If a business owner is ready to take their business to the next level, advertising is often the first place they look to spend some coin. But is their business optimally prepared for the rush of clients or customers advertising could potentially bring to the table?
If it’s not, the business owner can be left with a bad taste in their mouth about advertising, and the agency that helped them out could take some hits to their reputation.
Yes, OEPMA, an advertising agency, is going to tell you, “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t advertise right now.” Why would we do that? Simple. Because advertising agencies are more successful, and their clients bring in more revenue when the client’s business is set up for success from advertising campaigns. Everyone wins.
There are a few fault lines within a business that a rush of contacts could expose, and we’ll cover them in future posts, but today we’re going to focus on the most important if your business is service-based—the Client / Customer Intake Process.
How do you respond when someone contacts your business by phone or digitally (contact form, text, chat etc.)? Who answers? What questions are asked? How is a meeting / sign-up / estimate / quote scheduled? If the person is not a good candidate for your services, how do you handle them at that point?, etc. You get the idea.
Some of you reading this might be saying to yourself, “Wow, this is some baby-level business stuff here!”
You’d be surprised at how many actively advertising businesses have abysmal intake systems but keep on advertising anyway—essentially, throwing away money day after day after day.
Let me be clear about something; a business can be profitable and have a lousy intake system. It usually happens in towns where there isn’t much competition, and the company is the only show in the city. It also occurs when demand for a service is so high that a business can ignore people and have work for weeks. It happens. It happens a lot. Don’t let it happen to you.
At some point, that flow will ebb, and the business will not be in as high demand due to the local business, social or economic environment. Or a new competitor will roll into town and start kicking everyone’s tail all over the place.
When one (or both) of the above happen, it is usually the time people like OEPMA will get a contact from a business owner to see what can be done.
Now, you’re smart. You see where I’m going here. If a business is to the point where it needs advertising to stay at a certain level, or the business owner wants to start building and taking over a market, their intake needs to be at least decent before participating in advertising.
If it’s not at least suitable, they’re throwing away money on advertising. So the campaign isn’t going to be as fruitful as it can be. On the advertising agency side of the coin, they may be doing a brilliant job, but again no fruit, so they’re struggling to keep the business owner satisfied, and everything is just a big fat mess.
Not to mention, the business’s reputation/brand can take a hit from seeming not to care or just not having their ducks in a row. Even though it might not be true, sub-par intake can leave a prospective client feeling that the company’s quality is also sub-par.
I say “decent” because we’re in the real world here, and intake involves at least two humans, if not more. Of course, there will be mistakes and miscommunication after hundreds of intakes roll in, and that’s fine; there is no way anyone can bat 100% with intake. Accept that, but business owners should always work to make it as best they can.
Now, I’ll entertain you with a personal story about intake…
I recently moved and wanted to get some quotes on painting the interior of my new home. So I go to Google and type “interior paint quotes” and pick three local companies actively advertising. I like to reward the people out there spending their money promoting their business. It’s how I give back. Notice, I said local paint companies advertising their business, not third-party lead websites advertising their brand. The three websites I landed on that day had various levels of submission forms. From a simple name, number, e-mail, address version to one that was so detailed, I assumed I would get a quote with no one coming to my house.
As of this writing, I submitted those forms three weeks ago. But, unfortunately, I haven’t received a call, e-mail, text, smoke signal, or morse code from any of the local paint companies I contacted. I will update this article when I do.
Let’s take that situation, play it out, and define a “decent intake system.” Remember, we’re in the real world here. No one is perfect.
Let’s say no one called me back because the market is white-hot and the paint companies all have jobs booked up months out. Their thinking is, “this guy won’t even bother with us when I tell him that.”
It shows the business is in demand. Calling back and telling the prospective client they’re swamped, and it will be months before they can even get a quote is a great phone call to make. Who doesn’t hang up the phone or close that e-mail and think, “Man, that company must be good if that’s the deal.” Instead, right now, my impression is they don’t give a shit.
Which one is a better impression?
Moving on to scenario two, these paint companies know my residence (I provided my address to each one) and didn’t think it was worth their time. While I’m not Ric Flair and perched in the biggest house on the biggest hill, my wife and I do alright for ourselves. I don’t think this was the issue, but let’s say it was and they thought it wasn’t worth their time.
They can contact me and give me the name of a smaller company that might handle the business. Maybe one day I will become a stylin’, profilin’, Rolex wearin’, limo ridin’, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun. When I do, I might appreciate that referral and give that business another call. Chances are I’m going to work down the list anyway, so why not at least make some impression. In this scenario, at least the impression is a helpful one, if nothing else.
There are two examples of how that could have been handled “decently.” But, to date, it hasn’t been handled at all.
Now, of course, contacting me less than 5 minutes after I submitted the form and setting up a quote or getting more info about my home to work up a quote would have been optimal and ideal. Note: I checked my Spam folder before I wrote this.
Still, the hypothetical situations were working under two assumptions of why the business didn’t call back. It is possible, for whatever reason, the intakes were not making it to the company to be able to handle. That would be a website problem. A really, really bad website problem.
Bottom line, with any of these assumptions being true, make sure your intake process is sound enough (tech and human) to at least get in touch with people reaching out. If you’re a one-person or very small business, set aside 30 minutes each day to reach out to everyone who had reached out to you. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be. Businesses can always get better, but they can’t afford to get worse.
Intake is important. When things are good and a business is in demand, they can get by with having sub-par abilities in that department, but when they need it the most, it won’t be there unless they hone their craft when it’s going well.
If you’re thinking about dropping some coin on advertising, take a week and test your intake process before you even contact an agency to help you out. Then, if you hit a snag, run your process by us. We’ll talk to you about your intake for free. Some of our clients have the best intake procedures in the nation.
We don’t offer “intake services” or a chat solution or anything like that in our service catalog. Now, if we developed a website for you, yes, we’d be crafting that digital part of the intake and using third-party solutions for things like online chat, if you don’t already have a vendor, but we don’t sell software ourselves. We mention this because if you want to talk about intake, it will not be a big sales fest on our side.
We genuinely want all businesses to improve their intake because, in the long run, it helps everyone. It obviously will help companies get more and keep their brand strong even when they can’t take on the project, job or case. In addition, it allows advertising agencies to serve clients better because they don’t have to spin their wheels on the intake process when they take on a new client. Instead, they can focus solely on getting the intakes that the business is so beautifully going to process.