When I was starting my business I’d often go from totally overwhelmed to barely any work in a span of 4-6 weeks.

One time in particular meant a very long dry spell and our savings account was getting low — really low. Low enough that I told my wife we were going on a date and stopped by a client’s place because we were close and they just happened to have a cheque for me.

Not a moment I’m particularly proud of. Even thinking about that time in my business makes me feel embarrassed.

The thing that got me to the feast/famine cycle wasn’t a problem with my skills. It wasn’t a problem with my project delivery. It really wasn’t even a problem with the quality of clients I was getting.

It all came down to the fact that I stopped marketing my business when I was busy because remembering all that marketing stuff was hard.

[Tweet “I stopped marketing my business when I was busy because marketing is hard.”]

Fast forward a number of years and marketing can still be hard if you don’t have a system. My system is Contactually and today I’m going to show you how I use it to follow up with clients I enjoyed working with.

Simply investing a bit of time here each week is going to take your business from that feast/famine cycle to regular business with clients you love.

Get your buckets

Once you’ve imported your contacts into Contactually you need to start making it really useful by setting up your buckets. A bucket is simply a way to group users.

I create two buckets for sorting all my previous clients.

  1. Meh, don’t care about
  2. Great clients

While I’d love to say that my initial client emails always weed out the clients I don’t want, it’s simply not true. There will always be some clients that seemed great when I started the project but ended up being a pain to work with. Those clients end up in my ‘meh’ bucket.

That ‘meh’ bucket doesn’t get any type of follow up. I just let them go their own way since I’m likely to decline working with them in the future anyway. The overhead of dealing with them was not worth the time it took.

The crucial bucket then is my great clients bucket. In this goes all the clients I really enjoyed working with and would like to work with again at some point.

Set up your follow-up interval

Once you’ve created and labeled your buckets, you next need to set up your follow-up interval. I set my interval at 74 days. That means that around 5 times a year I’ll be reaching out to all past clients I would like to work with again.

Set up a few templates

No, you don’t want to re-write essentially the same email each time you communicate with your client. Like me, you’ve got much better things to do. That’s where the Contactually email templates come into play.

I use one email template with a few extra lines in it to do most of my follow-up with past clients, colleagues, and longer term leads I want to keep warm.

Here is my exact basic follow up email template:

Hey Bob, hope the day is treating you right.
I just wanted to touch base and see how things are going.
(option 1) Are you working on anything interesting right now?
(option 2) How’s the site working currently?

By selecting ‘follow-up’ with the contact in Contactually and then choosing this template I really just have to delete one of the possible follow-up lines and then click ‘Send’.

Of course for some clients I end up writing a bit more but it’s really not necessary.

Using this basic follow-up email I’ve been able to stay top of mind for clients in the long term and get referrals from them to their friends, and more work on their projects. No one said it had to be fancy, it just needs to be effective.

When on earth do I do this

Yeah I’m sure you’re asking yourself when on earth do you do this? As I publish this, it’s a few days before Christmas and you’re likely spending time with your family — not writing emails to possible clients.

What client is really sitting down waiting for your email this close to Christmas anyway?

While I hear that argument, I don’t listen to it. You’re always going to have a reason to not market and it’s almost always going to be a terrible reason.

As this is published I’ve still spent an hour this week going through Contactually and working through the list of contacts it wants me to follow up with. I’m even on vacation from December 15th till January 15th and I’m spending one hour a week following up with prospects and old clients.

See, just because it’s close to Christmas today doesn’t mean that it’s going to be close to Christmas in two weeks. I’m available for work in a few weeks and that’s what I’m trying to fill, not today or tomorrow.

By sticking with this continuous cycle of spending an hour a week working through the tasks Contactually sets for me, I’m ensuring my pipeline is full all the time.

photo credit: julochka cc