Here''s a prescription for business failure: Don''t worry about following-up on business leads.
To optimize sales effectiveness, businesses need tools that capture interactions with prospects and customers.
In some instances, companies ignore or discard 80 percent of their leads simply because they have no mechanism in place for capturing and using them for marketing purposes.
Companies that fail to put into place processes for following-up on leads that come from marketing activities will always be struggling to stay in business and, in most cases, will eventually fail altogether.
We started a small cleaning business back in the 1980s and based our marketing upon flyers and word of mouth.
It was a struggle because we never analyzed where our marketing leads came from.
Back then, we might have used a shoebox and eventually graduated to one of the primitive database-management programs that were becoming available for desktop computers.
However, revolutionary technology is now providing sophisticated and effective tracking and management systems.
Organizing Information With CRM
We are using customer relationship management (CRM) tools that put at our fingertips useful data such as business contacts, personal information and previous mailings — tailoring the ongoing flow of information according to each contact''s sale stage cycle, which is also being tracked.
CRM is like having a sales and marketing assistant to help us create great marketing campaigns and track overall performance.
The program has tools for tracking each lead source, which facilities are scheduling appointments, writing marketing follow-up letters, e-mailing, keeping track of file attachments and doing mail merge.
The program makes it easy to track meaningful conversations with potential prospects and provides an organized view of people with which we want to do business.
Our tracking system captures essential information about each lead — how did they hear about us; where did the lead come from; were our ads or referrals effective; etc.
We use this information to determine best resources for capturing leads for our business.
Most importantly, our tracking system automates responses.
We know that the chances for closing our sales increase greatly if we respond to prospective clients within 24 hours.
If we can get that lag time down to minutes, the rate of success goes up remarkably.
One important piece of the client tracking challenge is to maintain appropriate and ongoing follow-ups with prospective clients.
We are treating prospective clients as if they were already customers; we stay in contact with them at least six to eight times — remaining focused on our goal.
Continuous communication is important so that when they are ready to make a decision to buy, we will be there to help them make the purchase.
We also have mechanisms for aging our contact lists and don''t waste resources on people who are obviously unwilling or unable to purchase from us.
We won''t try to sell cleaning services to people living in extended care facilities, for example, or to people who have their own cleaning businesses.
A marketing calendar is the foundational piece of our client tracking system, enabling us to track marketing activities throughout the year and providing a clear picture of where our lead sources came from and which events offer a good return investment on marketing dollars.
Using Information In The Cloud
Cloud services are providing software, data, computation and storage services that are now as available as electricity.
I don''t have to know where the power plant is located to plug in a lamp; now, I don''t have to know where the server farm is to have access to online business management tools.
E-mail marketing management programs in cloud services set our business apart from the competition by saving us thousands of dollars worth of print toner, postage, envelopes and paper — plus innumerable hours required for printing, addressing, folding, stuffing, stamping and mailing.
We send thousands of e-mails for half of a cent to reach our potential prospects or clients.
Our cloud e-mail management program records statistics of our e-mail campaigns, including e-mails sent, opened, bounced and unsubscribed — and now connects us with clients and potential prospects through automatic access to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
We can launch our own social media campaign with the touch of a button.
Card scanning software scans a business card and captures the information on the front and back of the card, placing it in appropriate database fields for transfer into a CRM program or database.
By scanning business cards given to us at trade shows or networking events, we immediately capture conversations with prospects.
We also use pre-designed templates to create newsletters or to design effective postcards that we can print and mail.
At this point, a single labeling printer is essential, since it is compatible with card scanning products, database management or customer relationship tools, enabling us to batch print a whole stack of postcards.
We are going to succeed in our marketplace because most of our small business competitors will never consider putting into place a lead tracking system to increase their sales, follow-up with customer feedback and satisfaction tools or inform current customers about new products or services.
Our offline and cloud services technologies put at our fingertips tools for managing and effectively following-up on lead sources that come to our cleaning business.
Mitchell Hardin, Jr. is the president of Hi-Lite Enterprises Inc. Hi-Lite Enterprises is a corporation that created www.CleanBizOp.com, www.WindowCleaningTraining.com, www.FinalCleanup.com and the BlindMaid, an on-site mobile mini blind cleaning system. Hardin is a former Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) business planning trainer and business consultant that helped create www.GlobalNXLevelStrategies.com, a business planning and coaching site for start-ups and existing businesses online and in the San Francisco Bay area.