Don’t Blame Marketing – It’s Operations That’s Killing Lead Generation

by Toby

January 18, 2014

don't blame marketing

The phone is ringing, website form submissions are coming in, and you’ve put together an online marketing plan that is driving leads to your business. But at some point, as the campaign matures you notice the leads are no longer coming in like you thought they should.

It’s all too common of a problem and one I hear pretty often from clients at some point in an engagement, “What’s going on with the campaign lately, we haven’t had any good leads this month?”

Of course, my initial response is always one of concern, but as I start to dig into the possible causes, checking analytics, Google AdWords data, and other sources, it’s clear lead generation from online marketing efforts is fine – the problem is an operations or sales performance issue.

Recently one of our dentist clients told me, “well most of the calls we get are just asking about pricing, and I try to avoid answering those price questions anyway.” Eeeek —  not knowing how to sell to possible customers is a big issue. Later in our conversation, I asked how many people in the staff that answer the phone have ever been trained in how to sell.  Answer: “nobody.”

Effective marketing will always highlight weaknesses in either operations and/or sales.

The three most common issues I see that arise when a small business is not prepared to handle the increase in lead generation include:

  • Lack of Sales Training: We call track our efforts with many clients and as part of that we record the phone calls for training purposes. I am often shocked when I listen to these as it’s all too common for staff people to answer the call, immediately put the customer on hold to take care of another issue, or worse yet, cannot close on the customer. Some customer calls that I’ve listened to are practically pleading for appointments, but because the staff is not trained to listen for the right cues on when to close they completely miss the opportunity. I’d have to say this is the one area where I practically want to fall out of my chair – you have a lead, the customer is practically closing for you, and yet the staff doesn’t close the deal.
  • Shortage of staffing: it’s essential you have enough staff to respond to phone inquiries and form submissions coming from online lead generation efforts. If customers are placed on hold too long, or your staff is too busy to answer the phone in time you’ll lose the lead. We had a client in retail services that every time I called in to speak with him I would be placed on hold by his front office staff for 7 minutes or more. That’s a great way to kill lead generation.

Below is a chart taken from a franchise retail services client that shows increasing inbound lead calls yet decreasing membership sales — counterintuitive, but certainly indicative of not being able to handle the volume and sell more memberships.

Retail Services Client: Leads Increasing, Membership Sales Decreasing

Compare that chart to the one below highlighting the issue at a different time of year; calls here are decreasing and memberships are increasing — clearly showing operationally that the staff handles lower volumes more effectively.

Retail Services Client: Calls Decreasing, Memberships Sales Increasing
  • Systems and Processes. Do you have an efficient system to respond to website form leads that come in via email or into a CRM?  A study done by LeadResponsManagement.org found that the odds of qualifying a lead when your response time is 30 minutes drop an astounding 21X versus responding to the lead in just 5 minutes – now that’s a clear case for urgency.

Have you experienced anything similar? I’d love to get your feedback and questions about this issue — leave your comments below.

About the author 

Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several companies throughout his career. He's an expert in SEO, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Marketing Automation, and more. He has a BA in Chemistry/Biochemistry from UC San Diego and an MBA from SDSU.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get in touch - how can we help you?

Your journey for better results online begins NOW!