Small and mid-sized businesses that rely on local customers have a big problem.

And that problem is lead engagement.

The average company takes an old-fashioned view of how to treat leads. Their lead funnel starts and ends with advertising. Whether they use traditional media or new, they see attracting attention as job #1. Once they do that, it’s up to the lead to seek them out on the company’s terms.

That’s why even businesses with a slick website and lots of paid traffic still make the mistake of telling people to call or – worse! – come to the showroom to get basic information about price and selection. By doing this, they’re adding more steps between initial interest and the sale.

Customers aren’t new at this. They know calling in or showing up means talking to sales reps.

Today’s customers don’t always want to do that. They’re busy. They’re value-conscious. For any major purchase, they do research. By the time they feel like talking to a rep, they’re already pretty sure they know what they want. The internet puts the info they need at their fingertips.

In short, they want to do things on their own terms.

Modern Lead Engagement Means Engaging Leads Where and How They Want

Doing things on leads’ terms doesn’t mean turning your business into the Amazon showroom – where people come in, browse, and then go buy online.

What it does mean is making sure leads have simple, straightforward ways to get the information they want. Every question they might have should be answered in the clearest, most responsive way possible. Ideally, only seconds should pass between question and answer.

That means no phone call. No in-person visit. And no hard sell.

When you do things this way, you’re expressing respect for your leads. Their time has value. And even if you don’t have the biggest selection, you’re demonstrating the service they can expect: Convenience when they need it, personal attention when they want it.

Increase your ability to engage leads by creating a buyer persona. 

Consider the following Messenger chat example:

Here is an example of a Facebook Messenger chat.  I initiated this to see what type of engagement I would get.

It’s hard to imagine something less helpful than this answer

Let’s consider how it could’ve gone with customer-centered lead engagement:

Me: How much do your products cost?
Them: That’s a great question. Our prices vary depending on your needs. What size mattress are you looking for?
Me: Queen
Them: We have a large variety of queen mattress in stock. Do you know what type of mattress you are looking for? i.e. traditional spring mattress, specialty mattress like foam or a hybrid mattress?
Me: Hybrid
Them: Fantastic. Thanks for that information. We have several hybrids in stock ranging from $*** to $***. If I can get your email address, I would be happy to email you more details.

This builds rapport and creates a personalized point of contact. The business has to adapt to the lead, not the other way around. With AI chat bots becoming nearly indistinguishable from real customer service reps, it’s easier than ever to make the option available.

Businesses who take this approach to lead engagement lose nothing – in fact, AI means less work for you and your lead. You still have total control over your call to action. In the exchange above, now’s the time to collect an email address or drive the lead to another source of information, like the company website.

If you are concerned with asking too many questions remember, they initiated the conversation.  They want to engage with you.

Better Lead Engagement Gets More Leads and Converts More Customers

Modern shoppers know they have power over the pace of the sales process. With enough time and attention, a whole world of options is waiting for them. And with so many possibilities so easy to come by, any extra work a business makes them do will erode all-important trust.

At the very least, it’ll be an annoyance. Some leads will consider it downright suspicious.

Reaching out to people where they are is the core of persuasive lead engagement. No matter if you use AI or live service reps, strive to be there at the moment leads express interest. You’ll end up attracting more leads and getting more sales than competitors who tell their leads to “look it up.”