Watkins soaks up better lead tracking

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Watkins Manufacturing Corp., the Vista, Calif.-based maker of the Hot Spring Spas brand of hot tubs, faced a classic b-to-b challenge in dealing with its vast array of retailers: keeping the sales chain filled with qualified leads while, at the same time, monitoring how well those leads panned out and its marketing dollars paid off.

At Watkins, responses to advertising generate the leads that are handed off to retailers. But according to Susan Strible, Hot Spring's brand manager, the company received follow-up reports on only about 30% of these leads, providing the company scant intelligence about which marketing tactics worked, which didn't and how leads were being nurtured once they were in the sales funnel.

Startlingly, dealers often weren't even following up on leads they were given.

"It was a challenge, doing all these advertising programs and gathering all these leads, plowing them through to your resellers; but then, [to] have them just sit on them," Strible said.

With input from James W. Obermayer of Sales Leakage Consulting, Strible opted for automation. All Watkins' consumer lead information from different media sources were funneled to AdTrack Corp.'s lead-management system, which distributed leads to the Hot Spring resellers based on ZIP codes.

AdTrack also fulfills requests for Hot Spring brochures and sends e-mail follow-up messages or customized postcards on behalf of dealers that sign up for the service. Finally, AdTrack trains Hot Spring dealers in the lead-management process and provides them with an easy way to report their results. This information feeds reporting tools that help calculate conversion rates and other key metrics.

"The system simplifies how dealers report the status of the leads and determines if they engaged with the prospects, sold a spa, lost the sale to another manufacturer or if the prospect simply lost interest," Strible said. "From this we can make simple calculations about sales and the effectiveness of particular media."

Enhanced reporting captured the source of the company's strongest leads, allowing budgeted monies to be shifted in that direction; for example, the company discovered (counterintuitively) that advertising on the National Geographic Channel returned faster and more frequent sales than home and garden shows. Those prospects attracted by Internet ads are considered more proactive and are fast-tracked, while leads from more passive media experiences, such as cable TV, are nurtured for as long as two years.

As a result of the new program at Watkins, Strible said, sales conversion has steadily increased each year and is now about 2% to 3% higher than when the program began. And from a mere 30% reporting rate on leads previously, Watkins today gains feedback from its resellers on 90% of its hot tub prospects.

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