Is your process ready to handle what your website delivers? Featured

9:01pm EDT April 30, 2011
Is your process ready to handle what your website delivers?

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:

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