There’s an old saying: “Good intentions are like crying children. They should be carried out immediately.” That’s never more true than in referral marketing, when referral partners are sending us leads, and those leads become ongoing revenue.
- We say we want leads. We get leads. But we sometimes we don’t follow up ’til the day before the next networking meeting—just in time to make eye contact with our colleagues.
- We say we want clients, and we get clients. But sometimes we don’t follow up on their issues until the day of our next phone call or meeting. We show up with just enough prep to wing it.
- We say we appreciate the business. But, when we get the business, we don’t rocket off a thank you until someone asks “what happened”?
We all have last minute moments like that. I juggle so many balls at times that I have to constantly remind myself which way is up. If I don’t glance at my calendar, or check my Trello and my Slack, I’m as good as lost.
PROCESS IS THE KEY TO IMPROVEMENT
So how can we get better at following up with our leads, our clients, and each other? There’s a Japanese concept – KAIZEN. It means ‘continuous improvement’. It’s not a theory among companies that implement it properly – it’s a practical set of choices to explore, verify, and adjust even when things are good enough.
THINGS CAN ALWAYS GET BETTER THAN MERELY GOOD ENOUGH.
So. how can WE get BETTER at carrying out good intentions immediately? Specifically, how can we get better at follow up.
A lot of it just getting organized as people. There are simple tools and processes that can turn even the most seat-of-our-pants selves into get-stuff-done rock stars.
The one I’m going to mention is the KANBAN – another Japanese productivity tool. Imagine you have a white board, chalk board, corkboard, or even a digital screen on which you can draw three columns.
- The center column is “RIGHT NOW”. It lists the stuff that must be acted upon within the next 24-hours, or at least within the next cycle of you looking at the board.
- The left column is “NEXT UP”. This lists things that need doing, but not necessarily right this minute. You’ll put cards or post-it notes in those two columns and move items from right to left, as needed.
- The right column is “DONE”. The reason you don’t just leave that out altogether is you need to be able to see that, “Yes, you really did knock things off your list today.”
As time goes by, you might add a “suggestions” column or create multiple Kanbans for different areas of your life. Generally, it should start out simple and stay simple unless there’s an absolute need to complicate it more.
HOW THE KANBAN UPS YOUR FOLLOW-UP GAME
Besides helping countless individuals, project teams, and organizations be more effective, the Kanban approach can help any of us with follow up, if we make one simple commitment. Referral cards and closed business cards (or slips, receipts, notes—whatever you have that represents getting a lead from someone or closing a deal) ALWAYS go into the “RIGHT NOW” column
At BNI, our referral slips have the name of the lead and the name of the person that provided it. Putting it into “RIGHT NOW” means that within 24 hours, we’re following up with that lead, and thanking the person who provided it. That can get done in one e-mail. Putting closed business slips in that same column, the moment they happen, means that, within the same period, we’re thanking the person who provided that lead (again).
KANBAN KUNG-FU, FOR THE TRULY DARING
That leads to a final, kung-fu tip. I start aKkanban for each client, to track that client’s marketing projects. It’s a collaborative toolset. All parties on the team can see what we’re working on between calls, what’s up next, and what we got done.
In other words, the moment that closed business slip hits the “RIGHT NOW” column, I know I’m thanking someone and creating a new client Kanban within 24hrs.
This is just one of a number of project processes and toolsets that make for effective client engagement, productive referral marketing, and high energy accomplishment. Follow up is critical to all of that. Follow up is the business goal; Kaizen is the strategy, and Kanban is a powerful technique.
For more on how to continually improve at gaining leads and closing business, and how to grow your professional reach and reputation, visit BNI Chapter 45 in Manhattan. We’re waiting to refer business to you, and become your partners is success.