The beauty of Just in Time Leads
Leads are a life-blood. We’ve all be been trained to believe that there can never be enough leads in the pipeline. And, without them, it’s extremely difficult for a business to grow, becoming stagnant and devoid of velocity. In other words, just a business floating in its own self-made inertia, neither growing and not being as profitable as it could be.
But what if this adage has it wrong? What if cramming your lead-pipeline has the opposite effect on your business?
It’s What Companies Have Come to Expect of SEMs
If you’re not SEO’ing or SEM’ing an eCommerce site, then you deal in leads. Leads from contact forms, quote forms, more information forms, etc. Businesses come to you wanting LEADS. Get them as many as you can possibly stuff in their pipeline. In essence, they want an entire email backlog full of Glengarry leads (and maybe even the speech to go with it).
As an SEO or SEM, that’s exactly why they came to you: you strategize and optimize to maximize lead generation. Keep their pipelines gushing with leads, and in turn, keep them growing as business and generating profit.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Gushing pipelines are a problem. Controlled-lead-pipelines, where flow is regulated and dispersed accordingly, are successful pipelines. With advancements in the way people retrieve information, the ubiquitous nature of the web, instant-consumer-gratification is no longer the exception, it’s the standard. What happens when you have an over-filled pipeline? Leaks. Bad leaks.
And response times suffer, leading to the “cold, uninterested” leads. Each vertical and marketplace is unique, but overall, I would estimate that you have 24 hours to get in contact with a lead, providing actionable data. In fact, I’m probably giving too much time to respond. A Kellogg School of Management study in 2007 suggests that;
“The odds of calling to contact a lead decrease by over 10 times in the 1st hour. The odds of calling to qualify a lead decrease by over 6 times in the 1st hour. After 20 hours every additional dial your salespeople make actually hurts your ability to make contact to qualify a lead. The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times.”
A Leaking Lead Pipe
The scenario, from a purely SEO analytical viewpoint, plays out like this: You’ve been doing your job. Well. In a year of search optimization services, your client’s total and unique traffic numbers have increased dramatically. You’ve decreased their total site bounce rate by a good chunk of percentage points. And, as a reward, site conversions have increased steadily over the past year, let’s call 35%. You’re a hero, right? Wrong.
The next time you meet with the client, they sound exasperated: they’re not seeing the benefit. You’ve shown the payoff: increases across the board at a 30,00ft view. Organic keyword traffic has increased for vital business-centric keywords. They are converting on the site better than they ever were. How can they not be in a better position than they were a year ago?
It’s Your Sales Process, Dummy
Truth of the matter is they are. Statistically speaking. In reality, they’re drowning in leads. You’ve done your job so well, that they don’t have the manpower or wherewithal to field them in a timely manner. It’s near impossible for them to qualify leads in a day or two, much less 5 to 10 minutes.
In a world of instant-gratification, there simply isn’t a “wow” factor responding to a potential customer in 48 hours. 5 years ago, maybe? In twelve hours, that lead you furnished your client is as cold as an ice cube. I think the study above nailed it; if you can’t respond within five minutes, move on. And, no, I don’t think that’s a stretch. It is what’s come to be expected of companies online.
That’s the reason your client’s not seeing the benefit. Their end of the sales process is jacked up. You’re cramming their pipeline to critical mass with as qualified leads as possible, and they’re drowning in their own saliva. Their solution? Throw money at it. It’s really a very nasty cycle.
Death Cycle of the Web Lead
- Stage 1: You optimize the website
- Stage 2: More leads begin to trickle in. Client sees opportunity and attacks new leads
- Stage 3: You continue to optimization both on-site and off-site
- Stage 4: More leads gush into the system. Client still happy, but beginning to notice leads not closing. Ramps up SEO and SEM efforts
- Stage 5: Continued Optimization with new SEM opportunities
- Stage 6: Even more leads. Client now seeing more and more leads not closing. Questions your quality of leads. More money into SEO and SEM efforts And you can see how it continues on and on this way. Until the moment you ask them about their sales process. Clearly this isn’t the realm of the SEO or SEM, but the data doesn’t lie.
JIT (Just In Time) Leads
Your analytics data doesn’t fib. Your SEO and SEM efforts have resulted in tremendous growth. And, for months you’ve only heard how the leads aren’t great. Granted, spam is spam, and you’ll never get rid of it all, but the targeting and optimization in place all but guarantees fairly qualified leads. Once you pop the question about your client’s sales process you might discover that it’s not a question of quality, but a question of pipeline management.
You might discover, the reason they don’t see any benefit is because their leads are dead the moment a potential consumer hits “submit”. The backlog of leads continues to pile up, and no matter the workforce you throw at it, you won’t qualify them in a timely manner.
Biting Off What You Can Chew
No one wants to hear it. No one is going to like hearing it, from a SEO/SEM side and client side, but it has to be said. If you can’t keep up with leads, if you can field them and service them in timely manner, then you need to get less leads. *GASP* And, if you need to restrict lead-flow, then you need to spend less money on acquiring leads.
More Profitability, Less Leads
What’s that mean? Exactly what you think it means. Stop spending more money on SEO/SEM to pile more into an already overworked lead pipeline. Maintain or get less leads than you already have, service those leads, create more profitability. Grow in measured steps; change is a violent endeavor and it never comes cheap.
A JIT Solution
It’s manufacturing term, but it certainly applies here. Just In Time. I always ask my clients about the sales process, something I’ve learned over the years of being completely dumbfounded when I keep bringing stellar results to the table.
Bursting a lead-pipeline isn’t great thing; it’s completely detrimental to the client relationship. Sometimes, there is too much of a good thing.
Great post, Tony! Really calls out the necessity to communicate to the client early on, the need to service the leads quickly. I’m betting most sales types will get their nose bent out of shape at hearing it, though.
At a company I worked with, the Sales VP instituted a policy of LIFO (last in, first out) for leads, for one section of his group. Seemed to work well for them. Conversions went up along with traffic.
What a timely article. I’m part of a lead generation team in the company, and it’s always lead volume and lead quality that’s on the firing line. Lead volume target for this year has increased to 100%, yet conversions are in a flat line.
How I wish I could present this article to the people up above the ladder.
What about an alternative situation where the SEO/SEM team changes both the PPC campaign and landing page to do more lead qualification — have fewer leads, but more valuable leads? Or does this article assume that has been done as much as possible already?
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