Written By: Kristy Esch
Most businesses adhere to an established process for how they handle leads. Just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. You can get creative with lead follow-up ideas to convert more sales.
In our experience, it’s best to approach lead generation and follow-up through experimentation and observation. Not every customer will react the same to a single effort or follow-up approach. Lead follow-up and conversions depend on where the customer is at in their buying journey and their personal communication preferences.
It’s time to remove the guesswork and apply these 20 creative techniques to lead follow-up.
1. Turn Your Company’s Website into Your Top Marketing Channel
To increase the number of online leads you turn into sales, your business must first gain trust. Welcome visitors to your site in a new way by letting them know you want to personalize their shopping experience. Let them know that by providing their name and email, they can also enter to win a giveaway. Once they give you their information, your website can remember that visitor and guide them in their shopping journey, asking them what they want to shop for or look at next, while directing them to the exact website page they need to go.
“With the right technology, we capture information that the client may not be as comfortable walking in our store and giving,” says Jon Greenbaum, Advertising Manager at Greenbaum Home Furnishings. “[We] learn about the customer without the process feeling intimidating or like an interrogation.”
2. Continue to Create Compelling Next Steps for the Customer
With AI software, you’re able to create custom and personalized interactions for the customer based on their online behavior. Is your customer looking at a wide variety of options? AI technology can offer an assessment or interactive quiz to help them narrow down choices. If the same consumer returns multiple times to view the same information, provide a way for them to schedule an appointment while they’re still online or offer them the ability to pre-qualify or fill out an application.
3. Offer Auxiliary Tools for Added Value
Purchasing a high-ticket item usually involves more than just finding the right product for the right price. Other factors impact that decision, so add value wherever possible. If you’re a home furnishings retailer, offer an online style assessment or a free consultation with a designer. Multifamily properties can provide online tools such as a rent calculator to give them an idea of total costs, including utilities, and a community-fit assessment so they can see upfront if the area has what they’re looking for without having to visit.
4. Engage Leads with Video
Draw the customer in with a customized video on your website or in follow-up emails. From a tour of the furniture showroom floor or the latest floor plan in multifamily, video increases traffic and interest.
“Prospective residents or shoppers can gather information online, engage with a video tour, and, for a growing number of consumers, that’s enough to make them convert or sign a lease. Video is the way to do that,” says Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Realync, a video-leasing platform company that partners with PERQ so customized tour videos can be embedded on the AI-powered website platform on multifamily property websites.
5. Offer Promotions Specific to the Customer
Build in special offers on your company’s website or in follow-up emails, but be sure those promotions are geared toward products the person is looking to buy.
“Being able to provide personalized promotions is really valuable,” says Doug Stump, Vice President of Sales at PERQ. “When people are doing research online, they naturally look at the local market and try to decide which store will offer the most value for me, versus driving somewhere farther away or paying for shipping.”
The ultimate goal is to entice a visitor and make her walk through your doors and say, ‘Hey, I have this offer I received on your website.”
6. Live Chat or Other Two-Way Communication Options
Set up website tools that allow a consumer to enter a two-way conversation online, such as a live chat tool that allows for immediate follow-up from your staff. Utilizing a chat-to-text feature, whether powered by AI technology or a salesperson, provides consumers with an opportunity to ask specific questions or request more information in real-time. Be aware, any direct communication tool only performs as great as the salesperson behind it.
7. Approach Consumers Based on When They’re Ready to Buy or Sign a Contract
Not all people who visit your business website are ready to buy or sign a contract. How they interact with your website provides insight into where they are in the shopping journey. Follow up appropriately to match the type of information they are seeking, wherever they are in the buying process.
“Customers who are higher up in the funnel — or in the awareness stage — are more responsive to selection, while customers who have sought out specific products respond best to messages about fulfillment, delivery and product guarantees,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager at The Great American Home Store.
8. Provide Product Previews and Personalize the Shopping Experience
Use all of the data your website collects about your potential customers to match new products to their preferences. Add a personal touch by offering customized sneak previews to loyal customers, and offer up similar products or other items they may like based on past shopping behavior.
9. Respond Quickly While Consumer is Still Engaged
Respond quickly to leads who are in the market to buy or rent now to increase your chances of catching the consumer while they’re still engaged. Immediately connecting with a qualified customer who is already on your site and engaged, decreases the chances they’ll go to a competitor’s website.
10. Create a VIP Experience for Consumers
Allow customers to schedule a VIP appointment via your website from preselected times. Strategically schedule those appointment openings during your sales team’s downtime or the least-busy hours to maximize productivity. Even if the customer doesn’t schedule a consultation while online, you still have a meaningful opportunity to reach out to that consumer and offer a VIP appointment to entice them to re-engage.
11. Offer Easy Ways to Schedule Services
Include scheduling tools on your website so potential customers can easily sign up for a free design consultation, schedule a test drive, or arrange a tour of your apartment community. The less time they spend talking to a salesperson, the more likely consumers are to schedule a service.
