Follow-up (without being a pest)

Yesterday, I was on a webinar and my friend Jim Padilla shared a picture of a cute little bear cub. It was standing on its hind legs in a beautiful mountain stream. You could see the cool water splashing around the cub. And, inches away, in mid-air was a mountain lion, on the attack….

The mountain lion was completely focused on the bear cub, which, it turns out is a problem. In the background of the photo is the big, mean, and angry mother bear, charging towards the mountain lion.

The point of all this is that sometimes, we get distracted by small things, and miss the more important thing right in front of us.

Today’s podcast episode is a follow-up from Saturday’s article on The Myth of Large Markets. Today we’re talking about how to follow-up and communicate with your Target 100 list of future clients. AND, do it without feeling like you’re bugging people.

If you haven’t read the article, don’t worry, this episode will still make sense (but do go read it soon).

Listen now…


Want my best ideas for growing your firm, plus winning ideas from successful firm leaders?

Twice a week I’ll send the latest actionable ideas to your inbox. Just tell me where to send them and let’s get some clients rolling in…


Steve Gordon: This is Steve. Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. In this episode, I’ve got something a little bit different for you. I don’t have a guest today. And what I’m going to do is really continue the conversation from an article that I published on the website last week. Now, if you haven’t read the article, that’s okay. Everything we’re going to talk about here will make sense without it. But I do encourage you to go to the site and look for an article called The Myth of Large Markets. And in that article I talk about why you don’t need 10,000 prospects, that really a small number is what you need and you need to go deep with that small number. So today, we’re going to talk about how to go deep with that small number of prospects, how to communicate with a small universe of potential clients and do it in a way that allows you to build real relationships that will support doing commerce.

I was on a Webinar earlier today with Jim Padilla. Jim’s a friend and he’s been on our podcast. And on that Webinar he showed this really great image that I think is important for what we’re going to talk about today. And in that image, it was a picture of a little bear cub standing in a river, a beautiful pristine river flowing by. You could see the water splashing up at the little bear cub’s feet and the bear cub was kind of up on its hind legs and it was looking scared. And it was scared because there was this mountain lion which was about three or four times the size of this little bear cub, just right there attacking, poised to jump on and pounce on the bear cub. And in the background, where the bear cub couldn’t see, the mountain lion couldn’t see it, but in the background of this image, you see the mother bear. And the mother bear is galloping. You can’t see the motion, but you can get a sense of it in this picture, is galloping towards that mountain lion.

And the point of all of that is as it relates to marketing, sometimes we get focused on things that aren’t really that important in the moment. One of the things that comes up again, and again, and again, it came up on a client call today, I was talking with a client. He wanted to go through as Google analytics and wanted to spend a full hour looking at his analytics. And to be fair, I mean he was well meaning, but it’s a trap that all of us get caught in. We look at these things that don’t matter much and we fail to see the thing right in front of our face that’s really most important. So for the mountain lion in that instance, what was most important was seeing that a giant bear that’s going to come and destroy him, but he wasn’t aware of it.

For us in marketing, most of the time what we’re dealing with isn’t maybe quite as life or death, but it can be really distracting. We get focused on things that aren’t very important and unless you’ve got 10,000 visitors a month, or 50,000 visitors a month, or a million visitors a month to your website, chances are your website isn’t all that important. It’s useful. It’s necessary. But the thing that will drive the most value in your business are the relationships that you have with real people. And today that’s what we’re going to talk about how to develop.

So where do we start with this? Well, we’re going to cover this in three parts. And in the first part we’re going to talk about the principles that go into deep follow up with what we call your target 100 prospects. And in the second part we’re going to talk about how do you be valuable to that group of people and what are the things that that are universally seen as valuable so you have an idea of how you can follow up. And in the third part of this, we’re going to talk about how you can then accelerate those relationships and a method for doing that. So we’ve got lots of cover and a lot of good stuff. So let’s go ahead and dive in. Let’s talk about the principles.

