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Creating Results

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INSIGHTS

February 2015 - Maximizing the ROI of Online Leads

BY: Todd Harff

"One of the most overlooked parts of the process is the hand-off from the online sales counselor to the actual appointment." - Mike Lyon from DoYouConvert

Whether you market senior living or active adult housing, you are likely seeing an increase in the leads coming from online channels. (If you aren't now, you will likely be soon.) We could guess that you are probably using the same process for handling these online leads as those who call in or visit your location.

It is easy to think that just relying on your existing sales counselors (or have a junior sales counselor) to handle online leads is a suitable solution. What if we told you that may be the LEAST effective strategy to converting an online lead into a "real" prospect or a qualified lead and eventually a customer?

Why is this?

Quite simply, you want your strong sales people to use their skills to SELL. The reality is that online leads often aren't ready to buy, and they reject anyone who is trying to sell them. There is value in following up with this leads - to nurture them, seduce them (to use a Valentine's reference).

Having a sales person handle online leads is wasting opportunities - frustrating both the sales person and the online lead. Hardly a recipe for success.

So what does work? The MOST effective strategy is having a well-trained online lead counselor and an automated CRM (customer relationship management system). Develop a process that includes the following elements, execute it flawlessly and refine it based on metrics.

Here are some action ideas, with insights from the recent International Builders' Show.

IT'S ABOUT LOVE.

Recognize that creating and handling online leads is not just about creating rapport and setting appointments. It's about helping people to fall in love.

You aren't trying to convince them that you should get married before your first date. Apple doesn't focus on specs, they focus on what their products could do for visitors. Zappo's has more content than anyone else marketing shoes. The pictures, video and reviews allow visitors to engage with what is important to them, inspires confidence and lowers objections. Tesla makes the incredibly complex and unfamiliar very easy and engaging.

How can you present communities and homes in a more personal way that inspires desire and instills confidence? If your sales team has to repeat or explain a phrase or concept you need to simplify. By doing this, the online leads you generate will be more qualified, more interested and further along their purchase journey.

SPEED MATTERS.

Steve Shoemker (Ideal Homes) discovered that if they took longer than five minutes to respond, people had already moved on to another website and often needed to be reminded of why someone was following up.

This is one more reason why a traditional sales person isn't the right person to handle online leads. You want them in front of live customers and calling prospects. Are you staffed appropriately? Are you monitoring when leads come in to determine staffing? Do you have a process to respond after hours?

BE PREPARED.

You need to have a plan before you pick up the phone. This is not a place to wing it or use for training the new person.

  • If fewer than 2% of your visitors ask for information, are you treating them like the VIP's that they are?
  • What do you want to have happen next?
  • What do you need to say? (Never “Let me know if you have any questions.”)
  • How will you follow up?
  • What can you offer the lead to deepen the relationship? Of course you want an appointment, but what would make the online lead want one?

BE PERSISTENT.

The number one complaint that we hear from clients is that online leads don't even respond. The panelists all emphasized that the key to success is to follow up more often than you think necessary.

Will Duderstadt (MI Homes) said that depending on the source, they follow up 10-15 times in first month. They discovered that most people won't respond to first follow up even though they requested it. He said that they only count someone as an "unqualified lead" when they have determined a reason. In other words, no response does not make them a bad lead.

AUTOMATE, BUT DON'T ABDICATE.

Respect people's preferences and only send them content that is relevant, useful and enjoyable. Much of this can be automated, but do not rely only on soft touches.

Regularly interspersing 1-2-1 direct follow up with triggered messaging shows that you truly value the individual. The automated messaging is useful for maintaining awareness and increasing desire, but a personal follow up is more likely to inspire action.

HANDLE WITH CARE.

In too many organizations, online sales counselors schedule appointments, confirm appointments and turn the name/date/time over to sales people.


The most successful organizations carefully orchestrate this hand-off. They use a CRM to make sure that ALL the information and insights about an online lead are recorded and shared with sales people. The online lead should feel like a VIP and NEVER have to repeat previously shared information. Many people know the basic info and start over, but the organizations that delight prospects (and convert them more quickly) share information at a level that has prospects feeling like they matter and people care.

HOW DID IT GO?

One small but important step is having the online sales counselor follow up after the appointment to see how it went. This is a great opportunity to gather more information and share it with the team.

Organizations that do this frequently uncover additional questions, concerns and often hear feedback about interpersonal turbulence that is slowing the process. Be a team, put egos aside, focus on creating delight and make sure that each prospect feels truly valued.

Having a strong process for handling online leads and a dedicated online sales counselor is often the easiest and most effect way to improve your ROI, prospect experience and shorten your sales cycle. Be prepared, patient and persistent and your sales team will be more productive with fewer leads.

Learn more!

Looking to ...

  1. Generate more online leads? Read how a combination of remarketing and targeted display advertising helped one 55+ builder
    reach a high quality pool of prospects, with an overall increase in clicks and form conversions ... without increasing the monthly budget. CLICK HERE

  2. Find new ideas for personal, 1-2-1 communications? Consider inviting them to events that reflect their stated interests, such as this highly effective senior living program. CLICK HERE

  3. Talk more about how to maximize volume and ROI of online leads? Call Patrick McShane at 888-205-8899, ext 704 or email her at patrick@creatingresults.com.

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