More and more marketers are being asked to create more and more leads using more and more tactics, in an increasingly crowded communications environment.
At best, it’s tough.
At worst, it gets marketers fired.
Lead generation is such an important part of most digital marketers’ responsibilities that our friends at Formstack—longtime sponsor of Convince & Convert—produced an entire report about it: The State of Lead Capture in 2016.
This interesting new study talked to 219 marketers and c-suite executives in small and mid-sized businesses in the US about the current state of lead generation.
There are literally dozens of data points, observations, and recommendations in the report, and I very much encourage you to go read it yourself.
But to provide a handy summary, here are the top four digital lead gen trends that I took away from the research:
1. Websites Remain The Most Likely Source of New Leads
Twenty-four percent of respondents said their website was the biggest generator of leads, with email marketing and paid search at seventeen percent each. Social media was fourth at 15%.
Indeed, websites are still a huge source of lead generation for most businesses (even here at Convince & Convert where we encourage all visitors to sign up for our killer email updates). It is important to recognize though that rarely do these tactics work in a vacuum.
What you do in social can inform how well your website works at lead generation. Your paid search campaign can produce the email signups that culminate in leads that you attribute to email marketing.
I prefer to think of it as a true marketing ecosystem, where many tactics can take prospects to many places, all of them aligned to capture information from prospects.
2. Marketing Metrics are Misguided
This is particularly true in small and mid-sized businesses that are unlikely to have the software horsepower (like the amazing Datorama) or dedicated analytics personnel to really dig deep on advanced metrics.
Yeah, it’s easier to be great at marketing math if you have a pile of software and room full of nerds. But you can still be very good at metrics without any of that stuff; you just need to measure the things that matter.
There has been much discussion in the past year in the content marketing realm (inextricably linked with lead generation) about divining true return on investment from efforts.
And yes, the respondents to this Formstack survey are measuring many things, but none of those are ROI.
Just 28% of marketers are measuring sales created by paid lead gen activities. This means that 3 of every 4 marketers cannot possible calculate true ROI because they have no data for the “R” which equals “return” which means “money.”
For clarification, true ROI is only calculated ONE way and ONE way only: Return (money) minus investment (cost), divided by investment, expressed as a percentage. That’s it. That’s the formula, period.
72% of marketers are counting lead volume, website traffic and similar metrics and calling it “ROI”. It’s not, and someday those fuzzy metrics aren’t going to be enough to justify their budget.
3. Quality of Leads is More Important Than Quantity of Leads
I think we’d all agree with this in theory, because eventually those leads have to turn into customers for marketing to be worthwhile.
And 54% of the respondents to this survey said that lead quality is their #1 priority (versus 46% for lead volume).
Despite this finding from Formstack, I’m not sure how often we actually run marketing programs based on this principle as I see an awful lot of effort going toward initiatives that create a lot of low quality, top-of-funnel leads that are unlikely to turn into revenue.
4. Invest in Conversion Optimization
One of Formstack’s big takeaways from this State of Lead Capture report is that conversion optimization (they can help you do this) is critical in 2017.
I couldn’t agree more.
We put way too much emphasis on traffic generation and not nearly enough emphasis on converting that traffic. The impact of conversion rate optimization is geometric. Once you unlock what works from a conversion perspective, you can then expand the tactics you use to fill the top of the funnel, and your results will grow exponentially.
If you’re not methodically working on increasing your conversion rate, stop spending money on marketing and fix that first.