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Archive for March, 2008

Website Leads to Sales Process Disconnects

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Once a site is set up to start producing sales leads and has traffic to actually get them, there tends to be an over-zealousness that takes place.  Impatience can also play a factor in getting that transition off on the wrong foot.  When making a web lead into a sales lead, be respectful of what the person has requested and never look to put them on the spot.

All the wonderful things about web tracking and analytics can become a liability when transitioning from web lead to sales prospect.  Here is what tends to happen when someone is overly excited about their site’s lead.  The lead information is delivered to the sales person quickly (because the web is immediate).  With analytic information at their fingertips many people look to show how efficient they are.  They call the lead and say, “I saw you downloaded our whitepaper 15 minutes ago, I thought that you might have some questions now that you’ve had time to read it!”  The immediate reaction to this is generally suspicion as “big brother” is obviously watching.  It also presumes that the person has nothing else to do than immediately read the material.  It starts things off poorly, it hints that the sales person is desperate and shows disrespect for their time.

So in the above example, what is an appropriate reaction?  First of all, is there a reason to contact the person at all?  Some leads are just a cursory investigation.  Many times it’s not a good use of time to follow up right away.  Did they request more information?  Most of the time, the answer is no.  It’s jumping the gun to get the sale.  If you’ve put some effort into your site and its ability to convert, have faith.  Your information is on the whitepaper, they have an opportunity to join your newsletter on the thank you page, and you’ve confirmed and delivered the download so they can respond immediately if they have questions.  Right?  If not, sales isn’t the issue, you’ve still got conversion work to do.  If so, let the process work.  Don’t be impatient.  Leave the lead alone for at least a couple hours.  If there is a legitimate reason to contact them, then do it.  Make sure it’s in the requested manner and not to try and impress them by revealing that you know what  they did on the site.  Site activity gives no real insight into their needs, wants, or desires.  You’ll get there, that’s the selling process, don’t jump the gun by believing your marketing has done that for you.

Marketing is not selling and selling is not marketing.  A site designed to generate leads is marketing.  Your goal is to engage visitors not get them to buy.  Ideally, as they get more engaged, they will respond, and be an easier and more profitable sale. 

Of course, this is not an advocacy for never being proactive with leads.  Many businesses, online and otherwise, have died waiting for the phone to ring with orders.  Some people need that extra effort, but that’s usually reserved for information junkies that float around the site consistently.  Most leads will give an opportunity for a continual engagement.  Trust in that engagement and it will only strengthen the bond when it’s time to move into the sales process.  If you rush into selling them it will cast a negative light on the interaction and will make the sales process that much harder in overcoming a bad first impression.

3 Avenues to Profit Online: #3 Service

Monday, March 10th, 2008

The final way to make money on the Internet is by offering a service.  This is often a wasted or misused opportunity.  Many organizations don’t really promote their service.  They have a brochure site that tells a little about themselves and an overview of what they do, and nothing else.  That is not promoting your service.  Why?  It doesn’t let the visitor engage with your organization.

It is very hard for most service based companies to sell what they do over the Internet.  The exceptions to this rule are B to C organizations, with lower cost services, that people have a good understanding of, and limited package options (carpet steaming, dry cleaning, etc.)  If there are too many options or the service is not immediately understood visitors will resist buying directly from the site.  Even home services like a plumber meet a lot of resistance since problems and project prices can vary so much.  As a general rule if an organization has to pick a package or run a quote, it will be very difficult to generate sales directly from a website.

That doesn’t mean business won’t be generated from the Internet.  The site simply needs designed to start a dialogue between the organization and site visitor.  The simplest form of this is a form.  A contact form or request a quote form allow a visitor to put in information about their unique situation and needs.  The company is then in a position to provide more service specifics and pursue a sale.  This is a good technique for businesses that people tend to understand but need an idea of how the service effects their personal situation.

For businesses with more in depth services or higher priced services, the interactions need to be a little easier and tend to draw out into a relationship.  For the web to help make a sale it needs to provide the visitor some information about the service and the types of problems it solves.  These initial interactions could be whitepaper downloads with valuable information relating to the service.  It might be an email newsletter sign up that lets them get ongoing information or offers about the service.  It also might be a blog or multimedia tutorial that offers more in depth thoughts and information about the service.

In the case of more complicated services, the intent is almost always to generate a lead for the sales force.  The site is not set up to make a sale but to provide an opportunity for the sales force to speak to an interested party.  The trick there is making sure there isn’t a disconnect for the site visitor and that action is taken at the appropriate time.

I will write a post in the near future about site to sales disconnects and some common mistakes made in trying to move a person from site visitor to sales prospect.  As for building a service business through the Internet, it’s the same as product.  You have to find a market and get them to the site.  From there site visitors need opportunities at genuine offers that they desire.  The business is built around the service provided.  The Internet is simply a vehicle to let potential clients know you exist and let them take the first step in showing interest in what your company does.

3 Avenues to Profit Online: #2 Product

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

The second way to make money online is by selling a product.  This is pretty straight forward.  You produce and sell or resell something.  The trick is doing it.  Getting a well functioning shopping cart service and interested buyers can be very challenging.

The fact is anyone, anywhere, can sell products online.  Auction services like EBAY are full of people that have made a business or hobby out of reselling products they procure.  However, I’m going to be focusing on businesses that are selling product from their own site or have some kind of store feature through EBAY or Amazon.

Traffic comes into play again as you have to have marketing tactics that will bring people to the site that are interested in the product.  Some of these can piggyback on EBAY or Amazon.  Those sites have significant traffic and will let vendors list their products on the site.  There is nothing at all wrong with this, the problem is that it’s hard to build up your business in this way.  Buyers are usually oblivious as to who they’ve bought from and it severely limits ongoing relationships and return buyers.  In Amazon’s case many users are unaware that the product was not bought direct from Amazon.

So the alternative is developing your own e-commerce solution.  The challenge is flipped here.  You have every opportunity to build a relationship and manage the buying process, getting people to the site can be more of a challenge.  There are many tactics to choose from, some examples being, pay per click ads, organic search engine optimization, email marketing, direct mail, advertising, etc.

Assuming that you drive traffic to the site, making a business thrive on product sales is often a challenge in streamlining the buying process.  People need to be convinced to buy, feel secure that the business is credible, and confident that they will receive their item in a timely manner.  Testing plays a big part in optimizing a shopping cart to suit all these needs.

Obviously there is a lot to talk about on product but as an overview, anyone that has a product to sell or resell can leverage that to make money on the internet.