This article is a guest contribution from Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group and co-author of The Content Formula. Michael has been recognized as a Forbes Top CMO Influencer, Top B2B Marketer, Content Marketer, and Social Media Marketer.
According to a recent study by Straight North, only half of the leads you generate are legitimate sales leads (click to tweet). The rest are a hodgepodge of false conversions including customer service inquiries, sales solicitations, misdials, spammy form submissions, and even job applicants. This comes from an analysis of more than 373,000 inquiries over a period of 18 months.
If your leads are invalid, you’ll overestimate the ROI of your marketing efforts and waste time on tactics and campaigns that don’t work. Whether you’re running SEO, pay-per-click, social media, or display campaigns, practicing lead validation is a critical success factor. Without it, you cannot accurately evaluate — and thus cannot improve — your efforts.
How Lead Validation Works
Lead validation is the process of separating qualified sales leads from other types of conversions generated by your marketing campaigns. Non-sales leads are more than simply unqualified; they’re leads that would be a waste of time to pursue. Someone looking for a job or conducting research for an academic paper is hardly worth a follow-up call. Nevertheless, they end up in your database.
The validation process helps you separate value from dross and determine which campaign elements are driving qualified sales leads.
The validation process helps you separate value from dross and determine which campaign elements are driving qualified sales leads. Armed with this knowledge, you can adjust your strategy and spend to maximize marketing ROI.
The First Visit is the Moment of Truth
The Straight North study found that roughly 85 percent of visitors who convert into sales leads do so on their first visit (click to tweet). That means it’s critically important for brands to own the “digital destination” (i.e. landing page, blog article, online tool) and publish the relevant, educational content they’re looking for.
Buyers are looking for the company that can best solve their business challenges; they often make this decision based on the quality of website and content they find. And in many cases, they only become a sales lead for their top choice.
Conversion rate attribution drops to 10 percent for the second visit and 3 percent for the third visit. On the fourth and following visits, conversion attribution is a dismal one percent. What does that mean? It means B2B buyers are a lot more decisive than we credit them to be. They can develop strong interest in a vendor and decide to opt-in after 15 minutes on their site, or even five minutes on a blog post.
But again, not all of these first-visit conversions will be valid. Many who are eager to call or complete web forms have ulterior motives.
Lead Tracking and Validation Challenges
Most marketing teams use Google Analytics and other, similar tools to track web data and evaluate campaigns. But these solutions have clear limitations in their ability to track and validate leads. If Straight North’s data makes anything clear, it’s that marketers need a tool that provides deeper, more explicit insight into the lead acquisition process — typically, a marketing automation system.
Web analytics tools are only capable of tracking form submission volume; they provide little to no qualitative analysis. They are also incapable of tracking call data, which excludes as much as 60 percent of all leads generated.
ALSO READ: When Marketing Technology Fails
If you can’t view actual form submission data before it goes to sales, you cannot validate that form submission as a legitimate sales lead.
Lead Validation Connects Campaigns with Performance
When your ROI and cost-per-lead calculations are based on data that’s only 50 percent accurate or complete, it will be difficult to make informed decisions about marketing campaigns.
For example, you may be investing more in paid search conversions than paid social, when it should really be the other way around. As a result, your campaigns yield minimal returns or even net losses. Meanwhile, your sales team is starving for qualified leads, and you can’t figure out the source of the problem.
Through an effective lead validation process, marketers can identify the source of every validated lead and decide which leads should be passed to sales based on their level of qualification. Lead validation also helps you improve the accuracy of cost-per-lead and cost-per-conversion metrics.
* * *
Modern marketing is all about making informed decisions and building your campaigns around accurate data. If you don’t know when and why leads are converting, and if you can’t filter out invalid conversions, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable meeting with the CFO. The validation process isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to align lead generation campaigns with lead generation performance.
This article was republished with permission from Marketing Insider Group. Click here to see the original.