So the principles of following up and communicating with this smaller group, what we call the target 100 and it doesn’t have to be 100 prospects, that’s a nominal number. It could be 50, it could be 150,. it could be 250 It’s probably not going to be thousands though. It needs to be a number that’s small enough that it’s manageable and these are the target prospects that you’re going after now. And in this group, there are really three principles that you want to keep in mind as you think about communicating with them.

Number one is the size of the group for the exact reason that I just stated. If it gets to be too big, the problem you run into is that you can’t know all of these prospects. Even at 100 it’s difficult to know them all, but the smaller and tighter you get that number and the more similar they are, the easier it is for you to understand what would be valuable to them and how you can show up and be valuable to them and that’s key to be able to communicate with them over time.

What most people do is they make this communication all about themselves. So as the service provider, it’s all about how can I go and make contact with this person so that I can make a sale? And that’s the wrong way to approach this. You have to approach it from the standpoint of believing that this person, even though they haven’t given me money yet, is my client. If you look at the definition of client, it’s someone that is under your care and guidance. That this is a person that you’re going to take and shepherd to the extent that they will accept it and early on, even if they don’t accept it, you’re going to take on this responsibility and when you begin to take that mindset, it changes how you approach follow up, how you approach communicating with these people in your market, and it changes it for the better.

So the first thing is to keep this list small, keep it at around 100. Don’t get tempted to go to 500, or 800, or 1000 people on this list because then it becomes too big and unmanageable and it drifts back into the unknown masses. And if you really want to be successful, you’ll say, “No, I’m going to make a different decision in my business. I’m going to go after these 100 right now. And when I’ve closed all that I can close and served all that I can serve out of this group, I’m going to go to my next best 100, and my next best 100, and my next best 100.” That’s how you take down a large market.

You don’t need all of them at once. You can’t take all of them at once. If we’re honest with each other, in most businesses that are offering services, if you’re in consulting, or you’re in accounting, or you’re in law, there’s a limit to the number of clients that you can serve in a given month anyway, so you don’t need them all right now. The way to get that number that you need though is to focus and target smaller, so that’s the first principle is to keep this list to a number where you can know the people on the list and know them by name.

The second principle that you want to keep in mind is the principle of persistent service. You have to be persistent over time and you have to approach that persistent communication from the perspective of service. Again, going back to this definition of what a client is and accepting the responsibility of being the leader for these people that you’re calling your clients, even though they haven’t hired you yet, and taking on that responsibility and serving them. Now, I’m not telling you to go and deliver your services for free. That would be foolish. That’s not sustainable. You can’t stay in business that way. But you can serve them in other ways.

And the most important thing is to have this mindset of service as you approach your clients. And we’re going to talk about, as we get further along in this episode, exactly how you can do that, but the principle is you’re going to have persistent service. You’re going to show up again, and again, and again for as long as it takes. And you’re going to serve. So that’s the second principle.

The third principle is related to it and it’s the principle of value. That you can’t just show up and not have anything to offer. That when you show up in the lives of these hundred future clients that you’re going to show up in a way where you deliver value to them. And it can be in small ways, and we’ll talk about some ways that you can easily identify how you can be valuable, but you have to believe in this principle of value. I’m going to show up and I’m going to show up and I’m going to give value first. And the reason that you do that is that as humans, that’s the way we start relationships. If you think about all the best relationships and the strongest relationships in your life, they started with value. And so, we want to do that here in business as well. So those are the principles. Now let’s move on to talking about what’s valuable and how do you come up with something valuable again, and again, and again so that you can be persistent over time and be valuable.

Let’s break this idea of value down into three parts. There are really fundamentally three ways that you can show up and be valuable and the first is you can arrive and speak to the problems that the people in your target 100 face. So you have to know what are the problems that they face, what are the consequences of those problems? How do I show up and address those things? How do I educate my 100 future clients on these problems that they face, on the consequences of the problem, the implications of them not taking action? And how do I do that consistently over time in different ways so that eventually the message gets through and they’re motivated to take action.

