Optimizing Conversions Isn’t Everything! Don’t Neglect What Happens Before & After
Are you maximizing your conversion potential? Columnist Dale Hursh discusses the activities and efforts that occur both before and after the conversion point, noting that focusing efforts here can increase conversions and ROI.
Many marketers working to generate leads via digital channels get too focused on the specific conversion action, whatever it may be. In my opinion, this viewpoint is too narrow given the amount of activity that must occur both before and after the conversion.
By giving pre- and post-conversion activities more attention, marketers can improve lead gen results and increase bottom-line revenue.
The Lead Journey
I urge marketers to look at the conversion action as the mid-point in a journey that starts with first engagement activities and ends with money in the bank. This journey can be represented as the entire length of your sales funnel, or buying process, which in some cases can be many months.
I like to envision the funnel horizontally, with the first engagement on the far left and the revenue event on the far right.
- Marketing activities on the far left are numerous and are the beginning of the engagement process.
- The middle of the funnel, the conversion, is typically happening on your website or landing pages (for example, a white paper download, a sign-up for a demo or trial or a webinar registration).
- As you progress to the right, after the conversion, leads typically go into a marketing automation tool and then possibly also into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool.
To maximize lead gen results, you must give each activity the proper care and attention.
The journey to generating a lead (and eventually, a customer) in the digital world starts with the first engagement, which can have many forms. Initial engagement channels include, but are not limited to:
- PPC advertising.
- Display advertising.
- Video advertising.
- Social listings and ads.
- Content syndication.
- Organic search listings/SEO.
As you can see, the list is long and diverse and requires a lot of coordination to be effective.
This is the first of many points of contact before you identify who this potential lead is. For complex sales cycles, typically a person will engage with your brand, via different channels, multiple times before they complete a form and you can identify who they are.
To maximize your efforts, these various engagement activities and channels need to be integrated, coordinated and attributed. You need to understand how brand and name recognition activities, commonly an impression only, are influencing the more direct action activities like a click on an ad or a visit to your website.
The ultimate goal is to understand how these front-end engagement activities influence the conversion activity.
The Conversion Action
Ultimately, your prospect is on your website and ready to reveal themselves via some sort of registration process. Landing pages should be designed to maximize conversion results. You should utilize systematic testing — including A/B tests, multivariate tests and dynamic content — if possible.
You also need to test different types of assets. Such assets may include white papers, product trails, webinars, demonstrations, audits and presentations. Understand the consideration level of these assets as you develop and test your landing pages.
Consideration level is essentially the level of “interest commitment” the visitor has in your product or services. For example, a low-level commitment is a white paper, a higher-level commitment is a product demonstration. A trade-off is involved here: lower commitment actions result in higher conversion rates and more lead volume, but lower lead quality. High commitment actions generate a lower volume of leads, but typically higher-quality leads involving prospects who are further down the buying process.
I recommend that marketers include both types of conversions (low and high consideration) in their lead gen programs to capture prospects in different stages of the buying process.
Once the lead is captured, lead data can be automatically imported into a marketing automation tool or CRM platform. These tools and the processes required to utilize them are numerous, complex and powerful.
Ideally, the first step is to grade or qualify the lead; this can be done automatically, or manually by reaching out to the lead. Lead scoring systems vary widely. For the sake of this discussion, we will cover a common grading system that divides leads into marketing leads and sales leads:
- Marketing leads typically stay in the marketing automation tool for cultivation.
- Sales leads usually transfer to the sales team for further engagement.
Lead cultivation is very important and can increase the ROI of lead generation programs. Marketing automation tools help automate and streamline this complex process. Lead cultivation activities can be highly customized for each prospect based on lead grade, personas and other attributes.
These programs automatically create activity schedules and deliver highly targeted communications and content to help move prospects further down the sales process, with the ultimate goal making them sales qualified leads and ultimately customers.
Just as important, these tools also provide useful data to help improve the efficiency of the entire lead generation program. They shed light on which marketing messages and assets are most effective, the timing of content delivery, the most and least productive marketing channels and the most effective landing/web pages.
Think Beyond The Conversion
As you can see, there are many activities and efforts that occur both before and after the conversion point on a potential customer’s path to creating revenue for your organization.
By giving these efforts proper attention and resources, you can significantly increase the number of leads who become customers and improve the ROI of your digital lead generation program.