Marketing professionals don't always make the most of Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM) to help them hone in on prospects, according to Peter Connell from Call Pro CRM, who here explains how a new breed of CRM tools are emerging which can help organisations more effectively capitalise on social media and online opportunities, and ensure new prospects don't slip through the net. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

In this day and age timing is everything. It's increasingly apparent with our use of technology: as skimming various websites in multiple browser tabs, and glancing at constantly updated social media streams, means there's always something new to capture our attention. How is this relevant to marketing professionals? Well, when your prospects click onto your website and have a look at what services you're offering, you have a limited time span to engage - and hold - their attention. If and when those prospects register interest in your services, that's when the clock starts ticking on how long they're going to remain interested - and you've got to be quick off the mark to start an effective business dialogue.

A race against time
It's vital to minimise your lead response time to website enquiries as it takes next to no time for a hot lead to cool off and end up stone cold. According to a recent survey of 1,800 SMEs, only 2% of respondents took less than half an hour to reply to website enquiries. Statistics show the success rate of converting prospects into customers drops dramatically the longer you leave it to respond to an initial enquiry. Even half an hour could be too long, as the odds of contacting a lead if called in five minutes as opposed to thirty minutes drop 100 times. And, as time ticks on, the likelihood of getting through to your prospect decreases exponentially.

"Think about it: prospects click onto your website to have a look, register their interest, and will just as quickly click away onto a competitor. If you reply quickly there's a good chance they're still on your site - but for every minute, hour or day you leave it to respond they're increasingly likely to have tried somewhere else, and have potentially heard back from them, too," said Connell. "As they say, the early bird gets the worm, and you've got to be punctual with your responses to engage with prospects."

Making it count
Once you've successfully started a dialogue with your prospect you need to know exactly who the best contact is. A great way to get a 360 degree view of your prospect is through social media feeds, in order to understand what they're looking for. Many SMEs already leverage social media sites but there are still those who aren't making the most of the opportunity, as over a third of survey respondents said they don't use LinkedIn for marketing.

Integrated social media feeds are an advantage provided by some CRMs, as they allow you to see all the relevant information on one screen without having switch between open browser tabs. It's all about maximising efficiency by concentrating on the hottest prospects. As leads are automatically scored and profiled, you can target the most likely prospects rather than wasting time on outside chances.

Keeping tabs on your traffic
So, it's important to be fast in website enquiry-response and accurate in prospect-targeting, but a sometimes-overlooked area is website traffic data: what information you're getting, and how relevant it is to your business. There's an opportunity for improvement for many SMEs here, as 30% of survey respondents don't currently track website activity. For the 70% that do, it's a case of the quality of information you're getting - and it's important to know that it doesn't stop simply at knowing the number of hits you're getting every day, week and month.

While it's easy to find out website viewers' Internet Service Providers (ISPs) what's more useful - and what some CRMs provide - is their IP address. What they can then do is send an alert when a prospect who's previously visited your site comes back to the site for a second look - giving you a second chance to capitalise on their interest. Moreover, they can provide you with information on which specific web pages a prospect has been on - giving an insight into what they're interested in - as well as how long they've remained on a page, indicating how likely they are to have read the information on it. This information then allows you to target the appropriate contact (after leveraging details from their LinkedIn profile) to contact them with the relevant information - and this time, quickly.

"Every day prospects are searching for companies to engage with, and increasingly, people expect results, fast. For today's marketing professionals timing is of the essence - and being quick to respond to website enquiries is just one of the vital components of prospect engagement," concluded Connell. "Implementing a smart CRM system that automatically profiles leads and provides accurate website traffic data is certainly a step in the right direction. After all, if the system's clever enough to send you alerts and catch your attention, to help you in turn catch your prospects' attention, it's surely a time-saver that's well worth the investment."