Because ongoing testing of the website and marketing campaigns is essential for successful lead generation marketing, a company is only as good as its data.
Surprisingly, most lead generation marketers fall short on what is the most important piece of data there is – sales lead production.
Most companies track website conversions, the number of form submissions and phone calls generated by Internet marketing campaigns.
Conversion data is used in testing and marketing campaign evaluations. And while most companies realize conversion data is somewhat fuzzy, we wonder if any realize how utterly murky conversion data really is.
In the course of processing more than 600,000 website conversions from our agency website and client websites, we unearthed a very important (and surprising) bit of data: Half of website conversions were something other than sales leads.
What were the non-leads? Things such as spam, misdials, uncompleted forms, sales solicitations, personal phone calls, and customer service inquiries.
Bottom line: Conversion data is half wrong, and is therefore all wrong for serious lead generation marketing.
What Is Lead Validation?
Lead validation, which we used to process the 600,000 leads, involves listening to recordings of phone conversions and reading all website form submissions, to separate true sales leads from non-leads.
The lead validation process proved so valuable we have made it standard procedure in all of our agency and client SEO and PPC campaigns.
Why Lead Validation Generates More Leads and More Value
Lead validation is rather time consuming, but is well worth the investment for a number of critical reasons.
- First and most important, having accurate lead data enables Internet marketing campaign managers to test and improve campaigns with laser accuracy. Conversion data alone is misleading. For instance, a given PPC keyword can generate lots of conversions but relatively few leads.
When lead production for keywords becomes visible to the campaign manager, he or she can put the emphasis where it belongs. The cumulative effect of testing based on leads rather than conversions is far more rapid growth in lead production.
- Lead validation helps company leadership make far more accurate assessments of the productivity of their Internet marketing campaigns. Since most campaign reports fail to distinguish leads from non-leads, and instead lump everything into a single bucket, leaders often get a false and overstated impression of how their marketing investments are paying off.
Having hard lead data makes reporting more transparent and meaningful, giving companies the ability to make intelligent decisions about which campaigns to ramp up and which to ramp down.
- Lead validation helps sales teams close more deals. Suppose the lead validator reviews a form submission from a CEO involving a $100,000 purchase.
The lead validator can bring this inquiry to the sales manager’s attention immediately, giving him or her the ability to bypass the standard follow-up procedure and go the extra mile to lock down that lead. (This is why we recommend doing lead validation in real time or as close to it as possible.)
- Lead validation brings other efficiencies to the sales team. Another good practice for lead validation is turning over phone recordings to the sales department.
When sales management listens to recordings of phone inquiries, they often spot flaws in how the calls are being handled. A bit of training can create major improvements in close rates.
- Lead validation improves sales department morale and execution. Happy sales teams are productive, and getting a continuous flow of high-quality leads from the marketing department makes them very happy.
The norm is quite different though; companies without validation dump undifferentiated conversions on sales teams, burdening them with follow-up on dead end after dead end.
Eventually, sales departments grow cynical about the business value of their marketing departments and website investment. None of this is conducive to good marketing or sales execution.
For more detail and insight about the value of lead validation, review my analysis, The Critical Importance of Lead Validation in Internet Marketing.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Web Design and SEO of Carolinas, its staff, or its partners.