Customer engagement is key to generating website traffic that translates into more revenue. The good news is that to generate that engagement, businesses don’t need to scrap existing websites to see significant improvements.

“Every Web development shop says you need a completely redesigned website; that’s why customers aren’t becoming engaged. On a case-by-case basis that might be true, but most of the time it’s a matter of optimizing what’s already there,” says Ryan Niddel, CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions.

“It’s about mining data from your customers and getting the most out of the visitors to your site; getting them engaged in your brand by taking them through a proven funnel. Capture their information, get them engaged through a follow-up sequence and get them involved in your social media, so when they need your product or service, you’re at the tip of their tongue,” says Niddel.

Smart Business spoke with Niddel about strategies companies can implement that help them grab the attention of existing and potential customers — a circular marketing campaign unifying their overall Web presence.

Where does the process of building engagement start?

It begins with a few simple changes in the website design; nothing more than a giveaway, something related to your business. A business that paints houses might feature a free e-book on how to care for your house’s paint or the simplest way to scrape it off. When someone provides an email address, he or she is added to a database and gets to download the material for free.

From there, it’s a series of email, text and mail promotions that all circle back to the end goal of getting them involved in your brand. Someone doing research and shopping for a painter might take 30 days to make a decision. You’re staying in front of him or her without being intrusive, giving him or her good information on a regular basis while also providing him or her with a way to connect to you. The best frequency is between once every 10 days and once every 25 days; that’s not intrusive at all.

You can also set up a blog that links to your website to allow customers to provide real-time feedback. If someone’s unhappy, that gives you the chance to apologize to the world, and show how the problem was fixed and what you do for your customers.

http://youtu.be/US3imgyasNY

Does that strategy work regardless of the type of business?

It’s more congruent with someone not selling a product, but it will work for e-commerce as well. We worked with a company that sells various pumps and gaskets for industrial use, which is a niche market so it’s not a high visibility website or search term. But it was able to get people engaged with its site and that has increased its customer acquisition 8 percent in 30 days.

How do you get customers to connect with your business via social media?

Offer a simple giveaway, a free quote or a 5 percent discount coupon if they follow you on Twitter or ‘like’ you on Facebook. Make sure every online aspect, whether it’s your website, blog, Facebook or Twitter, interconnects and have links to each other.

If you’re doing a good job and providing helpful information, engagement rates will be about 10 percent. That 10 percent will actively stay involved in the brand and provide vital feedback.

People visiting websites usually don’t take immediate action; it’s too easy to conduct research and shop around. Getting customer engagement sets you aside from every other company prospective clients search. Not every business will become a Nike or an Apple, but Joe’s Painting has people who like and trust Joe, and will tell their friends about Joe. That becomes easier when you stay in touch with them.

Ryan Niddel is the CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or ryan@quicklaunchsolutions.com.

Insights Internet is brought to you by QuickLaunch Solutions

 

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

You’ve Got Leads. Now What?

Companies invest great amounts of time, effort and capital on building the right website to resonate with their target customers and convert those targets into leads for the business.  “Building and marketing a great website that generates volumes of leads often comes with the next-level challenge of efficiently managing those leads to quickly convert to sales,” advises says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to connect the right technologies to effectively manage your leads and close sales faster.

What are the critical elements I need to manage my lead to sale process?

Standing alone, a business website typically processes a new lead from a quote request or a contact form submission by sending an email alert to someone, and perhaps storing those form submissions in the administrative back end of the website. Unless a lot of detailed, accurate and disciplined manual documentation is maintained about each lead, the ability to track them through to the sale and see key metrics such as best performing lead sources, campaigns, etc. is lost. Critical business decisions could then be made based on faulty information and opinion. The technology exists today to eliminate this risk, at investment levels that accommodate most sizes of businesses.

In order to stay competitive in today’s business climate, intelligence needs to be exchanged between marketing and sales that streamlines the progress of leads through your sales funnel and enables more, better and faster closed sales.  The way to enable this is by integrating your website with a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system and a Marketing Automation platform.

