In my experience, most of the mental energy and strategic thinking around the practice of lead nurturing and lead management is usually applied to the goal of accelerating prospects through the sales process – from MQL to SQL, from SQL to Opportunity, and so on. Relatively little attention is paid to the very front end of the lead lifecycle – namely, responding to a new lead in the first place. And that lack of focus can be a big mistake.
Though today’s marketing automation technology can enable some very sophisticated campaigns (think automated, personalized, dynamically tailored, multi-track nurture streams), some of the biggest ROI from marketing automation, and the shortest time to value, can be achieved simply be leveraging technology to ensure that every lead gets followed up with promptly and systematically.
Studies have long shown that the speed at which leads are responded to has a direct and dramatic effect on the rate at which those leads are converted to opportunities or passed to sales. Now comes a new study from the researchers at Software Advice that reinforces that point even further.
Software Advice analyzed more than 6 million unique visitors to their own Website between 2008 and 2013, and the impact that various factors (speed of response, time of day, day of week, month of year) had on the rate at which those leads were qualified based on a telephone needs analysis and BANT qualification. You can read the complete report here. To me, the most eye-opening statistic was this:
“Calling a lead within 5 seconds increased the odds of qualifying that lead by 29 percent compared to calling the same lead within 5 minutes.”
Think about that for a moment. What would you do or pay to increase by a whopping 30 percent the rate at which your inside sales team qualifies leads? Apparently it’s no more complicated than reaching leads almost immediately upon their expressing interest.
Software Advice uses their study as a guide for how and when to staff an inside sales team, but I think the implications are just as important for when and how to deploy marketing automation. Face it: there’s no cost-efficient way to guarantee that every sales lead gets a phone call within 5 seconds, not when a sudden influx of leads from a new campaign, say, can quickly outpace the ability of your inside sales team to respond accordingly. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use marketing automation, and a simple autoresponder program, to ensure that each and every lead receives an instantaneous response via email, regardless of sales bandwidth.
Would sending an automated email to a new lead within 5 seconds have the same impact as reaching that same individual by phone? Probably not. But when this study, and the many before it, show conclusively that the speed at which companies respond to leads has a dramatic effect on the rate at which those leads convert to opportunities, why not make the investment?
A footnote: Software Advice restricted their study to domestic (US) traffic only. The visitors were primarily buyers looking for information on business software, so the data has potentially broad application to B2B software and B2B technology vendors as a whole.
For further discussion on a related topic, see this earlier post on “3 Keys to an Effective Autoresponder Program.”
UPDATE: Salesforce.com just published a great infographic based on this same study: http://bit.ly/1apKel4.