Online leads and offline closes

In a recent Webinar and MarketingExperiments journal issue titled Lead Generation: Is Your Sign-Up Process Costing You Leads or Maximizing Them?, we tackled the problems of online businesses either failing to effectively capture leads or not even realizing that their site is better at lead generation than conversion.

The bottom line? Sites where the perceived level of investment or purchase risk is high—or where the process is comparatively complex—may be poor candidates for online conversion but good candidates for a lead generation approach.

But in addition to knowing how much information to ask for online and when, and understanding how important a timely follow-up is once you’ve got that lead, consider the motivated customer who wants action immediately, but just needs help in making her final decision: Don’t underestimate the power of offering instant access to a real person who can answer questions and take charge of complicated procedures. Adding short-cuts like the prominent placement of a toll-free number, or offering real-time purchasing assistance through click-to-call or chat access, can instantly reduce anxiety and get the deal closed.

I recently had a negative online experience with a prominent travel booking site. I was trying to find a pet-friendly hotel. In theory I was supposed to be able to sort hotels by whether they accepted pets or not. Being wary of hidden charges, I decided to call my first choice. It turned out they didn’t accept pets at all! Same result with my second choice. After sending an angry missive to the site owners, I tried another travel site. There I was offered a toll-free number, where a nice lady on the other end called a hotel herself to confirm they took pets and didn’t charge anything extra for it. When I told her I was in the middle of my online booking process, she offered to take charge of it. Now they have a loyal customer.

Related:  How to reduce friction and anxiety in a checkout process you don’t control

Businesses offering complex or expensive transactions should also consider what I’m calling “rest stops”: incorporating links that automatically email landing page information to prospects for later consumption, or adding gadgets like Google’s Send to Phone tool. Even pointing out handy features like Internet Explorer’s “send page by email” and “send link by email” functions and the “Send to” function on Google’s toolbar may help ensure visitors have your information ready once they are ready to make a decision.

Complex or expensive online transactions can be frustrating and scary. Reducing friction and mitigating anxiety are critical. Excellent service is key. Trust is everything. Instead of offering long and winding roads of information for weary online travelers to read, sort and digest, offer short-cuts and rest stops. Prospective customers will reward your hospitality with their business.

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1 Comment

  1. Eric says

    In our working with larger retailers, it has become apparent to me that the retailers who “get” that online leads and offline closes will succeed in both channels.

    In our business, we ship custom-ordered products directly to consumers. Our offline sales conversion (generated by leads from the website) are 3X higher than online sales conversions. It’s an interesting metric and really illustrates how website strategy must factor in cross-channel consumer navigation.

    There are a lot of internal challenges for retailers who operate online businesses separately from their retail storefronts — sometimes they are competing for the same consumer and don’t always execute in the consumer’s best interest.

    -Eric

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