biz ladies 09: the fortune in the follow up

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today’s biz ladies post comes from zoe pawlak, painter and part of team loaded bow. zoe is covering a great topic today- one that is especially important in times like these- the follow up. whether you’re looking to turn verbal interest into actual sales, or just need some tips for follow up etiquette, zoe has you covered. thanks to zoe for sharing these tips with us today!

CLICK HERE for the full article after the jump!

The Fortune in the Follow Up

This past year I have had the pleasure of working at my business full time. I am an artist determined not only to make quality work, but to make a living for my family from doing what I love. Thanks to Nikko Moy for her great article on making a living promoting and selling fine art online.

Like many business ladies, this particular business presents some challenges and great advantages. One of the ways we can have success is to follow through with clients. In the following Biz Ladies Article, I will share with you some of my stories about follow ups and specifically the value of giving back through various mediums including The Thank You Card.

Some of the reasons we as Biz ladies fail to follow up (effectively) with clients is that we either:

1. don’t know how to recognize opportunity
2. don’t know what to say to not seem like we are pathetically asking for business (Read: $)
3. have followed up with little or no recognition
4. are not sure if the client is still in our warm market
5. have no way to measure if your past follow ups (or follow throughs) are effective
6. can’t conceive of innovative and inexpensive ways to follow up

1. How to recognize opportunity and follow up appropriately:

As an artist, I present my work in a public setting. Either at openings or anytime I say that I am an artist, I hear a lot of “Ohhhh, I love your work!” or “I would love to have one of your pieces in my home!” etc.

Turning that verbal interest into money is how I make my living. One of the most important things I do in my business is to listen. Take note of who is interested and then follow through.

Example: A women came to my show in April and said that she was renovating. She doesn’t yet have the money and a set place for a painting of mine, but would “love to buy one in the near future.” We engage, I listened more to her. I ask her to sign my guest book and then I email her with a follow up. I send a warm hello and attach a few new paintings accompanying the note with imagery. So far, I have met her expectations.

But I need to <EXCEED her expectations to stay in her mind and ensure that when she does go to spend $2,000 on a painting, she directs her money my way. In order to stay in business, you must be remarkable. How are you showing your client that you are remarkable?

Continue example: I then send her a hand written Thank You Card for coming to my show. I mention her reno and her fab scarf (which I truly loved and hope she will wrap around a check for me when she buys a painting). I listen to my client to illustrate: “I get you and acknowledge you.” I cannot of course, ensure that she will buy from me, but I do know that ‘Big Business’ is not doing anything to show her that “They get, appreciate and acknowledge her.” And if they are, then I need to step it up to be first in her mind! I learned a lot about recognizing opportunity and about customer love from the book “Hug Your Customer” by Jack Mitchell.

I listen to my interested buyers because I genuinely want to facilitate them owning a piece of my art and the more they buy, the longer I am employed. I always keep in mind my dislike for my former profession as a waitress enough to follow through! If you are afraid to follow up, use a memory, reason or photograph to remind you of why it is worth it.

2. What to say to not seem like we are pathetically asking for business:

Check your intention. Obviously you want to grow your business, but you don’t want to seem desperate. (What do you do if you are desperate? You may need to find other sources of income to grow your business if you are in constant state of stress about how to keep the income stream coming in. People can smell desperation and unfortunately, we cannot be in a detached, grateful state if we are in constant stress. I can write on this any other time.)

Some Biz Ladies feel badly taking ‘too much money’ or facilitating a sale, but I believe people spend money on what they value. Our job is to show them the value of our service and/or product and then let them decide how to spend their money.

Think about how you want to be treated as a customer and check your intention to ensure you are committing to their experience rather than fishing for dollars.

3. We have followed up with little or no recognition:

Sometimes you do a mail out, mass email or newsletter and you have no idea whether anyone read it. There are a few ways to check if what you have sent out is being read.

One is to watch the natural response you get from your mail out. If 10 people write back from a 20 person mail out, then you know you are getting a great response to your efforts. After a mail out or newsletter goes out, I always watch my Google Analytics to see if there is a noticeable effect on my site traffic.

