Your inbound lead strategy is only as good as the opportunities and conversions it creates.
Similarly to how getting a high amount of traffic to your site is only positive if you are attracting the right visitors, this is where the old saying ‘quality over quantity’ comes into play.
If you are attracting quality customers from the offset, it is a lot easier to close a sale. You will also be saving money and time by not having to chase leads that won’t convert.
We recently sat down with members from our network to explore the many strategies available for improving the quality, conversion rate and value of your inbound leads.
Investing in the Value of your Inbound Leads - Getting Started:
Assessing your inbound lead generation strategy
Everyone has channel strategies and different targets across multiple areas. For many marketers, the constant goal is usually to drive more leads - however, whether these are qualified leads isn’t always taken into consideration.
“What do your current customers look like, and are they still valid? Know what good looks like and map it back down the funnel. Think about how you move from a lead to an MQL.”
Getting internal stakeholders to provide feedback from the offset can also strengthen your understanding of what 'good' looks like for your leads.
“If you can get sales and product development involved with marketing from the offset, you can get a lot of insights around why people need this product/service. This will help you refine your message and improve the quality of your leads.”
Evaluating the current performance of an inbound lead strategy
What do your 'good' leads look like?
Before engaging in any new strategy, it’s important to evaluate where you currently are and what your leads look like.
This way, you can focus on which leads are going to generate the highest ROI. Making sure you understand this audience insight and how the value proposition fits between the different audience is one of the most important elements of the strategy.”
Understanding your lead generation within your wider business
For Michael, it’s critical to understand where you are as a business.
“There is no point in setting massive targets if you don’t understand where you are today. You can’t just turn a strategy ‘off and on’ again.
You need to understand how one thing impacts another. If no one knows who you are, they are not going to buy anything from you, so we need some awareness.”
Evaluate each touchpoint of a customer journey
Continuing with the ‘turning off and on’ analogy, Holly warns against people believing they can just 'turn on the taps' and drive leads.
"Every user is on a considered journey. You need to look at each touchpoint of this journey, because it’s taking longer to drive users through to the point of sale.”
Consider your attribution strategy, and how different parts of the journey may be impacting the quality or volume of leads being driven - is PPC actually your best channel, or are the landing pages on other channels not up to scratch? Walk through the journey and assess at each stage for a stronger view of the real strengths and weaknesses of your strategy.
Key points to better understanding your existing strategy:
- Use customer research, conversion metrics, and your existing brand identity to understand what a good lead actually looks like
- Involve internal stakeholders in providing feedback on your current process, across many areas of the business
- Evaluate each step in your current channel strategies for lead generation - not just the first touchpoint
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Investing in the Value of your Inbound Leads – Targeting:
Part of evaluating your current lead generation strategy should revolve around who you are targeting.
As Charlotte Graham-Cumming, CEO of Ice Blue Sky explains, “the first part of the process is knowing who you’re going to go after and who you need to convert. The second part is being relevant and helpful.”
Targeting using organic content
To be relevant and helpful, content plays an important role.
Charlotte goes on to say that “helpful, practical, and relevant content is what people are wanting. You need to craft the content in a way that speaks to the people and the problems they are trying to solve.”
This is echoed by Holly, who explains that “digital channels are moving towards broad targeting.”
As privacy policies tighten and we enter a cookie-less world, “we need to try and capture the data ourselves by offering a user something that is of value to them. We can then use this data to nurture the customers through the funnels. When we can’t target them specifically, it’s best to focus on content and value.”
In-channel vs on-site targeting and conversions
When using content to target and convert potential customers, different channels will be used to push and promote it.
With lead forms available in-channel, is there a difference if someone converts here as opposed to on-site?
“You will see a higher conversion when someone converts in-channel, but you always need both,” Michael argues.
“The website is still the hub, and I don’t agree that you should keep everything in different channels.
Have the conversations where people are having the conversation, but don’t throw everything away and forget about your website.”
Charlotte explains that “your website is not usually someone’s first port of call when it comes to interacting with you.
There is most likely an intent behind the visit, so you don’t want to make it difficult for people when they are on your site. You need to understand where it fits in across the customer journey.”
Holly reminds us that it’s important that your website is optimised for SEO.
“People almost forget that you can drive large amounts of enquiries through a good SEO strategy, and in doing so, you can drive down costs.”
Don’t focus on volume
“It comes back to the title of this workshop – quality over quantity. People will focus on volume but won’t talk about quality. You need to ask yourself – are we generating money from these leads?”
