A few weeks ago I wrote about how to convert more of your website visitors into paying customers by using the correct kind of follow-up process.
Today I'm returning to the theme of how important it is to follow-up in an appropriate way when you receive a lead via your website. But this time I'm not sharing a client case study. This time I want to tell you about an experience I had recently as a potential customer.
VitalityHealth is a fairly traditional private medical insurance company that's been around, in one form or another, for the past 25 years.
Equipsme is a fairly new entrant to the corporate healthcare market, having recently celebrated its first birthday.
The difference in age and size of these two companies probably has a bearing on how they followed up after I got my online quotes one Tuesday evening a few weeks ago.
About 20 minutes after filling in the form on the Equipsme website I received an email from someone called Gavin (who I later found out was one of the directors of the company) to ask me a few questions.
We exchanged a few emails over the next hour or so and the next day I received my quote via email with instructions on how to accept it via the website if I wanted to go ahead.
I had a few queries on the quote so I sent Gavin a text message (his mobile number had been on the original email he sent me) and he texted me back with the answers.
Within 24 hours I had all the information I needed to decide if the Equipsme policy was right for me and I hadn't had to endure any sales calls.
The Vitality website gave me a price online straightaway. The details were confirmed in a generic automated email. It was more than I wanted to pay so I filed the email in an appropriate place and thought no more about it.
The next morning, soon after 08:00, my phone rang with an incoming call from a Bournemouth number that I didn't recognise. I was in the middle of helping get the children ready for school so there was no way I was going to answer a call from an unrecognised number at that time of the day.
The caller did not leave a message, but by Googling the number I was able to establish that the call had come from Vitality.
At around lunchtime they rang again. And again I ignored the call. So they rang again towards the end of the day. Again, I ignored them.
The next day they rang again. This time I was in the car in a queue of slow moving traffic. I had nothing better to do so I decided to answer the call.
The caller (I'll call him Nathan because I can't remember his real name) asked me if I was ok to talk and I said I was and mentioned that I was stuck in traffic.
"Oh, well in that case I can't talk to you," said Nathan, "It's our company policy that we don't talk to people while they're driving. It's for your own safety."
Now if there's one thing I don't like, it's people telling me what's good and bad for me, especially if they're trying to sell me something. I'm old enough and ugly enough to make my own decisions about what risks I'm willing to take. And, before you ask, yes, I was using a proper hands-free kit so it was perfectly safe and legal for me to be on the phone, especially as I was at a standstill by this point.
"Oh, that's a shame," I replied, "Because my company policy is that we only do phone calls whilst driving, so as to maximise productivity."
To cut a long story short, I was then able to keep Nathan on the phone for another five minutes by asking him what the purpose of his call was and getting him to tell me what he would have said to me had I not been driving.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that the provider of my health insurance is now Equipsme.
So what lessons can we learn from this story to improve our own chances of converting leads from our websites into paying customers?
People's priorities change from one moment to the next. By responding within half an hour of my initial enquiry, Gavin from Equipsme was able to engage with me whilst medical insurance was still the focus of my attention.
But by the time Vitality called me the next day my attention had shifted to other things such as getting the kids to school and myself to work.
Many companies still do what Vitality did. They invite you to engage with them online (via website forms, email, social media, live chat, etc) but then try to respond to you by phone.
It's usually safe to assume that if a potential customer wants to speak to you on the phone then they will call you. But if they contact you online then they are probably going to prefer you to respond via the same channel.
It's also worth remembering that different generations prefer different methods of communication.
As my friend David Taylor points out, there are six generations living in the UK and they each tend to have different communication preferences. Whilst Baby Boomers are generally quite comfortable using the phone, Millennials (aka Generation Y) don't want to be sold or marketed to and don't enjoy using the phone.
The more at ease someone feels when you communicate with them, the more likely they are to buy from you. So don't make them uncomfortable by forcing your preferred method of communication on them.
If a potential customer is happy to talk to you while they are driving, skiing, climbing a tree, abseiling, or carrying out surgery then that's up to them. Don't try to nanny them. Let them judge for themselves what they're capable of doing safely.
Someone might have sent you an email or replied to your text message a few seconds ago, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are free to talk on the phone at the moment.
In today's smartphone-obsessed world, people are happy to send texts, check their emails, and browse the web while they're on the toilet or having sex. But that doesn't mean they'll be comfortable having a phone conversation and letting you hear what they're up to.
It does, however, mean that phones are 10 times dirtier than toilet seats....
The email that I received from Vitality after I'd done my online quote was clearly an automated and templated one full of corporate colours and stock images. It might have started with "Dear David" but it was clearly an email that had already been sent to hundreds of other people that day.
The email from Equipsme was a bog-standard text-only email but it was sent specifically to me and came from a real person at their end.
For reasons I'll talk about another time, plain and simple text-only emails might look boring but they usually get a better response rate than over-engineered impersonal emails based on HTML templates.
So keep your emails simple and real.
If possible you should try to take the level of personalisation to a higher level than simple using someone's name. A survey by UCAS in 2017 found that 64% of Generation Z respondents (people born from 1995 onwards) liked getting emails with tailored information and offers that were highly personalised to them.
As we saw in my other article about adapting your follow-up strategy to best suit your audience, a successful digital marketing campaign isn't just about getting a prospect to your website and convincing them to fill in a form.
To be truly successful, you need to develop a strategy for following-up on the leads you receive from your website and you should make sure it is flexible enough to accommodate different types of people and a variety of generational preferences.
Has this article given you some new ideas to improve your own follow-up processes? Do you have any tips of your own that you'd like to share? Please leave a comment in the box below. I'd love to know what you think.
As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services and healthcare sectors use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.