In an always-on world, when you snooze, it turns out you really may lose if you’re a small business owner. Especially if the customers trying to reach you are local. According to ReachLocal, a lead-generation technology provider, 23% of local leads come in after hours through email, forms, chats and phone calls. Think about that: Nearly a quarter of your prospects (and potentially, a quarter of your revenue) try to connect with you when no one is there to respond.

Nearly a quarter of your prospects (and potentially, a quarter of your revenue) try to connect with you when no one is there to respond.  

Marketing automation platforms can decrease response times outside traditional business hours by using tools that can help by auto-responding immediately to customers and prospects. Some services can provide enhanced tools such as lead routing and lead monitoring to identify and respond to prized prospects. Many of these technologies would have been beyond the means of most small businesses just a few years ago. However, times have changed for the better: costs have lowered while features continue to improve.

“Many owners are unaware there are now options at a reasonable price point that are available to help them,” says Sam Ruchlewicz, director of digital strategy & data analytics for Warschawski, a full-service advertising firm in Baltimore. “What owners do know is that they want to jump on leads quickly because the customer that filled out their contact form and didn’t get a response is probably going to fill out the form of their competitor within the hour. So response time is of the essence if they want to keep and convert that lead.”

In fact, according to one source, 35% to 50% of sales go to the company that responds first. So what can you do to make sure you’re ahead of the pack? Here are some platforms to consider:


vCita: This app lets after-hours callers set an appointment, book services or register for events and classes online from any device—even through social media sites like Facebook. The popup screens can be customized for any individual business. The app can automatically confirm the upcoming appointment via email or text, ensuring that nothing falls between the cracks. The business version costs $99 a month, or $79 a month when billed annually, for five people on your staff.


AnswerConnect: This 24×7 answering service ensures that a human being responds to any sales lead, no matter what time it comes in. A virtual receptionist, following a script you provide, can answer questions, take orders, schedule appointments and alert you instantly by text about any calls that come in. The service offers receptionists who are bilingual and experienced in specific industries, such as financial services and healthcare. A monthly subscription, based on minutes used, starts at $150 for 135 minutes.


ReachEdge: This app, which starts at $149 a month, can alert you instantly any time someone contacts your business via phone, email or web form. If the inquiry comes in by phone, you can listen to the message and decide whether to handle it later, email directions to a staff member to attend to it, or respond immediately.

“You don’t want all your personal time usurped by customer calls and emails,” Ruchlewicz says. “But as an owner, you may also want to be able to monitor and prioritize leads to make smart decisions about those you should personally respond to immediately and those that can wait until morning.”


Print this article