IMPROVING YOUR LEADS WITH BETTER TARGETING - KEY LEARNINGS:
- Create personalised, helpful content to target the relevant people - particularly practical support
- Understand where your website fits in the customer journey - and balance it against your in-channel activity
- Optimise your website for SEO to drive better returns over time
- Don’t focus on volume - add metrics and KPIs based on likelihood of conversion, personas and qualification
Investing in the Value of your Inbound Leads – Improving Conversion:
Getting leads is only half the battle.
By definition, improving the quality of your leads should also improve the rate at which you convert them. But how do you up the conversions once the lead is through the door?
Vetting and qualifying leads
For Michael, there are a number of metrics by which to qualify your leads before you push them to the sales team:
- Job titles and other 'filterable' data fields
- Frequency of engagement through activity tracking
- Historic conversion rates from leads within a particular group
“You can also look at how frequently people are engaging. Are they a one-off visitor or are they coming back for more of your content?”
Tracking and processes
Another way to measure the quality of a lead is by tracking and improving your own reporting and visibility of the lead's journey.
According to Michael, “if you are only measuring last touch, you’re getting the wrong information.
You need to understand where the leads are coming from, and what is starting that journey.”
However, one pain point that can complicate tracking a customer journey are offline interactions.
As Lewis explains, “Not being able to track offline interactions can often make it difficult to understand where there might be gaps in the journey.
Offline tracking platforms can help you realise where these gaps are, because a lot of the time it might not even come down to lead gen, or the marketing team/agency, it could be around the price of a product/service.
It’s about having visibility of the entire customer journey, how they interact with your brand, and how they purchase with you.”
Download: Guide for Agencies
Conversion processes between teams
Capturing and converting leads is very rarely a one-team job.
Marketing and sales must work together in order bring in and close a sale.
To help with this cross-team process, Charlotte recommends putting leads into different pots depending on how people got to them.
“This way, the sales process can be more personalised. Marketing can help by creating personalised videos or PDF resources that look very tailored and give that one-to-one experience. It’s effective to grade the handover points into different types of actions.”
Michael backs this up by saying that this is one of the most common misconceptions he sees in lead gen strategies.
“There is no point in sales doing one thing and marketing doing another. They both must be aligned. It’s also important to shift your focus onto what the lead does and how much money it brings in. Do you really need four hundred leads a month, or do you just need ten? What’s the revenue?”
Charlotte also emphasis that it’s also important not to pass leads on to sales too soon. “Sometimes, more nurture needs to be involved beforehand.”
Improving the conversion rate of your inbound leads - key learnings:
- Define what 'good' leads look like for you - and adapt your performance reporting and KPIs to reflect this
- Invest in tracking the full journey for your leads - from offline to in-channel to your site - for better chances to convert
- Segment your leads based on activity, and employ different actions to fit this
- Work across your business to ensure a clear 'handover' process that doesn't fall down for you at the last minute
Investing in the Value of your Inbound Leads – External Support:
As with any marketing strategy, external support from specialist agencies can be a great way to help increase capacity and ensure the most chance of success.
But at which point should you bring an external partner on board?
Supporting on assessing your current strategy
For Michael, he recommends support at the strategy stage.
“Get an external person to facilitate an internal discussion. Get someone independent to put the gel together from a strategic point of view.
Alongside this - don’t underestimate how much investment you need to put into strategy. The value is not in just the tactics and delivery.
You want to be looking at 50% of your budget in strategy and 50% in delivery to get a good breakdown.”
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Support getting buy-in from stakeholders
Helping to get buy-in from stakeholders is another way agencies can support marketeers who are on the brand side.
“That’s where we can help as agencies,” says Charlotte.
“We can give in-brand marketeers the knowledge, facts, and comfort to take it to the board to say, ‘we’re measuring marketing metrics incorrectly, these are only vanity metrics.’ It’s about being brave and saying I’m not going to do four hundred leads a week anymore, I’m going to do ten.”
This idea of performance being based on ‘vanity metrics’ is echoed by Michael.
“We’re still stuck in a world where a lot of the KPIs are activity metrics. Marketing is focused on activity, and sales are based on revenue. Activity metrics help us understand how we’re doing in the context of that activity, not the context of business.”
Final considerations - improving your inbound lead value
Ultimately, the exact strategy that works for you will not be a specific channel, or process - it will be the one that matches your business.
However, before you set out renewing your lead generation effort, ask yourself the following:
- How many of my current leads are actually going to convert?
- Is my lead generation strategy bringing the right level of intent?
- Am I handing leads over at a natural point?
- Which steps across my channels are causing me to miss out?
- How much do I know about what happens before and after the lead comes through?
- Where could a specialist boost my return in the long run?
These learnings were all shared in one of our virtual workshops for business leaders - to join an upcoming session, take a look here.
The GO! Network is a free-to-use marketing intermediary, connecting in-house marketers with vetted agencies that fit their actual needs. If you're looking to review or take on support, let us know here.