Now to do that, you have to know what those problems are. You have to know what those challenges are. And a question that I’m often asked is, “Well, how do I do that?” And the answer is in your current clients, because your current clients are likely very good mirrors for your future clients, particularly your best current clients. And they have problems that they faced before they became a client. They have problems that they face now and that you’re working with them now to overcome. And whenever you see one of those problems, it’s a great opportunity to come back and use that as a way to educate the people in your market, in this target 100 that you’re going after.

If you think back to the beginning of this episode, and I shared a story about how one of our clients was really focused on his Google analytics and he missed this giant opportunity in front of him, which was to go build real relationships. And he was trying to, you know, tweak, and refine, and tune his website when really there weren’t that many people coming to it. Well, that’s a problem that that client faced and it was a real problem. And he was good intentioned and you know, I couldn’t be critical of the fact that he wanted to improve something. However, there was a better use of his energy, and his time, and his effort.

And so as you’re dealing with your clients, you get all these opportunities to see the problems that they’re facing and the challenges that they have, and the consequences of them not taking action to resolve those problems. And those are perfect things to show up and educate the people in your market about. Now that’s not the only thing. I said there’s three areas where you can do this. The second is with questions.

Questions are sometimes similar to problems, but not always. Sometimes they’re more basic, sometimes they’re simpler, but people in your market have questions. They have questions about all sorts of things. So recently we did an article on productivity because I kept getting questions from our audience, from people like you listening to this podcast who had questions about productivity and they asked, “Steve, you produce a podcast, and you write articles, and you write books, and you serve clients. How do you do all that?” And so I created a piece of content. I created an article that explained how I did it and I shared that with the people in our world. And so, these questions can be really powerful fodder for how you follow up and they can give you opportunities to then create conversations with your target 100. They open the door. They lead with value when you do this. So that’s the second area is questions.

The third is with relationships. And as you get your target market down to a number where you can know people by name, where you can go and look at their LinkedIn, you can look at their Facebook, you can look at their website, you can understand things about them based on how they already interact with you. And in doing that, it will help you better understand the relationships that they need to build. And most of the time what you’ll find is that there’s an overlap. There are relationships that you have that you can bring to the table that will add values to them, whether you get anything out of it or not, but it’s a way for you to again, show up and be valuable and utilize an asset that you have.

So those are the three ways that you can show up and be valuable. And that’s really important. Where people get stuck in, how do I communicate with my market? Where they get stuck is in knowing what to say and how to follow up. And so they default to, “I’m just checking in. “

And when you’re that person, you’re not going to be very effective. Chances are you’re going to feel probably not very good about it because you know that it’s annoying people. It annoys you. You don’t like doing it. So you’ve got to take it to this next step and be valuable. And the biggest obstacle to getting there is looking around and looking at the assets that you have and how you can use those to communicate in a way that is useful to the people in that target 100 list.

So you’ve got now three sources of material for communication. And it doesn’t have to be content you create. It doesn’t have to be an article that you write, although those are great. But if you know that somebody is facing a particular problem, even if it’s unrelated to specifically what you do, you can go source an article, or source a book, or a video or some other piece of information that helps move them forward in that area of their business or of their lives and share that with them, and show up, and be valuable. So it doesn’t have to be something that you come up with although that is good. It doesn’t have to be.

So let’s look at the third part of this. So, the third part of this is how do we accelerate these relationships, right? Because it can take time. I mean, it can take years sometimes to drip, drip, drip on someone. Well that’s great and it works, but how can we think about this in a different way and accelerate it? How can we create an opportunity for ourselves where we can get in conversation with the people that are on this list more quickly? And one of the best, easiest ways to do that is to interview them.

And we talk a lot about the value of having a media platform like a podcast. And the big value is you’ve now got a place to invite people, particularly if you’re selling business to business, you’ve got a place to invite people in and it’s 100% about them. You’re inviting them in to share their expertise and you’re inviting them in so that you can promote them to everyone that you know. You know, you don’t have to have a big following to do that. You can do that with a little tiny following.

