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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 at 7:50 am

Can Conversion Rate Optimization Improve Lead Quality?

By Brendan Regan
February 3rd, 2010

There was a question posed in the comments section of my last post on Pay Per Click optimization that I thought I’d try to address: “What are your thoughts on using CRO to improve the quality of leads?”

Good question!  Many people assume that optimizing for higher conversion rates in the Business to Business (B2B) environment always ends up decreasing lead quality.  We at FutureNow don’t believe that for one minute, though.  If you’re responsible for a B2B lead generation site, lead quality should be of equal importance to lead quantity.

Let’s face it; if your efforts at conversion rate optimizing decrease the quality of leads, your sales force will let you know about it!  They’ll be in your office/cubicle/face very quickly pointing out how they’ve got less qualified leads to work with, and increasing quotas to hit.  In B2B marketing, the main goal is to feed good leads that are far along in their buying process.

Let’s look at some reasons why conversion rate optimization tactics (when applied haphazardly) might decrease lead quality:

1) Shortening lead forms. It’s common sense that removing fields from your lead forms will likely increase conversion rate, but could easily decrease lead quality by not “qualifying” prospects.  For example, many lead forms ask a question about whether the prospect has a “budget” in place.  Those that don’t have an approved budget are considered low-quality, and are disqualified or de-prioritized.  Removing fields like that from your lead forms should always be tested, and the test data should always be compared against any changes in lead quality.

2) Pushing traffic into the funnel too soon. Sometimes improving your calls to action, headlines, copy, and navigation can combine to funnel more traffic into your lead form, raising your conversion rate.  But if the prospects who convert didn’t do as much up-front research, they may end up as lower quality leads.  For example, if I’m looking for CRM software for my team of 5 salespeople, and you only work with teams of 20 or more, I’m a low-quality lead.  If your efforts to increase conversion rate leave out that very important constraint, I’ll end up a lead that you don’t want!

3) Not being transparent about your pricing. Some B2B marketers don’t disclose pricing on the website (occasionally at the request of Sales).  This tactic could affect conversion rate, but you’ll find that many leads are simply filling out a form so they can find out pricing.  Many of them don’t have the budget and aren’t high-quality leads.

4) Over-promoting with gifts and incentives. I once worked in B2B marketing for a not-very-smart software company that offered the incentive of a free flash drive in addition to a white paper if they filled out a lengthy lead form.  Can you guess what that did to the quality of leads?  The worst part was all the low-quality, early stage leads calling to complain when they didn’t get their free flash drive within 6-8 weeks :)

So, yes, Conversion Rate Optimization could potentially decrease lead quality if not done carefully.  Now, let’s look at some reasons why CRO, properly executed by a data-driven marketing team, can actually increase lead quality at the same time as increasing conversion rate:

1) Marrying conversion data with lead scoring. Since the ultimate goal is more high-quality leads, you have to carefully test and tweak every pixel and every letter of your lead form, THEN go back and analyze lead quality data to make sure you haven’t altered the quality.  There aren’t any elegant, automated ways I know about of doing this, so you have to be willing to sit down with different data sources and compare, or sit down with Sales and hear their feedback on a regular basis.

2) Letting prospects nurture and qualify themselves throughout your site. Instead of putting a lead form on a landing page, try educating the prospect first, giving them more information that’s relevant, nurturing them, THEN asking for some contact info.  It’s hard work making sure every prospect can get the content/answers they need to graduate to the next stage of their buying process, but it’s one way to move the needle on both conversion rate and lead quality.

3) “Opening the kimono” in regards to pricing. While this is somewhat controversial among old-school B2B marketers and salespeople, being transparent about your pricing can increase your lead quality.  This doesn’t mean you have to have your pricing in 57-point font on your homepage.  But, if your prospects are looking for pricing and don’t find it, you may end up with no leads at all.  Figure out what kind of website behavior indicates lead qualification, and use that data to decide where to reveal pricing.

A few additional posts that are relevant to this topic are Melissa Burdon’s recent post about asking for the lead too early and my two-part review of Steven Woods’s book on B2B marketing and lead quality, Digital Body Language.  UPDATE: Also relevant to the “quality vs. quantity” concept is MarketingSherpa’s recent article “Comparing the Quantity and Quality of B2B Search-generated Leads.


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Comments (49)

  1. For many websites that are simply looking for signups and basic levels of information to contact someone, it seems that decreasing the friction for the user to contact the company seems like a viable option. However, what you say is correct in that if you are aiming for higher quality leads from the website, increasing the friction may only pass through those that are deeply interested in your product or service.

  2. I agree with number2, it is best to educate them, telling them the advantages of the program/product, telling them the benefits they can gain, how it can help them first before asking for anything from them. And also number 3, where it’s better to be transparent and tell them the price right there and then.

  3. No 3) in the top list is a killer. So many companies do not want to disclose even a range of pricing, saying things are always bespoke and priced to the customer. I think this leads to a lot of lower quality leads. It also generally leads to the feeling that a company is expensive if there is no pricing in certain markets.

