Validating sales leads isn’t easy, but replacing guesswork with gruntwork can result in more effective marketing and a lot more sales.

Brad Shorr, director of content strategy, Straight North

Companies with online lead generation marketing campaigns are often stumbling around carefree in the dark, even when they think their campaign data is crystal clear. Their false sense of security stems from a failure to separate sales leads from other types of conversions, a process we call lead validation.

Few B2B companies understand to what extent validation boosts marketing and sales results, and how failing to validate can cause lead generation campaigns to worsen rather than improve over time. Let’s take a close look at how validation affects results.

What Is Lead Validation?

Lead validation is the manual process of reviewing website inquiry forms and recordings of campaign-generated phone calls to isolate sales leads from other types of conversions.

Why Lead Validation Data Matters

Most website analytics software does a great job of tracking form conversions, conversions being any form that is submitted. The drawback, of course, is there is no qualitative analysis of these raw conversion numbers—no way to distinguish a $100,000 inquiry from a $100 inquiry, or from a piece of spam.

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If companies equate conversions with leads, they will think their campaigns are twice as productive as they really are.

For phone conversions, website analytics packages fall short, having little if any ability to track them at all. Unless a company can track phone conversions back to their marketing sources, it will be missing a huge chunk of critical campaign data. However, even if a company is astute enough to install granular phone tracking, the qualitative-quantitative ingredient is still missing. Without validation, there is no way to distinguish a caller desperately looking for $50,000 of material today versus one window shopping for a possible need two years down the road.

Sales Benefits of Validation

By validating leads—that is, actually looking at or listening to them—marketers can, in real time ideally, pinpoint the true sales leads and get them in the hands of the right members of the sales team, and do it quickly. This means faster follow-up, more sales closed, and less time wasted chasing down non-leads or weak leads that, prior to validation, were automatically dumped on the sales department. Huge benefits!

Conversion Data Overstates Results

Typical lead generation reports contain the number of form conversions, leading marketing managers and leadership to equate conversions with valid leads. How wrong this is!

Having analyzed more than one million campaign conversions, our agency has learned that half of all conversions are something other than sales leads—spam, misdials, sales solicitations, incomplete forms, customer service inquiries, etc.

If companies equate conversions with leads, they will think their campaigns are twice as productive as they really are, leading them to invest too much in the wrong areas.

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True, this overstatement of form conversions may be offset by lack of reporting on phone conversions (as discussed above), but it still leaves companies with five-figure or six-figure marketing budgets guessing rather than knowing how their investments are paying off.

Validation Leads to Rapid Campaign Improvement

Keeping in mind that sales leads represent only half of conversions, having validated lead data allows campaign managers to improve campaigns far more rapidly and effectively, particularly in the areas of pay-per-click, (PPC), display advertising and retargeting.

Here is an example. Suppose a PPC campaign manager is comparing these results:

  • Keyword A generated 100 conversions.
  • Keyword B generated 60 conversions.

In this situation, the manager will place more emphasis on keyword A in the campaign. Let’s suppose lead validation is added to the campaign process, and the validated data reveals:

  • Keyword A generated 100 conversions and 25 sales leads.
  • Keyword B generated 60 conversions and 40 sales leads.

Now, the manager will place more emphasis on keyword B, knowing that despite the fewer number of conversions, the number of sales leads is far greater.

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In this example, non-validated data leads to a decision that unwittingly weakens the campaign. Multiply this outcome by the number of tactical campaign decisions made every month, and you will quickly see how dramatically validation can improve lead generation.

Bottom line: Lead validation takes a bit of time, to be sure. But by replacing guesswork with grunt work, B2B companies will gradually, or perhaps very quickly, see their lead pipeline growing steadily in quality and quantity.

Brad Shorr is director of content strategy at Straight North, a Chicago SEO agency. Follow him on Twitter @BradShorrand on LinkedIn.