Getting them to visit in person is more than half the battle to convert online leads. Let them make the first move, and conveniently do so on their own time. Talk about instant gratification.
12. Build a Customer Database for More Efficient Lead Follow-Up
Keep a database of all potential customers and track where they’re at in the sales funnel. Even better, utilize a database that helps you score and prioritize leads based on their level of interest. Forward highly qualified “hot leads” to your salespeople to keep the volume manageable, and lean on less-urgent leads when the business goes through slow periods.
For leads high up in the sales funnel, set up your customer management database to engage those consumers and keep your brand top of mind through an email drip or text nurturing program. Set up pre-determined schedules and messaging that’s based on when the shopper indicates they’ll likely be ready to purchase, and then automatically personalize the content and incentives based on the lead data stored in your CRM.
13. Follow Up With Leads Using Their Preferred Method
Gone are the days of getting information only at the point of purchase. Technology allows companies to gather information 24/7 from virtually anywhere. Each customer prefers a specific way to communicate — phone, email, text, chat or in-person. To build trust, follow up with your customers via their preferred method.
“Finding the most convenient way to get quick answers to simple questions and to adapt to however customers wish to communicate is our responsibility as retailers,” says David Weiss, Marketing Manager at Sherman’s. “The choice is either to engage in different methods or make peace with the fact you’ll lose that customer to a competitor who is willing to invest in it.”
14. Create Automated Lead Follow-Up Campaigns for Each Customer Type
Use automated email templates or phone call templates tailored to the various stages of the buying journey, so your team can strike the appropriate tone for consumers in each phase of the sales funnel. Schedule follow-up emails or text messages to automatically arrive during optimal times for the customer. As an added bonus, templates eliminate some common mistakes like typos or grammatical errors.
“Scheduling is huge, because I can send out an email at seven o’clock at night when volume is not high,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management with Barratt Asset Management. “It allows the email to show up at a time that is best for the prospect.”
15. Customize Each Lead Follow-Up Using Insightful Data
Whether using templates or crafting a unique email, be sure to include some personalized customer information when following up with a lead. Leveraging in-depth customer data garnered from your website platform creates an instant connection with prospects and helps your salespeople start the conversation from a position of insight.
“We don’t want to lose the personalization aspect, which is what works well on our website,” says Joey Gunn, Vice President of Knight Furniture and Mattress. “We encourage our sales team to follow that customer journey.”
16. Follow Up By Sharing Industry Trends
Smart website technology gives your company valuable consumer behavior insights. By regularly analyzing that data, you can spot trends and anticipate the evolving wants and needs in your market. Proactively reach out to consumers who engaged with you in the past by sharing valuable content that highlights the latest trends in your industry or helpful advice. Reignite their interest in your brand by giving them a reason to think about you and helping them with research. Content such as “5 tips for hiring a moving company” or “What you should ask on a property tour” are great examples.
17. Make Lead Follow-Up Easier, More Organized with the Right CRM
The right CRM is of utmost importance when trying to collect, track and analyze large sets of consumer lead data. A lot happens in the digital space and it continues to evolve. Look for a data management system that provides valuable information you can sort and prioritize, and works as an extension of your team.
“We utilize our CRM to leverage our data as best we can,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential. “We overlay our website insights in terms of prospect engagement with a series of other data points, from our property management software and Google Analytics, just to better understand the activity of the consumer.”
18. Leverage Data to Increase Higher Quality Leads to your Website
As we discussed, you can capture a lot of data about a consumer, when they’re in the market to rent, for example; what amenities they want the most in an apartment; what they want in the community; and the activities they enjoy most. Leverage the most common answers in your digital advertising efforts to help you attract higher quality website visitors or retarget leads who already visited your site.
19. Improve the Conversation
Your sales teams can learn a lot about leads on your website. Have them leverage the data in the CRM so they are more likely to close the sale, either by phone, chat, text or email. Again, if a visitor told you they prefer a text, don’t make your first outreach a call. A text might start: “I saw you were looking at FILL IN THE BLANK (the hybrid mattresses or the two-bedroom floor plan with two-baths) on our site, (Insert first name). Did you have any questions I can help you with? Being personable and helpful can go a long way.
20. Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
In these times of advanced technology and digital messaging, people still appreciate when a company takes the time to send a handwritten thank-you note or follow up with a phone call after an initial in-person interaction. Connecting on a personal level is the touchstone of any creative lead follow-up strategy.
“Use emotional intelligence to handle interpersonal relationships with knowledge and care, while factoring in and understanding different circumstances impact lead follow-up,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management for Barratt Asset Management. “Good salespeople are really important.”
And one to grow on…
Train Your Sales Teams How to Handle Digital Leads
Your sales and onsite teams might be great in person, but have they had the training to be helpful with those digital shoppers. Investing in some training will go a long way to turning those online shoppers to in-person visits.