The Trick to Capturing More Customer Leads on Your Website

Check out this recent article from AllBusiness Experts on using your website to generate sales leads:

This post explores strategies to improve online customer acquisition for service-based small businesses. It includes simple additions to improve conversion rates on your own website, along with paths to cost-effectively drive visitors to your website. Taken together, the goal of the website improvements along with traffic growth gained from new online marketing channels is to cost-effectively and sustainably increase customer leads and grow your base of new customers.

This post is the first of a 3-part series that explores the following topics for maximizing inbound lead generation for service-based small businesses:

Part 1: The Trick to Capturing More Customer Leads on Your Website
Part 2: Create Compelling Website Content That Drives More Leads
Part 3: 8 Key Marketing Channels to Grow Your Website Traffic and Increase Leads

For background, I am the co-founder of a SaaS company called ContactUs.com that provides online marketing and customer acquisition tools for business websites. The largest segment of our users is comprised of service-based small businesses, including attorneys, home service professionals, financial advertisers, insurance agents, medical providers, marketing companies, wedding vendors, web developers and independent consultants. These types of business, either directly or indirectly through their web agencies, are searching for online customer acquisition solutions that will support the business goals. This upcoming series on inbound lead generation is focused on them, and the millions of small businesses like them.

Capturing Actionable Sales Leads
Assuming you have a great web presence, and are generating traffic to your website through any combination of word-of-mouth, content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, Google AdWords, and display advertising, your likely goal is to capture the contact and lead information of potential customers fitting your target client base.

From a marketer’s perspective, several of common attributes for service-based businesses make it an ideal lead-gen opportunity if done properly:

Prospects are actively seeking expertise
Client decision is preceded by some level of one-on-one consultation
Services often involve custom quoting of a price (which serves as a lead-gen action)

Service-based SMBs have this magical opportunity to market their services to customer prospects who are effectively raising their hand to have others recognize their interest and intent. The question then becomes how the SMB’s website should take the next step in courting their customers.

Creating an Effective “Contact Us” Page
At a minimum, service-based SMBs should have an effective “Contact Us” page. This is stating the obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of SMB websites miss clearing this low bar. Here are five pieces of advice to make sure that your “Contact Us” page is doing its job.

1) Make sure you make it easy to contact you, and that your “Contact U”s page messaging anticipates the reasons that potential users would contact you. Are they looking for a sales quote? Where do customers request support? Are they looking to schedule an appointment? Here are some of my favorite examples of Contact Us pages, and the positive attributes of each.
2) Use a contact form on your “Contact Us,” and avoid simply providing an email address. Emails can get lost or spammed, and it’s hard to collaborate, track, segment, and prioritize inquiries coming from an email.
3) If you have a physical location or multiple locations, make sure you have mapping to make them easy to find. A Google Maps widget can solve this potential pitfall. (To address this, ContactUs.com forms have a Google Maps option built into them.)
4) If you have the resources to answer phone calls, make sure you give your customers a phone number to reach you. Even if they aren’t looking to call, they’ll want to know it’s an option.
5) Finally, make sure your “Contact Us” page submissions are being stored and responded to promptly. This point is related more toward operating the business versus operating the website. From a reputation standpoint, it’s important to not fail to follow up with your website contacts.

Many small business websites start and end with their “Contact Us” page. This should only be the most basic level of capturing website leads. Unfortunately, this is where a number of SMBs stop because the website was created and managed by a site manager who is disconnected with the sales goals of the business. The next section introduces strategies for advanced marketers looking to take their inbound lead-generation up a notch.

Building Lead Generation into Customer Actions
Service-based SMBs can take their website’s “Contact Us” experience to another level with their inbound lead generation by building “lead magnets” into their site. The concept of lead magnets is a proactive approach to engaging website visitors that designs lead-gen paths to attract visitors. Consider building an inbound lead-generation centered around specific actions on your website, using these lead-gen paths as examples:

“Provide a Cost Estimate” => Hot Lead
“Schedule a Consultation” => Hot Lead
“Signup for a Newsletter” => Soft Lead
“Download a Brochure” => Warm Lead
“Call Someone in Sales” (with call-tracking) => Phone Lead
“Ask a Question via Chat” => Chat Lead

Both the quality and quantity of inbound lead generation will benefit from these lead generation events. Track the leads generated from each one individually so that you know how and when to shift focus on them.

Asking the Right Questions to Generate a Lead

Most websites use a basic and very generic contact form. Your goal is not to capture just contact information, but to also obtain lead information that is specific to your business and lead qualification goals. Lead information allows you to 1) segment and prioritize your leads, 2) provide better information (such as a cost estimate) for your first conversation with the prospect, and 3) improve the probability that your website sales prospect submits their information into the form. Point #3 may sound counter-intuitive, since adding additional fields creates more friction in completing the form submission. This is true, and data from HubSpot supports the conversion rate drop-off as you add more fields to your forms. However, potential customers also want to know that when they submit information to a business that it is done with a purpose. Asking the right questions to a potential lead (i.e., nothing that requires too much thinking or research for the customer prospect) provides that right signal.

Appointment Requests and Online Scheduling
If your business is centered on appointments, either for sales consultations or the service itself, online appointment booking is an excellent way to engage prospects. Two of the leading online scheduling software providers to SMBs are Booker.com and Bookfresh (recently acquired by Square). Providing an online appointment request option puts the client prospect one step closer to being a customer. (Note: One consideration in online calendars is whether to have one-way or two-way synchronization. In one-way synchronization, your website calendar can send requests to your master calendar, but updates on your master calendar are not shared with the website. In two-way synchronization, the website talks to your master calendar, and vice versa. Be sure to ask prospective software providers about this point and your preferences if you decide to add online appointments to your website.)

Some Final Considerations Toward Capturing Leads
Lastly, consider indirect lead generation paths on your website:

Newsletter Opt-In – Prospects may want to get to know your business before deciding on you. Additionally, they might be early in their buying process, and so newsletter posts are way to educate themselves on both the buying process in general. Providing the ability to subscribe to a newsletter from your website is a great way to engage prospects (in addition to fostering loyalty among existing customers).
Live Chat – Having a chat option on your website for immediate consultation can be an effective form of lead-generation if you have chat agents available. This recent blog post on ContactUs.com’s blog provides some of the reasons. Chat solutions, such as ones from ContactUs.com, Zopim, Olark and LiveChat, are simple add-ons to your website, and are affordable at under $20 per month (and some have forever free tiers for light users.)
Phone Calls – If your marketing goal is to have client prospects pick up the phone to call you, then make sure that your number is featured front-and-center. Don’t make your Web visitors search for a phone number. And if it is a marketing goal, consider using call tracking software to translate call data into your lead-management processes.

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