Many marine dealers are hoping for a better year in 2008.
There’s nothing wrong with hope, but it isn’t enough. You can’t eat it. You can’t pay bills with it. It doesn’t keep your business afloat. And it definitely doesn’t deliver growth.
With the industry likely to be down 20 percent or so this year, according to some estimates, dealers need to be proactive if they want to survive. Analysts see no end in sight to current market conditions, and if the current decline continues, those without a well-conceived plan to persevere are at great risk.
Industry insiders have long spoken about consolidation among marine dealers, a shakeout that would eliminate those dealers at the bottom of the professionalism pile and drive more business to the industry’s best. The downturn the industry is experiencing today may be the catalyst for such a consolidation.
The following are eight areas in which you need to take action — if you aren’t already — to ensure you’ll be on the right side of such a consolidation. By embracing these strategies, you’re much more likely to outperform the market next year. In fact, we’ve seen many dealers use them to achieve steady growth despite the market’s ups and downs.
While these are the opinions of Boating Industry magazine’s editors, they’re based on our experience reviewing the business practices of hundreds of the industry’s finest marine dealerships. These strategies helped them thrive, and we believe they can benefit your business too. For many, they may make the difference between surviving the downturn and not.
Despite the severity of the recent freefall of new unit sales, the marine retail situation is about to get worse. The drop in revenues seems bad, but the corresponding rise in inventory and, of course, the costs of carrying over loads of boats could muddy up the retail market place in ways this industry hasn’t seen for a long, long time.
Dealer inventories have been on the rise for a nearly a decade. In fact, Spader Business Management, which tracks the performance of its 20 group members in multiple categories, shows that its dealer member average year-end inventories have been on the rise since 1999. At the end of that year, new boat inventories totaled about $1.9 million on nearly $4 million in new boat sales. As of the end of 2006, that total had more than doubled, jumping to $3.87 million on just shy of $6.6 million in new unit sales.
There are a number of different factors leading to this jump. First of all, the economy’s low interest rates caused a lot of dealers to accept larger inventories. Second, also due to the lower interest rates, manufacturers began to offer a lot more free flooring and a lot more programs designed to drive higher dealer purchases, which made it easier for dealers to take on more. And finally, plain old sloppy inventory management took its toll as boat sales began their decline.
It’s that last part that we want to help you improve on — because, even in a down market, even when things appear to be all doom and gloom, you can still succeed. You can still turn a profit. And the difference between the companies that are seeing 6, 7 and 8 percent net profits, despite a 15-percent decline in sales, and the ones who are losing money, are oftentimes merely their strategies for managing such expenses as their inventory.
The definitive method, for example, for managing a dealer’s performance when it comes to inventory is measuring turns, or the average number of times that an in-stock product is sold during a given period of time. And, simultaneously, with the jump in inventory levels that Spader noticed, the company also documents that the number of new unit average annual inventory turns began to drop.
The dealers Spader tracks averaged about 2.0 turns in 1999 and that average had dropped to about 1.56 in 2006. And that was before the market place really got bad. By the end of July, inventories had climbed to $3.9 million, while inventory turns had dropped to 1.1 turns.
To make matters even worse, the Spader dealers’ interest expense ratio, as a percentage of gross margin, has climbed more than 111 percent in just three years, from 3.5 percent in 2003 to 7.4 percent in 2006. And as dealers look to combat the mounting problems in 2007, they are cutting their new unit gross margins to what Spader expects to be a five-year low — somewhere south of 17.5 percent.
But on average, the same dealers are still turning a net profit. In fact, while the annual net profit has dropped some, the dealers that Spader tracks averaged a 2.7 percent net.
So while the outlook for new unit sales isn’t much better, taking control of your inventory management — now — is of critical importance. Industry insiders who had once estimated that new unit sales would be off some 10 percent over last year, had originally bumped that estimate up to 12-15 percent off. Now some are saying as much as 15-to-20-percent off by year’s end.
And as of early October, nobody could see an end in sight.
It should come as no surprise that sales at dealer meetings were slow this past summer. But what is surprising are the reports that as much as 70 percent of the units at some dealerships have already celebrated their one-year birthday.
That’s scary, considering that according to GE Capital Solutions, the typical dealer sells 60 percent of its new units within the first eight months of carrying them. But it takes another entire year to move the next 30 percent of those boats.
And that’s in a normal market. In conditions like we face today, prospects are harder to come by, and converting leads to sales takes much greater effort.
So it goes without saying that even reduced purchases going into 2008 may not be able to help the current situation of aging inventory. In order to catch up to this growing problem, dealers and manufacturers alike need to take action now.
As a dealer, you need better tools and programs to attract and convert prospects. And you need to move the urgency in your thought process forward in this cycle so that you’re taking action earlier, changing sales tactics on boats that remain on your lot at their six- or seven-month birthday, as opposed to waiting until that special financing expires.
The movement begins with the conscious effort to properly manage inventory levels. If you’re sitting back and just watching to see what’s left at the end of the month, quarter or year before you determine a next step, you need a better strategy.
You should be setting goals, prioritizing units to move, and incentivizing sales people to get that product off your lot. The cost of implementing such a system now will be dwarfed by the expense you’ll pay later if it’s still hanging around.
But the most important tool remains your ability to understand the pressure points of your inventory levels. You need to be measuring your turns. You need to be setting goals for where you’d like to be. And the date you’d like to be there. You need to understand the financial ramifications of not meeting those goals. And you need to do everything you can to ensure that you meet them.
The most common strategy we’ve seen is to use a precise annual history to set a goal for your inventory level at a specific date — July 31st, as the end of a model season, for example.
As part of the overall goal, annual unit and model goals can be established for each sales person. And as one dealer told us, once you have that in place, a periodic review of those goals will help you determine whether or not you should increase, decrease or maintain your existing order schedule.
But the key is to do this now before the inventory issue gets worse. And perhaps equally as important is the need for the dealers and manufacturers to work together on this issue to prevent further problems. Because one dealer’s financial success with moving aged inventory can be destroyed by his neighbor’s ongoing, margin-busting liquidation sale.
When that happens, nobody wins.
— Matt Gruhn
No More Gambling
Throwing the dice and spinning the roulette wheel can be thrilling. But gambling has no place within a business.
Unfortunately, most marine dealers assume gambling is par for the course when it comes to marketing and advertising. They’re willing to spend thousands of dollars on boat show exhibits, Internet sites and print and Web advertising without more than a vague notion of how effective those investments have been in delivering the intended outcomes.
It’s time for that to stop.
Reasonably priced tools are now available to help dealers track their marketing return on investment, the purchase of which will more than pay for itself in the long run. More than that, however, in a downturn that has yet to hit bottom, dealers have to make every marketing dollar count.
Add to that changes in technology, which are driving new consumer trends, and it’s clear that tracking your marketing results and adjusting your strategy accordingly can make the difference between your dealership’s survival and failure.
The most popular method for tracking marketing ROI is an informal one — simply asking customers where they heard of your dealership. Most dealers today have a lead management database of some sort, and they typically use it to record this information along with customer contact info and use the cumulative results to help them create their annual marketing plan.
This is especially important at boat shows, one of dealers’ biggest marketing expenses. Often, salespeople are so focused on selling boats at a show that they let collecting prospects’ contact info fall through the cracks. They figure that if consumers are really interested, they’ll get back in touch with the dealer after the show.
Failure to collect this information, however, cripples the dealership when it comes to analyzing the effectiveness of each show and deciding how much to spend at subsequent shows. It also keeps the dealership from being able to proactively follow-up with the prospect after the show, something that ultimately can lead to more marketing costs down the road (See article, “From monkeys to men” on page 47).
Asking customers where they heard of the dealership is a good place to start, but it’s not enough. Some of the most savvy marketers have overhauled their advertising messages to include a call to action.
Whether it’s a free giveaway for customers who bring a coupon into the dealership, a clothing or accessory discount with coupon, a Web site offer that requires the customer to enter a coupon code or a radio or print promotion asking the listener to call the dealership to receive free tickets to a special event, each allows the dealership to determine exactly how effective the source has been, relative to its cost.
Another strategy that has become increasingly popular is the purchase of 1-800 phone numbers — a different one for each form of advertising. This allows the dealer to track advertising response based on call volume. The expense of purchasing 800-numbers may be prohibitive for some dealers, but it proves to be a surefire way to determine marketing success.
Most dealers have their own Web site and advertise on consumer boating Web sites. And almost all are finding the Web to be an increasingly important — if not THE most important — source of boat sales leads.
