email templates and phone scripts. Avoid leading with a vague reference about "doing research." Instead, remind the recipient not only who you are, but what specific action he or she took to warrant the follow-up - like referencing the whitepaper's title and date of the download. If you sponsored the original content or tendered the offer through a second party or rented email list, stress that point as well. Otherwise, the recipient won't recognize your company's name and will spend the entire conversation wondering just who the heck you are.
  • Know who you're talking to. Kyley's process apparently didn't allow her to take a few minutes to check out my website or LinkedIn profile. So she didn't know what business I'm in, if I was proper potential customer, or even if I'm the go-to person at my company. By doing some upfront work, she could have started a profile, compared it to likely buyers and made a decision whether or not to contact me. And she would have wowed me by chatting about my background and business.
  • Don't jump the gun. Not everyone is ready to go from downloading a whitepaper to product demo. Define multiple "next steps" along with a set of readiness criteria for each one. Then, coordinate your email and phone communications. For instance, make the job of the email to set up a phone call. And make the job of the call to determine what each recipient's readiness level is and then propose a suitable next step that won't scare them away.
By communicating to recipients what triggered your follow-up, and then building research and flexibility into your process, you'll improve the chances of making an immediate connection and getting a positive response. Because if those recipients can't make that connection right away, they'll probably say, "Today? Tomorrow? How about a week from never!"

And who has time to wait that long?

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