The point is that you’re making that offer and that offer is valuable in and of itself and it’s a way to accelerate these relationships so that you can get someone onto the phone more quickly so that you can get in relationship with them more quickly. Now, do you sell them in that interview? Of course not. That would be crazy. I mean, sometimes it does happen. They’ll ask. But it allows you to speak to that prospect or if you’re smart, you’ll also do it with referral partners and influencers who can refer you.

And you’ll speak to that partner, and you’ll build a relationship with them, and in the conversation before an interview or the conversation after an interview, you’ll get to know them a little bit better and they’re going to feel charged up and good about it. They’re going to come off of that interview going, “Wow, that was really awesome. I got to talk for 30 minutes or 40 minutes about me and all the great things I’m doing and I had this other person on the other end asking me questions about me, and my expertise, and my business and all of the great things that we’re doing.” How do you think that makes them feel?

It makes them like you because you’re showing interest in them. They’re going to walk away from that feeling really good about the experience. And so even though you haven’t made the sale on that first contact, you’ve created a relationship. And so if you do that with a prospect, just imagine the next time you call that that CEO’s office, that business owner’s office, your friends now. They’re going to answer the telephone. You can extend the conversation. And so, you can accelerate your ability to reach this target 100 group. But it starts by being specific, like we said it at the beginning, and it starts with this mindset of how can I show up and be valuable? How can I do this in a way that they will be compelled to respond to rather than me having to show up and convince them? How can I focus on the relationship first and the sale second? Because that’s the way it’s going to happen anyway, so we might as well align our process with that.

And so being able to show up and do an interview on something like a podcast is really valuable in getting to the point where you can get someone on the phone and build that relationship and have that rapport. Even if they don’t close right away. It’s okay.

It’s okay because the more of these relationships that you build over the course of a month or a year, they begin to have compounding value. And so I want you to think about these three principles. Number one, that you’re going to focus on 100. Two, that you’re going to be committed to showing up and giving persistent value to your future clients. Number three, that you’re going to identify how you can be valuable and you’re going to look for value in three places and the problems that they face and the questions that the people in this group of 100 half and in the relationships that you have that you can bring to the table.

And if you want to accelerate these relationships, you have the opportunity to look at something like an interview built on top of a media platform so that it has credibility, and authority, and is desirable. It’s something people want to come and be a part of and use that as a way to accelerate the process.

Now, a question I get all the time is well, “Who should I invite? If I’m going to do these interviews, I’m going to accelerate things. Who should I invite to the party?” And there are really two types of people that you want to invite. We’ve mentioned them already. You want to invite future clients, prospects, and you want to invite influencers or referral partners. And you can focus on one or the other or you can combine the two. And it’s just an easy way to begin to build a relationship, begin to multiply your impact, begin to start these business relationships based on you giving them value in advance, and then being able to build on top of that to do commerce. Where sales gets hard, where marketing gets frustrating, is when you go the other way. And we try and use the latest tactic and we try and use the latest shortcut. And we look at this as something where I’m showing up and I’m all about making a sale.

And I’m not saying you shouldn’t want to make sales. I want to make sales all day long, but you have to have this posture of service first. And I know based on the people that are in our world, most of you already think that. What you need is an action plan, a way to take that thought that you have and figure out how to put it into action in the world. How to go from, “Yeah, I want to serve and I’m over here, I’m listening to all of these people telling me that I’ve got to learn sales scripts, and I’ve got to have marketing automation, and I’ve got to do all of these other things.” And the truth is you don’t need that. You need a few relationships with the right people and you need an easy mechanism to be able to create those relationships and create value first so that those relationships will support commerce.

It’s really simple. It’s really, really simple. But most of the people out there who are trying to teach you how to sell and how to market are telling you something different. And what I want to give you today is a different approach, a different way of looking at this so that you don’t have to go out after all of the anonymous masses, that you can focus on just the next group of 100 that you want to do business with. Will you do business with all of them? No, probably not. But that’s okay. You probably can’t handle all of them within a short period of time. But until you get focused and you build these relationships and go deep with them, you’re really not giving yourself an opportunity to get any leads at all. You’re making this whole thing of sales way more difficult than it needs to be.

