Years ago when I managed a climbing gym we had an issue with the Tuesday night closing routine. Yes, the person in charge of it was generally awesome, but week after week the gym just wasn’t as clean as it should be when we came in Wednesday morning.

Nothing major was missed but all sorts of little things that together added up to a facility that wasn’t as inviting as it should be.

Despite pointing out the issues to the Tuesday night closing staff many times, lots of little things still got missed each Tuesday night.

Here is where many employers would just stop letting the employee close. Instead of investing a bit more themselves, they’d figure that the employee just couldn’t cut it. They would cut their losses and train someone else in the position.

But that’s not what the owner of the climbing gym did. He took on the responsibility himself, made a cleaning checklist and got everyone that closed to use it.

In reality, it wasn’t just the Tuesday closer doing a less-than-stellar job. Yes, he was missing pretty much everything every Tuesday, but it seems that almost everyone who closed the gym was missing something.

With the new checklist in hand there were very few missed items and the facility looked awesome all the time.

Today we’re going to talk about the 3 systems I invested in for my business that yielded the biggest returns, both in my time and in making my projects run smoothly.

1. Prospect Follow-up

How many times have you talked to a new good prospect and then just let them drop off the radar? Months later you find their name and reach out right away only to find out they forgot about talking to you and went with someone else.

I tried to put prospect follow-up in Todoist and OmniFocus when I used them as my task managers of choice. They worked better than just trying to remember the prospects — but only just.

The biggest issue here was that when I reached out to a prospect the task would be done and I’d need to set up a follow-up task some weeks/months later. While it’s entirely my fault I forgot more often than I remembered, it all added up to a system that was more broken than fixed.

Then I found Contactually and never lost track of a prospect again. With Contactually you can sync your whole address book in and then it automates the reminders for you to follow up with clients.

You can set predefined templates for the emails and if you have a 100% repeatable process you can even automate the whole email sequence so you don’t have to manually manage it.

In the first two weeks I used Contactually I recovered $30K in work that I had simply forgotten to follow up on.

When I started using it regularly (even just an hour a week) I ended up with much less ‘dead’ time between projects in a year unless I specifically scheduled it as time to work on personal projects.

If you don’t have a system to remind you to follow up with new leads, then you should try out Contactually today.

2. Client Vetting and Onboarding

How many times have you invested hours emailing a prospect then get on the phone with them only to find out that they were never really qualified for your services in the first place?

Yup, I know — happens all the time. It used to happen to me as well. Then I got serious about my email onboarding process and crafted an opening set of questions to ask all prospects.

With that standard set of 10 questions asked of each prospect I almost never waste time on the phone with an unqualified prospect.

You can get all my email templates by purchasing Effective Client Emails and stop wasting time with unqualified prospects.

3. Project Shut Down

Many business owners just send an invoice to a client and then the project is over. There is no follow up, and sometimes no long-term contact. They leave it entirely up to the client to get in touch when there is more work.

If you haven’t talked to a client in two years then they are just as likely to forget you as you are to forget them.

To close a good project down properly you should be doing at least these four things.

  1. Sending the invoice, of course.
  2. Sending them any assets from the project they should be getting (put together a checklist for this).
  3. Sending a thank you note of some fashion, and for a really good client send a gift.
  4. Put the client in your long-term marketing follow up so you touch base with them two or three times a year.

Note Number 4 because it’s the key. I put my past good clients in Contactually and follow up with them once a quarter just to see how things are going. It’s not about asking for more work currently; it’s about staying top of mind with them for when there is work.

One of my previous clients is a cyclist (as am I) so I generally ask how riding/training is going and if he has any events/races planned. At least once a year the response includes something like, “Oh yeah I was just talking to ____ yesterday and they need some work done. I’ll send them your name.”

If I wasn’t following up long term with clients I’d leave many thousands of dollars on the table each year.

[Tweet “Are you leaving money on the table because you’re not following up long-term with clients?”]

That’s it! Just those three systems will free up your time, get you working with better clients and keep work coming in more regularly.

Implement them today, and if you’re not sure how I’d love to talk to you.

photo credit: tim_norris cc

5 responses to “3 systems you need to have in place for a successful business”

  1. Greg Avatar

    Good article, good to force me to think more about this aspect. I am checking into Contactually as a tool for my business. Taking time is important. Thank You

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      If you need some help with it I’ll be out in a few weeks

  2. TamrahJo Avatar

    I have an item I do for the ‘follow-up’ list after a project completion – I take the assistant or the support personnel out for a ‘celebratory meal’ – cuz that’s usually the person who finds what I need – who understands the info given to me originally is 5 years out of date and has changed and I don’t have the recent copy, etc., etc.

    So many times, the folks I take to lunch are those I spent the most time with during the project, but aren’t the ones who decided to hire me – or cut the check or, a few times, were they even in the original roadmapping session, nor were they asked what they ‘needed/wanted’ – but they were who I was to train to maintain their site, once it was ready for ‘maintenance’ world – 🙂

    Only rules I give ’em? “Pick something you consider special – and you wouldn’t normally treat yourself too – BUT don’t pick something I have to go buy a dress, heels and pantyhose just to walk in and not feel out of place….” LOL 🙂

    I can do this because I’m a local provider – but a gift card for a ‘night on the town’ for them and a guest would suffice, too – 🙂

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Nice idea. I’ve had lunch with a few local clients but most of them are no where near me.

      1. TamrahJo Avatar

        🙂 I’ve followed your blog for some time and figured as much – 🙂 BUT I just couldn’t help myself in commenting/adding an idea/optiion for those who follow your blog and play in an arena more similar to mine – than yours – 🙂 Share the wealth of ideas, is my motto – cuz ya know – Independent Biz Owners – Rule! 🙂