How I became a sales lead: tracking the intangible
I live in a log home. It's rustic and promotes creativity. But when my wife and I started thinking about adding a room, we realized only a log home company could tell us what we could do (if anything), what we couldn't do and how much it would cost. After what I thought was a harmless "What if this room was bigger?" conversation, we had suddenly become hot prospects for a log home company. Like many such prospects, we searched the Web under "log home manufacturer new jersey" and found a handful of directories and pay-per-click ads. Some of the company Web sites instilled confidence and we left messages or emailed for details. We left other Web sites without contacting them at all.
Do their marketing people know their online advertising attracted a hot sales lead? Probably not. Do they know their Web sites failed to advance a qualified lead towards the sale? Probably not.
We also tried to remember the name of a log home company whose model home center is located nearby. When we could not, we actually opened the yellow pages under "log homes" to find the name. Only they weren't listed. Do their marketing people know their model home and signage had captured a sales lead? Probably not. Do they realize their failure to advertise cost a sales lead? Probably not.
But the local representative for Kuhns Bros. log homes was listed in the yellow pages. We invited their owner over for a sales call the next evening. He established credibility as an expert, his printed literature looked professional and we asked for an estimate. Yet even then, since we had no experience with Kuhns Bros., we were wary of a potential contracting disaster and were still very open to finding other builders. I did not feel completely comfortable hiring the company until a few days later when I saw a phenomenal billboard on I-80 from…Kuhns Bros., supported by an equally effective Web site.
If they had been tracking the source of sales leads, they might have checked "Yellow Pages" next to our name and increased their yellow pages budget the next year. But their process would be flawed: it could not account for the billboard advertising or the impact of a strong Web site and professional quality literature. But without the outdoor advertising, this prospect probably would not have advanced to a sale. Some of their marketing people might even think the billboard was ineffective simply because it was cited less often as the source of a sales lead.
Documenting the source of the sales lead at the time of contact is essential. However, the way people become prospects and the way prospects become sales leads (as described above) is typically a circuitous route where the prospect is exposed to multiple sales messages from several different companies delivered over a variety of different marketing vehicles. From print ads to Web ads to PR articles, personal referrals and other vehicles, research reveals that people need to be exposed to sales messages six or more times before contacting a sales person. It is this combination of marketing messages that helps drive a continuous flow of sales leads. In fact, the greatest compliment to a marketing director may be when a prospect cannot remember exactly how he/she heard about the company - only that when it was time to research or buy a particular product, he/she knew who to call. Or email. Or who to find at a trade show booth. Or on the Web.