Small Business Success Podcast 080—Ask the Expert—Automate Follow Up Without Being “Robotronic”

Join guest host Ben Snedeker and small business advocate Ramon Ray, the Editor & Founder of Smart Hustle Magazine.  Topics include why it’s important for a small business to automate follow up, and how to make sure it doesn’t feel “robotronic.”

Follow Ramon on Twitter.

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Transcript

Ben Snedeker: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of the Small Business Success podcast. I'm your host Ben Snedeker, I'm filling in for Dusey today, he's out hiking the Grand Canyon. But I am privileged to welcome today's guest, Ramon Ray from Smart Hustle Magazine. Ramon has been a long time friend of the Fusion Soft and he's very energetic and a wonderful advocate for small business owners everywhere. So without further to do, welcome! Welcome Ramon.

Ramon: Hey, and thanks so much. Glad to be here and I am definitely an advocate, friend of and lover of all things Infusion Soft, including cereal in the football field, so yes. Absolutely to the core.

Ben Snedeker: Excellent! Yeah so you know Ramon, it's really ... One of the things we've been talking about here at Infusion Soft lately especially as we look at some of the marketing strategies for small businesses, is that challenge of following up with their prospects and customers. It's one of the most time consuming problems for small business owners, especially if that is, you need several follow-ups just to bring a lead into the house. So what have you seen in this space? What does it look like for small business owners around the idea of following up?

Ramon: Yeah, I mean I think it's two things. I mean indeed follow-up is very important in my own business, I started four of them and I think that one of the biggest impediments to my success and one of the biggest parts of my success is follow-up, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Of course on this podcast it may sound annoying hearing it that many times but ... In actuality over the course of a year or a few months it's not that annoying. I think two things, in a nutshell, what I'd say at least my lessons learned.

I think one, either has some sort of a dashboard or system that you can look at every morning, or whatever your sales cycle is to at least remind you, hey, you need to call this person or email this person or etc. At the very least, at least have some electronic system, hey I'd prefer it on a post-it note, but if you have to have that at least have 4000 post-it notes in your office if you wish.

Ben Snedeker: That's right.

Ramon: I joke on that a bit, but the point is, something, to at least remind you to manually call the follow-up. That's one aspect at the very least. Second aspect, of course what I've learned from using Infusion Soft in my time at Infusion Soft and using Infusion Soft for my own marketing, is automate that. And I would say that could be with any number of discrete touch points. Email is probably the best: Hey listen Ben, I noticed you didn't, you filled up a shopping cart, you didn't quite order the flowers. Did you still want them?

Three days later, "Hey listen, don't mean to bother you, but just want to make sure you get the flowers. Did you want them?" So, those are the two ways I see doing it. Again, one, and you could do both I would say. But at the very least, some way that every morning let me look in and see who I need to follow-up, or an automated way that can keep touching people to bubble them up until possibly human interaction is needed. Is any of that make sense Ben or did I just screw it all up? Does that make sense?

Ben Snedeker: No, it sounds great! It's perfect.

Ramon: Great.

Ben Snedeker: In fact, I've got to be honest, follow-up is tricky mainly because of the challenge with automation. There's the personalization problem. A lot of people, a lot of small business owners, are a little bit gun shy to go automation because they feel like somehow they're going to lose the ability to directly connect with people and lose the human touch. So what are some strategies for making automation feel not robotronic?

Ramon: Sure. I'm going to have to steal that word, robotronic, I like that.

Ben Snedeker: It's all yours man, you can have it.

Ramon: I think two things. One, I definitely appreciate and understand the fear of having things seem too sterile, robotronic, as you said, too artificial, too AI, too automated, as it were. And that, and I must say, that fear makes sense. But one thing I'll add until I get to some solutions is that if you're going to scale, assuming your business is growing, and you're out of just having three customers. It's out of just having you and your cousin Fred, or Bob or Sally, whatever you want to call her.

Ben Snedeker: Right.

Ramon: And you're at 100 customers, 3000 customers, you're growing at something. You have to automate. That's one so, I would say nicely, in Infusion Soft nice core values, get over it. I say that gently as I can.

Ben Snedeker: That's right.

Ramon: You're going to have to automate. And what I do then in my business, I'll just say what I do in my business. You have to make up another word for me, I do half automation half human.

Ben Snedeker: Android.

Ramon: One thing. Android, there we go! You've got to android it.

Ben Snedeker: Yeah.

Ramon: One part of what I do is pure automated. "Hey this is Ramon, hey this is Ramon." I have events that I do for example reminding people. People know it's an email from Infusion Soft. But the other way to do that is A, send yourself a task that is automated so you can manually do what you want to do, or make your emails better. You know, add some personalization, add some names to it, so those are two or three ways that I think you can kind of bridge the gap. Understandably, you don't want your whole business just robot run.

