Friday, November 19, 2010

Follow-Up Is Time-Consuming

No more blog-writing on the train. I'm back in New York and writing this one on my PC's large screen -- it is an improvement over the 10" screen on my netbook, I must say.

After attending the tekom conference in early November, I wrote follow-up e-mails to everyone I had met there, as well as to the people to whom my contacts had referred me. (Many of the exhibitors were sales persons and gave me the name of their vendor management person.) Since I didn't have direct internet access from my netbook, that meant writing them all in one large Word file, copying that file onto a USB stick, then using a gmail account I had set up from the browser on my uncle's computer to copy and send each of the e-mails separately. It took probably a couple of hours to write and send these 40 or so e-mails.

Later during my trip I started to receive the first replies to my e-mails, usually asking for more information. Using the same gmail account from my sister's desktop, I replied that I'd supply that information upon my return to the U.S. the following week. These e-mails came in small doses, but let's say another half hour or so for checking my e-mail and replying to these.

After returning to New York on Monday of this week, I followed up on these e-mails and supplied the information requested -- most frequently by filling in online vendors questionnaires. Since each questionnaire was in a different format and requested different information (including the version numbers of some of my software and similar items I had to look up), it took a while to complete them all. Another hour and a half for this, I'd say.

Wednesday I input the information from all the business cards I had collected at tekom into my Outlook Business Contact Manager, including a note on whether the person in question was a direct contact or someone I was referred to and a note on the language of communication (English or German). That process was quite time-consuming since all the phone numbers and such on each business card had to be input and checked on screen. I probably spent a couple of hours on Outlook.

Yesterday I created cover letters to send brochures to either the person I was referred to or, if no referral occured, the direct contact. Since the text was slightly different for referrals versus direct contacts and some letters were in English while others were in German, a mail merge operation didn't seem to make much sense. I therefore wrote sample letters, copied them into a Word document and then personalized each one by copying the address information from the Outlook record, then adding the salutation and, in the case of referrals, the name of the person who had referred me. Once that file was done, I could load my printer with letterhead and let the entire file print on its own. Let's say an hour total for this operation.

After that was done, I had to print an envelope for each contact. My all-in-one printer/copier/scanner/fax only prints one envelope at a time, and misfeeds if loaded with more than 6 or 7 envelopes at a time. So the envelope printing process took quite some time, although I was signing and folding the cover letters at the same time, then stuffing envelopes as they printed. That entire operation must have taken another 45 minutes or so.

Next, the trip to the post office. The lines at our local post office are usually fairly long, but they now have a nifty self-service machine. Except that machine only does 5 stamps at a time if you don't want standard U.S. postage. I mailed more than 20 letters, in 5-stamp intervals, so that took a little while, too, maybe 15 minutes.

After all this I've received the first requests for test translations. I won't include the time spent on these here, but just the "advertising" portion of this follow-up has taken me a full workday. Maybe its time to investigate customer relationship management software after all ...

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