Everyone knows it’s easier to collect a lead than it is to close a sale. Even a prospect who isn’t 100% ready to place an order can usually be persuaded to give you their e-mail address or phone number. But while leads are certainly valuable, it’s key to remember that they are not the ultimate goal. In order for leads to truly mean anything, a good percentage of them must be converted to customers. This is actually an entire process in and of itself, and one every business owner should be familiar with.
Differentiate Your Business From Generic Competitors
Consumers have never had more choices of who to buy from than they do today. In virtually every market, there are at least 3-5 respected competitors (if not far more.) In order to convert your leads into paying customers, it’s not enough to simply be “part of the herd.” No – to truly capture the attention of your prospects, you have to stand out in some meaningful and obvious way. As direct marketing guru Perry Marshall says,
“You need to discover how to re-invent and re-position your business so that apples-to-apples comparisons with your competitors are difficult or impossible.”
To do this, simply look at the most common complaints or shortcomings in your industry. Be the one company in your market that works quickly instead of slowly, offers free delivery instead of charging, or supports the product instead of leaving customers to fend for themselves.
Be Sure Your Leads Are Genuinely Motivated
Another thing you need to diagnose in the quest to convert more leads to customers is: are your prospects genuinely motivated? That is, are you incentivizing them? There is an enormous psychological difference between someone giving you their e-mail address to get a $50 gift card and someone who truly wants to learn about your products. The first person, 9 times out of 10, is simply racing through your signup form to get their free gift. Their actual interest in your company (if any) is miniscule to non-existent.
What you want are people whose only motivation was finding out more about your business. Thus, any freebies or enticements you offer should be pertinent to what you sell. Unrelated giveaways like free gas cards or iTunes downloads “muddy the waters” by making it impossible to know what the prospect really signed up for.
Grade Each Lead
In his book The 80/20 Principle, business consultant Richard Koch explains that successful businesses prioritize activities that will produce the most returns. When it comes to leads, 80/20 says that some leads are more valuable than others. Consider the example of a real estate agent. Some of the people he talks to are six months away from putting their home on the market. Others are only a month away. Some might be as little as two weeks away.
Clearly, the closer someone is to making a purchasing decision, the more aggressively they should be prioritized and followed up with (more on that below.) Prospects that are further away from taking action should receive less of your time and energy.
Follow Up With Each Lead
One of the most important components of turning leads into customers is your follow-up process. Never assume that someone will simply, by osmosis, decide that they’re ready to buy and pick up the phone by themselves. Though this does happen, your best chances of converting the most leads you can is by proactively following up with them. This can be done any number of ways:
E-mail “drip marketing”
Direct “snail” mail to their homes
A system or a process for following up with people who give you their information – and reinforcing your sales message – is an absolute must. Without it, you will always be leaving money on the table.
Create Targeted Landing Pages
Phone calls aren’t the only way to convert leads into customers. If your business operates online, your landing page can do much of this work for you. Don’t let the word “landing page” scare you – it’s nothing more than a web page whose goal is to make someone take action. Unlike a strictly informational site (such as Wikipedia or CNN) a landing page is purposely designed to overcome objections, establish value and ask for a sale. Here are some common attributes of good landing pages:
Linear design. Don’t give people endless buttons to click, menus to fiddle around with, etc. Rather, lay out a clear path toward what you want them to do.
Statement of value. Make sure your landing page (preferably in the headline) expresses the most pithy and powerful statement of value you can possibly produce. What does your product or service do for the customer?
Overcome objections. Are there any common reasons why people feel reluctant or hesitant to buy in your market? Confront them on your landing page by explaining why they will not occur or are not as bad as the customer thinks.
Reverse risk. Is there risk involved in buying your product or service? Reverse it, using lengthy money-back guarantees, free trial evaluation periods and other maneuvers that comfort people about their purchase.