Phil is a very frustrated business owner.
For many years, he relied on word-of-mouth to grow his consultancy business. He had lots of happy clients, who sent their acquaintances his way. Others found him on Google, and picked up the phone. His business grew steadily – but too slowly.
A couple of years ago, he decided to expand in a more systematic way.
He carefully built an online sales funnel, targeting his ideal clients over Facebook, and then sending them a mixture of marketing and sales material over email.
There were some false starts and a steep learning curve, but the good news is, it’s now working.
He’s regularly attracting the right kinds of clients onto his email list. Not only do they engage with his marketing material, they make enquiries about working with him. The whole time.
He should be happy, right?
Well, not quite.
His online enquirers are “time wasters”, he complains.
They are – granted – mostly good candidates to work with him. But after he answers their email enquiry…. Or even has an initial conversation with them…. He never hears from them again.
“They’re just not serious about buying,” he thunders. “These are not good leads! Online marketing doesn’t work….”
Now, the unfortunate Phil is a fictional character. But his cry – “Online leads are rubbish!” – is a common refrain.
If you market your company online, you too may be frustrated when online enquiries don’t convert as soon as you’d hope. Perhaps you’ve even wondered whether they’re more trouble than they’re worth. After all, they seem so much poorer than the referrals you receive.
But is that really the case? Or is there something else going on?
The truth is simple, but very often unrecognised by companies that are used to referrals.
Online enquiries are different to Word-of-Mouth enquiries, and have to be handled differently, too.
You see, when someone chats to their friend about a particular problem they’re experiencing, and that friend tells them, “You have to speak to Phil – he helped me with exactly that, and was brilliant, and was worth every penny,” they come to you pre-sold.
By the time they pick up the phone to you, they are really interested in working with you.
They’ve heard all about you from a friend they trust. Don’t underestimate that – friends’ recommendations are enormously powerful.
And the reason they were chatting in the first place was because they were very frustrated, and looking for a solution to their problem.
Word-of-mouth leads are what we call “hot leads”. They’re relatively easy to convert, because they are already quite keen.
Online leads are cold off the Internet.
Even if they somehow found their way onto your email list, they don’t really know you. They have no idea whether to trust you. You still have a lot to prove.
They might not even have been actively looking for a solution to their problem, until they stumbled across your Facebook ad.
They are quite a few steps behind those Word-of-Mouth referrals.
Now, does this mean they are “bad leads”?
No, no, and no again.
If you’ve targeted them correctly, there’s every chance that these are absolutely perfect clients for you.
However, you have to recognise that converting them can involve a bit more time and work.
You cannot simply have a conversation with them, or reply to an email, and then expect them to whip out their wallets.
It takes more conversations. More follow-up. More persistence. More proof that you can deliver. More calming of nerves.
I’m not writing this email in order to scare you. I don’t want you to think, “Oh no! Online marketing sounds like a pain in the neck. I’m not going to bother.”
I’m writing it in order to encourage you.
If you have been generating leads online but found them difficult to convert, it hasn’t all been a waste of time.
You just need to think carefully about what extra steps you need to put in place, in order to quickly build up that trust and interest that your word-of-mouth enquirers come with, built-in.
What additional information must you send them? What case studies do you need to share? What extra phone calls do you need to schedule in?
A lot of this follow-up can be automated. So it doesn’t have to be a lot of extra work at all.
Understand how to handle these online enquiries – and your business will boom.