Tuesday, December 23, 2008

High noon at the web form

Quickest draw wins... well not quite, but speed is more important than many B2B marketers realize (or at least act upon). Fine tuning your response to inbound inquiries can have a significant impact on your success without requiring much of an investment.

Leigh Anne Wallace at Reachforce had a blog entry recently that was a good reminder for all of us of the studies that show the real benefits to responding quickly to inbound inquiries: http://blog.reachforce.com/sales-and-marketing-tips/what-is-your-web-lead-response-time-b2b-marketing-and-sales-tip-177/. From the original report:
"The speed of first attempt (time to first dial) to a newly generated web lead
correlated with a significant increase in the number of qualified leads. For
each tier of delayed response in the survey question (for instance, responding in 30 minutes rather than 10 minutes) the percent of leads qualified dropped 4.3% and close rates fell nearly 2%."

It's more difficult than it seems as you need to put three basic processes in place to have it make sense, unless your flow of inquiries is small enough that you really can follow up with every inquiry. You need:
  1. a basic call/no-call qualification process
  2. the basics of routing to the right rep
  3. a quick notification process
For the lead qualification process, I'd hesitate to call it lead scoring just yet, because you many want to lower the bar a little bit and follow up with most inquiries, even those that would not pass as A leads. There is a strong argument in favour of automating most of this process because it's all too easy to come up with an "I didn't call because..." reason after the fact if you leave it to the individual callers. You'll likely need to manage and measure follow-up speed in a hands-on way, and if it's open to loose interpretation, that process might fall apart quickly.

For lead routing, again, simple is best. The best I've seen had a very small dedicated person/team on it, rather than distributing more broadly. It's likely that your first call outcome goals are relatively simple in nature (more details, setting a meeting, etc) and can be managed by someone who is not that territory's sales rep.

For notification, once you know you're going to call them, and you know the right rep to make the call, email is usually quickest and easiest. Its main drawback is that it's more difficult to close the loop and monitor response times, but to get a process up and running quickly it is the easiest bet.

It doesn't take long to get a feel for what your actual response times to inbound marketing inquiries are, and if it's not what you'd hoped, there may be an easy way for you to improve your team's performance. A quick "mystery shopper" inquiry or two can give you a good idea of how you're really performing. In fact, I might try that with the Eloqua team right now...
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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