For most online marketers, success boils down to how much revenue your campaign generates. That revenue is tied to paying customers, and paying customers are just leads who made it through the sales process. Accordingly, many online marketers measure their success in terms of how many leads they were able to generate. It’s a good number to know, for sure, but there’s one major problem with it: it doesn’t tell you how good those leads are.
Working with five great leads is better, and will result in more revenue, than 100 irrelevant or uninterested leads. That 100 number is flashy and looks great, but without substantive lead quality, it’s essentially useless.
We write a lot about increasing traffic to your site and improving conversion rates, and this is important for B2B and B2C companies alike. B2B companies usually rely on this process to generate leads, which can then be followed up on to land more sales, and generate revenue. That means there’s only one real difference between a B2B conversion and a B2C conversion—a B2C conversion represents tangible, measurable revenue while a B2B conversion represents potential revenue.
Both types of conversions mean more total revenue for your site, as long as you’re closing leads, but when most people (myself included) talk about “conversion optimization,” we’re talking about increasing the quantity of leads you receive. Today I want to address another type of optimization—one that increases the quality of leads you receive, which is just as important if your bottom line goal is more revenue.
If you’ve ever been in a sales position, you know why lead quality matters. Low quality leads are people who aren’t interested in your product or brand, or those who are just interested in finding out more details without really buying anything (tire-kickers). They may even be people who fall outside your demographics if you’re generating leads automatically. All this is a problem because every “weak” lead you spend time on is wasted time you could have spent on a high quality lead. You might get fewer leads overall, but your sales ratio will be much better.
If you’re just getting started with online marketing or conversion optimization, you might want to focus on quantity first—there’s no use trying to filter two leads down to one lead, but once you start getting dozens or hundreds of leads on a regular basis, you’ll need to focus that stream down to only what’s most important. Here’s how you do it:
This first option might seem obvious, but it’s easy to neglect. Your content is responsible for the majority of your inbound traffic and early interested leads—it attracts people from search engines and social media, and forms visitors’ impressions of your site when they start poking around. The type of topics you pick can have a drastic impact on the people who eventually choose to convert. For example, if you write about basic, general topics in your industry, you’ll tend to attract leads who are nearly unfamiliar with your type of company and industry best practices. If you need qualified leads with more experience or familiarity, you’ll have to increase the vocabulary and change the focus of your articles.
Just like content, the things you publish on social media can have an effect on who comes to your site. However, on social media, you have more control over who comes into and remains in your pool of followers. For example, you can target specific demographics to reach out to and build an audience person by person to increase the percentage of connections who fall into your targeted demographics. You can also use segmented lists to filter out those who might not be relevant—such as people outside your geographic area.
If your content and social adjustments don’t help, you can consider funneling people to different landing pages based on their intentions (and possibly behavior). For example, let’s say you offer three different levels of service: one for beginners, one for experts, and one as a white-label service for other businesses. Here, you can create three different landing pages with specific copy that only appeals to one of these demographics (each). If you funnel lots of traffic to each of these pages, they’ll naturally filter out any leads who aren’t qualified for each specific service.
Instead of attempting to get leads right away, turn your main site of conversion into a “prospective lead” generator. When you get someone to fill out your form, subscribe them to an ongoing email campaign (or similar marketing strategy that keeps your brand top-of-mind). A portion of these subscribers—only the most interested—will open your emails regularly, and might even reach out directly to you. With every email, your pool of prospective leads will grow warmer toward your brand, and uninterested parties will naturally unsubscribe, allowing your lead pool to filter itself.
What I’m about to suggest violates a basic principle of conversion optimization: make the conversion as easy as possible. When you do this, you greatly increase the quantity of leads you receive, but unfortunately, you also decrease the quality. By making your conversion process more difficult, such as asking more questions or requiring a specific commitment to proceed, you’ll filter out the marginally interested parties and focus solely on those who are already willing to buy.
Your content marketing strategy, if executed with care, can be your greatest source of incoming leads. Writing regular high-quality content and using the power of social media channels to syndicate that content will naturally attract dozens, and in time, hundreds of leads to your website. In order to maximize the conversion potential for those leads, and ensure that those leads are as qualified as possible, you need to adjust your content strategy accordingly.
