There are Great Fortunes to be made in this one action. Most of us are terrible at it. No, it’s not sales. It’s not marketing. It’s not Innovation.
July 29, 2020
Here’s something that most all of us are terrible at: follow-up.
Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up.
It cannot be stressed enough.
Most people — not just business people, ALL people — are terrible at following-up on what we said we’d do or what we want. Most of us are great at opening loops, and absolutely terrible at closing them.
Have you noticed this? This has been my experience as a Sales & Marketing Pro for 20 years. When I zoom up and out, I see a bunch of open loops left dangling in the wind, most of which will never be closed. And by closed, I do not only mean sales closed. I mean, connections built, exchanges successfully made, etc. Of course, sales are 100% important, but so are human connections and building upon them.
### How do we fix this faulty follow-up?
A great way to start is to zoom out yet again, and look at the interaction into the future. How have these interactions historically gone? What will they need? What do they think they need right now? What will they need after that? And then, after that? And then, what is likely to happen? What’s next from there? Future cast their path.
This ought to be easy if you’ve been there before, which is why I recommend all Sales & Marketing / Business Pros do this. (I hope you know the path of your customer’s journey. If you don’t, stop everything else you’re doing and document it today! If you don’t know, I guarantee you they don’t know it, either.)
Take SAAS. I like SAAS as an example because it’s so applicable to so many different start-ups and companies. Further, it’s a definitive success pattern. While SAAS is not an easy sale — nothing is — it’s a straightforward customer journey. And best sold through multiple stories of the customer’s industry (not the software / SAAS industry) so that the prospect identifies with the stories. They gotta get it for them, from their perspective. They must connect with what’s in it for them.
As Donald Miller talks about in his wonderful *Story Brand* book, we make the customer the hero and we, the Sales & Marketing Pros, are the guides. We’re the Yodas. We’re here to help the prospect on the journey to become not only our customer, but to celebrate them as the hero. Yes, this is the Hero’s Journey brought to life in your marketing! What could be cooler for the customer then to be celebrated as the hero!? (Not much.)
It always starts with the customer’s big problem. They have a festering problem that needs solving. Let’s say it is a contracting business and they have an accounting problem. They hate doing their own books and they hate relying on others to do their books. They don’t know what to do about it. This is a big problem for many contractors even today in 2020! Worse, they don’t know the available solutions, the world of small business accounting solutions that are out there to help solve their big, festering problem. Shit, now what do I do!?
That’s what they’re thinking. Well, we tell stories. They’re at the trailhead, the base of the trail. And we begin with the contractor’s problem. We describe it in detail through a persona or an avatar. We describe the business. We describe the accounting issue, the history of it, the pain of it all, how our customer had been screwed over in the past. You know, true emotional, financial and spiritual pain, which is what losing money is all about.
# Agitate the problem.
It’s important to agitate the problem. The formula is
Pain / Problem → Agitate → Solve
You don’t need to be a math whiz from MIT to use this formula.
That’s the winning marketing campaign formula. Always has been. It may always be. Yes, it still works, just like email still works. The best ads and campaigns always follow this formula. Use it to your advantage and win! So, our guy has this accounting / doing-the-books pain. A very real, visceral, gut-wrenching pain. We agitate it through his losing money and/or the previous bookkeeper screwing him over, which happens all the time, unfortunately. So, he’s stuck. Damn! Now, what is he going to do!?
In comes your SAAS Bookkeeping company with a story similar to his. A contractor, not unlike his company, had a bookkeeping problem. Its owner didn’t want to do his own books, but also didn’t really like having a bookkeeper on staff, nor even hiring one on 1099 because he doesn’t trust them. Not really. (Those poor bookkeepers for contractors have a similar reputation of some salespeople!) What was he to do!?
Enter SAAS Bookkeeping company, cloud-based, semi-automated, bookkeeping software designed to be so easy to use that even those not tech-savvy, and not P&L accounting-savvy can use! Yes, this is for the software illiterate and accounting illiterate business owner. The prospective answer to his problem!
SAAS Bookkeeping continues to tell the customer journey story to our prospect, matching emotional tone along the story arc. (The story arc is important because it is best if it follows the Hero’s Journey framework.) This is typically done over a series of emails and / or SMS messages, walking the prospect through the journey he / she can see themselves on.
Remember: identity with the customer avatar is vital. They have to see themselves on a similar path to eventual success even if they are reluctant to take it. It is best if the prospect’s implied feeling is, “Wait a minute — That could be me!” That is exactly what you want them to think and feel with your marketing messaging. (BTW: they will never get that feeling if all you do is talk product features. Never. Also, remember: the prospect doesn’t really care about the features. You might, the product team definitely cares about the features, but your prospect doesn’t care. No. Sorry.)
The Way Things Were vs. The Way Things Are
This story might be best told through The Way Things Were vs. The Way Things Are Now framework, which is a terrific story format for new tech / new apps. “It used to be this. We were here. Now, we’re here.”
Apple does this in their Keynotes, and it is highly effective marketing messaging and storytelling. Borrow from Apple! I do all the time because it works. These guys figured it out a long time ago with Steve Jobs at the helm, and they continue to nail it with each innovation and keynote presentation, which are very low use on slides.
Invest time in telling the customer journey story properly. It is 100% worth the time and investment. Hire a professional storyteller to help you flesh it out. Look around, ask around. If you’re able, Zoom-out and look to other industries to see how they do it. I do this a lot because often the industry I’m working in doesn’t have the answer to its own problems, but other industries have already solved them. Look there.