So what I want you to do, I want you to think about how you can approach building a list of 20, or 30, or 50, heck start with 10 today. 10 people. They can be influencers and referral partners. They can be potential clients. It doesn’t matter. People that you need to build a business relationship. Get them on paper. Make a commitment to yourself to keep that list close by. Keep it on your smartphone, keep it in the notes app, keep it on a piece of paper that you carry with you. And every time a name comes to mind or every time you meet someone that should be on that list and in that group, you add them. And then I want you to take one additional step. And that one additional step is to sit down with a piece of paper and decide how am I going to show up and be valuable to those 10 people this week? And then go do it. And that’s it.

That’s the formula. That’s the secret. That’s all there is to it. And if you were looking for something more complicated, I’m so sorry to disappoint, but that’s it. So I hope this has been helpful to you. This a format for today’s episode is a bit of an experiment and if you like it, great, let me know. If you hate it, that’s fine. You’re not going to hurt my feelings. Let me know that too. If we get a good positive response, we’ll do more of these as we go forward. We’re not getting rid of the interviews. They’re very valuable, you know, for all of you listening, they’re valuable for me. And it’s also the way that I do exactly what we just talked about. And so one of the things we’re big believers is in eating our own dog food.

You can learn an awful lot about marketing just from watching what we’re doing. So, like I said, if this has been helpful, send me an email. My email is pretty easy to find. It’s Let me know what you think. And if you like it, great. If you don’t, you’re not going to hurt my feelings, but I want to know what you think.

All right, some announcements. Here’s what’s going on in our world right now. I am deep into now writing the follow up formula book. It’s actually probably going to be three books in one. And what we’re doing is we’re breaking down how to follow up with these people that are in your target 100 and how do we follow up with them, how do we follow up with the people who are your inbound leads? How do you do it in a way that is going to make you feel good about it so that you’re not going to be a pest and is also really effective?

And that’s really all about taking the idea of follow up and really turning it into a conversation where it’s a back and forth largely through email or messages or something like that. But that’s the big idea with it. And I was actually talking with one of our clients this morning on a consulting call and talking about how he follows up with people at trade shows. And he was, you know, he felt really guilty because he’d been doing a lot of trade shows and hadn’t followed up as well as he thought he should. And it really boiled down to not having a game plan for how do I follow up in this different situation, in all these different situations, with all of the different leads that I get from a trade show. And you may not do trade shows, you may have people coming in through some other means.

And what we’re doing in the book is we’re going to talk about the principles that go into this, which are important. I always think dealing with the principles helps you understand how to take this to the next level on your own. But we’re also building in some really common scenarios that come in and business. So how do I follow up with somebody that I’ve given a proposal to and haven’t heard back from? How do I follow up with somebody from a speech that I gave and they expressed interest? How do I follow up with somebody that came in through my website or downloaded something from my website and how do I do that so that I can engage them in conversation and ultimately hopefully get them on the phone? And so that’s what that book is all about. Now, if that is something that you think you need help with, what I really recommend you do is just go and we have an early notification list for the book.

And if you go to altogether, one word, nothing between it, follow up formula. If you go there, and there’s an early notification list, you just put your name and your email in and that will make sure that as we launched the book, which is coming out in June, you’ll hear about it. But between now and June, I’m sharing some things just with those people because I know they’re interested in the topic. As I put the book together, I’m going to be sharing some samples and some things there, and it’s a great way for you to get more plugged in and get some stuff before we launched the books, some extra special stuff. So go there, do that. It’s And let me know what you think, both about that new book, and that topic, and about this episode. And I hope it’s helped you. And we’ll be back next week with a new episode. Take care.

The Pre-Sell Formula
9-Part Email Course

We care about keeping our email list very clean. We will NEVER spam, sell, or rent your emails. You can unsubscribe at any time (and your email will be permanently deleted). Please feel safe to use your primary email address.