Marketers in South Africa are self-admittedly behind the US when it comes to lead generation marketing on the Internet.
For example, Stephen Louw, Director of Renprop Residential, relies on local newspaper ads and door-to-door pamphlet distribution to generate interest in apartment rentals. "We ran a generic ad describing a typical unit and people phone a dedicated cell number we had a woman answering. That was it."
Liesel Bergh, Communications Director Uniglobe International Travel, relied on print ads in business magazines and trade show booths to meet prospects interested in becoming franchise owners.
The good news was that both companies' phones were ringing, sometimes off the hook, with interested prospects.
The bad news was that many of these prospects were not qualified. Nevertheless all incoming calls required personal and immediate attention from a sales rep. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff took hours more of calls and meetings … before serious negotiations could even begin.
In both cases, the companies required a substantial amount of personal information -- including financial info -- to determine who was really a qualified lead.
They both created online forms to get the information. However, just as in the US, in South Africa prospects prefer a true, human relationship from a company -- not an automated form… CAMPAIGN
Both companies set up multi-step automated email systems to convert incoming leads into qualification form fillers. In both cases, every lead that phoned, emailed or walked in was directed to the online form via the system.
Key -- the form letters didn't read like form letters. Instead they were carefully copywritten as an ongoing dialog between a single named prospect and a named company representative.
Step #1. The pass-off
People tend to trust people to whom they have been referred. (Which is why referral marketing is so powerful.) In this case, whenever a lead came in, the first email they received was "from" the person they met, phoned, or emailed initially. If the company president was manning the booth at a trade show, then that first email was from him or her.
The goal of the email -- to introduce the prospect to the named rep who would be personally handling them from then on. Typical copy, :
"As Regional President of Uniglobe, I would like to thank you personally for your enquiry and welcome you to the world of UNIGLOBE Travel.
"I have attached an overview of our franchise opportunity for your perusal.
"I have personally requested that my Marketing Co-ordinator: Liesel Bergh, contact you tomorrow to discuss how you can translate this opportunity into a reality. Please expect an e-mail from her tomorrow and do not hesitate to contact me directly if I can be of assistance.
"Kind Regards, Michael Gray"
Step #2. Requesting the form fill
Next, the assigned sales rep took over the relationship via personalized, automated email. The first message would again thank the prospect for his or her interest and then invite the prospect to fill out a quick online form in order to receive better, more customized service.
Sample copy: "Rather than bombard you with loads of information that might be irrelevant, I have attached a very brief overview of Uniglobe and would rather take some time to understand a little more about you and your business. This will save us both time and will ensure that I am fully apprised of your specific requirements and unique circumstances.
To provide me with some very brief info, please click here. It will take you literally 30 seconds to complete."
Step #3. Repeated queries for non-responders
The systems then sent out two additional reminder notes in a row over the next week to everyone who had not responded yet. Again each personalized note was "from" their named personal rep.
And each note was copywritten in a human, dashed-off-yet-polite manner. Example, "Hi again Paulina, Just a friendly reminder. We have not yet received your online application form…"
Step #4. Thank-you SMS follow-up to form fills
Forms were pre-populated with as much information as possible for the prospects (such as name field) to make it easier for them to complete.
Naturally when a prospect fills out a form, you want to immediately reward him or her with a quick acknowledgement. The best way, that felt non-form-letter-y, was to send a short SMS text message to their mobile account.
Key - again, although this was automated, it appeared to be hand-typed from the rep's own mobile account. And, the rep would receive the message directly if anyone replied.
In large part due to the new email system Renprop rentals have grown by 25% since June 2006, and in fact could have grown more had the company not run out of units to rent in key locales. "Before, due to time constraints, some leads would get binned and we'd lose a lot of people," notes Louw.
An astonishing 91.8% of consumers contacting Renprop for rentals clicked through on one of their received emails to go to the form. Of these 63.7% filled out the form and submitted it. The vast majority responded to their very first emailed hotlink -- 73% of all responses came immediately. 21% of responses were to the second email, and 6% were for the third.
In addition, quite a few consumers sent a text-message back to their rental rep when they got the SMS message. (See sample replies in creative samples below.)
Uniglobe, which started testing the automated email system in April 2006, also has been delighted with its business growth.
"It speeds the process and helps us get rid of non-qualifiers more quickly," explains Bergh. "The process used to take three to six months and we'd lost a lot of good contacts along the way. Now the system keeps them in touch every two to seven days depending on the circumstances, and it really does take a lot of the manual labor out of it. This frees up time to concentrate on the really qualified prospects."
54.4% of prospects Uniglobe sent emails to clicked to the qualification form and of these 54.9% actually filled it out.
Of total form fillers, 53% responded to their first invitation, 28% clicked on their second invitation and 19% clicked on the third.
Clearly, if Uniglobe had relied on just sending one single email to fill out the form, they would have lost nearly half of their potential franchisees.
Based on this success, Uniglobe has gone on to create 16 additional automated messages to be sent to best prospects as an education and nurturing system. Each is a fairly quick, personal note about a single topic such as a testimonial, a white paper, or financial information.
While all this automation sounds headache-relieving, Bergh warns, "it's not a magic potion. We needed some re-writes, thorough planning, and continuous tweaking."
Her biggest tweak? Shorter copy. "In the past we sent pretty lengthy emails and they got bored halfway through." Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples from both companies' campaigns:
Majestic Interactive - the marketing consultancy both Renprop and Uniglobe relied on to create these campaigns:
Uniglobe Travel International LTD: