The process of turning potential customers into active buyers can look pretty similar for many businesses in the B2B world.
You are familiar with the process. It is the sales/conversion lifecycle or funnel:
- Target: Identify who you want to reach.
- Connect: Connect with them through your advertising on various platforms.
- Engage: Sort through leads and prioritize most likely to buy.
- Convert: Follow up with leads and convert them into actual buyers.
It seems pretty straightforward when looking at it from a bird’s eye view, but we all know there are many nuances to each section of this process. One nuance that is extremely vital to the success of your business is follow-up.
Unfortunately, it is far too common to reach a “break in transmission” at this stage in the process. You may have connected with prospects, generated leads and even managed to convert some of those leads into buyers. But how many leads are falling to the wayside as a result of weak follow-up? Follow-up is key to converting leads into buyers. If you are not following up with the leads you are generating, then you are wasting time, effort and worst of all, money.
Clearly, wasting leads is not part of any company’s business strategy. So how does a business intent on gaining new customers end up falling short when it comes to following up with leads? What are some of the causes and how can these issues be counteracted?
Cause #1: Lack of a contact strategy
One study several years ago researched how timing affects leads. It showed that the odds of getting through when returning a lead’s call drop substantially between five minutes after they call and 10 minutes after. To be exact, the contact rate drops by 900% between the five-minute and 10-minute mark. This means that it takes 10 minutes for a lead to grow cold.
This is not too unbelievable when you consider the many options buyers have these days. If your business does not pick up the phone when a potential buyer calls, all they have to do is move on to whichever of your competitors is listed next on their Google search engine result page. Within the 10 minutes — or more — it might take you to return their call, they may have already found another option.
The solution sounds simple: Return every inbound call in five minutes or less — but that is not always possible. Your employees are human. So, they can only do so much. They can only talk to one person at a time. Their work hours are limited. There are existing customers to attend to. Simply trying to return every single call in 5 minutes is not a realistic option.
Use marketing automation
Supplement the work your business puts into responding to leads with marketing automation. You can use autoresponders like emails, SMS messaging and voicemail to let potential customers know you received their call and will get back to them. This helps to keep a potential customer engaged with your business until your employees are available to follow-up.
Cause #2: Heavy lead volume
Another reason some of your leads might be falling to the wayside is that you might be trying to manage too many. Having your phones ring off the hook may seem like a great problem to have, but if most of those calls go unanswered, is it really a good thing?
If your lead volume exceeds your manpower, you not only end up wasting leads, but your team can get overwhelmed. This could have a negative effect on their overall productivity. If your team is not equipped to handle the volume of your inbound leads, then the time, effort and money it took to produce those leads will be wasted.
Weed out unqualified leads early
You can cut back on lead volume early on in the conversion lifecycle by beginning the entire process with clearly defining who you want to reach. If your targeting includes anybody and everybody, you will be forced to sort through unqualified leads to find qualified ones in the time that you should be following up instead. Defining your audience and targeting solely that audience does not only cut down the leads you produce, but guarantees the leads you are producing are the right ones.
Dial back on your advertising
The solution may be throttling back on lead generation. You may have to cut back on your advertising efforts to produce a more manageable volume of leads. You can limit the number of platforms you are using to reach potential customers or even limit the number of ads displayed or how often they are displayed.
Marketing automation can also be used to manage lead volume by filtering the volume by the most highly engaged potential customers.
Cause #3: Sales and marketing misalignment
Departments within the same company are often siloed. It makes sense because usually each department has a specific role or focus. However, for the conversion lifecycle to run smoothly, multiple departments — primarily sales and marketing — must be fully involved and working in tandem.
The marketing team can produce leads through advertising campaigns, but if the leads are not smoothly and quickly turned over to the sales team, leads can be lost or grow cold.
This solution focuses solely on what can be done from a marketing standpoint. It’s great that the marketing team produces leads and delivers them to the sales team. But doing so without joint pre-campaign planning can create several blind spots for sales. Who are these leads? What type of advertising campaign produced them? Involving the sales team during the planning stages of the campaign and letting them know ahead of time they will be receiving these leads allows the sales team to prepare for effective follow-up.
Even businesses that recognize the importance of lead follow-up can sometimes fall short. Follow-up is not an area where you can afford to be misaligned because it is the key to converting potential customers into active buyers. So, have a contact strategy, pre-plan lead volume management, gain stakeholder alignment, and watch how it increases the success of your business.