The good news about this trend is that Web activity is easily tracked. Not only can your Web service provider give you a daily or even hourly traffic and visitor report for your site, they should be able to track activity on each page of your site, providing your dealership with a wealth of data to help you make the best Internet marketing decisions for your business.
The same can be said for any Web advertisements you place. The Web site with which you are advertising should be able to give you detailed statistics on the results it is generating.
In today’s tech savvy world, there are many ways to track your marketing return on investment — and no excuses for not doing it.
— Liz Walz
F&I or die
If there is a clear dividing line in professionalism and profitability among today’s marine dealer, that line could very well represent the establishment and use — or lack thereof — of a dedicated finance and insurance department.
For those dealers not yet in the F&I game, excuses abound. They believe their customers are too affluent to finance through them. They complain their boat lines already offer a solid extended warranty plan. They believe the start-up maintenance costs of yet another department are too high for a dealer their size. And whatever efforts they put toward F&I — only when customers request it of them, of course — it’s usually an additional job for a sales manager, office personnel or, worse, the dealer principal.
The problem here is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the needs and the how-to of properly running an F&I department. In reality, a marine dealer needs very little to get this department off the ground: a desk, a computer with a high-speed connection, and a dedicated, educated salesperson at the helm. This, according to F&I expert and trainer Jan Kelly of Jan Kelly Enterprises.
It really can be that simple.
Take, for example, the disparity between two dealers headed in opposite directions. Both offer the same boat line, and both have separate and disparate belief systems surrounding F&I. Not so coincidentally, one is growing, while the other is not.
The stagnant dealer rattles off a host of excuses about why his F&I revenues and profits lag behind the industry norm. In fact, those excuses are the only F&I feature he has that does mirror the industry norm. His customers, of course, are too affluent to finance through him, and because of his boat builder’s outstanding extended warranty, they don’t get any of that action either. But, he says, the company is looking into maybe making some changes next year.
The dealer on the move, on the other hand, implemented a full-time F&I department in January 2006. Sales in this newly created department took off, simply because the dealer focused on it and put a system in place. Ownership mandated that the salesperson turn every customer over to the F&I department immediately upon receiving a deposit, and the F&I staff takes it from there. In just the first year of operation, more than $120,000 of net profit was generated by the newly created F&I department. And yet, while he carries the same boat line as the dealer above, offering the same outstanding extended warranty, this dealer’s reserve income and net profit from the sale of extended warranties have more than tripled.
While there are pockets of both success and weakness like these throughout the marine industry, for the most part, boat dealers are behind the times when it comes to F&I. While most dealers in the industry realize 1 to 2 percent of all their revenues from F&I, that average should be closer to 4 to 6 percent.
It boils down to this: those dealers who employ a full-time, dedicated F&I person outperform those who don’t by a wide margin. They present opportunities to their customers and capitalize by being proactive.
In tough economic times like these, it is becoming more and more critical to maximize revenues in back-end profit centers like F&I. In fact, the difference between having and not having an F&I department, according to industry experts, could mean the difference between being in or out of business by the end of 2008.
If you fall in the latter category, what do you expect your excuse will be then? — Matt Gruhn
Success with succession
Most boat dealers have passion for their work that comes through loud and clear. Passion is a good thing in business, unless it blinds you to realities that don’t fit your vision. That’s often the case when it comes to succession planning.
Many dealers, whose businesses otherwise are a model of professionalism, neglect succession planning, possessing, at best, a bare bones legal and insurance framework. These businesses tend to be led either by young executives who can’t imagine doing anything else with their lives and aren’t ready to consider retirement or death, or by the head of a family with deep faith in the strength of blood ties and relatives’ life-long experience in the business.
While their visions of the future may very well come true, both types of leaders are making a mistake when it comes to succession planning. They possess narrow definitions of what it is and what it can do for their business.
These executives believe a succession plan is designed to support their business during a change in leadership. At a basic level, that’s true. No matter what age a business owner is, he’s always vulnerable to change, foreseen or not, and whether it’s himself or his top managers undergoing it.
But if a business owner cares for his employees, customers and the future of his business, he will, at minimum, put in place a basic plan that will turn over the business’ fundamental responsibilities to the most capable party should he or one of his key managers become unable or unwilling to fulfill them.
A strong succession plan, however, is a much larger and more powerful animal. In fact, there’s nothing that can more dramatically improve a business. It can lead to a more effective, more flexible and much more satisfied employee base — and that, ultimately, impacts every area of business, from customer satisfaction to accuracy and productivity.
