Stalking Your Business Prey: 5 Ways to Fail at Follow-up

I could feel his eyes on me, watching my every move.

I opened his email, scanned the content, clicked on the link and arrived at the landing page. I carefully filled out the registration form, clicked on the download button … and BOOM! The phone rang with his follow-up call.

I gasped, picked up the phone and without even identifying myself said, in utter disbelief, “Don’t tell me you’re following up on the paper I downloaded TWO SECONDS ago?”

I could hear him chuckle before he said “I just wanted to see if you had any questions.”

“How could I have any questions?” I exclaimed. “I haven’t had a second to even open the PDF!”

Have we moved to an era where salespeople are so desperate to meet sales pipeline quotas that they think it’s appropriate to contact a potential lead within seconds or minutes of a download?

Needless to say, he’s tried calling me back again, and again, and again over the last few weeks. But since I enjoy call display, I’m going out of my way to avoid answering. Why? Because his behavior was so creepy, I don’t want to engage in any sort of dialogue with him – ever. In fact, he’s turned me into a “brand evader.

In this pressure-filled business world, using content to lure potential prospects into the sales funnel is an extremely common marketing strategy. But the follow-up needs to be carefully strategized: whether it’s message, timing or contact channel. And I find most marketing and sales people have already picked up a dozen bad habits.

The Random Connection
I seem to attract lots of interest from others on LinkedIn. I get invitations to Link In with dozens of people each week — most of which I ignore. Why? Because the only note attached to their invitation is the LinkedIn default message “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

I look at their name, title and the company they represent and think, “No thanks. You’re just going to try and sell me something.”

While LinkedIn is a powerful relationship building tool, it would work harder if you DO NOT use that default language. Instead, just like you test outbound email copy, try testing different introductory email messages. Try making note of the relationship between our two businesses and why it might make sense to connect. Or highlight what it was about my profile that made you want to connect with me. Test, refine and learn. It’s direct marketing 101.

Email Invitations to a Prescheduled Meeting
I don’t know who came up with this strategy, but it’s got to stop. The first time I got one, I thought “Wow. I’m really getting old. I have no memory of talking to this guy, let alone agreeing to a conference call/demo meeting.”

Since the time suggested for the meeting was a conflict on my calendar, I politely declined. But another one arrived about 2 days later – same guy, same company, same meeting invitation strategy.

I declined again. And, placed his name on my SPAM list.

Persistent Personal Email
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails that say things like “I’m following up on my previous email, in case you didn’t get it …” Oh, I got it all right. I deleted it. And now, I’m flagging you as a spammer, too.

The Inexperienced Phone Caller
One of my colleagues recently posted this unbelievable inbound phone call to her Facebook page so we could all enjoy the idiocy of this inexperienced sales guy. This is verbatim.

“Hello Denise, this is Enterprise.”
“Hello Enterprise.”
“Yes I’m calling because, like, we see you have an account.”
“Ding Ding Ding correct.”
“So we noticed, like, you’re not renting cars like at all.”
“That’s right.”
“So like why is that?”
“Because I haven’t needed a rental car.”
“Like is that gonna change?”
“Like I don’t know.”
“Because we want to know if you’re gonna lease a car.”
“Well I will certainly let you know. Can I get a free ride sometime?”
“Like I don’t think so but I can check.”

Come on. Who hired this guy? Who trained him? Who had the bright idea to give him a list of past customers and set him loose?

I get it. Selling is hard. But I can guarantee that NONE of these strategies will be successful.

Oh, and by the way, let me download and read my business article in peace. Then try emailing me with similar articles that I might like. Keep doing that and I’ll soon become familiar with your brand and, perhaps, engage in a conversation. But I warn you. More likely than not, I’m merely doing research on behalf of a client and I have no influence over purchase whatsoever.

Mail-to-Email Conversions

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and our best efforts have consistently included direct mail

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and while we’ve published a few eBooks on the topic with myriad fodder, our best efforts have consistently come from those that include direct mail.

As most of you know, renting, purchasing, borrowing and partnering in order to email clients in a lead generation effort is fraught with risks ranging from simply annoying your customers to losing sending privileges through your ESP. Though many claim that a mailbox full of junk mail is akin to an inbox full of spam, the effort it takes to remove oneself from a direct-mail list just seems too burdensome for most of us and we will continue to allow a company to burn through paper and postage despite our complete lack of interest in their message well beyond our initial feelings of annoyance. Whereas with email, the spam button, unsubscribe link or reply email is simply far too easy and thus instills extreme power and often unwarranted indignation when a brand should dare email us any type of unsolicited content. We’re not only quick to unsubscribe, if it happens again, we’re likely to fire off an irate email and even go so far as to report them to their ISP or ESP. This can cause permanent damage to the brand and inhibit their ability to send future emails.

Given these risks, we’ve found that the best way to approach lead generation is through the combined use of print and email. Rather than hazard the acquisition of a list of persons who did not specifically subscribe to receive our messages, Spider Trainers counsels clients to purchase the same list selects as a direct-mail list and forgo the email address—we will collect this later. Direct-mail lists are typically less or even much less costly than an email list, and this cost savings can be applied toward the postage and printing costs of a direct mail.

The direct-mail piece is used to entice engagement through the use of a high-value offer that drives traffic to a targeted squeeze page and, in many cases, from there to a microsite focused either on introducing the brand or introducing the product, depending upon how recognizable the brand is to the audience.

FruitRevival (a company providing recurring fresh-fruit delivery to Denver businesses), is in the process of launching just such a campaign. We created a square postcard (we have found that square postcards have a measurably higher engagement rate) for their list segmented as: newly rented direct-mail names, customers who have purchased a fruit gift box, and customers who have received a fruit gift box. Three different headlines and matching copy provide an A/B testing platform along with a call to action (CTA) for a free sample box delivered to themselves or to a person they choose.

Using this high-value CTA, FruitRevival hopes to attract the postcard recipients to their squeeze page where they will collect their email address as well as responses to five very simple questions. Lead scoring of responses will flag recipients ready for immediate sales follow-up (high scorers), move them into an active nurturing campaign (mid-range scorers), or drop them into the drip campaign (low scorers).

Keep your eye on two big rocks: the higher the value of the gift, the higher the conversion rate, and the more focused your list, the more likely the audience will be receptive to the offer. With the right combination, you can easily far surpass the engagement rates you will get with an email list that has not specifically opted in to your messages.