What does CRM and marketing automation do?

A CRM system is your repository of collected, and real-time information on all leads, customers and contacts related to your business. It acts as your marketing and sales process database and can categorize and segment your contacts on a wide variety of items for use in reporting, and grouping for specific action. CRM Systems can be proprietary and stored within a business’s IT infrastructure, or accessed via the ‘Cloud’ through a variety of providers. CRM can focus only on sales process aspects, or expand to cover end to end (marketing and lead gen through invoicing and collections) functions.

Each business applies customization to a CRM to serve their unique needs and procedures. In addition to housing your valuable prospect and client information and serving it up as needed, data from your CRM gives you objective insights to your marketing, sales and business performance.

Marketing automation grew out of campaign and email marketing beginnings, and has become the current standard of best practices. Today, enlisting just an email sending tool without using the advanced features of marketing automation is like driving blindfolded on a busy interstate: Your chances of getting to your destination (customer acquisition) without wrecking your brand integrity are extremely slim. The missing piece that marketing automation provides is the live, real time ‘sight’ into the ongoing actions of the target audiences interacting with your business.

Marketing automation allows you to communicate, evaluate and accelerate your leads through your sales funnel. Email (and even print) communications to your audiences with customized, relevant information, triggered from their ongoing behaviors are efficiently managed using marketing automation. This integration enables specific and more effective lead nurturing without requiring large amounts of time and staff that a stand-alone tool would.

Further, lead qualification and scoring is greatly enhanced with marketing automation’s ability to monitor your audiences’ ongoing interaction with your website. Specific characteristics and actions can be ‘scored’ to identify buying-stage and readiness for sales contact. Alerts and workflows can be triggered at any number of points in this progression. An immediate feedback stream of all this data to your CRM and to your marketing and sales team is a key benefit of marketing automation. They now know who is reading your messaging and can prioritize their responses based on the content you are sending that they are engaging with.

How does this integration help me sell better and faster?

In an integrated system, leads generated from your online properties are automatically fed into your CRM, with critical marketing data attached including: lead source, campaign info, keywords used, where the lead came from online, etc. Leads generated through outbound sales can also be entered directly into the CRM for a real-time and holistic view of your business’s sales pipeline. Live dashboards and reports on key performance indictors can be accessed immediately to assist sales management and communication.

The initially gathered data is augmented through your marketing automation platform with each lead’s specific ongoing engagement with your company including: web pages visited over time, emails received, opened and clicked on, articles and other content consumed, conversations and in-person touch points documented on the path of that lead becoming a customer. Post-sale relationship information is also kept including proposals presented, closed or lost – and why. This enables data-driven evaluation of sales initiatives, campaigns and tactics.

Consistent lead ‘scoring’ and tracking can trigger appropriate workflows and responses within your organization. Your sales reps can be alerted immediately of a lead’s sales conversation readiness in their specific area or product of interest. Sales can then intelligently focus on those ‘warmer’ leads, while marketing continues to nurture leads that are in earlier buy cycle stages and separate unqualified and non leads to maintain branding integrity, and save sales reps from activities that waste time and cause frustration.

An integrated lead management system of your website, CRM and marketing automation puts your sales team in position to connect with the right leads at the right time with the right information, thus closing sales faster, more easily and more often.

<< For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Published in Florida
Monday, 10 October 2011 22:25

The Smart Business digital eMag

Take a look at our latest leap into the world of mobility, online publications and interactivity - the NEW Smart Business digital eMag!

Sponsored by Rea & Associates, this premiere edition allows you to interact directly with Smart Business, the people we write about and our advertisers.

Click here to experience the October edition of Smart Business Cleveland - in a digital format!

After you have a chance to virtually flip through this digital offering, please let us know what you think by sending your feedback to tsympson@sbnonline.com.

As always, thank you for your readership.

