As a small business owner, it is not easy to keep track of potential customers (a.k.a “leads”) when you barely have time to eat lunch each day. Many businesses spend money to advertise to new prospects but are unable to readily quantify the success of their efforts because they don’t track or measure their initial marketing efforts.
Over the many years I have consulted with small businesses, it is shocking to learn how few of them know how their own customers actually became customers – Was it word of mouth? Referral? The Website? Social Media? A digital ad, and if so, which digital ad and where did they see the ad?
It is difficult enough for many small business owners to put money aside for marketing efforts to gain new customers. It is even more difficult if you can’t identify which marketing channels and platforms give your business the best results.
The customer tracking and measurement process does not need to be complex or expensive. It can start by simply asking every potential customer “How did you hear about us” right from the first interaction. Next, record the answer in a system and review those responses to best understand the who, what, where and when of how to market to those leads.
Getting qualified leads for your business is getting harder as online competition increases. You need to make the most of each lead by understanding how a customer first gets to you before you can determine what message you want delivered to them. This all starts with understanding where your customers are coming from and then tracking, measuring and analyzing that data.
Calls to your business, whether answered by an employee, an answering service or a call center, are popular for the simplicity of having a real person get the information you want for marketing purposes. Of course, the questions asked over the phone to potential customers must be recorded and reviewed on a regular basis to enable how and where your marketing dollars are spent.
On the web, there are many ways to gather the above information easily. With online forms and CTA’s (calls-to-action), you can collect names, email addresses and other required information from prospects. Live Chat services can gather specific information from leads so that you can qualify the lead as “good” or “bad”.
Google Ads, Facebook, Linkedin and other online channels also provide a variety of tools for tracking leads and gathering critical customer data for marketing decisions. Your digital marketing professional can assist you in choosing which platforms and services may work best for your particular products or services.
Finally, there are many inexpensive (and free!) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software programs designed specifically for small business owners. When you use a CRM to its full potential, it can help gather data from each customer and combine them with related data from such sources as accounting, inventory, marketing, and purchasing. Many CRM’s also integrate with popular software packages you may already be using.
Over the last couple of years CRM vendors have begun directly addressing the needs of small business buyers. Some have built brand-new products with new interfaces and features designed from the ground up with small business users in mind.
In the past, CRM software was targeted at enterprise-level companies. That’s no longer the case. Small businesses are now able to implement a CRM platform without breaking their brains or budgets. A review of ten top-rated players in the small business CRM space can be found here. These software solutions range from free options to a small monthly fee depending on the features you want.
In summary, whether you track leads on a spreadsheet or use CRM software, do not underestimate the importance of knowing where your customers are coming from and how they got to you. This is a first, critical piece of data to enable you to create and execute a sound marketing strategy for your small business.