Web Inquiry Management: Interview with Mike Wallen
This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to B2B lead generation, marketing and new business development professionals.
Mike, I understand that you recently published a special report about the handling of web inquiries, titled "The Truth Behind Web Inquiry Management." What do you include under the definition "web inquiries," and why did you focus the report on them?
Today companies receive inbound inquiries through numerous sources—the web, chat, phone calls and emails. The report focuses on web inquiries specifically because the biggest percentage of inbound inquiries come through this source, and these inquiries often represent overlooked sources of revenue.
At The Lead Dogs, we define a web inquiry as a completed form on a website or landing page. Someone who completes a form may have gotten to the site as a result of a marketing campaign, online searches, social media activities or a word-of-mouth referral.
What is the truth behind web inquiry management? What is the main thing you want those responsible for B2B lead generation to know?
The truth is that people are letting good leads slip through the cracks. Whether it is due to the perception that web inquiries are low in quality and not worthy of being followed up on or purely the lack of resources to use in following up, the overall handling of web inquiries today is insufficient.
The report talks about the impact of response time on connecting with interested prospects and identifying them as qualified leads. Tell us more about that, Mike.
In the companies we interviewed, the average response time to an inquiry was 31 hours. We see this as being pretty reflective of what happens in most companies. However, this time frame is just too long. According to an industry survey and our experience at The Lead Dogs, the odds of connecting live with a prospect are the highest within minutes of the inquiry occurring. From there, the odds of connecting decrease by 10 times in the first hour.
These stats really emphasize how critical it is to have inquiry management processes in place. When the resources are set up to handle inquiries as they occur, you can quickly reach these individuals, qualify them, classify them appropriately, and then move them into or through the funnel promptly, without missing any opportunities for new revenue.
In addition to filling out web forms, lots of inquirers respond by phone or email. How should these inquiries be handled?
All inquiries should be handled with a prompt follow-up, ideally within minutes, to quickly qualify them and determine whether the inquirers are a fit and ready to engage with sales.
Mike, your benchmark study also shows that 4 percent of inquiries come from chat. As that number is so small (compared with the 43 percent that come in via web forms, the 33 percent by phone and the 20 percent by email), should marketers bother adding chat capabilities to their web pages?
Part of the reason chat represents such a small percentage is that not many companies are doing it yet. As more companies add this capability, I anticipate that the percentage will increase.
Yes, I believe that marketers should add chat to their websites, as it can be a very effective way to engage prospective customers. But chat isn’t an area to dabble in. Adding chat capabilities is resource intensive—it requires the marketer to staff the role, provide training, etc. There needs to be a long-term commitment to making chat a success, whether that involves using internal resources or external ones.
According to the report, your client data shows that for every 100 inbound inquiries, 10 are sales ready and 50 need additional nurturing. Should my readers bother with lead nurturing? And if so, how should they go about it?
Lead nurturing should be a priority for every marketer. In today’s economic times, with lengthening sales cycles and more and more people involved in the buying process, it is important to build relationships not only with prospects who are ready to buy now, but also with those who may buy in the future or who may be influencers on the decision-making process. This is really important because according to the 2008 Miller Heiman Sales Best Practice Study, the number of decision makers involved with each sale shifted up by 16 percent compared to the previous year’s study and companies are getting more sophisticated about how they make decisions. According to Bill Golder, Miller Heiman’s executive vice president of sales, "They’re getting better at internal collaboration in decision making." That means not only more people involved but more knowledgeable people involved.
To effectively nurture these opportunities, marketers should approach lead nurturing the same way they do lead generation—with a plan! Just as with lead generation, it is important to understand the target profile [or persona], tailor key messages to each profile and its stage in the sales cycle, develop an integrated set of campaigns to reach those leads, continuously monitor and analyze results, and tweak campaigns based on results achieved. Many of our clients have found success with an ongoing combination of very targeted and personalized phone conversations, emails, direct mail and even event invitations [for webcasts, etc.].
Mike, thanks for speaking with us about your benchmarking report. How can our readers learn more?
A complimentary copy of the report is available for download here:
The Truth Behind Web Inquiry Management
They also can email me at mwallen at leaddogs dot com
Readers, what are your thoughts about web inquiry management?
Are you responding quickly enough to your web inquiries? How about your phone and email inquiries?
Are you nurturing your not-yet-qualified prospects until they are sales ready? If so, is your lead nurturing paying off in more qualified leads and closed sales?
Are you providing chat services on your web pages? And if so, do you generate more qualified leads as a result?