The other way to see if what you sent out is being read is to ask. I recently did a mail out to all interior designers in the Vancouver area to make them familiar with my work. Then I called everyone after two weeks to follow up. Most said “Yes I got it, you are file.” Or “No I didn’t get that, can you please resend it but in email format?” Do a phone call shortly afterwards so that it you ensure that mail is received while your name is still fresh in the prospective customers mind.

Timing is important. Example: Do not do your mail out three weeks before Christmas unless it is essential to your product or strategy. I intentionally did this mail out about 6 weeks ago so that I could see all their lovely faces at last months IDS West Show in Vancouver. We then got to connect in person. If your prospective dream buyers will not come to you, go to where they are to follow up.

4. How do we still know if a client is still warm?

One of the hardest things for me is letting go. (The real letting go, not the pretend kind.)

How do you know if the client got your card, wants a painting from you or is just busy? If you presume a client is still warm then it’s worth a follow up.

Example: An out of town girlfriend recently saw my work on Facebook, and loved it. She professed interest so I followed up with a meet and greet when she came home for a visit. I consider her “warm.” She then missed an opportunity for a studio visit and had to go back home to where she was visiting from. I then followed up with an email with pictures attached to show that I value her potential business. She then wrote a lovely letter back and said, “I am interested in your work and will definitely be buying one of the pieces this year. I will check your site. Email me new paintings and thank you for the follow up.”

She said she will buy within the year and made it clear that she will become a client. I need not to follow up with her anymore except to respect her by following her request to see all new work via email as it arrives.

Anything more and it would be a lack of respect of her time and wishes. This could jeopardize the sale altogether, as well as the relationship that we are building between friendship and business. My job is to have faith in the process and trust it will turn out favorably.

Also note that she said that she will follow up ‘this year’ Put a note in your calendar or Blackberry. If she does not buy by Jan 1st you could send her some form of a New Years card which will gently remind her of your work. Always respect clearly stated gestation periods.

5. Measuring the follow up:

Just like you listen to your clients to hear who is interested, you must watch how these warm clients turn into profit so that you sustain your business. Sales funnel: Potential clients -> buyers -> profit. Set up simple systems that work for you or use an excel spread sheet.

Example: You do Thank You Cards every Fri morning for 15 minutes or every Wed when you watch your show. It has been proven that you can in fact be sincere while watching America’s Next Top Model!

If the fortune is in the follow up then you must become an excellent tracker of all aspects of your business.

6. Can’t conceive of an innovative and inexpensive way to follow up:

1. Change the medium and exceed expectations.
2. Email with attached images. Giving a photo shows you care. Visuals are golden. Example: “Here are the pictures from the BBQ…Thanks for your help with…”
3. Hand written card or post card.
4. Fax: An innovative fax could be a great way to get fresh.
5. Give a (burnt ? – I am not condoning the action but the cost-effectiveness?) CD. Example: I now give a CD of the music I listened to while painting the clients painting.
6. Tickets to something thoughtful.
7. Tweet about the other persons’ company or service to promote them.
8. Give a relevant book
9. Texting or instant messaging, as soon as you leave the event or meeting to say “Thank you, I had a great time! You are hilarious and I especially enjoyed the milkshake!”
10. If you have a larger budget, all you have to do is be thoughtful. Think of a gift that can be used. Always offer meaning with thanks. Example: A friend who is a real-estate agent sold a 2 million dollar house with an insanely large deck and gave the guy an amazing BBQ.

In conclusion

In today’s fast paced world most people do not take the time to make a connection with someone. To keep customers engaged, we need to follow up and be ‘first of mind’. Keeping in touch with people is essential.

“From calling on former customers to checking in on new leads…it is critical to stay in touch with people on a regular basis…it takes time to develop the trust required for someone to do business with us. If we’re a “stranger” they might hesitate even though they want or need what we offer. Some studies have shown it typically takes 7 to 12 contacts before a sale is made” -Kevin Stirtz

People have a lot of things going on. By dropping them a lovely handwritten postcard, they may be reminded of your interaction with them and their desire to maintain relationship and/or do business with you may increase.

Women generally excel at maintaining important relationships, but even when we get busy, we must never forget the power of connection with one another. Women especially love to be thanked and it is crucial that we give thanks to those customers who have helped us get to this point in our careers. After all, they could have shopped anywhere, but they chose you. Even if the follow up does not lead to any future business, showing your customers you care is the best way for them to keep a warm impression of you and recommend you to their friends.