This type of plan starts with detailed job descriptions for every employee in your business. Their responsibilities should be clearly outlined, and their strengths and weakness in fulfilling those responsibilities should be documented.
You should also include a plan, if needed, to provide the employee with any necessary training to help fill gaps in their knowledge. Then, together with the employee, managers should create a step-by-step career path for each employee.
That’s where the employee satisfaction comes in. With few exceptions, people want to be able to envision a future for themselves, typically a better and brighter one, and they want others to believe they’re capable of achieving it. And each business needs to know, as it matures, where its next generation of leaders will come from. That’s a necessary component for constructing a succession plan.
A career path gives each employee something concrete to strive for and a path to get from where they are to where they want to be — and where their company needs them to be — tomorrow. Not only does this motivate employees, it drives them to more closely align themselves with their manager’s and the company’s vision because it includes them and it’s connected to their future success.
To be effective, this career path has to be set along a timeline with realistic and measurable goals at regular intervals, involve the appropriate training at each step to carry the employee to the next level, be reassessed continually and include cross-training and job shadowing. These last two items will give employees a more diverse skill-set, open their eyes to a range of different opportunities for their own future and provide the employer with several potential back-ups for each position. It doesn’t hurt to tie an employee incentive program into the milestones along this path either.
A strong succession plan, executed properly, will take any business — and its employees — to an entirely different level, allowing them to grow and create a stable and flexible foundation unlikely to crack under the pressure of change.
— Liz Walz
Service for everyone
There’s a dealer out there who would like to thank you.
He has been meaning to do so for some time, but he’s afraid that by doing so, you’ll wake up and run your business better.
You see, this dealer runs a great service department. His shop generates 10 percent or more of the entire company’s gross revenues, providing his overall business greater strength with solid diversification among his revenue centers. And profitability … well, his service department realizes gross profits nearing 80 percent. And in market down turns like the industry is suffering through these days, his service department keeps him strong while you struggle to stay afloat.
What’s his secret? Well, in short, he wants all of the service business he can get.
You might say you want the same thing, but then again, your company philosophy is to only service those customers who bought a boat from you. That’s a fairly limiting stance — for you, for the consumer in need, and for boating in general.
Meanwhile, the guy down the street is advertising his service department to anyone who may need him. He’s guaranteeing quick turnarounds. He’s keeping his shop open later. Heck, he’s even servicing your boat buyers. Bet you didn’t know that.
What makes it even worse is that when it’s time for your boat buyers — i.e. his service customers — to trade in that old boat, they’re upgrading to a boat that he offers because they know they’ll get great service there.
Why is it that boat dealers only service the boats that they sell? I’ve never understood it. Some dealers even draw a line in the sand between the new boats that they sell and the pre-owned boats that they sell. So you buy a used boat from them and you gotta go somewhere else to get it fixed. Nice.
Now, surely there are warranty repair regulations and product knowledge barriers that might keep your shop from servicing all boats that come calling. But the reality is — and we don’t mean to be blatantly obvious here — that one of the best ways to grow your business is to bring in new customers. Slamming the door shut in a new service customer’s face is the opposite of that.
So here are some tips that you can use to prevent your competitor’s thank-you note from showing up.
First things first. Get your service shop in order. If you’re not tracking technician efficiency in some manner by now, you’re way behind the times. It matters. Your success or failure here is directly related to your service department profitability. And your overall shop performance will improve just by tracking, charting and sharing the information with your service staff.
Figure out a system for servicing everyone who calls or shows up at your dealership. The additional revenue and corresponding high gross profit margins lead to a stronger company and an increase in customer satisfaction.
Advertise your service department. Most dealers just advertise the boat lines they sell. If you attract new customers to your service department and do a good job with their needs, you’ll be selling more boats in no time.
Create programs that attract customers. Dealers around the country are responding to the time sensitivity consumers place on boat repairs by launching such programs as Urgent Care drive-up diagnostics and service and In by Monday, Out by Friday guarantees. You take your car to the auto dealer and you typically get it back in a day or so. You take your boat to a marine dealer, and you get it back sometime later that summer. This is a simple concept. You just need to get your systems in order to follow-thru on it.
Add a mobile service program that takes your first-class service on the road. The only thing better than servicing a customer at your shop is servicing them where they are.
