Leads are the lifeblood of the salon suite concept. Without them, suites don’t get filled. However, there’s no Kevin Costner and it’s not as simple as “build it, and they will come”. Lead management in the salon suite industry takes an effective marketing strategy paired with an equally effective sales strategy and the ability to close leads as they come. Additionally, recognizing your leads, nurturing them, and providing everything a high-funnel lead needs to convert, are all part of the process.
Let’s take a look at the process from start to finish.
In terms of digital marketing, and regarding salon suites, a lead is anyone who shows an interest in renting a salon suite. This means the following all qualify as examples of leads:
This means that regardless of whether or not you
A: Contact them successfully, or
B: Never hear from them,
they are a lead.
Now that we’ve identified what a lead is, we can get a bit more specific. There are two primary types of leads in the salon suite business, a marketing qualified lead (MQL), and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead who has indicated an interest in leasing a salon suite based on marketing efforts or is otherwise a lead who is more likely to convert and become a customer than others. For the marketing team, an MQL is a lead who has directly engaged with Salons by JC by completing actions, sometimes referred to as “events” or “goals”, like submitting a contact form, completing the Profit Calculator form, opting into our newsletter, calling or texting a location, downloading content or repeatedly visiting our website or a specific microsite.
These are leads that marketing sees as promising because they appear to be considering becoming a salon suite owner but they just haven’t quite moved into a sales conversation with a specific owner or concierge yet. However, marketing qualified leads are significantly more likely to be open to scheduling a tour or completing a phone call for more information than a normal lead. If you think about your own buyer’s journey, consider how unlikely you would be to submit a contact form with your real information in it unless you’re open to hearing more about the company or product. In summary, when marketing reviews a lead, they will define it as an MQL if they judge to likely be interested in your location and becoming a salon suite owner.
MQLs have taken the first steps to become a salon suite owner and are highly likely to be interested in additional contact from you as an owner or concierge. Simply put: Marketing Qualified Leads are ready for you to turn into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), which then turn into suite owners.
Keep one thing in mind. An MQL is not just a lead nor are they a guaranteed suite owner. Don’t overvalue or undervalue your MQLs. Marketing Qualified Leads are simply those who have indicated interest and may be open to further communication.
A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a lead who has been thoroughly vetted by both the marketing team and the “sales” team, in our case a concierge or a franchise owner, and is ready to seriously consider becoming a suite owner. What truly separates an SQL from an MQL is that they have been educated and have ultimately decided they are ready to have a conversation. This means that the bridge between marketing and sales is crucial. Once a lead has been provided to you to move into the sales funnel, there are a few things to accomplish to ensure the lead is an SQL.
If you confirm that a lead is ready to tour, then immediately schedule the tour! This means you have moved an MQL to SQL status and that you have a lead who may be ready to convert.
Now that you understand the differences between lead types, let’s look at how to generate leads in the first place.
Generally speaking, lead generation describes the marketing process of creating awareness and interest in a product or service for the purpose of generating leads for the sales pipeline. Hubspot defines lead generation as “…the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service.”
For Salons by JC, lead generation focuses primarily on inbound marketing including digital channels, social media, websites (content and SEO), and outbound marketing such as digital ads, email, traditional marketing such as mailers and banners, as well as on-site events.
Basically, lead generation is simply the practice of creating unique ways to attract people who may be interested in what your business has to offer.
Not all leads are equal. As mentioned above, there are many types of leads from many different sources. Knowing the true number of leads is important. It is an indicator of the success of marketing and promotional efforts, among other things. It is equally important to understand your lead funnel and where different types of leads fall in that funnel. Someone who clicks an ad, visits your page, and leaves after 1-3 minutes, is still a lead, but they are most likely in the “awareness” also known as the discovery phase, or the top of the funnel. They may still convert, even though they failed to do so initially, but it may require remarketing, additional visits to your social media pages or website, or comparison shopping on their part. Likewise, someone who organically searches for your branded keywords, “Salons by JC San Antonio”, as an example, and then completes a lead form, upon which you are able to contact them and schedule a tour in a short amount of time, is also a lead. This lead is most likely at the bottom of the funnel, somewhere in the “action” area.
What’s critical to understand about the marketing funnel, regardless of the model you choose to look at, is that with digital marketing, there is no truly linear path. Your leads can enter and leave the funnel at any point and return at other completely different points. This is one reason why it is so important to have an active marketing plan which includes ads, content generation, lead nurturing, etc.
