Keep In Touch

Follow up . . . or fall on your face.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the January 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Why do most businesses lose customers? Apathy after the sale. Most businesses lose customers by ignoring them to death.

Misguided business owners think marketing is over once they've made the sale. Wrong! Marketing begins once you've made the sale.

Guerrillas make follow-up a part of their businesses because they know it costs six times more to sell something to a new customer than to an existing customer. When a guerrilla makes a sale, the customer receives a follow-up thank-you note within 48 hours.

Thirty days after the sale, the guerrilla sends another note or makes a phone call. This contact is to see if everything is going all right with the purchase and if the customer has any questions. It also helps to solidify the relationship.

Guerrillas send their customers another note within 90 days, this time informing them of a related product or service.

After six months, the customer hears from the guerrilla again--this time with the preview announcement of an upcoming sale.

Nine months after the sale, the guerrilla sends a note asking the customer for the names of three people who might benefit from being included on the guerrilla's mailing list. A simple form and a postage-paid envelope are provided. Because the guerrilla has been keeping in touch with the customer--and because only three names are requested--the customer usually supplies the names.

After one year, the customer receives a card celebrating the anniversary of the first sale. Perhaps a coupon for a discount is tucked into the envelope.

Fifteen months after the sale, the customer receives a questionnaire designed to give the guerrilla insights into the customer. The questionnaire starts with "We know your time is valuable, but we're asking so many questions because the more we know about you, the better service we can give you." This makes sense. The customer completes the questionnaire.

Eighteen months after the sale, the customer receives an announcement of still more new products and services tied in with the original purchase. And the beat goes on. The customer, rather than being a onetime buyer, becomes a repeat buyer--the kind of buyer who refers others to the guerrilla's business. A bond is formed. The bond intensifies with time and follow-up.

Let me put this in numeric terms. Suppose you are not a guerrilla and do not understand follow-up. A customer walks in, makes a purchase and leaves. You pocket $200 in profits. Hey, $200 isn't bad. But let's say you were a guerrilla.

That means you send the customer the thank-you note, the one-month note, the three-month note, the six-month note, the nine-month note, the anniversary card, the questionnaire and the constant alerting of new offerings. The customer, instead of making one purchase during the year, makes three purchases. He or she also refers four other people to your business. Your bond is not merely for the length of your original $200 transaction but for up to, say, 20 years.

Because of follow-up, that customer is worth $400,000 to you. That's your choice: $200 with no follow-up or $400,000 with follow-up. And the cost of follow-up is not high because you already have the customer's name.

Prospect follow-up is equally important, though slightly different. For one thing, you can't send a thank-you note--yet. But you can consistently follow up, hanging in there and realizing that if you're second in line, you'll get the business when the business that's first in line messes up. And they will. You know how? Of course you do. They'll fail to follow up.

Jay Conrad Levinson is author of the internationally acclaimed Guerrilla Marketing International. For more information on the Guerrilla Marketing Newsletter and other products and services, write to P.O. Box 1336, Mill Valley, CA 949442; call (800) 748-644; or visit the Web site at (

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