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.”