Since the inception of online commerce more than 15 years ago, businesses continue to shift their media advertising budgets to online advertising.
I can attest to this being the case with my own lawn care company Noon Turf Care where the majority of our marketing budget is devoted to online advertising. In the past five years we have increased our online marketing budget tenfold as year after year it gives us the highest ROI for sales results compared to any other form of media advertising.
Many lawn care and landscape company owners that I assist in sales consulting and training are also following this trend as they maximize the return on their marketing dollars spent.
The generation of sales leads via online media has also proven to be a more efficient means of converting leads into sales. This is because online advertising dollars spent by companies can be better tracked and targeted through a complex network of online analytics and data tracking.
Additionally, the actual leads being generated online now make it easier since the sales prospect has already entered all of their information via a contact page which is then instantly sent to the company creating instantaneous sales leads.
This eliminates a step in the sales process and the risk of human error since the majority of sales inquiries made by prospects online arrive in writing versus the telephone where an employee needs to gather all of the necessary information about the lead.
When a sales prospect fills out an online contact form they have essentially done half of the work for any given sales department. The only downside is the fact that we need to immediately call or email that sales inquiry back since we no longer have a live voice greeting on the other end of the line.
In other words, companies should not only be managing their ROI for their online marketing budgets, but they should also be analyzing how successfully they're closing those leads.
The "Five Minute Rule"
I recently read an article in Forbes magazine that, along with Forrester Research, spearheaded a research project that indicated that sales companies waste 71 percent of all Internet leads because they don't respond quickly enough to the leads they receive.
How quickly is "quickly enough?"
Their research project stated that, on average, if an Internet lead is responded to within five minutes of being received by the company it is 100 times more likely to convert into a sale versus if the lead was responded to within 30 minutes after the inquiry was made.
Most business owners probably feel like their sales teams are great at responding to leads in a timely manner, but rarely do they actually analyze and scrutinize how long it really takes to respond to an online lead. I know that was the case for me and once I did this it surprised me as to how long my team was actually taking to respond to leads.
The time it took was even worse in the chance that the sales prospect contacted our company during off-hours and on weekends. This staggering statistic only emphasizes the importance of company owners designing their sales departments and teams to be prepared to respond to Internet leads immediately upon when they are received.
Put your plan in action
In an attempt to obtain the highest sales close rate for my lawn care company, I recently authorized my sales managers to set up a strict schedule to ensure that all leads were being contacted within five minutes. If any of our team members fail to do this, the sales lead is sent to the next available sales rep in order for it to be closed immediately. The sales reps from my company that have lost out to a sales inquiry due to them failing to call back the lead within five minutes have learned very quickly the importance of this policy and do not make this mistake twice.
During off-hours and weekends when the sales office is closed, our company has issued smart pads to all the sales reps that can access any sales leads via our online company software. All sales reps are required to rotate this responsibility during evening hours and weekend days when the company is closed.
The measures our company has taken may seem extreme, but so is flushing cash down the toilet on wasted marketing dollars. Since implementing this new policy for 2014 we have seen a higher ROI on our marketing budget as well as an increase in sales volume on average per sales rep. I strongly recommend that all business owners and sales managers look into how much time their company takes to respond to online leads because based on Forrester Research's statistics it's not what most people think.
Christopher Noon is owner of Noon Turf Care and Green Light Sales Consulting.