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Wasting leads is wasting money

Most chief executives and sales directors, however well they think the company is doing, say that pursuing new business vital. They probably assume everyone in the company thinks this way. They are wrong.

The fact is, in good times and in bad, whatever people do in their marketing to generate leads, a large number do nothing with the leads they get. Potential customers are ignored if they enquire by phone, letter or email. Many of those do get a response aren't followed up.

A recent survey by Siebela and Microsoft shows how bad it can be. Two hundred and fifty large companies from various sectors, including manufacturing were researched. Forty percent of companies interviewed did not send on information requested by telephone. Only one in four firms responded to an enquiry by email.

The average response time - of those who bothered to respond - was 4.6 days. Most sent a personalised letter by post. Only 8% followed that up with a telephone call.

A study done ten years ago by Michael Rigby Associates virtually duplicated these findings for the window industry. No matter how tough the market, many companies ignored a large number of enquiries or failed to follow them up.

Why does this happen? Sometimes technology gets the blame - computer systems crashing can make it hard to give someone the answer they want. All too often, it's human error. In many companies, the management systems aren't in place: nobody knows whose job it is to respond, so responsibility is shared or the lead is put to the bottom of the 'in-box'. Responding to enquiries can be seen as a chore that interrupts 'real' work - or what is perceived as such.

If this is the situation in your company, it's time to wake up. Responding to enquiries is everyone's responsibility. If people don't see replying to enquiries as important, they've lost the plot somewhere along the line.

It is easy to have fun with marketing strategies and advertising campaigns. But while you're out promoting your brand and actively looking for leads, you need to make sure that someone's on hand to capitalise on the results. The fundamentals of marketing practice apply within your company as well. Wasting leads is wasting money.

Asking yourself what your company needs to survive can keep your feet on the ground. In very practical terms you needů

Your companies' response to prospects is essential to this mix. A prompt, knowledgeable and courteous response to an enquiry will do half the work of changing a potential customer into an actual one. Actively looking for leads is important, but don't neglect the ones that fall into your lap. Make sure you are the early bird that gets the worm, not your competitor.

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