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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Managing Customer Relationships, After The Click

Never before has it been easier for local business to generate leads for their businesses. There are many, many resources available to help businesses get customers in the door and on the phone. Many advertising options—online and offline—are performance-priced including pay-per-click, pay-per-lead, and pay-per-call. From search engines, traditional yellow pages publishers, newspapers, local ad agencies to national entrants such as ReachLocal, Yodle, MerchantCircle and others there are numerous options to help local businesses generates leads.

However, despite all these resources available to generate new leads, many local businesses still let leads get away. These businesses have no process for managing and following up on leads after they are generated.

Local businesses still let too many leads get away

Regardless of the type of marketing and advertising you do, the benefits of a customer relationship management program are very straightforward (the industry term is CRM). Let’s use an example of two florists: Daisy and Lazy.

Daisy has spent $500 per month on search engine marketing consistently for three years. On average she generates about 100 leads per month. It’s a priority for Daisy to answer her phone, return messages and respond to all email inquiries. Her marketing is not limited to the 100 new leads she generates monthly.

Because of her efforts, Daisy has a rich database of over 3600 leads which includes names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and specifics about each lead. Daisy uses the database to email a monthly newsletter and direct mail specials. On key occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, Daisy calls her leads to inform them of upcoming specials or to remind them to renew an order. The total of Daisy’s marketing efforts equal the combination of her search engine marketing and her ongoing customer relationship marketing. Daisy is selling a percentage of her in-house list and new leads generated by SEM each month. If Daisy sells 10% of the 3600 leads she has on file, she is making about 360 sales per month. These efforts are growing as her list grows.

Across town is Lazy. Lazy also spends $500 per month on search engine marketing on his flower shop. However, Lazy doesn’t always answer the phone, return calls or respond to email. Lazy misses about half of the 100 leads he generates. Without a customer relationship marketing program, Lazy’s limited to these 50 or so leads. What a wreck!

How is your program? How you answer these questions may tell you if your customer relationship marketing is a wreck:

  • How do customers contact you—mostly by phone or email?
  • When customers call, is the call logged in some organized way?
  • How do you follow-up on phone messages?
  • Do you return all calls and keep trying until you get through?
  • After you’ve quoted a job do you have a process to follow-up and keep following up?
  • Do you use multiple channels, including phone, email, fax, mail to communicate with your customers?

Six easy steps toward effective CRM

Here are six ways to implement a successful customer relationship marketing program like Daisy’s:

Use customer relationship management software. There are numerous, reasonably-priced services such as Salesforce.com which is offered on a software as a service basis, allowing you pay monthly. You can also use an Excel spreadsheet. Businesses must have some method other than post-it notes to manage their leads. Then you must become a vacuum—ask every contact to join your mailing list. Ask for email addresses, Twitter names, Facebook friends. Don’t just sell to a customer one time. Get your prospects into your marketing program forever.

Actively manage your leads. Have a dedicated resource—or at least dedicated time—to manage this lead list. Carve out an hour a day, a few hours a week, or one day a month to maintain your in-house database. Create newsletters, coupons, specials, discounts for referrals; work Facebook, Twitter, etc. I know you may not have gone into business to be in sales and marketing, but these activities are critical to grow your business.

Keep consistent records. Create a template or form listing the information you need to collect from every caller. If you have a web to lead form on your website (and you should), you can also use this for phone leads. Let your employees use your website to enter leads right into your database. You can add a flag that shows phone leads (vs. web lead). The information you want in your database includes name, phone number, email addresses, project notes, special dates, etc. All this can be added to your website as a form (rather than just a “contact us” email link). The form will send you an email with all the details—or better yet, this data can be added directly to a database.

Follow-up. On everything—all answering machine messages, emails and other inquiries. You paid to generate the lead; don’t let it get away. And make it easy for potential clients to contact you. Offer your email address on your outgoing voice message. It may be more convenient for some callers to email you their questions. When you cannot connect by phone, try email and vice versa. Always make it easy for customers to contact and communicate with you.

Track and analyze the results. How many calls did you receive, where did they hear about you, how many emails, how many return calls did you make, how many sales, what are your best sources for leads? CRM applications offer rich reporting capabilities. Google Analytics can be easily integrated into your website and is free.

The basics of good sales and customer service

In the age of Twitter, Facebook, iPhones and augmented reality it’s easy to forget the basics of good sales and customer service. In a performance-marketing world we pay each time the doorbell or phone rings, and we lose money each time we don’t answer.

Finally, if you have any doubt that your prospective customers expect this type of service from your company, you can read about a survey I recently conducted with Chicago-based Synovate. We asked 1,000 consumers how important availability is in hiring local service providers and 87% of key local consumers said customer relationships was “important or most important.”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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