For people who use websites to generate leads, a part of the search marketing equation that often gets overlooked involves turning your leads into sales. If you’ve already set up your SEO and PPC campaigns, gotten them to work, and refined your site so you get the most leads, you still have to close the sale. One thing we have observed about leads that come by way of SEM is that they have a somewhat different set of expectations, and satisfying these expectations can give you an advantage in a tough marketplace.
By their nature, search engine leads tend to have a short half-life. The same person who found your site may have combed through several other pages in the sponsored and natural rankings, and gotten similar results. If you’re in an aggressive marketplace, it pays to take a few steps that will ensure that your customer isn’t a “cold call” by the time that they hear from you.
Here are a few steps you can turn search leads into actual customers:
- Put Yourself in the Customer’s Time Zone. This doesn’t mean that you should move to where the customers are, but it does mean that you should consider where the lead is coming from. If you’re in California, and you get leads from the East Coast, it pays to show up early. If you don’t get into the office until 9AM, your prospect is already out to lunch, and you’ve missed a lead who is “hungry” for a solution. By the time you get in touch, you’re dealing with someone who is probably ready for a nap, and who has already heard from some “morning people.”
- Call Back ASAP. You would be surprised by the number of search engine leads that don’t get called back promptly. Just because the initial contact was made by way of a form, you don’t need to follow up with an email if you can pick up the phone and make a connection. A personal phone call goes a long way in the conversion process. If you stop to think about the number of unanswered emails in your own inbox, you might consider the value your customer may place on an electronic response.
- Demonstrate Knowledge. If you’re paying a live person to screen your leads for potential, and they are making outbound calls, it pays to have someone on the line who understands the product. A customer who has gotten to your site by way of Google, Bing, or Yahoo may have typed in a very specific search phrase, and might be dismayed if your appointment setter doesn’t appear to understand their needs. In this case, a little cross-training with account management and production can pay off handsomely.
- Don’t Underestimate a Lead. If your site gets a fair amount of traffic, and you have set your forms/chat/contact up correctly, you can get all kinds of inquiries. There will certainly be quite a few that you could dismiss at a glance. However, we have found that executives and decision makers don’t look any different than a “time waster” when it comes to making the initial inquiry. Some very large projects often come to a site in the planning stages, or require nondisclosure agreements, so the primary contact information often looks incomplete. Instead of “cherry picking” leads for the sales staff, it often pays to distribute them more randomly and see who turns the search leads into dollars.
- Follow Up. Sometimes a lost sale can be seen as an investment. Even if you didn’t get the sale today, you may get it 6 months down the road. Customers have a million reasons for switching vendors, and an occasional reminder of your capabilities may coincide with an unmet need on their current vendor’s behalf. If the customer is marginally satisfied with their provider, they may still know someone else who can use the service.
- Turn Leads Into Lead Generators. If you have a sales channel/partner agreement, let your “no” customers know that they can get a finder’s fee or commission if they send a sale your way. Search engine users who know how to “find” things can make excellent prospectors, and they may know someone in a similar field who could use your product or service. Turning a lost sale into a revenue source can be the ultimate silver lining when a customer does not come your way.
Admittedly, several of these points may look like basic information to anyone with more than a few years of selling experience. Since the advent of the Internet, businesses have moved away from many time-tested methods of turning leads into dollars. However, it is important to note that many of the people on the other side of the screen were also around when the online world was a novelty, and now those people hold the purse strings. They may actually find a phone call and a quick follow-up to be very refreshing, compared to “just another email.” In any case, the proper mining and development of search engine leads may give you an inside track over every other person who has been contacted by the prospect, and that can be the one advantage you need to secure the business.