Lead nurturing is critical when it comes to transitioning leads from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel and eventually to a conversion. In fact, according to MarketingSherpa’s Lead Generation benchmark report, companies who leverage lead nurturing see a 45% lift in lead generation over those companies who do not use lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing can take many forms. It may be passive, as is the case with blogs, videos, pictures, and other content that provides education, proof, and other information that someone in the funnel may need in order to convert. It can also be much more active. This may include regular communication in the form of emails, text (SMS), or phone calls.
The worst thing you can do for your lead conversion rate is to make a singular attempt at contact, i.e. nurturing, and then stop. If you do this, your conversion rate will suffer greatly.
To help with your lead nurturing we have implemented multiple processes as part of our marketing automation plan. Upon first contact, completing a contact form, leads are automatically added to an automation which sends them both emails over a select time period, as well as an instant text message. Throughout this process, leads are encouraged to call your location and schedule a tour with you. Once they come to tour, the sales process takes over and the marketing process ends.
There’s always a lot of confusion between the responsibilities of a salesperson and a marketer. It’s no surprise since both teams of people have to work, or should work, so closely with one another. In fact, many aspects that sales and the salesperson were once was responsible for, such as educating the lead, are now done via marketing. So where does the line exist between marketing and sales? To put it plainly, Hubspot’s Meredith Hart says, “Marketing informs and attracts leads and prospects to your company and product or service. Sales, on the other hand, works directly with prospects to reinforce the value of the company’s solution to convert prospects into customers.” In other words, it’s time to close the deal and end the marketing loop by converting your lead into a customer.
To put it simply, if not enough leads actually convert into paid bookings, your business will struggle – no matter how many opportunities you generate. This is why we have developed our 10-5-2 system. If you’re closing your leads, you should see an ideal ratio of 10 leads, to 5 tours, to two leases signed, every month. That’s a 20% conversion rate.
There are a variety of issues we see in terms of converting leads to tours. These can range from timing to understanding platforms, to interacting with leads properly and customizing the approach for each lead. Let’s look at a few of the biggest issues we see.
One issue you may have is that you are responding to inquiries the wrong way or at the wrong time, losing potential suite owners. You must capitalize on the work that’s already been put in to generate leads by reaching out to your leads when they want to be reached and how they want to be reached. This means not forcing your leads to speak with you in one medium or another. For example, you may prefer to contact your leads only by phone. This may be a mistake, as seen in this study by vital, where their lead form conversions decreased by nearly 50% by requiring a phone number.
Likewise, you must take timing into consideration. If you have 20 leads and you reach out to all of them by phone at 8 am, you may get zero answers. This doesn’t indicate you have zero leads, or “poor quality” leads, but that you may have made a mistake in your contact strategy. In this scenario, you’ll definitely want to try multiple touchpoints in contacting these leads if you want to increase the probability of scheduling tours and leases.
Another issue we frequently see is the incorrect use of platforms. For example, many locations utilize Facebook forms for lead generation. However, far too often a concierge or owner may not know how to access their leads on the platform. If you have a great lead flow on Facebook but you’re failing to regularly check your leads, you could be losing potential suite owners at a significant pace. If you need help with this, check out our latest Ops notes email for a detailed walkthrough.
Similarly, while you should regularly receive your leads automatically, it’s wise to check your leads directly on WordPress in order to ensure you don’t have any leads you may have missed due to emails going to spam folders, accidentally deleted, or system issues.
Once you’ve toured a potential suite owner, you may still not have sealed the deal. If you’ve given a tour and not signed a lease yet, there are a few things you can do to take that final step. It’s all about the follow-up. While touring, you should ensure that you’ve identified how your lead would like to be contacted. If you have, you already know how you’ll be reaching out to your lead. So, reach out to your lead by their preferred method and at their ideal time (something else that should have been asked on the tour). Make sure that if they needed any additional information that at this time you are providing it. Additionally, you can encourage them to review the website, check out videos, etc. so they can become even more educated on their decision to become a suite owner.
You can follow-up for as long and as many times as is needed, but don’t overdo it. One MIT study found that it takes as many as ten follow-ups to maximize your chances of getting a response, with six being the ideal number. So don’t give up too soon! While this sounds repetitive, this is another point you should bring up while touring a lead who may not convert during the tour. Ask them where they are in their process, when they think they’ll be ready to lease, and how often they would like you to check back in with them. These types of leads should be maintained internally on a list that you manage and reach out to over time. Remember, follow-ups are a powerful sales tool and when done right can lead to significantly higher tour to lease rates.
Check out our other recent articles, What is the Recommended Google Ads Budget for 2020? and Women: The New Driving Force in Franchising.
Written by Nicholas D. Dunlap