A friend of mine tells this story about her dog: It went absolutely crazy one day and nearly dragged her from in front of her home and down the sidewalk to track another dog. The funny thing is, the other dog had already gone past her house—in the opposite direction. She says that’s what makes her dog special: It tracks where things came from, not where they’re heading.
Well now, maybe that’s not such a good trait for a dog to have, but it is something you might want to consider when it comes to marketing. Knowing where your prospects come from will help you save money and time by showing you where to best put your marketing efforts and dollars. Documenting inquiries not only shows you which marketing tools are working; it can help identify any disconnect between leads generated and leads converted into actual clients.
Years ago, I wrote book called Yellow Pages Power. In it, I included ways to determine whether or not the money spent on phone book ads was bringing in a good return on investment. Even though there are many other new places to advertise now (such as websites and social networking media), the techniques I talked about then are still valid. It all starts with you gathering some basic intelligence.
Put together a lead-tracking form: Creating a lead-tracking form is not difficult. It can be an Excel spreadsheet, a notepad, a table created in Word, even a database management program—whatever is easiest for you. To get started, simply develop headings for the questions that you want answered. Keep in mind that even a simple question such as, “How did you hear about us?” can generate subheadings, so plan for these.
Maybe the prospect was referred to you by a friend or business associate. Or maybe he or she saw an article about you in the business section of your local paper, or read a column about you in a trade magazine, or heard about you on a bridal website. Perhaps it was your ad in the Yellow Pages or a well-placed business card. Did you just update your website? Add a blog? Join a social networking site? List all applicable options on your tracking form.
If you’ve developed multiple marketing platforms—widecasting your message via as many marketing media as you can—it’s quite possible your prospect will have more than one answer to, “How did you hear about us?” An appropriate follow-up question would be to ask, “Did you read or hear about us elsewhere?”
Another heading might be, “Did you try or call anyone else before us?” A question like this helps you learn how you measure up to your competition. Plus, it’s a good way to see whether your prospect is just out kicking the tires.
You might be thinking that all these questions could scare a potential client away. But when asked in a friendly and engaging manner, they let the prospect know that you’re interested in more than just getting the job. You’re actually interested in who he or she is. That could be the beginning of a long and prosperous relationship.
Function follows form: OK, you’ve set up a lead-tracking form. Now what? Make sure your staff is on the same page. Begin by insisting that anyone who answers the phone asks the questions and tracks the responses.
You’ll also want to set up the same type of form for inquiries that come through your website. Simply add a “How did you hear about us?” line and give them multiple-choice answers they can check off. I strongly recommend getting this information as often as possible, because then you can better compare the quality of leads coming from online, print, and other marketing efforts.
One advantage of lead tracking through the internet is that you can use software to analyze site traffic. These programs are often included when you sign up with a website provider. They can help you identify the most popular areas of your site, where visitors arrive from, and what pages they visit, as well as keywords and that drive prospects to your site via search engines. (Google Analytics is a good free one to start with.)
Finding out how people search for the services you offer will provide invaluable information for sharpening your marketing strategy. You might choose to purchase ads on your prospects’ favorite sites, for example. Or edit your promotional materials (print, online, demo videos) to include high-impact, business-generating keywords.
I’ve often said that the clients you have now are more valuable than those you’re trying to obtain. Lead tracking is just the beginning to the long-term relationship you hope to build with your clients.
There are all types of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, such as ACT! and Outlook CRM, that can assist you in tracking your interaction with existing clients. Actions you might want to record include emails, letters, calls, faxes, appointments (whether scheduled or drop-ins), reminders, and the like. All types of lead-tracking and CRM systems are helpful tools for building and maintaining a healthy client base.
Knowing where a prospect comes from can provide you just the information you need to turn that prospect into a client. Following through on what you’ve promised and building on that relationship can help guarantee you a client for life—one that will be more than willing to recommend you and your business to others.
Steve Yankee (syankee at opinmarketing.com) has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Mich.