Published in Akron/Canton

The business model of a sales funnel shows leads that enter at the top and filter down to become customers at the bottom. The simple logic of this model suggests that to grow what comes through at the bottom as customers, you need to increase the leads that you fill into the top.

Effective Web marketing that produces leads through quote request forms and phone calls is a proven way to pour more into your funnel,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “However, without the right processes and people in place to effectively turn those leads into customers, just turning up the volume on inbound leads can create more chaos than clients.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your sales funnel free from roadblocks and improve performance in filtering leads to customers.

What’s wrong with a huge increase in leads?

There are two situations where more leads might not be a good thing: if the leads are unqualified and will never become customers, and if there are more leads than your current structure can handle.

As marketing attracts a population of leads, each business has a certain percentage that will ‘filter out’ for qualification reasons. The challenge lies in keeping the filtering out from being due to reasons like: ‘they never got back to me,’ or ‘they couldn’t answer my questions about the product or service.’

In today’s world of readily available online information, customers are accustomed to getting the information they need quickly. If they can’t get it quickly and conveniently from you, they won’t wait. They’ll move on to your competition.

Why is an immediate response so important?

Numerous studies have shown that the quicker a business can respond to a Web form inquiry, the more likely they are to win that potential client’s business. This is a key aspect in a top performing sales funnel.

If you can immediately reach an online inquirer, impress them, and then set up the next step (an appointment for a face-to-face meeting, an appointment for a detailed project scope discussion call, offering a proposal, etc.), then in many cases you could eliminate your competition.

If you are able to sufficiently impress the inquirer that you are capable and competent as well as establish rapport, then you can interrupt their shopping mode and foster a feeling of: ‘maybe I don’t need to continue shopping right now,’ in your potential customer.

If you don’t provide as immediate a response as possible to your online inquiries, chances are a competitor will. You invest time, money and effort into the SEO, focused messaging and marketing that generates this lead. You don’t want to let a competitor beat you to the pivotally important first contact.

How can I be the best first contact?

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of online marketing today, a number of marketing automation tools exist, from simply sending out e-mail alerts to key people that announce new form-submissions to automatically integrating online form inquiries into your CRM tool, with workflow technology to automatically assign the lead. In addition, automatically triggered e-mails that acknowledge the online request and offer relevant, valuable content to a prospect should always be sent as an inbound marketing best practice.

The real challenge, and what creates a distinct advantage, is getting beyond technology-based responses to make a live, in-person interaction. This may not have to be the ultimate sales representative. Dedicating a marketing resource as a ‘first round of response’ to inbound leads can have the additional benefit of gathering qualification information beyond what is collected in a Web form that directs the lead either on to a focused sales conversation, or into a nurturing program.

This first contact, whether from the sales, marketing or any other team, is your company’s first live impression, so the process and people in this role need to ensure capability and availability.

  • Capability through adequate education on your company’s products and services.  This will best ensure a ‘knowledgeable’ initial impression versus ‘an appointment setter’ that doesn’t connect with the potential client. This knowledgeable trait is doubly important for a company’s sales reps. It is safe to assume, with the sheer amount of information instantly available online, that your potential customers are well aware of general product attributes and even price-points before they speak to you.
  • Availability to respond with reasonable immediacy. This may require some creative scheduling, based on the patterns of when your inbound leads occur. For example, your first responder may need to shift work hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. if leads tend to arrive during the traditional lunch hour or shortly after 5 p.m. Each business can clarify an optimal approach to immediacy through understanding the psychographics of their target customer and researching their online behaviors. Look to your website analytics to see the data specific to your business.

The key to clearing any clogs in the sales funnel centers on making the process as smooth as possible for both the target customer and your firm. When leads can be smoothly filtered along the funnel, the time and efforts of your sales force are put to best use, and your marketing organization can gain quick insight on messaging points and other potential adjustments to improve overall lead quality. When potential clients quickly encounter a knowledgeable and helpful representative of your business, you already win from a branding standpoint, and you are set up to more easily win their business.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

KEVIN HOURIGAN is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Published in Florida