For those of you who don’t know, Cristina spends her time outside of OWS as a super sleuth. That is, she works in recruiting. Recently, she was chatting with a client and told him that she planned to spend the day following up with potential candidates that she had reached out to the week before. He mentioned that, back in the days of yore (okay, fine, actually just a few years ago), he and others in the industry used a “tickler file” to track their follow ups.
Pause. She had no idea what that was -- and we imagine you might not either, but luckily, we Googled it for you. (You’re welcome). According to Wikipedia: “A tickler file or 43 Folders System is a collection of date-labeled file folders organized in a way that allows time-sensitive documents to be filed according to the future date on which each document needs action.”
Throughout the years here at OWS, we’ve made many-a-reference to the importance of following up as a business owner. It falls squarely under the category of “things that are second-nature to us so we forget that they’re a challenge for other business owners -- until it comes up time and time again.”
Meanwhile, we have one coaching client who is probably incredibly sick of us asking her at every single coaching session if she’s taken the time to follow up on the pitches she’s sent out for her social media consulting business.
Lucky for us, we now have more automated ways to handle follow ups within our solo businesses, so we have no excuse not to make it a regular practice.
So, dear One Woman Shop (you know who you are), this is for you and every other solo business owner out there...
As we discuss in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, consistency activities are daily, weekly, quarterly, or yearly actions that push your business forward and pack the most punch when done, well, consistently. (Are you starting to see where the name comes from?) Follow ups are a key consistency activity to incorporate into your business.
Why the focus on following up?
Follow ups keep you on the radar of your potential clients, customers, and collaborators by helping you stand out in their likely crazy, overrun inboxes, and demonstrate that their business is important to you.
Think about it from the opposite side: How often have you received an opportunity via email that looked neat but you just never responded? (You got busy; you accidentally archived the email; you wanted time to think about it but forgot to come back to it...) Now, flip it around and -- instead of seeing the lack of a response as a brush off or, worse, a personal offense -- give the person the benefit of the doubt by applying the same logic to their actions.
When to follow up
In our business, we follow up with those who have pitched guest posts, individuals who applied for membership but never actually joined, site managers who we’ve pitched posts to, and those who have commented on our blog but never joined our email list. What types of emails do you send out that you could implement a follow-up system around?
Creating a system
We use Boomerang to automate the process. (We talk more in-depth about tools for automation in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook.) If an email we’ve sent out hasn’t received a response within a week, it pops back into our inbox, alerting us that a follow up is required.
You might try using Boomerang or scheduling a chunk of time on your paper planner or Google Calendar to batch send follow ups. We use a seriously easy name for these appointments, like: “Follow up on 6/7 outreach,” (on the calendar on 6/14).
A follow-up template
One question that we get asked a lot is some variation of “Um, what the heck am I supposed to say in my follow up?” While you can use the second message to provide additional information, the main purpose of a follow up is simply to get back in touch with the recipient to prompt them into action.
Your follow up can be as simple as the ones we send to individuals who haven’t joined OWS after applying:
We just wanted to take a minute to follow up on your One Woman Shop application! Are there any questions we can answer for you?
Cristina & Sara
Or, it might include the following:
- An offer to move the conversation to a phone/video call if they’d prefer
- A deadline that you need a final decision by (diplomatically phrased, of course)
- Additional information: A link to your FAQs page; your testimonials; or portfolio
Have we convinced you that implementing a follow-up system can be both easy and effective as you grow your solo biz? We encourage you to look over the emails you’ve sent out over the past week or month and make a plan to send succinct follow ups if you don’t receive a response. Report back letting us know what comes of your efforts!
PS: Seriously dread sending follow ups? This is a perfect example of a low-maintenance but potentially high-payoff task that could be handed off to a VA.