These days, more homeowners are heading for the Internet than the Yellow Pages to find the services they need.

So, if you are one of the savvy business owners marketing online, it’s important to know how to handle the business you will generate. Getting your name in front of potential customers is only half the battle – knowing how to respond to phone calls and leads is what will set you apart from the competition.

Start with a strong online presence that will allow customers to see what your company is all about. At a minimum make sure you have an attractive and informative website. In today’s day and age at least a basic four to five page professional website is a must.

Display everything about your company that will make a potential customer feel at ease and confident in choosing you for the job. Providing your company’s license number, qualifications and certificates, customer testimonials and warranties will help customers feel comfortable hiring you for the job.

While it’s true that many customers will simply pick up the phone and contact a plumber directly, some of them will rely on submitting their contact information and plumbing needs to have a plumber contact them. These leads are valuable to your business for both the short and long term.

The first step to generating business from a lead is to respond in a prompt and professional way. The Internet is all about getting information fast, and customers will expect you to respond quickly. If possible, have leads sent to you by email and text message so that you can respond to a lead as soon as you get it. When calling the customer, always be sure to mention your company name and talk specifically about the plumbing need they have.

Your quick response and attention to detail will create a great first impression. Remember that in the competitive market you participate, quick is often measured in minutes, not hours and certainly not days.

Even though you may respond quickly to a customer’s request, this doesn’t mean that the customer will always respond back quickly to you. In cases where you leave a message and don’t receive a timely call back, be persistent. Just because you don’t get a call back doesn’t mean someone else got the job. People often procrastinate or get tied up in something else and a second call from you will often spark them to action.

Sometimes, you won’t immediately land the job from the lead because the customer is not immediately ready to move. Even though a customer may have submitted a request for a plumber to contact them about a hot water heater, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily ready to have it replaced right away. For big repairs, customers often shop around for prices and service before actually making a final decision on who they want to do the job. Understand that people use the Internet in many phases of shopping, including researching, casually browsing, and looking for ideas. When they are ready to commit to buying a service this knowledge will help manage your expectations of converting calls and leads into jobs.

When you call a lead, give them a compelling reason to use your business when they are ready to move forward with completing their project or repair. Mention your specific expertise, money-saving offers, free estimates, other satisfied customers or any other ways that you can set yourself apart as the best plumber available. Make sure, if they are not ready to start immediately, that you get a sense for their timing and provide them with all your contact information.

Also, make a note for yourself and take the initiative to make a follow-up call as their timing gets closer. Sometimes, just a gentle reminder may be the push these customers need to start on a big project.

Even if the customer doesn’t convert to a job, keep all their information in a database. Although you may not convert a lead into a job right away, this does not mean that the lead was a waste. Keeping all customer information, from both customers you have done work for and from those that you have simply returned a call is a great way to generate a mailing list. Use this list to send out coupons, newsletters, or promotional materials such as magnets.

There are multiple ways that leads can be generated through online marketing. Some services charge per lead, sending these leads either vetted or un-vetted to multiple plumbers. As you can imagine, leads that are vetted are more expensive than those that are not. Additionally, leads that are exclusively sent to one plumber will most likely be a more expensive option than leads that are sent to multiple plumbers.

In the case of eLocal directories, leads are sent as a free addition to the service we provide you by being listed on the Nation’s #1 Plumbers Directory. These leads come from our “Get A Quote” option on our site. Customers have the option of calling a plumber directly, or submitting their information for a plumber to contact them. Although our leads are sent to multiple plumbers to ensure that the customer is responded to promptly, we do not charge any extra above the cost of advertising for these form based leads as we expect them to be over and above the calls received.

Whatever way you are receiving leads, the key to making the leads successful is to respond quickly and professionally. Don’t get frustrated if leads are not converted into jobs immediately; and use the contact list you create from all lead sources to expand your mailing list. You may be surprised from where your next future customer will come. .