Monday, February 4, 2013
During a game of trivia the other night, I decided to cheat! I pulled out my phone, and was able to find out “Silent Bob’s” real name in less than 10 seconds.
This availability of information has programmed our society to have very high expectations when it comes to the question-and-answer process. If we have a hard time finding the answer to a question, we often get frustrated and build a negative connotation with brands that make it difficult to find information we seek. This is not a new concept, so when I went to check out some of the most prolific B2B brands, I was surprised to see how poor they were at answering my questions.
There are many ways to answer questions in the digital age. We have adopted wikis, social media, blogs, content, infograhics, and "Contact Us" forms. For most marketers, the question-and-answer process is an easy way to build SEO and help educate future buyers.
We look to publish our answers to questions, so that when the same questions are asked to Google our answer will be shown and we can begin to build a relationship with that individual. This SEO strategy is a great way to help answer questions, but what about when there are questions you haven't answered yet. Where do people go to find out those answers?
People have built their own systems to help answer questions like this, using forums and other solutions. But what about when someone asks your company a question directly? When I researched the top B2B companies on the Fortune 500 I noticed that every company allowed me to ask them a question via a “Contact Us” form. So I decided to do a test to see how good they were at actually answering my questions.
I decided to focus this study on the best examples of businesses who are true B2B, have a sales team, and are likely to receive questions via their “Contact Us” form. I took a sample size of 38 companies and then filled out every contact form I could find. Here are the stats on their responses.
Of the 38 companies I reached out to, only 21 responded back with any form of communication within 48 hours. Only three companies had an actual person reach out. My favorite response was, “We’ll have someone reach out to you in 24-48 hours.”
To use a social media term this is a giant “Fail Whale.” With all the automated email technology available to them, why are these companies so bad at responding to questions? Just about any form or ESP tool can be set up to have an automated email response whenever anyone who fills out a form. And when someone reaches out to you directly, why wouldn’t you respond directly back to them?
If you want to see whether your company would receive the “Fail Whale” classification, just ask yourself three questions:
1) When someone fills out any form, do we auto-respond back to him or her?
2) Do we personalize that communication?
3) Are we adding value with that communication?
If you keep these three questions in mind when creating your auto responder emails you will be build much better relationships with prospects who asking you questions. Remember, all sales are made because of good relationships, so start thinking about all of your marketing with that mindset. Take a step back and check out your forms to make sure you’re doing the basics--they have a bigger impact on your lead flow than you might think!
For more tips on improving your email program, check out 5 Proven Email Practices to Drive Revenue.