  4. The advantages of the product and the benefits from using that program is the key.

  5. You bring up a lot of great points here such as the need to experiment with many different types of elements, and also the need to sit down and analyze all kinds of data sources for better optimization.

    One effective method we’re using at ion to qualify visitors is pre-conversion segmentation. With pre-conversion segmentation, we don’t include a form on the initial landing page page — just a quick choice to make about who they are and what they’re looking for. From there, the user can quickly place him or herself into the right bucket and/or level in the buying cycle. This seems to work great because, as you mention, it allows the lead to receive very targeted information.

    -Kristina, @ion_interactive

  6. This is wonderful information. I believe it is all truly accurate and many times you would have to bookmark 10 other sites when the information is all here. “2 thumbs up”

  7. [...] couple of posts on grokdotcom are adding some insight. Brendan Regan notes that marketers who try to increase their conversion rate often do so by lowering the quality of [...]

  8. As usual common sense makes takes lead. I like the second recommendation because it implies that the site has to make sense and let people decide on their own.

  9. wow..thank you very much for this useful information. I do look forward in reading your blogs..

  10. Qualifying leads with the contact form is key, and you hit it on the head. Less on the form lowers the quality of the lead. Not using a required registration form prior to providing service is also a way to reduce several weak leads.

  11. Great points. CRO only works if we can deliver the “right” leads!

  12. Provide genuine insight to the client and with good leadership, you will win in each target marketing.

    Business clients appreciate the knowledge is very important and that we can use as a resource.

  13. It would seem these two go hand in hand. Can you really improve lead quality without optimizing your conversion rate?

  14. I agree great points but it all boils down to quality leads and sales conversions. Thats why we are in business to begin with to make money. 5 targeted leads is better than 1000 untargeted leads anyday. Great points I enjoyed the read!

  15. Less on the form lowers the quality of the lead. Not using a required registration form prior to providing service is also a way to reduce several weak leads.

  16. Having run a F 500 B2B lead program for 8 years, The first criteria for any lead is quality, does it align with the sales force. You will always try to maximize your lead volume, but not at the expense of lead quality. 100% of our enterprise size leads were tele qualified against a standard quality criteria. Those leads converted to SQL leads by sales at a 70 to 80% rate.
    We had a good process that matched up lead source to MQL conversion rates. Based on the conversion rate. This allowed us to use conversion rate and cost of the inquiry to determine the best ROI.
    Re #1 on lead forms we had an ongoing battle with the Webs team over how much information to ask. They seemed to be focused only on the # of clicks vs the quality of information we needed to qualify a lead. There is some happy balance including asking for more info during the nurturing process. The key is to have a standard data collection process so you can automate and score your leads. We had one registration form that we used for all lead sources be it EM, DM, Web or trade shows. This standard minimal data allowed us to have consistent data that gave us enough to start the qualification process
    I believe gifts and incentives need to be focused on the quality content that drives your lead / Sales process. White papers ect, giving away merchandise that is not part of your market focus just encourages traffic that may not be of your target market and diminishes qualified lead conversions.
    Dennis Head edemand Leads consulting

  17. You bring up a lot of great points here such as the need to experiment with many different types of elements, and also the need to sit down and analyze all kinds of data sources for better optimization.

    One effective method we’re using at ion to qualify visitors is pre-conversion segmentation. With pre-conversion segmentation, we don’t include a form on the initial

  18. Great stuff as usuall. It seems to distill down to the same concept so many miss that you have to out in the effort and stop wasting time looking for the easy!

  19. I absolutely hate when i can not find pricing option or i have to do something to see it. If i cannot see the pricing option in maximum of 2 clicks then i will take my money elsewhere.

  20. Am at SES London and heard Bryan E give this morning’s keynote. Whilst many of the points you raise are valid they would contradict some of the agreed ‘best-practice’ conversion elements.

    I think the comment about testing is really what I see from these, with the points as your initial ideas, rather than they will work?

  21. [...] full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc Enjoyed this article?WebsiteWordpress [...]

  22. his is wonderful information. I believe it is all truly accurate and many times you would have to bookmark 10 other sites when the information is all here. “2 thumbs up”

  23. Satisfactory blog, some interesting information. I remember 9 of days ago, I have found a similar post. Does anyone know how to track future posts?

  24. [...] on “conversion rate” or do we highlight “lead quality” as our priority? This post delves into the specifics to answer this question in [...]

  25. Generating leads vs generating sales has always been the bottom line. The one thing many fellow marketers tell me is how many unique visitors their site has per month. I always come back and ask how many did you convert? High traffic on a site makes some feel warm and fuzzy, but if they are not taking action its time to rethink the plan.

  26. There is a catch 22. I think as you shorten lead forms people will be more likely to fill them out, but you really won’t know as much and those prospects are likely to be early stage buyers. The longer forms might only get a few in comparison, but those are much more likely to convert in the end.

