I will also include lessons learned along the way, from landing the client to building his prospecting machine and even changes and training that had to happen internally. Some of what you will read will make you laugh and some make you do a face palm.
Acquiring The Client
They responded to a simple classified ad in a local directory. My title was "17 Year Online Marketing Expert Seeking 1 Interesting Project". I put the item price at 15k. The body of my ad simply sent them to my website PeterLessard.com and re-stated that I was looking for one interesting project to work on that relied on lead generation, foot traffic and sales for a local business with a great service or product that was struggling.
I was asked to a meeting, when I walked in it was a full boardroom, pretty much every employee in the place and the owner that had reached out. It quickly became obvious that they had already talked with many bricks and mortar "real" web development firms and the employees were all set to discuss how bad their existing web site was and talk about look, feel and samples of my work etc..
I stopped them about 3 questions in as they were trying to qualify ME and said "There must be a misunderstanding. If you need a web site I can recommend many good web developers that can follow your instructions, I thought you had deeper issues. I only work with companies facing serious marketing or sales issues, do you have any of those problems?"
Things got quiet then the owner started to speak. In 15 minutes I got a full dump of how the place had been run by his father and a partner, how the old school marketing of papers/magazines etc.. had for the first time ever put them in a terrible position of being only 10% retail and 90% big builder. Basically he said if one of our big builders leaves us or delays payment we are in big trouble, whereas in the past when we did 50/50 builder/retail we had great cash flow because retail pays 50% deposits and jobs are done and paid quickly.
Now that I had the REAL problem I explained how for the same cost as a boutique developed site I could build a site + marketing system that would fix this problem. I went through some examples and nailed down that one big issue they had was competing on price per square foot with fly by night operations when they were frankly more expensive but had Cadillac service. They took a leap and hired me because I was the only person that asked them what REAL problems they had. They shared with me later that all the other bidders spent their time talking about mobile responsive, colors, graphics etc...
After receiving a sizable upfront deposit and the green light to go ahead I did a competition analysis. All the local player sites and classified ads were pretty much the same. Pictures of granite sq/ft pricing. They were using tactics used in auto sales in that they quoted absurdly low prices only to have fine print about finishes, edging, install, cut-outs etc... The truth was that after all was said and done my client was generally 10% more expensive but the experience and service was far superior. It was also clear there was no player viewed as the local expert in this niche.
The Web Site That Turned Things Around
No more pricing on the site! I eventually found and hired a video spokesperson that scored high on trust and believability (I split test EVERYTHING). We placed a video on the main page that explained their value proposition. How they educate rather than sell, do not use sub-contractors, have been in business for over 12 years, have an A+ BBB rating etc... It was critical that every element on the web site supported this. Things like security badges, links to reviews, BBB A+ badge and a complete lack of hyped up sales pitches. I could write a book on colors/placement of elements etc.. but suffice it to say that a web site when it is part of a marketing system is NEVER perfect, always has to be tested and tweaked and improved. For me there is no such thing as good enough. There are many sources you can study on how impactful small changes can be to conversions. I will share a few shocking ones further down in the copy.
LEAD CAPTURE FOR EDUCATION BASED MARKETING AND SUPPORTING THEIR IMAGE
It is not good enough to talk the talk you have to walk the walk. If you are going to present a client as the local authority he needs to put out authoritative information that actually has value.
To get things started I had one of my employees act as a potential customer and deal with every player in town. Detailed notes were taken on pitch and process. I then went back to my client and we reviewed it all. We listed the absurd claims; tricks, up-sells and industry speak that the average consumer would not understand. In simple English we explained the scams, lies, up-sells and also made sure to give credit where credit was due if something of value was actually being taught. We put all this together in a nice eBook, created a sign up form hooked up to an auto responder and put it in the sidebar of the main page.
A bold title of "You Simply Must Read Our Quick & Easy Guide BEFORE You Shop For Granite"
The title of the Ebook is "The Granite $ Game $" Our conversion rates on download are running about 25%.
** Surprising Result - We recently did a mailing to this list advising them of a holiday sale, emails were as old as 12 months. Staff felt they either bought from us or someone else and that this list would be dead. I insisted when the email went out we have all hands on deck just in case. We generated $120,000 in sales! Part of the reason was ensuring there was something for everyone, even if they had bought new kitchen granite. We had special offers on remnants and installs for bathroom vanities, polish/sealer with lifetime warranty against stains including wine, granite tops for tables etc... There were still many sales of complete kitchen granite and several referrals as the email offer was forwarded to friends or family members. **
LEAD CAPTURE FOR DIRECT SALES
If you have been following my posts you know that I frown on ONLY engaging in passive education based marketing. The real money is in people ready to buy, making initial contact and educating them with those last little bits and pieces that close the sale.
What I am about to share with you is the secret sauce.
I created an online quote form!
OK, I can hear the silence.
You're thinking wow Peter, a quote form how original.
Well wait! It actually is. I am NOT talking about a stupid 4 or 5 field form with name, number, note etc..
This is a prime example of small details having big results.
THIS FORM HAS RESULTED IN 1.2 MILLION IN QUOTE REQUESTS!
So how does it work and why does it work so well?
It is a 3 part form.
Part 1 shows them picture of kitchen configurations and asks them to click 1.
