There are a few key items from back then that are worth a little further explanation, and it has nothing to do with the higher-education industry or the services / products we provided.
Digital marketing was still a relatively new concept when I worked there (it’s still relatively new in the grand scheme of things, even though 1999 was 20 YEARS AGO!), so there were a lot of things going on that were trial and error.
This may be no surprise, considering how the digital landscape is always shifting, so there will probably always be a degree of trial and error with digital marketing. As an example, what worked well six months ago may not work well now for lots of different reasons because Google is always on the lookout for people and businesses who are trying to manipulate the system and do things unfairly (it’s why they have penalties).
The concept of having a qualifying center is not new, either. When a company grows to a large enough size, it makes sense to have a team that calls out to pre-qualify leads and handle the bulk of prospecting (top of the funnel) efforts so that the sales team can focus more on closing deals (mid to lower funnel activities).
But something that I think a lot of people didn’t realize (and probably still don’t realize) is how direct website inquiries throw a (good) monkey wrench into this traditional machine. In the grand scheme of things, (legitimate) inbound, direct website inquiries are probably the hottest lead type ever.
Yes, anyone can find your website and submit a request to be contacted, so there’s a chance that a good amount of junk leads can come through this channel, but when you set that aside for a moment, there are a few key characteristics of legitimate, inbound, direct website inquiry leads:
- They’re experiencing a problem that they don’t know how to solve on their own
- They don’t know who to ask, so they turn to Google
- They found your website because it ranks high for whatever it is that they searched for
- They clicked around and liked what they saw (at least enough to feel compelled to submit a request to be contacted)
- They probably clicked through other top-ranking sites, too, as everyone has competitors
- They probably submitted requests to other providers
- Direct website inquiry leads are probably the most informed buyers ever, considering how much information we all have access to
- A good portion of the buying journey has been completed BEFORE you have a chance to actually speak with them
- This empowers buyers to make even more informed decisions than ever
- Under the surface, this empowerment, by default, shifts the relational power dynamic in favor of the buyers
- These buyers feel empowered going into the sales process to the point where they can be quite demanding and even disrespectful
- It’s gotten to a point where buyers feel like it’s okay to be pushy and overly-critical and overly-skeptical
- Sales people oftentimes will cave under the pressure of demanding buyers
- Sales people oftentimes will fight back because no one likes to be pushed around
- This causes lots of deals (in all industries) to go sideways before they even get started
- Chaotic top of the sales funnel behaviors cause a turbo-nuclear hornet’s nest at the middle and bottom of the funnel
- Yes, I came up with “turbo-nuclear hornet’s nest”
- Communication equals behavior; better communication equals better behavior
- More strategic and disciplined, top of the funnel behaviors lead to a sense of order and predictability at the middle and bottom of the funnel
- Organizations that out-behave will out-perform
Now, that was a bit of a tangent, I know, but I think it’ll help you to see where I’m going with all this.
When I worked at that university, I was part of the sales force, and I’ll admit: during those years, being in the mix of a sales-environment (residing in the middle to bottom of the sales funnel), I didn’t care where or how they got leads as long as I got enough of them to produce what I needed to produce.
From what I understand, the qualifying teams there would call out on lead lists that came from all kinds of different sources. I’m not sure where they came from, but I suspect there was a lot of internet voodoo and trickery going on throughout all those years for everyone (in all industries) to get their hands on lead lists, and of course, some of us started paying attention to lead source codes.
I won’t list them here because they won’t make sense (internal jargon), but we knew the codes for leads who were direct website inquiries, meaning “a potential student who went to the university’s website and submitted a request to be contacted,” and we all recognized a very distinct pattern: those leads were way hotter than everything else.
And, organizationally speaking, those hotter leads got mishandled on a regular basis by getting caught up in the mix with all the junk leads and bad behavior.
Several years after my time at that university, I heard that the Qualifying Center was shut down and that the enrollment counselors now have to handle the “first-contact” qualifying / prospecting efforts (in addition to everything else they do), and that introduces a whole set of other challenges (like previously mentioned – sales people trying to move too fast).
Inbound, direct website inquiry leads are hotter for obvious reasons, but just in case, let me try to spell it out a little. If you were a sales person and you had to choose between:
- a lead who visited your company’s website and asked to be contacted, or
- a lead that had been recycled through multiple contact lists that were bought and sold to multiple companies to pick through and call upon, repetitively …
Which would you choose?
It’s a no-brainer, right? I remember a common tactic that university used for lead generation was pop-ups on job sites. Remember when you were doing a job search on monster.com many years ago, during that time period (somewhere around 2004 to 2009 or so)?
A screen would randomly pop-up and cover the whole screen that asked you a bunch of questions about different jobs and your qualifications. There was also a small “X” hidden somewhere to close out of the screen, but you couldn’t seem to find it (without a magnifying glass) so you’d fill out the information to make the pop-up go away so you could get back to your job search.
Well, that’s how we got a lot of our leads back then. I’m not saying it was right or wrong, either – I’m just illustrating the fact that direct website inquiries are the hottest leads in comparison to all other digital lead sources, and, really – what’s the goal of any company that uses a digital marketing model? To get more direct web inquiries, right?!!
This should all really be a no-brainer up to this point, but I felt it was necessary to give a bit of background to the reasoning for the communication framework that I developed.
Although I believe that neuroscientically-designed communications apply to everything in life, the niche that I’m really focusing in on is more of the medium to larger-sized organizations who use this digital marketing model because it’s modern, it’s relevant, and really, regardless of products or services or even industries, digital marketing is here to stay.
I also really enjoy helping individuals to be more effective in their positions and helping businesses to grow – and to do so in the most honest and ethical manner possible.