Believe it or not, many retailers fail to respond to inquiries that could lead to additional business. Salespeople often dismiss phone calls, email queries, web page click throughs and web impressions as, "window shoppers."
Yet surveys of more than 3,500 people who made inquiries regarding products and services, conducted by Warne, a Toronto based marketing company, found that 19 percent made purchases within six months from the company they contacted, or a competitor. Within a year, 29 percent made a purchase. By 16 months, those that bought reached 43 percent, and within two years, 57 percent made a buy.
That suggests that two in 10 people who make such inquiries want to buy right away and another four want to buy later. Yet the study showed that just 17 percent of inquiries were answered.
One reason why is that salespeople find it hard to distinguish between leads that will fade and ones that will turn into live prospects. Often the good leads get tossed out along with the bad.
One solution is to establish a cost efficient system that triggers appropriate responses all along the extended timeframe. It could be an automated email program with preselected messages that respond to keywords in an electronic query. Or it could be a mailer in response to phone queries.
"Generally, using just one approach will not adequately fill the lead pipeline and keep prospects flowing through it," says Jerry Rackley, a marketing consultant based in Stillwater, OK. He suggests that companies employ a number of lead generation tactics. Among them are mass mailers, in addition to emails and search engine marketing. Following are 10 ideas for generating more leads:
- Build positive buzz. Offer incentives to current customers who provide referrals. It can be a discount on a future purchase or a small gift or memento. And don't forget to also send a personal thank you note.
- Become the authority. Try commissioning a survey or poll about the benefits of some of the products you sell. Then publicize the results through the media or a website. This creates, "pull," by building credibility and recognition, according to Jim DeSena, author of, "The 10 Immutable Laws of Power Selling." If you turn the survey into an annual event, you become an ongoing industry expert.
- Create an industry profile. Develop expertise on a category of products that you sell and develop an informative speech on the subject, which can be presented at meetings of organizations that contain prospects. Produce a media kit and mail them to these organizations. "Everyone is always looking for good speakers," says Julie Isphording, a publicist based in Cincinnati, OH. This expertise can also be leveraged to obtain quotes in news articles or broadcast features.
- Buy qualified leads. Scrubbed, reliable prospect lists can be rented from a variety of sources, including trade groups, professional organizations, alumni groups and list brokers. Such lists allow for tailoring email messages to different customer segments. The more enticing discounts or offers, for example, might be reserved for the most highly qualified leads.
- Buy ads in electronic newsletters. Ads in targeted email newsletters grab attention, according to Rackley, who suggests you direct readers to your website and track the response.
- Check your database. Inactive customers who haven't bought anything for some time are ripe for sales pitches. So are infrequent buyers. Keep in touch.
- Scour the newspaper. The local paper is often filled with prospects for a store's goods and services. Find out who's the best golfer or fisherman, if you sell sporting goods, for example. Who's buying school uniforms?
- Join a networking group. Independent, complementary retailers can share leads, and more groups like this are cropping up all around the country.
- Find a specialized show. Regional home shows and garden shows can pose excellent opportunities to build a customer database and generate new leads. They also give your business exposure.
- Find a partner. "When two businesses complement each other, they can influence their contacts to open doors for the other," says Maura Schreier-Fleming, author of, "Real World Selling for Out of This World Results."
Marketing aimed at generating sales, versus those aimed at branding or building customer loyalty, relies on the following components, according to Mac McIntosh, a sales consultant based in North Kingston, RI: an effective marketing database, direct marketing that generates queries, and events or promotions that move prospects to purchase. He also advises using online and search engine marketing and relationship marketing that, he says, nurtures and qualifies prospects.
Information in this article was edited from an article by Joanna Krotz on the Microsoft Small Business Center website. Krotz is owner of Muse2Muse Productions, a custom publisher based in New York City.
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