Internet leads can be a fertile ground for new business. But are you making the best use of all those potential leads?

The online business resource, Forbes, posted a worrying article last month, entitled: “Why Companies Waste 71% of Internet Leads”. The article looked at more than 10,000 businesses over 5 weeks and uncovered the following statistics:

·         Average lead response time is 46 hours and 53 minutes

·         Sales rep give up after 1.3 call attempts to leads

·         A mere 27% of leads are ever contacted

These figures show that the average business is throwing money at leads they never properly chase up. The article examines how to boost conversions by 341% and maximise your investment in lead generation. It is well worth reading. Here are some ideas how to help you improve sales……….

1.       Auto respond

Think about setting up an auto-responder. This will send an email to individuals who have completed an online enquiry form, helping to keep your prospects warm. The message can also include latest offers, company news, a link to your FAQ page, etc. It can also better inform the individual about your service or product and prompt them to take certain actions. Auto-responders can also be set up which send information more regularly, weekly bulletins or a monthly newsletter for example, until the prospect is ready to buy.

2.       Use your analytics data to make better sales calls

In Google Analytics (and many other website data systems) you can track enquiries by setting up Goals, and if you are a PPC advertiser then you can put Conversion Code in place. This data can tell you which keywords and adverts lead to a sale and which pages an enquirer visited on your website. If you look in the Network sub-section within the Technology section of the Audience tab, you can see the IP addresses of visitors. Combining all of this data will let you know what information your enquirer was searching form and the page that prompted the enquiry, allowing you to make a more informed sales call.

3.       Nurture your leads

If you provide professional services or sell to businesses, it is highly likely that enquirers will not be ready to buy straight away. It is important that a system is put in place to keep these parties interested while they consider their purchase. Develop some ‘keep in touch’ campaigns that allow you to communicate regularly with enquirers and help you direct them further down the sales path. Such campaigns could include emails, telephone calls and physical items like newsletters, postcards, letters and brochures, with a mix of sales offers, industry news and company information.

Use your social assets

Get closer to your prospects by following them on social sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Here you can learn about their interests and the way they like to work, helping you to develop your relationship. Be careful not to overdo it though, as there can be a fine line between helpful supporter and relentless internet stalker.

5.       Use a sales database

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software allows you to keep on top of enquiries. Building up a database of all sales leads, grouping them up by industry or interest, assigning tasks to each one, tracking progress and much more can be easily achieved in one of the many CRM packages available. With CRM systems available for free and even those that are very popular costing just a few pounds a month, you have no excuse to continue organising your sales activity on Post-It notes and print-outs!

The world of retail is in its biggest transition since the adopting of the barcode scanner over hand-held pricing guns. Even small corner shops are now more likely to use the former, although there will always be a handful of retailers who hold on firmly to tradition. The current transition, the consumer move from physical shopping to virtual shopping, has been underway for a few years now but the mass-growth is now well and truly upon us. E-commerce is no longer a word used by only certain demographics, it is a term understood by 99% of the population. Yet, where e-commerce goes next, is the question thousands of retailers are asking, here are some of our predictions:

1. E-commerce dependence will continue to rise

The mass-market for e-commerce is already here, but the economic climate and reluctance for businesses to invest in expensive overheads such as retail space and customer-facing staff, means e-commerce will continue to grow and be more attractive to businesses both new and old. That’s not to say E-commerce should be seen as just a cheap option. Investing in back-end infrastructure and a pleasing customer journey is essential and cutting corners and costs on that invariably also means cutting customers.

2. Seasonal trends will still be applicable

While leaving your Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve is probably soon to be assigned to history (although we know there are some online retailers that offer this and the printable / emailable voucher has never been as popular), shopping at Christmas is still going to present a potential bumper windfall for online retailers. In addition, the tradition of the January sale lives on long and strong online so if you are running an ecommerce site, consider December and January a pretty much no go area for personal holiday.

3. Buying social will increase

The recommendation of a friend or trusted colleague can have a massive impact on whether you buy or don’t buy. The big retailers have long known this and the push post checkout of many retailers to “share your purchase” via your social networks is almost second nature to most of us buying online nowadays. That will only increase as will the number using the high street more as as browsing tool than a shop. Think Argos catalogue of the past, that could soon become the way we treat the physical shopping world, perhaps not even ever buying presents either, but sharing them over the internet (see Web 3.0)

4. The development of personal verification

With social networking sites now dominating the way we login to control panels and accounts across the web, the single login system while secure in principle is potentially open to abuse if you stay logged in for example on a publicly located computer. Many systems with automated payment logins and processes would therefore allow a ‘hacked’ account to be used to rack up £s of orders without extra security checks. Already to market Jumio’s Netwipe hasn’t quite captured the imagination as many had expected, but we think it won’t be too long before banks – and consumers – are insisting on this or similar technology to combat web fraud.

5. Flash sales will drive traffic

In the real world retailers call these “fire sales” and you see the High Streets littered with ‘Closing Down’ and ‘ All stock must go’ almost everywhere you go nowadays. That trend is set to move onto the internet. Already, the growth of social shopping sites like GroupOn and Living Social have relied heavily on the same mentality to drop prices to all-time lows and drive sales and hopefully traffic back to the retailer sites. Now as brands become more powerful and influential themselves via social media, so they will be looking to use similar tactics to drive traffic to their site alone.

6. Online loyalty programs kick in

The success of large scale affiliates offering money-back to customers for click-through purchases such as QuidCo and TopCashBack makes it clear that loyalty to brands extends online – especially if there is a financial incentive. Expect this to be become more polished and more targeted by the big names in the next few months. Already the big high street names such as Nectar are evident if not overtly active online, but brands are aware of the importance of customer loyalty and will be exploiting that more and more in tighter economic times.