Relationships, lead nurturing and sales (managing the funnel)

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mailchimp autoresponder

best construction blog email autoresponderFor the last two days, I’ve received an unprecedented volume of emails. Each vote for the Best Construction Blog competition translates into a ‘ping’ from the Wufoo system (an excellent tool for building online forms). The form invites readers to request a free subscription to the Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter and provides a gentle invitation to consider purchasing my two books. The selling stuff is muted by the form’s more-than-30 check boxes for best blog votes, of course.

Of course, most of the people voting — and generating emails and visits to Constructionmarketingideas.com — are simply following through on a request from a friend, business associate or colleague to vote for their blog. They really don’t have a relationship with me, any of our publications, or the Construction News and Report group.

I’m respectful of this limited relationship, but thought, is there any way I can capture and build a closer connections with any of these individuals — more than 150 who visited over the weekend alone.  As a result, I figured out how to tie the voting process with a special email list hosted by mailchimp.com and devised an “auto-responder” that sends a follow-up email about an hour after we receive the voting submission.  This email makes clear we won’t communicate except relating to the competition, explains the competition rules, encourages the voter to help get out the vote and (yes) has some invitations to purchase my books, request the free construction marketing ideas newsletter, or possibly co-ordinate a feature profile in one of our publications.

Results so far:  One reader purchased my $4.95 social  media book, and a few sent “remove from the list” requests, but no one has sent a spam complaint.

The rules of direct email marketing suggest that I should test this auto-responder, with half of the recipients receiving one version and half the other. Maybe we can use a different headline to increase “opens”.  Maybe a different offer or message will achieve better results. Mailchimp has nifty A/B testing systems, but I don’t know if they are geared for auto-responders.  I’ve asked for some technical support on this issue.

The challenge here, and in many businesses, is how to best handle situations where your marketing generates a great volume of potential sales leads, but these leads aren’t really likely to convert to any purchasing decision. Most contractors, architects and engineers serving the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) market generally won’t have an overwhelming lead management problem but you may obtain a lot of “names” at trade show or conference events.  If you are serving the retail market, you might be more excited to receive a huge volume of inbound names/leads — maybe these can turn into some gold, if you can find the magic to connect and convert them into loyal clients.

As well, as Matt Handal says in his excellent recent helpeverybodyeveryday.com post, we should always test our assumptions.  Maybe I think the leads arising from the Best Construction Blog competition are not high in value, but what if they really are useful? I won’t know unless I communicate with them, perhaps nurture them with some useful information and resources, and make an offer or two along the way.

One thing is certain: I will respect everyone who communicates with me.  Readers who fill in the voting form will be treated as voters — not clients. If they wish to move further along the relationship path, they will make that choice.

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