Friday, March 03, 2006

Separating Qualified Leads from Tire Kickers

B2B companies that sell expensive, enterprise solutions seem to have a common problem: They receive a lot of inquiries from their web site, but many are not qualified prospects.

Depending on the industry and solution they provide, they may receive inquires from small businesses or even the general public looking for solutions that the company may seem to have a possible answer for, but for the company, the economies just don't work for these types of customers.

One large company I work with recently came to me with this issue.

They were looking over the ways they have been addressing the inquiries coming in.
Sometimes leads are assigned immediately to the sales reps and other times they try to fulfill these contacts’ need for information first (with administrative personnel), and then forward to the sales reps.

They wanted other ideas to handle their web inquiries – they wanted to spend less time responding to FAQs and concentrate more on those inquiries that are of direct business consequence.

There are many ways to deal with this issue, but most companies never give it the full attention that it deserves. Here are my suggestions:

Send an automatic FAQ email. Send a self service email designed to answer the most frequently asked questions in inquiries. You can phrase it so that you don't have to personally answer each email, but still provide a timely, relevant, professional response.

For example, tell people that you get a lot of responses, and to serve inquiries better you've put together this list of frequently asked questions that address most of the inquiries you receive. You will read their email, but if their answer is contained in the message they are reading, you won't be getting back to them. After all, they already have the answer. Tell them if they have any other questions, they should contact you again.

Create inquiry forms on your web site that send out custom messages with dynamically generated content for additional personalization. A form can ask many types of questions to give you insight into the nature of the inquiry.

Create auto response messages that include different links and different content depending on the prospects answers from the form. If prospects answer a certain way to a certain question, or series of questions, have that lead forwarded directly to a sales rep.

Follow up more than once. Create messages that go out in a timed sequence after the initial inquiry. Follow up in 2 days to ask if they have the information they need, or if they need any more. Ask if they found the brochure or case study they downloaded helpful. Ask if they would like to speak with a sales rep.

Follow up again after two weeks or a month, with an announcement or information on a recent project or new case study. Follow up again after two months. Start sending your entire email audience a monthly newsletter with information on your industry, your company, and recent developments.

Ask them to qualify themselves. In the follow up emails, ask them for more information. To do this effectively, you'll need to provide them with an incentive to take action. Have a new whitepaper, a demonstration, a sample, a free book, free tickers, a chance to win, something that would interest your audience enough to take a minute and answer a few question for you.

Ask the BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timing) questions so you will see which prospects are 'hot', and respond appropriately.

Use Email polls and links that trigger other actions. With professional Email marketing software, you can trigger other email sequences based on which link a prospect clicks in an email.

For example, you can ask people if they currently use a product like yours or if they are considering it for the first time. Each answer has it's own link that goes to it's own landing page. Depending on which links the prospect clicks, you can send follow up emails that discuss your product in a different way. For the people that already use a similar product, you can provide feature comparisons. For those that are considering the product for the first time, you will want to focus on the benefits your product provides in a different way.

Use engagement devices on your web site to draw even more people in, and ask them to qualify themselves as part of the process. Create an interactive questionnaire on your site that promises to provide an answer to their problem. Ask a series of questions about their need, one after the other, in a small pop-up or embedded Flash or Java element on your site.

Ask questions that flag them as a prospect, a hot prospect, or an unqualified person or company. The end of the process give the answer you promised, and let them know if they should be talking with you or not. Follow up with an email campaign as discussed above, and have the good leads forwarded automatically to your sales reps.

Create more customer self service content on your site. Certainly 90% of the questions that come your way are similar questions asked over and over. Commit to a large, user friendly FAQ or knowledge base section on your site. Consider a forum. Use tag-based web analytics to monitor usage of the section and see how you can improve it. Add to it regularly. Review your search logs to see what the most common searches are, and increase the visibility of content you have, or add more content to address needs.

In Summary:

Focus on intelligent automation of customer self service instead of more efficient manual response to customer inquiries.
Time and money invested in this will pay for itself quickly in costs saved, improved customer relations, and new sales.

1 comment:

Paula said...

Very interesting post. I need help in finding more information on "automate digital delivery". Have a look at this link http://www.digiserveonline.com. I am thinking of subscribing to it. Any pointers?