When you exceed expectations in business you are heralded as someone special. Rare are the hand written notes and phone calls. It is this connection with your clients which is most important. Relationships are a currency that can freely flow through business transactions from one person to another.

These suggestions above put you (or your employees or work culture in general) in emotional contact with your clients which ultimately lead them to regards you as a woman of integrity who is dedicated to sincerity in follow up which will inevitably be respected and rewarded.

Zoe Recommends Book list:

Hug Your Customers

The Purple Cow or anything by Seth Godin really

Love is the Killer App.

The Back of the Napkin

Saving the World at Work

Cheap books to buy en-mass to thank other Biz Folks:

800 CEO Read

________________

*As my thank you to Grace and her readers, I am offering 5 FREE Thank You Post Card pdfs to anyone who emails me at info@zoepawlak.com. This is a series of 5 custom made postcard pdfs that you can send off to your local printer to start you ‘thank yous’ and follow ups with ease, affordability and style! *

Many thanks to NJ Thompson, Gen Ennis and Heather White for their invaluable input on this article.

Thank you, Zoe Pawlak.

Chaya Goodman

This is just the kind of article women like me need to read. I remember reading Suze Orman’s “Young, Fabulous, and Broke” and feeling like the world was going to collapse if I didn’t open a mutual fund. This is the other side of the coin – practical advice on how to actually make a living being a creative person. The biggest problem for most artists and young entrepreneurs is that they don’t market themselves well – I love the emphasis on cheap or free ways of utilizing the power of human interaction.

Darla Jackson

These columns are to me as my Fine Homebuilding magazine is to my husband…as in they always seem to offer the right info at exactly the right time! I have an open studio event this weekend and think this info will be extremely helpful for making me follow up!!!

Cat

Thanks for another great article. This is exactly the step-by-step info that young artists like me need, but didn’t learn in college.

heather

As an artist, I always find it tricky to navigate through the sales pitch and even follow-up without being too invasive and pushy. I definitely think a genuine approach (thank-you cards/ follow-up gifts) is the best one! Thanks for the reading tips Zoe- nice to see a Vancouver artist on Design Sponge too!

MicheleB

Absolutely spot on! Great information and very well written. In this world of email, tweets, posts and blasts, clients love that extra touch of a handwritten note. Something positive waiting for them in their mailbox. I love your idea of the CD with the music you listened to while creating your artwork!

Lydia, Clueless Crafter

With an MA in the Art Market program at FIT, I have worked with many artists that cannot bridge the gap between being a creative entity on one hand and a commodity on the other.

Because of this, I have seen many artists take courses/attend pep talks on how to better market themselves.

Hand-written notes are a meaningful way of building that bridge.

michelle c.

thanks so much for this! I am always looking for new ways to engage people and turn that connection into sales…without coming off as smarmy. These are great ideas.

Jenny

Thanks so much for the advice! These articles are invaluable to me as a beginning artist/crafter!

Seema

excellent insight- thanks.
have recently started using handwritten notes for business- with great results!

Zoe Pawlak

Thanks to all the ladies who contacted me about the follow-up PDF’s and for all your really kind words. I am so excited to hear where the follow-up takes you all. Keep it up!

Barbara Lopez

What great tips, Zoe! Thanks so much for sharing them – I’ve been feeling a wee bit lacking in my follow-up (along with the remorse for allowing that to happen) and you spurred some great ideas for me to get back on the saddle!

Xmittens

Perfect timing! I was trying to figure out how to follow up with some inquiries I have had just today. Some new ideas brewing because of this article. Thanks!

Dinah

Thank you for all of the reminders. You are so spot on. It was really helpful to see you pick apart the reasons sometimes we don’t follow through and invalidate them! I am so impressed by your right brain/left brain mix.

Brenda

This is such a great article, thank you! I think many of us artists and makers of handmade worry about our follow up efforts being perceived as too “spammy.” (I do, anyway) I really appreciate your insights and examples from personal experience. Thank you!

Lisa D.

Thank you for sharing your insight on such a critical subject manner. In today’s society we have become so “technical” that we have forgotten the importance of a sincere follow-up. A hand-written note has always been my favorite. Thank you again.

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