Today's economic environment forces all of us to do more with the same or less. This postulate should also extend into our lead generation programs for local search. The way to get more sales out of these investments is by increasing the conversion rate.
Part of improving conversion rates deals with form and conversion optimization, as stated in earlier articles. However, after talking to a number of advertisers, I've seen a common thread of opportunity emerging in the timeliness and quality of how we respond to leads as they come in. Let's look at the basics.
How Quickly Do You Respond to Leads?
If all of the leads from your various sources aren't loaded into a central repository (database) you won't be able to measure and affect change (remember, if it can be measured, it can be optimized). The repository can take the form of a spreadsheet for the most basic setup to an online Customer Relationship Management tool. If you're going the online path, look at Zoho CRM or salesforce.com.
The benefits of a central lead repository include the ability to:
- Monitor leads throughout the total sales cycle, allowing you to determine where leads get "stuck" in the sales process and deploy corrective tactics.
- Distribute leads if you have more than one sales resource, thereby reducing the chance that a single prospect/customer is called by multiple sales folks, always an embarrassing situation.
- Compare and validate the quality of various lead sources, e.g., are search engine leads better than Internet yellow pages vs. online newspapers, etc.
- Measure how fast your team is responding to inbound sales leads.
Fast Isn't Fast Enough
In the movie "Swingers," Vince Vaughn says he waits six days before calling a girl after a date. If you take that long to follow up with your leads generated from local search, you aren't going to get a lot of "dates" or sales.
So what's an acceptable time to get in touch with a prospect? I've read papers and research that state that sales conversions decrease significantly for leads that age more than 24 hours. However, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.
Actually, 24 hours is a really long time. We live in the world of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Consumers expect momentary follow up from the time they hit "submit" on your lead form or finish leaving you a voicemail.
As Woody Allen aptly put it: "80 percent of success is showing up." Value sales leads like they're invitations to sales, and they're allowing only a select group to participate. You want to be the first to respond.
Quality and Method of Response
Let's face it, the hardest part of the process is actually reaching the prospect. Voicemail and schedules all get in the way of making contact. A couple of best practice tips include:
- Get to the point. "I am responding to your request for further information on..."
- Make them feel special. "I know you were trying to get the information quickly, so here is my mobile number to reach me directly."
- Leave them a voicemail and your number, but keep in mind that the job isn't done. Call every hour until you reach them, just don't leave them a voicemail each time.
- If you've collected their e-mail address, also send an e-mail after leaving the message to let them know you're interested in their business. Acknowledge their busy schedule and request a good time for you to follow up.
If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again
Consumer's purchase cycles and behaviors aren't all the same. Leads that come in today may be for future purchases and, as a result, aren't ready to commit on the first follow up.
Don't discard old leads. Try to harvest old leads by timely follow up -- 15 to 30 days after receipt -- to find out if they've purchased what they were looking for, or if they're still in the marketplace.
Additionally, these follow-up calls are a good way to gather research from sales you might not have closed and find out if they bought from somewhere else. Asking why they picked the merchant they purchased from so you can improve your firm is a fair question and may set you up for future purchases.
Companies that succeed at lead conversions give a little extra to prove to the consumer that they want their business and are willing to compete for it. Fast and thorough follow-up are the first steps in conversion optimization, and can gain you additional business without added media expense. Make more of what you already have.