Part 2 asks for measurements of each edge, edging they want and if backsplash is required.
Part 3 asks them to choose their preferred pricing ranges and a few more details about cut-outs etc...
** Surprising Result - Everyone is beating each other up on pricing but my client and his top sales staff told me that once in the showroom price drops away and customers always choose what they fall in love with. I wanted to test if I could get the customer to admit they would consider other pricing options if they fell in love. I changed the pricing field from a drop down to multiple check boxes of 49-69, 69-84, 85-120 and 120+. Guess what? 60+% of submissions have at least 3 check boxes checked. In other words before the client has even come in they have admitted they are willing to consider from $49 sq/ft right up to $120 sq/ft.
Now the devil is in the details and wording. The quote form says "Please select approximate per square foot pricing you are considering and want to run through the estimator. This will allow us to provide you with a range of choices based on availability and budget." Rest assured I have split tested and tweaked to get to this result.**
Part 4 asks them for First Name, Last Name, Email and Phone.
** Surprising Result - By including this text under phone #
"Phone # becomes file # for estimate. It will NOT be shared!"
Thanks to this we get an 80+% conversion rate on getting their phone number. **
** Surprising Result 2 - The way this form and language is geared it may make the site visitor believe they will see an estimate up on the screen at the end of the process. It is likely a rude awakening that the final screen asks for name, phone email etc... BUT our conversion rate to submission on this screen is averaging 90+%! Why? It is because of the design. They had to go through many steps and had to input all their measurements. You can imagine them running from their kitchen to their computer. I have forced them to become invested! It simply does NOT make sense to stop now.
CONVERTING THE FORM SUBMIT LEADS TO SALES
This is where things generally fall apart. This is where marketers get fired because our leads are no good, we walk away pissed and disillusioned with our customers and they walk away thinking web leads suck!
In this case we have knocked it out of the park on this with more than 1 million dollars in NET sales generated from these leads in 2015. This success is due to trust, yelling, firing, testing and more.
So why was I not fired and why where the leads closed?
**Surprising Result - NO they did not pound the phones, actually they hardly ever use the phone numbers collected because they have not needed to**
The good news is since you read this far you get the secret on how they closed web leads so effectively when most fail miserably.
First you need to know what happened when the user did the online estimate and hit submit.
Did they get re-directed to a screen with a price?
Of course not! Has anyone ever complained? NO!
What they do get is an email with a copy of what they submitted and a note that says you will receive your quote shortly and of course full contact info etc...
Now learn from my pain ;-)
Initially I advised and trained all the staff on how to close these leads BUT lazy sales staff so delighted with the sheer number of leads would simply do the math and email back a quote.
Did they close some? Yes BUT good is NOT good enough and when the owner gave them crap they blamed my leads. Thankfully the owner is like me and wants to squeeze every drop of conversions and even better He is also a star salesman in his own right and knew instinctively they were screwing up.
He took control of the leads for a week and with my advice tripled conversion rates. He then taught it to his staff and fired the ones that would not fall inline.
So the big secret?
NOBODY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE ESTIMATE IN THEIR INBOX! At least, at first.
The high close rates now are due to the response that is sent out. Remember, when an estimate comes in the customer gets a copy that says you will get your estimate soon, but now rather than prepare that estimate and send it out what we do is make sure that within an hour maximum and often much faster, reply with another simple email like this:
"Thank you for submitting your request, however before I can give you an accurate quote I need a little more information. If there is a certain colour or a certain granite you like please let me know what it is or send a picture and I'll be happy to quote it. If not and want me to make a suggestion for you then please send me a picture of your kitchen showing your cabinet cupboards and tile colour I'd be glad to match you to a few granites in that price range."
Owner/staff often even include their cell phone. You cannot believe how effective this is! They now are continuing the natural role of adviser instead of salesperson. As a whole this entire marketing machine is unbeatable. It plays on things like fear of making a wrong decision etc..
I LOVE watching the emails and messages go back and forth. You cannot imagine how often a customer has sent a text message with pic attached from home depot asking the granite guy hey will my granite look good with these cupboards or this tile etc.. They have formed a bond as friendly adviser. Referrals are through the roof!
Other cool things I have heard staff or owners say to customers now?
"Are you buying the granite just for yourself or are you concerned about resale value of your home?"
"I know your shopping for granite today, but will this granite need to look good with a possible future upgrade of flooring or cupboards"
Well that's it, my fingers are tired lol
I hope this gets you thinking.
I don't have the time at the moment to get into nitty gritty technical things on best autoresponders, sourcing, hosting and the like but all of that can be found using search and and by TESTING and I am sure many experienced warriors will chime in when questions are asked.
If I see something being suggested that I feel is not the best way to go I will try to pop in and offer my suggestions.
I did not touch on traffic sources as it is fairly obvious. Google PPC, Facebook, Google places and local classifieds.
The client had to accept from day one that if we were branding him as the expert that his reputation was critical. I made him agree out loud that if a customer had a problem with what they received, even if it was absurd, that if pressed they would receive a full unconditional refund. Fortunately they are fanatics when it comes to service but there were a few occasions where it could of gone either way as other trades or build conditions caused issues with the appearance of the granite. In each case my client absorbed the cost as a marketing expense.