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Once you have successfully attracted a visitor to your website, or brought him or her to a landing page through an on-line campaign, you essentially have accomplished very little.
The real value is realized after you convert the visitor to a lead, obtaining qualifying information about the potential customer, and finally (hopefully) close the sale. The first step in this critical process is lead capture.
Lead capture almost always occurs through either a form on a web page, via a telephone call or through e-mail. What occurs after the visitor submits the form or makes the call can vary widely, and it can make all the difference between a successful lead generation program, and one that goes nowhere.
In addition to placing leads into the hands of the appropriate sales representative, you have to be concerned about nurturing the prospect through the sales process, monitoring the performance of your marketing campaigns and sales reps, and retaining the leads that don’t close immediately for follow-up marketing efforts. For a lead effort occasionally generating a few random leads, these factors aren’t that important, but if you are serious about growing your business, they are critical.
Leads may be captured electronically using three primary methods:
An e-mail link:
This is the simplest solution to implement, and it is suitable if you are looking for an inexpensive way to capture a few low value leads. However, e-mail does not provide guaranteed delivery, your leads can be lost in someone’s inbox, and there is no way to control the information the user provides. Even worse, e-mail links on many websites go to non-existent mailboxes, because no one thinks about updating them when the recipient moves on or you change mail systems.
This is a small step up from a simple e-mail link, providing a structured way to request specific information from a prospect. You can require that entries be made in certain form fields, and validate that the user’s input conforms to validation rules, such as for a telephone number or zip code. However, it suffers from the same delivery and retention issues as an e-mail link.
Form submission into a sales automation system:
Although it is more difficult to implement, this is the most robust approach to lead capture, and it should always be used if you are making a substantial investment in marketing and advertising. Depending on the system, leads may be retained indefinitely, and linked to other information about the account. Many on-line sales and marketing systems, such as our SalesProTM system, include on-line lead capture in their core functionality.
Depending on the specific software capabilities and the type of marketing program, leads may be tied back to information about an account, including an account profile (such as sales, employee count and industry), as well as prior contacts with the account. For an e-mail campaign, the association with account data may be established using tracking information included with the outbound e-mail. A postal campaign may make the association using a key code or ‘priority code’ printed on the mail piece that links back to the individual’s record.
Leads that come in via telephone tend to be the most valuable, and they once were almost impossible to track. However, telephone lead tracking systems now enable leads to be tied back to their source.
These systems provide you with special tracking telephone numbers which display on your website or landing page. When the caller dials one of these numbers, it will identify the source of the lead, and often provide additional marketing intelligence. It will then save a permanent record of the lead in a database that you can access by logging in to an on-line lead management console, and redirect the call to your regular telephone.
Usually, these services allow you to record the call as well, which can be of considerable value to sales managers looking to train their reps and evaluate their performance.