We work heavily with service based businesses and felt that it was important to cover the topic of lead management and simple standards that organizations should hold themselves to when following up with prospects as well as potential customers.

Working for a digital marketing agency has its perks. Yes, I wear jeans to work and our workplace has a creative look and feel, which is a bit different than the cubical farms many of my college friends arrive to everyday. Beyond looks and feels though, we have internal qualities too. We view business strategy as an agile process whenever and wherever possible. With that in mind, we’ve come to find a few disconnects between our service area businesses that we often work with and the target audiences they’re hoping to convert into paying customers by providing the services they need. With that in mind, here are four strategies that service based businesses must adopt to ensure growth.


Start Simple by Saying Hello to Every “Guest”

Service based businesses need one thing to survive – leads… and more leads! I know, it sounds a little bit money-hungry, but leads are often the first step towards generating revenue and without revenue, no business can survive. Failing to respond to leads is the first sign of a failing business, and there’s a lot of them out there.

Research shows up to 80% of consumers buy from the vendor that responds to their inquiry first, and the results can increase above that number with an immediate response. That means you should respond to all inquiries and respond quickly. In fact, our recommendation is to respond within the first 5-minutes of receiving that contact form submission or phone call.

Don’t believe me? Here are some industry leading standards that InsideSales.com published using three-years of data from web-generated leads to back it:

  • If you follow up with a web lead within 5-minutes, you’re 9 times more likely to convert them into a paying customer. Wait just 10-minutes and your odds of qualifying them decrease by 400%.
  • Of those owners/reps that do follow up with leads, almost 40% of them only make 1 phone call attempt before giving up on trying to convert that prospect.
  • Over 30% of leads were found to have never been contacted at all!

Unfortunately, when we’ve secret shopped multiple storefront and service based businesses for proper lead management practices, these numbers are a fairly accurate representation of their efforts as well. Bottom line – big and small organizations alike are abusing their leads and are not treating them the way they would like to be treated!

Part of the problem for service area businesses (think: home service, maintenance and repair) is that some of these organizations do not have a physical storefront, only offering up their website or phone number for contact purposes instead. This becomes an issue when people enter in their contact information, such as a phone number or email address, and expect a call back or at least a message letting them know that their inquiry was received. Based on the stats provided above, you can see that 30% doesn’t seem so preposterous after all if a business does not have a system in place to coordinate and organize these contact forms.

Think of it this way – say you were in a department store wandering aimlessly looking for a specific item that you know they have in stock but can’t seem to find it on your own. All the while, store employees simply watch as you walk up and down the same aisles over, and over again. They do nothing to ask if you need help or worse yet, not even provide you with a means of properly checking out, even if you happen to find the item you were looking for in the first place.

Enhance Your Personalization and Customer Communication

Having experience working at a Fortune 500 paint store chain throughout college, it’s easy to see customer appreciation when you take the extra time to listen to their current situation, project needs and problems they’re facing without assumption. Yes, something so simple produces amazing results! People want to be treated like people. They also want to interact with someone on a personal level, rather than talk with a person who sounds like a robot.

Of course, it’s much easier to assume that everyone will need and like the same flat sheen in the same color gray that will look “great” no matter if it ends up in a windowless closet or a dining room area to entertain guests, but that’s not personalization. The principle remains the same – be courteous to your customers and always answer the phone. It only takes one poor experience for a long-term customer to choose your competition down the street and never look back.

Have a Game Plan

The first step is to start simple – if you do not already have a CRM system in place to start responding to your inbound inquiries and leads within 5-minutes, look for an automated email system to at least let your prospects know that their message has been received. There are a few different options you can take here – one would be to start with a simple Marketing Automation campaign for different stages the prospect may be in so you can stay top of mind when they do reach the bottom of the buying funnel. If your prospects happen to opt out of your communications during this process, you’ll unfortunately have to let them opt out. However, this also lets you know that they’re no longer interested which allows you to focus your efforts on the prospects who want your services.

If you’re getting phone calls and voicemails, there needs to be a dedicated person to call back leads or take down their contact information at the time of the call, otherwise a prospect feeling forgotten will have no problem finding someone else who will take their call and address their needs. We know that this can be difficult for some business owners to manage themselves, which is why we’ve actually taken the liberty to create our own contact center on behalf of the organization to field phone calls and delegate the proper reps to follow up with them after noting call details and specifics.

Remember that People Move at Different Speeds

One of the most important things to remember is that each customer can be at a different phase in their buying journey and not all are ready to buy at the exact moment they send in a request for more information or want a consultation. Many times, they have a few questions that need to be answered first in order to further their buying decision.

We’ve come to find that our biggest competitor, which we run into about 60% of the time and I’m sure every other organization that depends on sales runs into as well, is actually no decision – not buying anything from you, or your competition. People are inundated with making decisions every single day about every aspect of their lives and unfortunately that carries over into whether or not they will choose your product or service as well. Our goal here is to understand if they are saying “N-O” (not interested) or “K-N-O-W” (I need more information).

With these four essential strategies to help guide your prospective buyer through their journey, you’ll be able to distinguish the 60% from the buyers ready to make that purchase in due time. To learn more about the difference between the information-driven consumer and the data-driven marketer, check out our eBook “Marketing in the Age of the Carefully Considered Decision”.