The developer's guide to followups

Last week was monumental for Noko. We launched recurring budgets, which is something we’ve wanted to do for YEARS. After I made a “workaround” a year ago, we finally rolled up our sleeves and pushed out an awesome V1.

A screenshot of the recurring budgets feature in Noko
Recurring Budgets are awesome!

But in all honesty, the most valuable work I did this week was searching and copy/pasting. I spent a day scouring through Slack, our old support system, and internal notes to find people who asked for 2 major features we’ve deployed: recurring budgets and an Invoicing API.

The responses I got really drove home one of the basic rules of business: “Followups are a fundamental part of long term success, and everyone needs to do ‘em”:

Awesome!!! So excited to see this Cannon! Can’t wait to play around in it.

Thank you!

This is great! Thanks for your work on this, and taking integrations seriously

I mean, these are great. The team loved reading these and our customers know that we care about them.

So yeah, followups work and you should be doing them ASAP.

“But I’m a developer/manager/Pointy Haired Boss; that’s not really my job.”

Following up pays off in almost every part of your career. You’ll get more clients, keep existing customers, snag high-profile projects, and it’s a highly valuable skill you can quantify for your next raise.

We are so overloaded with the onslaught of tweets, emails, and notifications that following up feels overwhelming. But highly successful people maintain good relationships, and part of that is making sure people know you listen to them and care about what they say. Doing something about their suggestions is the ultimate representation of that.

“But what about working on new features? I’m paid to be a developer, I don’t have time for this.”

If I told you: “By just copy/pasting every once in a while, you could significantly improve the bottom line and look good doing it,” would you turn that down with an excuse?

People who run brick and mortar shops know it’s crucial to remember your regulars and your vocal customers. If you can give them what they want, they’re more likely to be a better, more frequent customer or refer you. Everyone wants to be valued. Your customers took the time and effort to tell you what they wanted (when’s the last time you did that?).

Following up is a whole lot cheaper than tacking on a new feature. Successfully launching a feature requires hours of testing, support, marketing, maintenance, programming, and design. By comparison, sending personalized “Hey, I wanted to let you know we’ve launched X! Have fun!” emails is chump change.

Still not convinced it’s worth my time

Okay: Following up with customers gives you the chance to pull a few hat tricks that help everyone. The three basic scenarios are:

  1. You tell an existing and happy customer you’ve implemented feature X. They’re ecstatic, and either purchase more or stay with you longer.
  2. You tell a lost customer their deal-breaker feature is live. They sign up again, the sales team buys you a beer.
  3. You resurface an old business opportunity that was lost because you were missing feature X. Restart the conversation, you’re now leading a whole new project (no joke, I’ve had this happen to me and it’s awesome).

Every scenario gives you more recognition from the higher-ups and improves the business.

“But I don’t talk to customers”*

First: you should fix that ASAP. Don’t be insulated from your customer, it’s bad for your career. Always know who pays the bills and how they think.

Second: you do have customers. If you work in a totally 100% insular department, then your customers are the people who benefit from your work. You are hired to provide a service. Sometimes you get paid for performing that service by an outside party, sometimes it’s to help Joan in QA. Either way, you have a “customer” who would love a personalized message that their idea became a reality.

“Okay, I’m convinced. How do I do this?”*

Followups are a 2-step process:

  1. Capture every inquiry for X
  2. Send a high-quality followup to each inquiry once X is finished.

Step 1 is easy, but people overcomplicate it. But I’ve written a Google Sheets Template you and your team can use.

Anytime somebody so much as sneezes about a feature, add a new row to the list. Following up doesn’t work if you don’t know who to contact.

Step 2 involves a little bit more up-front work. Once you finish feature X, find everyone from your sheet who asked for it. Write a nice template for the followups. Make it in your voice, tweak it when you can to make it personal. The goal is to quickly contact everyone on the list. You’ll have a good baseline, and can really shine when the moment arises.

“Woah, that sounds like a lot of work”

The irony is that it’s so much easier now to follow up. No more handwriting letters, no paying an assistant to type up a form. All it takes is a good template and copy/pasting bytes.

You’re probably overcomplicating things in step 1. That sheet is literally everything you need. Don’t add any other field. Stop, leave it alone. A link and what they asked about are all you need. Anything else is an excuse to avoid the work. Future you will figure out the important details (which may change, so its better to wait). Duplicates are okay, you’ll filter the spreadsheet to only show people who asked for a specific feature.

Oh, if you’re stuck on step 2, here’s a template you can use:

Hey there [NAME]!

A while ago you asked about [FEATURE X], and I wanted to let you know it’s live! :D


Let me know if you have any questions or need help. :)


“What now?”

Bookmark the sheet, make that file easy to open. Start recording anytime someone asked for a feature. Show that it works, get the rest of the team to join in. Reap the rewards of a better business and a new high-value skill.