Meet the additional demand by expanding your service operation. Maybe that means keeping your shop open until 8, 9 or 10 p.m. every day. Maybe it means mandating overtime for technicians for a period of time each year. Maybe it means hiring a third-shift technician to work through the night on special projects. Maybe it means hiring a mobile service technician. You determine what it takes. And then do it.
Get to the techs first. So bulking up your technician staff is easier said then done? Sure, qualified candidates are hard to come by, but the best marine businesses are finding ways around this hurdle through partnerships with local high schools, colleges and technician training programs in addition to internal internship and shadowing programs. Find a good employee who’s interested in doing a good job and help them grow into the role you need to fill.
Earn more money. Running a sound service department by putting some of these ideas in play will have you doing just that in 2008. And you’ll be perfectly set up to service everyone who trailers up to your door. — Matt Gruhn
You’ve heard it before. Consumers today are researching their boat purchases on the Internet, making them smarter and more discerning shoppers. And the downturn means there are fewer of them. It’s a buyer’s market.
You know that, but do you have a strategy to overcome it? In 2008, with no end in sight to tough market conditions, you need one.
The best one we’ve seen is the product champion concept, an idea being adopted by a growing number of top boat dealers. Use of the concept is spreading because it works — increasing sales, improving customer satisfaction and boosting employee morale.
There’s a lot of room for interpretation of the concept, depending on the size of your dealership and how many brands it carries. At its most basic, it can mean simply choosing a different salesperson within your dealership to focus on each brand you represent. That person is the expert on that brand, and all brand-specific leads are directed to that expert.
As an expert, that person should attend that brand’s dealer meeting, attend product training sessions for that brand and study all promotional materials from that manufacturer and from competing product lines.
If you have more salespeople than you have brands, the product champion for each brand should also train the other salespeople on
Oftentimes, as the expert on that brand, this salesperson is involved in ordering, inventory management, pricing and the marketing strategy for the brand. When appropriate, the product champion may even be responsible for maintaining all aspects of the dealer-manufacturer relationship on behalf of the dealership. In fact, in large, multi-location dealerships, the people in these positions may be 100-percent focused on training, strategy and management rather than sales.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, in a smaller dealership, this person may be in charge of ensuring the cleanliness and display- and/or delivery-readiness of each boat within his or her brand, whether he does the work himself or delegates it to a detailer.
The immediate benefit of the product champion concept is that your dealership can win the customers’ trust by demonstrating their extensive product knowledge. This is especially important today given the amount of research potential buyers can and often do conduct online before walking into the dealership. It’s important that they believe their salesperson is an expert who can adeptly guide their buying decision.
Ultimately, this translates into both a shorter sales cycle and more sales, and increases customer satisfaction by selling a boat that is well-matched to each customer’s unique needs.
Creating product champions also is another way dealership management can recognize and reward its best salespeople while spreading out responsibility. In creating career paths within the sales department, it can serve as a step in between the salesperson and the sales manager positions.
On a related note, not only are many dealerships creating brand-specific product champions, some are also creating pre-owned boat specialists who specialize exclusively on this type of product. The common theme? Product experts are good for your customers, your employees and your bottom line. — Liz Walz
A path to Profit
In a downturn, dealers are desperate for three things: new sources of quality boat sales leads, effective methods to convert leads into sales and profit centers to supplement their sales department until the market rebounds.
A boat rental operation can help you accomplish all three — and solve some of your other challenges besides.
On the surface, adding boat rentals probably doesn’t sound all that alluring. With many dealers complaining of overscheduled service departments, who needs a business that puts more demand on already overworked technicians and service support staff? Then, there’s the expense of the required insurance. But at closer inspection, it may be worth the effort to overcome those obstacles.
For one, boat rental can be a source of new leads for your business. About 10 percent of the rental business of a dealership that has been in the business since the mid 1950s consists of people new to boating, giving it a steady stream of qualified leads to follow-up on.
Boat rental can also help you convert your current leads into sales. Even if you’re convinced a prospect won’t buy a boat, there’s no harm in offering them a rental opportunity. Regardless of how serious their interest in boating, they’ll probably be more willing to make this much smaller investment than to buy a boat.
If they do, they’ve taken one step closer to a boat purchase, making them a much more qualified lead. And whether or not they eventually buy a boat, you’ve just made some money off of the time you invested in following up on the lead.
