Over an 18-month period, Straight North analyzed over 373,000 website conversions — 135,000 form submissions and 237,000 phone calls — received by our agency and a broad spectrum of clients with lead generation websites.
The most important data point in our analysis: about half of these inquiries were not sales leads. The non-lead conversions included spam, incomplete forms, customer service inquiries, sales solicitations, misdials and inquiries for a product or service the company did not provide.
Typically, companies with lead generation websites do not validate leads as part of their Internet marketing campaign (s). Instead, they rely on conversion data for testing and campaign analysis — data that is highly inflated, as it very likely consists of many types of conversions that do not generate sales at all.
Lead validation is time consuming; it involves reading form submissions and listening to recordings of phone inquiries. However, adding lead validation to the campaign process for SEO, PPC, email, social media, etc. provides three huge advantages. Let’s start with the biggest.
1. Rapidly Improve Lead Generation Quality and Quantity
When Internet marketing campaign testing uses conversion data rather than lead data to conduct and evaluate tests, unwitting errors abound. Consider two PPC keywords, «A» and «B.» If a campaign manager sees that «A» generated 100 conversions and «B» generated 60 conversions, he or she will put more emphasis on «A.» However, if validation is added to the process, suppose the campaign manager sees «A» generated 30 so-so leads and «B» generated 40 generally strong leads. Now, the campaign manager will put more emphasis on «B.»
Without validation, testing leads to a keyword adjustment that hinders rather than helps lead generation quality and quantity. If this type of error is repeated over and over during the course of a campaign, the cumulative effect is likely to be a campaign that sputters or gradually loses steam until it flickers out.
Quite often, companies experience just this sort of thing with their SEO and PPC campaigns, and can never really put their fingers on what has gone wrong. Could it be that an absence of lead validation is partly or even largely to blame? We certainly think so — based both on our data and the improvements we’ve seen since adding it to our backend campaign management routine.
2. Evaluate Campaigns Far More Precisely
Another issue that plagues companies engaged in lead generation marketing is an inability to calculate campaign ROI with any degree of confidence or accuracy. When you speak to entrepreneurs or leaders of larger organizations, they all too often have a lingering feeling that their Internet marketing is not carrying its weight. Because of this, they tend to start and stop campaigns, drift from one type of marketing to another, and show great reluctance to commit serious resources to any one type or basket of campaigns.
Lead validation may not provide the answers companies are hoping for, but it will provide the foundation for an accurate assessment of how well a campaign is functioning:
- As a business leader, you’d want to know if your SEO campaign produced an above-target 1,000 conversions — but only 400 sales leads.
- As a business leader, you’d want to know that your SEO campaign produced a below-target 700 conversions — but also 500 sales leads.
Sales leads, tracked through a company’s CRM, tell the ROI tale. Investing in marketing campaigns based on lead production makes much more sense than investing based on conversion numbers — numbers that don’t really mean much of anything when you really think about it.
With a more accurate understanding of lead production, business owners and leaders gain confidence to invest, and knowledge of which types of campaigns to invest in. Armed with accurate data, they will surely and steadily outperform competitors that continue to go around in circles (or downward spirals) by conducting lead generation campaigns in a data fog.
3. Improve Sales Performance
A third huge benefit of lead validation is that it helps companies improve sales department performance. Here are a couple of real-world examples reported to us from clients:
- After listening to several phone inquiries over a period of weeks, sales management discovered that good leads were not being handled properly and lost before they could get the leads into the hands of their sales people. By training the people handling the initial phone calls, they solved this problem and began to see more leads turning into sales.
- Because a lead validator was processing conversions in near real time, she was able to spot really outstanding form and phone leads, and bring them to the immediate attention of sales management, rather than have them go through the normal follow-up process. This nimble reaction allowed the company to follow up on great leads immediately with their top sales talent, increasing the close rate on the best opportunities. Invaluable!
It’s also well worth noting that improvements such as these improve the morale of the sales team and its confidence in the marketing department. When organizations experience a tense relationship between sales and marketing, when each department thinks the other is screwing up, obtaining standout results in sales or marketing becomes much more difficult.
Bonus Tip: Make Your Website a Conversion Machine
Another important finding in our lead validation study is that 84 percent of the sales leads we analyzed were from first-time website visitors.
This finding frankly surprised us. We, like many companies, had assumed that visitors were more likely to convert the second or third time around. But clearly this is not the case!
With this data in mind, companies have a very good reason to up the ante on their company website’s conversion optimization. If you have only one chance to convert a visitor, there’s no point in holding back — the website must make a compelling case that inspires action now. Design, content, imagery, navigation, mobile/desktop functionality and page speed must be user-friendly and persuasive in the extreme. Anything less, and website visitors are liable to click off and seek a competitor with a stronger website.
Aaron Wittersheim is Chief Operating Officer at Straight North, an Internet marketing agency. He has helped startups, middle-market firms and Fortune 500 companies improve organizational structure and grow, through his expertise in process conception, task automation and internal project management.