For example, if you own a law firm, but you only do work with business clients, writing content about consumer-focused law and litigation work might attract a large number of people to your blog—but those people wouldn’t belong to your key demographic, and your lead quality would correspondingly decline. It’s better to write and publish content that caters to a highly specific type of person—the kind of person you’d love to come in as a lead.
Additionally, you can spend more time on social media, reaching out to individuals you know would make good leads and following them. This will get their attention and gradually shift your following to be mostly comprised of prequalified leads.
Another option is to set up one or more highly specific landing pages for your users. For example, instead of vaguely leading people to your website and a generic contact form, you can create a specific landing page for each of your products or services (depending on how many you have). These specific landing pages will explain exactly what the product is, and speak directly to whichever demographic you’re targeting.
The downside to this strategy is you will likely see fewer conversions. Not everybody visiting a car dealership is going to be interested in buying a new, red sports car, and not everybody visiting your landing page is going to be interested in what you’re selling. But by sacrificing the sheer volume of leads, you’ll be effectively narrowing your lead pool to only the most interested and qualified candidates. You’ll have sacrificed a flashy number in exchange for a faster, more valuable lead pool.
You can direct users to these specific landing pages using whatever marketing channels you want; for example, you could tie different landing pages into different blog categories or link them to specific groups of PPC ads.
Speaking of advertising, selective demographic targeting is possible with many types of paid online advertising. For example, Facebook ads allow you to get incredibly specific with the types of users you advertise to. You can select an ideal gender, age range, selection of interests, and geographic location, and the social network will only display your ads to people meeting those requirements. The keys to harnessing this to its maximum potential are knowing which demographics make for the best leads, and engaging those demographics with compelling design and copy.
Start by categorizing your incoming leads in terms of their identifiable demographic qualities, and measuring how successful each follow-up is. When you aggregate your data, you should be able to identify which qualities result in the most successful opportunities, and you’ll be able to favor those qualities in your advertising from there on out. Incorporate multiple designs and different lines of copy to run A/B tests once you roll out your ads. That way, you can determine the best type of messaging to use for your future campaigns.
This strategy is especially useful for filtering leads that must meet a series of different requirements. Essentially, you’ll be creating a workflow for your users to follow, from initial entry to point of contact. You can structure this however you’d like; as an example, you could have a social media post that introduces an article by saying “Are you a small business owner? You’ll want to read up on these energy tips” and filter your audience to only small business owners interested in saving energy. Then, your article could focus exclusively on electricity, filtering out any small business owners who want to save on gas or other forms of energy. Finally, you can end your article with a link to a landing page by asking “Do you use more than X kW of electricity a year?” and filter out low-energy businesses. The landing page could filter out even more unqualified leads.
Including multiple steps like this will lower your conversion rates and through-traffic, but it will increase the quality of your leads. Your goal should be filtering out as many bad fits as possible in the least amount of steps.
This is by far the best long-term strategy you can incorporate in order to maximize the quality of your online leads. Start by defining all available marketing channels that eventually lead to a contact. This could mean setting up a different landing page for each medium, tracking user behavior based on points of initial entry, or simply asking “how did you hear about us?” on a contact form. Run your marketing campaigns as you normally would, and sort those leads into different categories based on how they initially found you.
Once you’ve done that, measure the quality of each lead in terms of two characteristics: the lead’s level of interest, and the quality of the fit. You can measure the interest level by gauging how enthusiastic the lead is about your company, and you can determine the quality of the fit based on how neatly the lead fits into your model of the “perfect” customer. Find a way to aggregate those measurements, and compare the averages of each category. By the end of your analysis, you should have a very clear idea of which advertising or marketing channel generates the highest quality leads. Knowing this, you can cut some of the lower-quality channels, and focus more on your efforts toward the more successful medium.
Truly successful lead generation strategies are ones that give you the best opportunities, not the most opportunities. Setting up a system that feeds you only the most qualified leads will eventually save you time, money, and stress.
If you don’t want to build new landing pages or new user workflows, you can at least get started with understanding and catering to your ideal customer demographics. Every action you take counts toward refining your lead pool and perfecting your lead generation strategy.
These aren’t the only options for increasing lead quality, but they are some of the most practical and most effective. As you can see, most can be set up in a matter of hours, and provide a steady filter to weed out some of the least relevant leads in your sales pool. Every bad lead filtered out is less time wasted by the sales team and higher percentages of sales to traffic, so continue refining your system until you’re left with a well-oiled lead-generating machine.