Ben Snedeker: That's right. That's a great suggestion with tasks. That way, you're not losing track. I think one of the biggest things about busyness is just forgetting to do the things you need to do.

Ramon: Yes.

Ben Snedeker: And tasks are a powerful way to solve that problem.

Ramon: And I must say Ben, even at my own business, I'll wonder, "You know what? Man, this customer, why didn't they respond?" It's my fault man. I look at it, going back to Infusion Soft, whatever systems you're using, as you're listening to the podcast, we hope it's Infusion soft, but I wonder what happened? I'm like, "It's my fault." I didn't follow-up and remind this person, "Hey was it a yes or no?" They're like, "Yeah Ramon it was a yes but I totally forgot to get back to you." That's my fault, not their fault because I'm not their priority, they are my priority, but I'm not their priority.

Ben Snedeker: And how many times on average how many times do we need to follow up with people to maybe say to be a priority for them, like how do we make ourselves a priority?

Ramon: I personally think there is no end of story, no end solution. I think that if you have people who are properly targeted and segmented in your tribe who know, like and trust you as our mutual friend John [Janse 00: 06: 24] says, I think there's no such thing as stopping to follow up. When you think about ordering ... I order from Cheryl's, the people who send you baskets of cookies, they never stop following up. Now I have the point to opt out or say, "Stop contacting me," but until I do that keep following up. Now that doesn't mean send the same silly, corny message. Change the message, use different wording, but I say always follow-up.

Now those people Ben who are like, "I want a number, I want a number." I don't know. Three, four, five times maybe if I had to give some number over a course of months but in general always feed people something because remember sometimes people are on your list just because they want to hear from you but they're not yet ready to buy. So my real answer is never stop, but if I had to give a number, three to five.

Ben Snedeker: Oh that's a really awesome answer. Actually myself being a content marketer type guy I love that answer because I think people tend to forget that content can be a follow-up, you can use ... Newsletters is a powerful follow-up tool even though it doesn't seem like it's directed specifically at somebody. They're receiving your content and you're getting in front of them [crosstalk 00: 07: 36]

Ramon: And that's what I meant by follow-up, so great point. Follow-up doesn't have to mean, "Hey did you buy, did you buy, did you buy?" I just meant offering somebody something at some point over time. Good point, you're right.

Ben Snedeker: Wow well Ramon we're coming to the end here of our program so let me just ask, I'll give you the final say, is there any sort of final though you have in this that you'd like to leave with us?

Ramon: Absolutely. I mean I could talk for six more hours so can we extend this by six hours do you think?

Ben Snedeker: I don't know we might have a big drop-off rate if we went six hours.

Ramon: No the only thing that I would say is that I think, I've learned in my business, and I keep saying that so people understand I'm not some ninja geek automation specialist guy, I kind of am but I'm really not, but I just found how I've grown my business. A, automation. I have a tribe I have people who buy from me, being in touch with them, it's the human thing we do, why do you think there's mother's day? To remind some of us who don't tell our mothers we love them enough, at least do it once a year so automation is important. I think two if you want to scale and grow the only way to do that is with automation. You can't do it manually and I think point three, if you segment and have the right audience they want to hear from you. They may not buy today, but most the people will buy tomorrow.

Ben Snedeker: Ramon I personally follow you on LinkedIn but is there anything you want to tell our listeners where they can follow you and keep up to date with what you're doing for small businesses?

Ramon: I appreciate it, yeah I appreciate it. Anybody want to check out smarthustle.com, smarthustle.com that's where I talk and write about all things entrepreneurship, including spelling errors, and my Twitter handle, @ramonray. No ñ, no d, don't try to say Ramoncito, it's just r-a-m-o-n-r-a-y.

Ben Snedeker: Beautiful well thanks for being a guest on the podcast this time. Appreciate you.

Ramon: My pleasure.

Ben Snedeker: Well thanks again listeners for joining us today on the Small Business Success podcast it's been a pleasure having Ramon on with us and I just want to send out a quick invitation if you're wondering how you can avoid some of the pitfalls or achieve some of the results we were talking about today. We want you to join us for a live demo of the Infusion Soft Platform. It's an online event and you can join from wherever you are and choose from a few different time slots coming up this month. Our experts walk you through our app and show entrepreneurs just like you how to organize sales, marketing and customer service. We promise it'll be a lot of fun. You can sign up at bit.ly/smallbusinesssuccessdemo, but it's b-i-t-.-l-y-/-small, business, success, demo, all one word no spaces, and you can sign up from there. Once again bit.ly/smallbusinesssuccessdemo. Thanks a lot and until next time.