By Tim Belcher
Over the past few years, the internet and social media have taken lead generation into the digital realm. Our industry’s lead generation efforts have become digitized to the extent that the web now dominates marketing and lead generation activity. In fact, according to the 2016 Decision Analyst Home Comfort Study, consumers reported for the first time in the survey’s history that the primary source of information influencing the purchasing decision was the internet, surpassing the historical frontrunner…the contractor. This information would naturally lead us to explore and invest in leveraging the internet for increasing consumer engagement. However, there is another growing lead generation platform that could be even more powerful.
The Friends and Neighbors category as a major source of information influencing the purchase decision has grown almost as much as the internet. Since the 2008 survey, the internet as major influence has grown by approximately 20%, while Friends and Neighbors has grown around 15%. With digital getting all the attention of marketing efforts, is it possible that we have forgotten the fundamental source of leads…people?
There is a case to be made regarding the value of these two marketing platforms. It may be possible that the same investment in people referrals as in digital may yield a better result in leads. This is a perspective that may be difficult to test as there is so much attention to the web, social, etc.
What if we developed more people engagement activities designed to generate referral leads? According to the statistics on sales that come from “marketed leads” vs “people referrals”, the business case clearly points to the value of people referral sales. In all the research I’ve seen the financial performance of that sale is superior in average ticket, gross profit and closing percentage.
With this compelling evidence in mind, is it possible that we have forgotten about the value of investing in people engagement as a lead generation strategy? It’s an interesting question in light of all the buzz around maximizing and leveraging the internet. It’s also worth noting that the “Friends and Neighbors” category becomes increasingly important the older the consumer. In fact with respondents fifty-five and older, the contractor still trumps the internet as the primary source of information affecting the purchase decision. This may be an important consideration depending on the demographic makeup of your market. At a minimum, it’s worth exploring and some investment and ROI analysis.
About the Author:
Tim Belcher is a sales and marketing HVAC industry veteran with over 30 years of experience working with manufacturers, distributors, and contractors. Follow him on Twitter @belcherhvac.