by John Eberhard

Once you have spent time and hard-earned money generating leads, of course you try to sell them something. But then, if they don’t buy anything right away, some marketers make the mistake of thinking that is the end of the road, and moving on to newer leads. Some even throw out the leads that don’t buy right away.

I think it is a serious mistake to forget about the people who reach, but do not buy right away. Because they may not have a need for your products or services right away. But they may have a need later. And you already spent money getting them to respond to you. But if you don’t stay in touch with them, that money will be wasted.

One business owner likened the situation to fruit, with the guys who buy right away being the “low hanging fruit.” Of course you try to sell those guys right away. But the others, this business owner said, are like fruit that hasn’t ripened yet. So you then mount a campaign to ripen that fruit. How? By sending them regular communication about your company.

If you send them regular communications of some kind or of various kinds, then you will develop and maintain what some marketers call “top of mind awareness,” which means that when they think of your product or service, your company will be the one they think of.

Here’s an example that will illustrate why this is important. I used to work for an antivirus software company, and one of the publics we marketed and sold to was IT (information technology) Managers, for them to buy the antivirus software for their company computer networks.

But in this type of situation, just about everyone already had antivirus software. Very few IT Managers were without antivirus software, and then saw one of our promotions and realized “Hey, I should get antivirus protection.” No, they all already had it. And antivirus software for a network is sold on a contract, for one, two or three years.

So we devised a lead generation campaign where we offered one of several free gifts to them in exchange for their filling out a survey. The free gifts we offered went through several evolutions and changes, with a free demo of the network version of the software being one of the options, and one of a series of free reports being one of the other options. This was a very successful campaign and we got thousands of responses.

But only a certain percentage of those responding needed antivirus software right then (i.e. their current contract was coming to an end). So for them, we sold them the product. But for the rest, we just added them to an email mailing list, and we mailed to that list at least twice a month. I am a big believer in email newsletters, because then there is no cost other than the time to put it together and send it.

So what we did successfully there was to develop and maintain top of mind awareness. And we got plenty of sales. When that guy’s antivirus contract was up, we at least had a shot. Of course, we had to also prove that the product was good, send him product comparisons, reviews, etc. But if we had not sent a continual stream of information, by the time his contract was up, he would have forgotten us.

So here are two different plans on how to do this:

Plan A: Every time someone responds to one of your promotions, add them to your email mailing list database. Then send out something to that whole list at regular intervals. You might have to experiment and see what the best interval is. You can start pushing the envelope until you start to get a lot of askoff requests, which means you’re sending out too often. I find you can send stuff to a list once a week, but with your list it may be less frequent. The askoffs will tell the tale.

Plan B: Every time someone responds to one of your promotions, add them to your email autoresponder database. Then set up a queue of emails to go out to that person, at whatever intervals you select. Let’s say you set up a series of 12 emails, going out once a week. If someone responds today, his email goes into the database, he gets an immediate acknowledgement email, then a week from now he gets the next email, then in another week he gets the next, etc. In other words, the sequence starts for that person whenever he signs up, and continues at the intervals you set up.

I generally think Plan A works better, but in some cases Plan B is better, like where your prospect needs to be educated in certain material and that material needs to be given to every person in the same sequence. You can set up mini-courses this way.

But whatever plan or system you set up, the idea is that you keep that prospect, you keep him on a list, and you keep promoting to him. One entrepreneur I used to work for had a policy, that he would keep promoting to people who had responded until one of three things happened; 1) they bought the product, 2) they asked to be off the list, or 3) they died. I loved the aggressiveness of this and still apply it with my own business and with clients whenever I can.