Get Leads With a Clicks-and-Mortar Strategy

As the Web becomes a predominant sales medium for business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies, there is greater urgency for sales and marketing departments to work together to ensure success. Thus, we have the new Web marketing topic of clicks and mortar, the concept of combining e-business initiatives with traditional selling methods.

To integrate e-commerce with traditional selling methods, it’s critical that Web inquiries are processed quickly and then qualified and assigned to the optimal selling entities within your distribution channels. A clicks-and-mortar strategy can increase the conversion of Web window shoppers to customers. At the same time, it enhances the exchange of information, which results in higher rates of accepted leads by sales and the closed-loop feedback marketing needs to measure the success of their campaigns.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the number of Internet users in the United States and Canada is more than 90 million. Of those, more than 55 million are interested in shopping on the Internet. That’s a significant number of potential inquiries and leads. But a recent study conducted by Forrester Research found that only 2 percent of site visitors actually buy.

Organizations are overwhelmed by the number of leads streaming in from their Web sites and don’t know if and how marketing and sales can handle the flood. With the Web becoming the No. 1 lead source, a strategy to seize the potential revenue that e-commerce represents needs to be implemented. The clicks-and-mortar concept has become the e-business strategy of choice for closing a higher percentage of leads. By integrating traditional direct and indirect channels at the back end of e-commerce initiatives, leads generated from the Web can be qualified, prioritized and distributed to the right person immediately.

Because lead value decays so quickly, time is of the essence. Organizations look to Web-based lead-management solutions that can capture leads instantly and distribute them to the optimal sales channels. Customizing and enriching leads is key to turning Web inquiries into paying customers.

Covad Communications and TechData are two companies that have been inundated with Web-originated leads. Both companies realized the importance of implementing a robust lead-management system to ensure that the tens of thousands of visitors to their sites each month receive quick, efficient responses and are converted to customers. As a result, Covad and TechData are able to leverage one of their most strategic assets: their highly trained and extensive network of distribution partners.

Since implementing a closed-loop lead-management strategy, both companies have closed a higher percentage of leads from the Web. In fact, Covad’s ISP business partners now take action on a greater percentage of leads sent to them and convert a higher percentage into new sales.

Web-based lead management solutions can bridge the gap between marketing and sales. By making clicks and mortar a reality, companies can dramatically increase that 2 percent buy rate that Forrester found. Covad, in fact, has seen lead acceptance rates of more than 80 percent.

Uniting Marketing and Sales

Using clicks and mortar to close more leads from the Web is just the tip of the iceberg when converting browsers into buyers. A recent study conducted by Jupiter Communications found that Web personalization techniques deployed at 24 consumer e-commerce sites boosted new customers by 47 percent in the first year, resulting in a revenue increase of 52 percent. In addition, Web transactions are generally 100 times less expensive than their physical counterparts. These numbers should grab the attention of all bottom-line CEOs.

Vendors, however, must be judicious about their use of personalization for the casual Web visitor. Prospects won’t respond favorably to volumes of random promotional information. To avoid potentially devastating results, companies are looking to permission marketing techniques.

In essence, by implementing the next generation of clicks and mortar, you can personalize the user experience through a combination of human contact and customized Web content. The end result is a one-to-one marketing practice that provides sales departments with highly qualified leads from the Web and enables marketing to develop a measurable ROI on their e-marketing efforts, thus closing the gap between marketing and sales.

Over time, the Web will likely become your No. 1 sales source. It’s critical that marketing develops a one-to-one practice that caters to Web shoppers. Sales must also step up to the plate to close a greater percentage of Web leads in order to stay competitive in a burgeoning e-commerce world.

Clicks and mortar conquers a number of challenges. It brings traditional selling methods to the Web with added and more valuable personalization; it enables a true one-to-one marketing practice; and it bridges the gap between marketing and sales by effectively capturing leads from the Web and ensuring that they are prioritized and routed to the appropriate sales entity. With a clicks & mortar strategy, the Web can become your greatest source of revenue, creating harmony between marketing and sales.

Michael Grandinetti is vice president of marketing and business development at MarketSoft Corp., Lexington, MA. His e-mail address is mik[email protected]

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