  27. The key is to have a standard data collection process so you can automate and score your leads. We had one registration form that we used for all lead sources be it EM, DM, Web or trade shows. This standard minimal data allowed us to have consistent data that gave us enough to start the qualification process

  28. Most of the time, prices shown on the websites differs from the actual prices because these prices are meant to bring customer to the service provider.

    Once customer shows interest in the service provider’s services/products, the price can be negotiated.

    Converting leads into revenue generating Business is smart process :)

  29. “2) Pushing traffic into the funnel too soon. Sometimes improving your calls to action, headlines, copy, and navigation can combine to funnel more traffic into your lead form, raising your conversion rate”

    That’s why a landing page needs to hit that balance between getting them to buy and providing enough content to convince / help them to buy. You can’t throw a “buy no” link in their face all the time. You need to take a subtle and common sense approach.

  30. absolutely hate when i can not find pricing option or i have to do something to see it. If i cannot see the pricing option in maximum of 2 clicks then i will take my money elsewhere.

  31. I have told one of my friends this time and time again. He owns an online store and his products are buried away in the ether. It’s crazy!

  32. Qualifying leads with the contact form is key, and you hit it on the head. Less on the form lowers the quality of the lead. Not using a required registration form prior to providing service is also a way to reduce several weak leads.

  33. I guess points 4 and 2 are the most areas we should focus on too much promoting looks spam while pointing traffic to useless pages will not help your business so let the traffic flow the usual way and less promoting your site.

    Thanks,
    Vins

  34. Absolutely!
    We conducted an experiment once to modify our campaign and with different keywords and not only the CRO improved but also the reduction in bounce rate.
    In fact even dropping the bid rate for the ads generated even a more improved conversion/leads with less bounce rate.

  35. I think that conversion rate optimization can definitely improve leads quality and I liked all the points you made in the article. Good work, interesting and informative like it should be.

  36. We are taking the approach; a lead is not a lead until the consumer contacts us. We do not have our sites locked down by registration. Provide the consumer with as much information as possible and let them lurk on the site for months prior to taking action in the form of contacting us to show or provide specific information on a home. So far we spend less time calling on leads that are nothing more then an email address used to access the data.

  37. The example you quoted of the free flash drives is something that I can relate too as well. I was tasked to manage a competition for a corporate client. The people who were gaming the system were the ones making the loudest noises when their prizes were not forthcoming. It is the nature of the human beast, it seems!

  38. i believe that We had one registration form that we used for all lead sources be it EM, DM, Web or trade shows.

  39. I agree but also any change is good if you want tot improve the lead. There is no other way to find out what you should do about it.

  40. Qualifying leads with the contact form is key, and you hit it on the head. Less on the form lowers the quality of the lead. Not using a required registration form prior to providing service is also a way to reduce several weak leads.

  41. Great Article.
    I agree on point 2
    Pushing traffic into the funnel too soon can decrease conversion rate

  42. In my opinion not all leads should be used purely for sales, but may be used as intellectual data and often can provide some psychological information about people who access your site. It can identify some competition, it can provide opportunity to discuss pricing, needs, wants. A range of useful information can be gleamed from non converted or weak leads.

  43. It would seem these two go hand in hand. Can you really improve lead quality without optimizing your conversion rate?

  44. Point 3 —> Transparent pricing….hmmmm, yes and no.

    Not being transparent is to not infer that you’re being devious or misleading. For example, say you have an affiliate site and the aim is to drive traffic to the product site. If the product price is disclosed initially, it might sway the user from cliking through. Their could be many reasons for this but the main one is that people will always look at the price first…its an impulse thing.

    But if you leave out the price and your site gives the user enough insight and information into the product, then they are likely to go further and click through.

  45. @KellyW: I suppose you’re right in the scenario of the affiliate marketer who makes money by driving clicks/visits as opposed to conversions. You’ve raised one of the main concerns I have with using affiliate marketing on lead generation sites. Haven’t had much success with it in the past, and maybe that’s because the business goals of the lead gen site are at odds with the business goals of the affiliate site.

  46. So many factors go into improving conversions. It’s hard to tell what to do at times. I think a clear product message and sales copy help immensely. Users are becoming more discerning…gen y is internet and technically savvy. That’s why a a genuine approach without too much smoke and mirrors is the best way to go. A hard-sell just doesn’t work.

  47. Absolutely, I think its essential to move users through a web page/site in a way which they will turn into a lead. Analytics provides excellent info on where users are clicking and there are tools that let you see how users move their cursor on your page. Great post!

  48. Great Question and explaining. Then it turns anything to brainstorm ideas.

  49. Yeah conversion rate optimization would help us to grow the business. Below are the example points to be noted in the view of conversion rate optimization–
    Professional design and colors optimized for its target market
    Intuitive navigation
    Logo and USP in the top-left corner
    Contact information and Live Chat in the upper-right corner
    Testimonials/credibility builders such as third-party HACKER SAFE logos
    “Hero shots” of top products or services above the fold
    Calls to action

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