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How to Increases Sales With Follow-Ups
By Michel Fortin

Have you ever been lucky enough to receive those nice letters from collection agencies? In addition to being persistent on the phone, collection agents are known to be terribly effective when their efforts are combined with a series of letters that seem to be as equally relentless.

First, you get a letter with the typical request to "govern yourself accordingly." If you don't respond, a second letter appearing in the form of a "reminder" is sent to you a few weeks later. And, if you happen to be as persistent as the agency, you would then get a third letter with that big, red (and somewhat intimidating) "Final Notice!" stamped in the upper right-hand corner.

Sequential direct mail has been as profitable an endeavor for entrepreneurs as it has been for collection agencies. And the reason is that a sequence of letters, particularly at least three of them delivered to a same recipient, not only increases the response rate but also multiplies it exponentially. Aside from increased sales, the per capita cost savings is also considerable.

Let's Do The Three-Step

Even though I've first heard of this technique from marketing guru Dan Kennedy at a Toronto convention in 1996 ("Success '96"), I still didn't believe in its effectiveness until I actually used it in my own practice. Tested in one of my client's businesses, our first mailing conducted to approximately 7,000 recipients generated a response rate that was about 1%. It's not much but typical for most one-time direct mail campaigns -- no big "hurrah" there.

However, the surprise came when the rate shot up to about 7% following the second mailing and over 3% after the third, which were targeted to the exact same market. With all three mailings totaling 11%, the overall response was a tenfold improvement over what could have been a single mailing (with only a threefold increase in direct expenses).

The first letter had a special time-sensitive offer and an invitation to enter a draw. The second letter, which was mailed out 15 days after the first one, had a "sorry we missed you" and "we're concerned" flavor to it. It went on to offer several additional incentives in order to help nudge unresponsive recipients into action (a backend product worth only a few dollars).

Thirty days after the initial mailing, the third letter boldly stated "this is your last chance" and "deadline around the corner" right at the top -- similar to the collection agent's "final warning" stamp. The content of the letter reinforced the urgency and, along with an extra incentive, emphasized the negative outcome that would result if the recipient chose to remain idle.

Increased Perceived Value

In essence, I have found and personally experienced that three if not more mailings to a same target market is often more profitable than a single one. If you want to take a look at the numbers, you will see that, while you may have doubled or tripled your direct mail marketing expenditures, you will likely triple the results of all three separate mailings… Combined!

By the way, the prize drawn in the previous campaign was for one of the services offered by my client --  priced at about $1,500. Shortly after the draw, we decided on a fourth mailing to all those who did not respond and offered a discount on the very same service. It said "Congratulations! You've won the second prize -- a $250 rebate on [service]." As a result, the response rate had finally risen to a total of 16% (and sales still kept trickling in way after).

The mailing was indeed a success. But the power of such a process lies in the fact that people who receive a second and third mailing tend to conclude that the offer is more valuable. If you can, transform your next direct mail marketing campaign into a sequence of offers to a same market and you will see a substantial improvement over one-time mailings.

Follow-Up Letters

When an estimate, a special offer or a sales information package has been issued, the process that normally follows is probably more important than the deadline and the reinforcements combined. It's the follow-up.

However, follow-ups are not limited to a single letter. As you may likely know, statistics prove that most sales occur in the follow-up process. In fact, following up is also an art. You need to do so in a timely, consistent, and compelling manner. For example, if you received an inquiry, conducted a sales presentation, gave a product demonstration, or provided an estimate for a service you offer, like a blacksmith you need to "hit the iron while it's hot."

The 10-10-10 Technique

It is a fact that consistent follow-up gets results. And if done at preset times, follow-ups will dramatically increase your sales since some people need to see your offer more than once. Utilizing the combined power of the "thank you" letter and the three-step direct mail sequence described earlier, you can conduct what I call the "10-10-10" technique (although it can be 15, 20, or 30, all depending on your industry or the type of product you sell).

For starters, you'll need to develop your follow-up messages. Your first follow-up letter, within the first 10 days following the initial presentation or meeting, may say something to the effect of "Thank you [for the time we spent together or for your interest in ABC Corporation]." Realize that gratitude goes a long way. And while it may simply be an act of appreciation on your part, it helps to keep your company or product fresh in the prospect's mind.

Your next follow-up message, sent within 10 days after the first letter (or in other words within 20 days after the initial contact) should restate the benefits of your offer as well as stress its deadline. It could list the potential uses for your product or service, and include several additional testimonials from other clients. More important, your letter should give your prospect the ability to focus on the important points, such as with the use of bullets, keywords and action words, quotes and reviews, and benefit-rich paragraph headers.

For your last follow-up message, sent within the final block of 10 days (in between 20-30 days following the initial presentation), you should create a sense of urgency in your prospect's mind. Remember the collection agent's final notice? In this case, remind them that their estimate (or your special, time-limited offer) is about to expire. Make them an even more special offer in order to give them an additional reason to order and to order now.

A Little Nudge is All it Takes

Creating a sense of urgency can be done in many ways. For example, by adding an additional time-sensitive bonus to your offer (one that will now expire quickly since the deadline is even closer), you will give your message weight and nudge unresponsive prospects into action.

This incentive could be many things, such as free delivery, a complementary service, an additional item, a coupon for another product, or an extended guarantee. It could even be a more affordable alternative to the initial offer. But you'll need to look at your product or service and see how you can make your offer more palatable and thus stimulate response.

Finally, if after all three letters your prospect has not responded, you could still send a fourth, fifth, and final letter in order to obtain some useful information. Within 10 days after the offer's expiration, your additional follow-up letter could simply ask why they haven't ordered. Try to get them to respond -- turn the back of the follow-up letter into a survey they can fill out, or include a small notice telling them that you will call in order to gather their feedback.

It's unlikely that people will order from you after all three letters (depending on your product or industry) since 90% of buying decisions, in my experience, are made within those first 30 days. But feedback is precious. It could help you to modify and refine your follow-up letters, your offer, as well as your product or service so that future prospects will indeed order from you. Incomplete sales are wonderful opportunities to gather important marketing intelligence.

Nevertheless, both timing and timeliness are vital. You want your prospects to have more information quickly since they are probably shopping around -- again, "while the iron is hot" in other words. In each of your follow-up letters, tell them why they need to take action soon. Don't just remind them of the deadline. Give them a sincere, logical, and justifiable explanation. As Jim Rohn once said, "Without a sense of urgency desire loses its value."

Whether it's fluctuating prices, a pilot promotion, a quantity-bound offer, or whatever, make sure your explanation is logical and makes sense, and is not a mere cannned attempt at only-trying-to-make-a-quick-sale kind of response. Nevertheless, don't annoy your prospect with too much at once -- make sure your letters are spaced at least 5-10 days apart.

The moral? Be relentless like a collection agency. Send at least three letters instead of one in order to get more mileage out of your campaign. Use the 10-10-10 technique after you've provided an estimate -- or even after someone has requested information about your offer. Remember that the bulk of most sales are usually made in the follow-up phase.

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Michel Fortin is a master copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Get a FREE copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," and subscribe to his FREE monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill," by visiting now!

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