Boat rentals, in fact, are a great tool for the sales department to use with any slow moving prospects. While we recommend dealers offer demo opportunities to all potential customers, as well, discounts on rentals can be used as a follow-up to a demo experience to help prospects expand their boating experience, allowing them to make the best boat choice. It also is a great way to continue to develop a relationship with that prospect, making it more likely they will turn to your dealership if and when they decide to buy a boat.
Another way in which boat rentals can benefit your business is through inventory management. Models that are leftover at year end can be “sold” to your rental business rather than weighing you down with interest expense. Not only can you make money off them through rentals, once they no longer meet the standards to which you hold your rental fleet, you can then sell them as used units.
In addition, by using a boat model in your rental business, you may stimulate future sales of that model as rental customers consider boat ownership, helping to prevent future inventory concerns.
Finally, the boat rental business is a very profitable one. While some dealers have been scared off by the cost of the required insurance, even after that cost is considered, profit margins in the boat rental business are about 50 percent, some estimate. That’s above and beyond the sales department and inventory management benefits such a business offers. — Liz Walz
So you have a Web site. Big deal.
It’s time to start actually doing something with your Web presence instead of letting it sit there and maybe updating your site once a month.
What further proof do you need than the increase over the last several years of buyers walking into your showroom armed with hours of Internet research? This trend is only growing, of course.
My 16-year-old brother and legions of his peers (your future customers) barely remember life before the Internet, which has become such a part of their daily lives they may not know where to turn without it.
Becoming more active online isn’t a go-big or go-home scenario; there are dozens of routes dealers can take, and no right or wrong way to do so, as long as they are engaging their customers instead of standing on the sidelines.
Updated content is a key driver in keeping people interested in a Web site. Web experts note there is a difference between updating a Web site and updating content. New content should be added as often as possible and practical, whereas the cosmetic features of a site should get a minor facelift every six to 12 months. Inventory should always be kept up to date online. And the homepage should be fresh. Experts recommend all Web content be reviewed every three to six months.
Another one of the first steps in becoming more active on the Web is fully utilizing what’s already available. Many dealers use Web solutions providers such as Channel Blade or Marine Web Services to develop their Web site.
Both companies have a basic template that includes an events calendar, a feature that few dealers bother to post their events on. So start doing so and include as many details as possible.
Not only will this entice online visitors to pause longer on the site, but it will also draw more foot traffic into the store for the events from people who didn’t hear about it through other advertising.
As Time magazine noted in naming “You” as its person of the year for 2006, “You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.” Consumers are in the driver’s seat and the road is open for marine businesses to dive in and give their Web viewers more ways to interact not only with the dealership, but also with each other.
The most one-dimensional way to engage your Web visitors is through starting a blog. Yes, you’re busy, but there has to be someone at your dealership who wouldn’t mind spending 15 minutes of his or her day or week telling the world a little bit about what you do.
Whether it’s purely informational or purely for fun, entries (and ensuing comments) allow consumers a chance to connect with your business on a different level, in addition to giving them a reason to stop by the site regularly and participate.
Adding a forum to your Web site also offers a more dialogue-friendly approach to building a boating community. Sure there are numerous such outlets available on the Web, but yours could fill a much-needed niche surrounding your community. Service techs could take some time for shoptalk. You could promote your next big event and reminisce about those passed.
A forum also allows for user-generated content, the root of Web titans YouTube and Wikipedia. Your customers are proud of their boats and the adventures they take in them. You could also give them a medium to share their pictures, stories and videos.
Speaking of videos, it wouldn’t hurt to post some on your Web site: a tour of your facility to familiarize people who haven’t been, a highlight reel from your latest customer getaway, a showcase of your top boats.
It’s certainly not the experience first-hand, but it can give potential customers the courage to take that next step and walk into your showroom. While you’re at it take advantage of YouTube’s free posting and upload some of your video there.
And a couple of notes on the business of using the Web.
First of all, track Web statistics. Web solutions providers should be able to provide this information, from what IP addresses visited the site to how long they stayed on what pages and everything in between. The same can be done for click-thrus on Web advertisements.
Statistics suggest far less than 10 percent of leads generated from the Internet turn into sales. This shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be the case. Processes and procedures for Web lead response should be in place with a single person in charge of forwarding, upon receipt, inquiries to the salesperson responsible. Sales people should be given a specific time frame allowed in which to reply to the lead. Communication is key to better lead turnaround in this area. — Lisa Young