No business leader would ever say there is some information he or she just doesn’t need to know. Information is power, and one of the most important elements of Internet marketing is the depth of the information business leaders can gain from it.
Unlike the scattershot approach of traditional media marketing, Internet marketers can drill deep into the data they collect about their customers and potential customers. Or rather, they can, but not all of them do.
What Is Lead Validation?
Lead validation is the process of separating sales leads from other types of phone and form conversions generated by Internet marketing campaigns. Without lead validation, it is difficult if not impossible to understand the effectiveness of lead generation campaigns, including SEO, PPC, and display advertising.
Lead validation gives marketers information they can use to optimize both their sites and their ad campaigns — to a much higher degree than relying on inquiry data alone.
With a lead validation component in place, online marketers will better understand:
- The source of every validated lead
- How many inquiries are actually sales leads
- The most accurate cost per lead (as opposed to cost per conversion, which, as we will see, can be seriously misleading)
- How best to optimize campaign performance based on actual leads instead of the more ambiguous “conversion” metric
All this information makes it possible for marketers to more accurately measure and optimize their lead gen campaign performance. This means less money wasted on unqualified traffic, allowing you to focus more of your advertising budget on bringing legitimate prospects to your website.
Study: Analyzing 373,000 Site Inquiries for Lead Intelligence
At Straight North, we understand the value lead validation can bring to an Internet marketing campaign. Over the last 18 months, our team has analyzed more than 373,000 inquiries generated by websites, including:
- Over 135,000 form submissions
- Over 237,000 phone calls totaling more than 1 million minutes
One critical data point we discovered was that out of those inquiries, only about half of them turned out to be true sales leads.
The rest consisted of inquiries that had no chance of becoming sales — including customer service requests, incomplete/empty/spam form submissions, phone misdials, and job applications. This means that nearly half of the time, Internet marketers may be counting inquiries among their sales lead numbers that simply aren’t supposed to be there. The consequences can be disastrous because of this incomplete and inaccurate data.
Here are a few more important conclusions we drew from the data…
Validated Leads Accrue at the Beginning of the Week
Compared to the rest of the week, Monday and Tuesday are the days where a “conversion” corresponds most to a validated lead.
As you can see, the first half of the week is more likely to produce a validated lead than the latter half (and on the weekends, forget about it).
By combining this information with your own lead validation exercises, you can determine the days and times when your conversions are most likely to represent future sales.
The First Visit Is The Most Important
Mind-blowing marketing statistic of the day: nearly 85% of conversions happen on a visitor’s first visit to the website.
As you can see below, 85% of validated leads in the data set we looked at came from first-time site visitors. Lead metrics tend to fall off a cliff from that point, down to 10% for second-time visitors and so on.
This is because many website visitors are vetting companies based on the quality of their websites, converting as soon as they find the one company that meets their criteria.
After the first visit, there is a significant drop-off in the likelihood that visitors will convert into sales leads. This means Internet marketers need to concentrate their efforts on building websites that are optimized to drive conversions on the first visit — something that becomes more difficult if marketers are working from incomplete or inaccurate data.
While a killer remarketing strategy and nurture funnel might change these numbers, making subsequent site visits more valuable, nothing beats an amazing first impression.
No Lead Validation = Incomplete Information
Most online marketers rely on inquiry data alone, which doesn’t include information about which inquiries are actual sales leads or any information regarding phone inquiries. For example, if you’re only using Google Analytics goal tracking data to gauge the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns, you’re going to confront these major holes in your data:
- It only includes counts of form submissions (no qualitative analysis)
- No phone call data is included, excluding as much as 60% of the total picture
- You can’t see the actual form submissions that came through as a goal
- You can’t validate that the goal complete was an actual sales lead
Without this layer of information, marketers are in the dark in regards to which sources are generating the most actual sales leads. This can lead to marketers being unaware of areas of their campaign that need attention or allocating resources to the wrong source based on skewed data.
Lead Validation Is Essential for Understanding True Cost per Lead
Marketers interested in determining ROI based on lead generation data that hasn’t been put through the lead validation process can end up with information that is nearly 50% inaccurate.
For example, let’s assume a website has two sources generating conversions: Based on the raw analytics, Source 1 generates 50 conversions while Source 2 generates 100 conversions. Most marketers would focus their attention and resources on maximizing the performance of Source 2, right? Unfortunately, they would be acting on incomplete information.
After processing all the conversions through a lead validation process, it becomes clear that Source 1 generated 40 true sales leads, but Source 2 only generated 25 true sales leads.
Because the marketer concentrated all their attention on Source 2 based on the raw conversion data, Source 1 suffered from neglect and the company lost more sales than it would have gained through Source 2.
All of this goes to show why lead validation is so critical for Internet marketers, even though many of them don’t include it in their campaigns. Without it, you’ll be left in the dark.
About the Author
Aaron Wittersheim is Chief Operating Officer at Straight North, an Internet marketing company that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. He is an accomplished entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in business and technology.