This is a guest post from Farhan Niazi, an IT professional with expertise in the fields of Web and Database Development. Niazi is the founder of SMB Tech Guide and is currently serving Sarhad University of Science and Information Technology, Pakistan as the Deputy Director of Information Technology.
Inbound marketing isn’t as simple as just setting up a marketing campaign and a company profile in social media (like Facebook and Twitter) and waiting for the business to come storming in. One thing that’s not often discussed is what to do with the leads that are generated. The approach required for their proper handling is not quite what you might expect. Here are three quick hints for managing your online marketing and inbound marketing leads:
1. First, create some content and become a presence. You might not have the initial budget for the “proper” inbound marketing software, i.e. a complete setup, to get started. Consider assigning your interns or hiring freelancers to get even a small-scale campaign up and running. They can put together and publish blog posts that are full of keywords to give your effort good exposure, and respond to social media requests from followers on Facebook and Twitter by pointing them to the correct department in your company.
After a little while you’ll see if the results are worth an additional investment of the proper software and more staffers, or not. Remember that inbound marketing isn’t designed to replace traditional marketing—the results can take much more time to be positive—so be careful not to pull the plug too fast on it.
2. Don’t make assumptions about your leads. Let’s say your initial efforts have paid off, and you have some new Facebook and Twitter fans. It would be a big mistake to move right in on them and assume they are ready to buy. Inbound marketing prospects, like emails or phone calls, are just like cold calls—the difference being that the customer has taken the first step for you and made contact. It would be wrong to presume that these leads are any more qualified than those typically generated from cold calls.
You mustn’t push too hard at first—perhaps at all—towards making a sale with these leads; at least, not yet. They might not have the budget for a purchase right now, but visited your site due to a search result for a product or service they’re looking for. Maybe they were looking for advice and found it on your blog.
The best way to manage them is to offer more information about what they were looking for on your site. Essentially, move them through the buying cycle. Provide them with things like user reviews, customer case studies, and so on. This not only shows that you have an interest in them but that you are also willing to wait for them to make a buying decision, instead of pushing for one today. There is an inherent trust from both parties in allowing a customer to make up his or her mind, but also standing by if they have questions or concerns. In turn, you’ve created a better educated customer who might actually spend more than they had originally intended.
A good example of this would be a dialogue where a customer has downloaded a free coupon. You could say, “I see you have downloaded our free coupon for one of our XYZ products. How many of those would you like in total?” If the customer balks at this approach, the best followup is “We’ve noticed that customers who downloaded the coupon for free XYZ also later on ended up purchasing A, B and C. Let’s take a look at those so you can get a better idea of what the next step is.”
3. Are they good leads, or ‘tire kickers’? It’s certainly true that there are no lookers, just those who haven’t bought yet. Anyone who has said they are “just looking” must, by their very interest in the product, have some interest—however remote right now—in owning it. The question is, is it worth the time and effort to try and persuade them to make the buying decision?
This is where a good CRM—Customer Relationship Management—tool comes in. Every contact and/or communication with a prospect should be entered into it. This will help determine how serious a customer is about a purchase. If Mr. Smith has asked 25 questions about product XYZ and then admitted later on he’s purchased it elsewhere due to a lower cost, this should be found in the CRM. While Mr. Smith might still be a valued prospect for future purchases, clearly he has a history of using your company as a springboard to purchasing elsewhere.
Starting out, everyone will have a clean slate and there will be little or no history. It won’t take too long to develop one, and due diligence is required for the data entry. This will prevent your salespeople from spinning their wheels in the future.
Inbound marketing promises to greatly increase the potential for better, more targeted sales. Realizing that it requires a slightly different approach is the first step in the process.