Business Process Fails
Proper marketing opens up a golden age of lead generation for many companies, with potential customers walking themselves directly to the digital doorsteps of businesses who lay breadcrumb trails online. But if a business isn’t internally prepared to field these new leads, they can easily turn into ex-leads.
No Follow Ups
One of the surest ways to whitewash your marketing efforts is to mismanage your form submissions. A form submission is usually either a request for more information or an appointment booking request, sent from a prospect to your company through a contact page on your website.
Social media sometimes acts as an alternative form submission: A customer tweets at your company to find out who to call for a refund, or a prospect sends a direct message through Facebook to ask about product specifications. These interactions are not insignificant, and should be handled with the same sincerity and urgency that you give to in-store shoppers or prospects who have already agreed to a call.
Most digital leads are voluntary leads, and high-value ones at that. By the time they cross your desk, they have already requested to be directly contacted. What kind of sales person would turn that down??
But many do, even if unintentionally. If a business lacks coherent procedures for handling digital inquiries, they may as well be hanging a closed sign in the window during office hours—while still paying a marketing team for bringing people to the door.
Marketing Automation Isn’t 100% Automated
Many companies use automation to reach out to prospects and handle inquiries. Online request forms, auto-generated welcome emails and social media tools that flag user interactions with your company are all forms of automation that help businesses capture leads without much exertion on the front end. Maybe some businesses get lulled to sleep by the word “automated,” but a great amount of organization and effort still has to happen after the first round or two of automation.
Offering online users an easy way to contact you and then waiting more than 24 hours to offer them a human reply is wasteful and rude. Have you ever left a voicemail trying to schedule an appointment, and waited four days to hear back? Ever sent an online store an inquiry about a particular size or color, and never received a response? I don’t know about you, but when I get put on a back burner, I take my business elsewhere.
If your business uses any amount of marketing automation, you should be able to answer these questions without hesitation:
- Who in your company looks at form submissions? There should be a designated person or team to do this every single day.
- Who in your company responds to them? This may or may not be the person who checks them, but there must be designated team members who can personally follow up with digital leads on a daily basis.
- What is the maximum allowable response time? Here’s a hint: It should be no more than 24 hours. Even if you don’t have an immediate answer for an inquiry, you should let your lead know that you are working on their request and will get back to them within a certain timeframe.
- How do you determine when an online request is urgent? Not all inquiries are of equal importance. Some deserve an ASAP response.
If your business gets a high volume of form submissions and other notifications, one process that helps is to have a team member scan every notification for keywords, i.e., look for words that create a sense of urgency, such as “I bought this today” or “I want to schedule a call.” These kinds of alerts can help you weed through the requests that need immediate responses versus those that can wait until day’s end.
Automated confirmation emails that thank the user for their inquiry or inform them that you will follow up within a certain timeframe are also helpful for preventing leads from getting jittery about hearing back from you—just don’t depend on these automated messages to tide your leads over more than a day or so.
Another word of advice that shouldn’t need to be said but does: Pick up the phone, and check your messages when you can’t.
Improving Business Processes: Check Yourself
Getting prospects through the door has much more to do with you than it does with them. Your business or brand is the most powerful factor in the equation.
If you’ve never put yourself in your prospects’ shoes, take the opportunity to test out your company’s own systems. What kind of response do you get when you submit an anonymous info request? How long does it take your employees to return a call when your buddy leaves a voice message after-hours? Test these factors again and again, and if they’re not 100%—make it your first priority to implement more effective processes for handling outside requests.