Web-based leads, telephone-based conversion: How SMBs can level the marketing playing field

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Irv Shapiro
Irv Shapiro

By integrating their Web sites with easily configured telephone applications, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) can increase lead conversion and close more business.

In the past 10 years, thousands of new enterprises have arrived and thrived along the information superhighway. Many more small businesses have been left out, however, far from the flow of e-buyers. This is either because they sell products or services that require a live conversation, or because, as small businesses, they lack access to the newest technology, expertise or infrastructure.

The solution to this new digital divide is the Rodney Dangerfield of tech — the plain old telephone. The trick — especially for those businesses whose offerings don't fall neatly into shopping carts — lies in getting Web-browsing prospects off the Web site and on the phone. For this, you need a telephony application provider (TAP), whose intelligent computer-telephony platform performs the kinds of tasks that big business hires call centers to perform.

Your SMB owner doesn't buy this platform, he rents it — just like he rents the service that hosts his Web site. And you, the SMB marketer, configure these applications on the TAP's Web site in a few hours, just as you configure simple Web sites from pre-designed templates. 

Enterprises have call centers to handle 800-number traffic. TAPs embed years of expertise in automated customer interaction in these applications, across both phone and Web media.

First, we make it very easy for a browsing prospect to contact a company. One way is through click-to-call technology, which makes a call between browsing prospect and business when the browser clicks a “call-me” button and enters her phone number. This has to be scaled correctly for SMBs, however. A large enterprise has a whole call center waiting for inbound calls. An SMB's click-to-call has to track down one or very few call takers, without testing the caller's patience. That requires an application that “knows” how to route the call based on the time of day, the day of week, or by consulting a forwarding number that the SMB owner/staffer can update at any time.

When no one is available to take that call, an intelligent automated agent needs to collect the appropriate information and forward it to the business for later live follow-up.

Web-directed phone applications can drive and optimize lead generation. Well-designed voice broadcasts save costs on lead follow-up. Outbound but still interactive, these calls can dispense some information, ask a question, and route the call back into different areas of the business, based on the answer. Whereas a big business voice blast can crank out hundreds of calls per hour, an SMB broadcast is timed and staggered to match the company's ability to take those routed calls.

The SMB marketer can also optimize lead generation, by tracking the search terms that browsing prospects use before hitting the click-to-call button. From there, he determines the search terms most often used by those callers who turn into customers.

Easily configured, tracked and directed via Web, telephone applications can do for the SMB's bottom line what Quickbooks did for its accounting function. They can scale a big-business solution to the right feature-set and price, leveling the playing field of e-commerce.

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