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Lead Generation: 5 steps for managing cost and quality of leads

July 19th, 2012
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Organizations target quality, but they don’t pay for it. That is one of the latest discoveries from the MarketingSherpa 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report (free 10-page excerpt at this link). Let’s take a look …

 

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“In the past, it may have been acceptable to assume that if an organization can lower their upfront cost-per-lead, they will also increase lead generation, improve ROI and drive revenue,” said Jen Doyle, Senior Research Manager, MECLABS.

“This makes sense when calculated on a spreadsheet, but when rolled out in an evolved marketplace with an empowered buyer, it’s going to take a lot more than simply lowering the cost-per-lead to achieve the goals of today’s CMO.”

So how can you balance cost and quality of leads?

  Read more…

Lead Generation: A closer look at a B2B company’s cost-per-lead and prospect generation

July 14th, 2011
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Update: All MarketingSherpa newsletter articles are now permanently open access.

 

Several weeks ago I had the chance to speak with Jon Miller, Marketo‘s Vice President, Marketing, and co-founder of the company. Our talk was extensive and covered Marketo’s entire marketing process and philosophy, and the main result was a MarketingSherpa B2B newsletter case study (members library).

Even though the story was extremely in-depth and revealing in covering the marketing automation company’s practices — so much so that when my editor tweeted the story he wrote, “#B2B Marketing Strategy: Revenue-oriented approach leads to 700% two-year growth http://j.mp/lWT7PS @jonmiller2 opens up the kimono” — not everything Jon and I discussed made it into the case study.

One result of the extra material I have on hand was a popular MarketingExperiments blog post on testing form field length, and a second result is today’s SherpaBlog post going into more detail about Marketo’s cost-per-lead across its prospect generation efforts.

It’s a prospect, not a lead

Even though “lead generation” and “cost-per-lead” are something of industry terms of art, Jon explained to me that Marketo has a rigorous naming system for its eight-stage buying cycle, or what it calls a “revenue cycle:”

1. Awareness

2. Names

3. Engaged

4. Prospect

5. Lead

6. Sales lead

7. Opportunity

8. Customer

For someone to move from “engaged” to “prospect,” they must visit Marketo’s website and either fill out a form or download content. At this point they undergo demographic lead scoring. Using this scoring, Jon says a prospect is, “the right kind of person at the right company.”

Marketo defines a “lead” how most companies might identify a marketing-qualified lead, so at Marketo “prospects” are in effect its traditionally defined leads. Confused yet?

This chart takes a look at Marketo’s prospect generation metrics for the last two quarters of 2010. You will notice above the line are efforts Jon pays some marginal cost for and each includes its cost-per-lead. Below the line are Marketo’s non-marginal-cost inbound marketing efforts.

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Virtual beats traditional in trade shows

Virtual trade shows stand out in this list because they create the most prospects at the lowest cost-per-lead. In fact, the figure on the far right of this chart, lead-to-opportunity index, is calibrated to the virtual trade show statistics.

“For us, virtual trade shows work great,” Jon says. “You get the database really cheap and they become leads, too.”

He adds that pay-per-click advertising has a fairly high cost-per-lead, but they also convert to opportunities at a high level at the highest velocity (in terms of least days), and they almost double the closest conversion-to-lead figure. It is worth it to Marketo to spend the extra cost-per-lead money on PPC ads.

The worst overall performing tactic on the chart is the traditional trade show. These events have the highest cost-per-lead by a long shot and don’t offer a strong conversion-to-lead number, and the strong lead-to-opportunity conversion ratio doesn’t offset the weaker stats.

Based on this information from last year, Jon told me he plans on cutting back on traditional trade shows this year and is spending that money on traveling to captive event road shows.

Inbound rising …

One very interesting aspect of Marketo’s prospect generation chart is the performance of its non-marginal cost inbound marketing tactics. Across the board they meet, and often greatly exceed, the baseline lead-to-opportunity index. Velocity and conversion-to-lead also compare very favorably for most tactics.

And the cost-per-lead for these inbound efforts? Effectively zero.

What lead generation tactics do you find successful? Do you track the success rate and bottom-line impact of your inbound efforts? Let us, and your peers, know what you think in the comments section.

Related resources

Lead Gen Overhaul: 4 Strategies to Boost Response Rates, Reduce Cost-per-Lead

Custom Landing Pages for PPC: 4 Steps to 88% More Leads, Lower Costs

Lead Generation: How to get funding to improve your lead gen

Social Media Marketing: You value (and earn ROI on) what you pay for

Lead Marketing: Cost-per-lead and lead nurturing ROI

Search Engine Marketing: Finding appeal for your PPC Ads

Social Media Marketing Research: Rolling up my sleeves and getting social

Lead Marketing: Cost-per-lead and lead nurturing ROI

May 6th, 2011
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Over the last two weeks I’ve covered a number of angles on lead nurturing. Last week’s Sherpa B2B newsletter took a look at five lead nurturing tactics, and yesterday’s blog post was on why you should consider nurturing leads lost to competitors along with tips on how to do just that.

Today, MECLABS’ Executive Director of Applied Research (Full disclosure: MECLABS is the parent company of MarketingSherpa), Brian Carroll provides insight on how to look at both cost-per-lead generated in terms of lead nurturing and measuring the success of a lead nurturing program through return-on-investment (ROI).

Cost-per-lead is the wrong metric

Although many marketers are interested in the cost-per-lead number, Carroll says this is the wrong metric to focus on. He explains by saying if a lead is generated at a low cost, but never contributes to the sales pipeline, it is a wasted expense. Great cost-per-lead number, but terrible (non) contributor to the bottom line.

Carroll believes two metrics that are better measures across the entire process are cost-per-opportunity and cost-per-pipeline revenue. Cost-per-opportunity helps you understand how Sales accepts and pursues leads, and in the long run that metric shows if those leads are actually helping Sales, and if Marketing is contributing to the pipeline.

He says to take a look at your entire marketing expense-to-revenue, and then contrast that number to expense-to-revenue after implementing lead nurturing.  He adds lead-to-sale conversion rate is the most important metric in the entire process.

Carroll states, “We have examples of nurturing programs returning a ten-times return for every dollar spent, and we had other examples of nurturing programs where it is a fifty-times return for every dollar spent, meaning for every dollar that we put towards an existing lead, we are generating $50 of top line revenue.”

Here is a list of metrics and indicators from one of Carroll’s blog posts:

These are real-world metrics that every marketer should track in their lead generation program:

  • Number of inquiries? (people who raised their hands)
  • Number of leads? (qualified as “sales-ready”)
  • Number of opportunities? (leads that move to pipeline)
  • Number of closed sales? (generated from marketing leads)

If marketers know those metrics they can start to track the following key performance indicators:

  • Inquiry to lead ratio (cost-per-lead)
  • Lead to opportunity ratio (cost-per-opportunity)
  • Lead to pipeline revenue ratio (cost-per-pipeline revenue)
  • Lead to sale (win) ratio (cost-per-closed sale)

A value-driven mindset requires leaders and marketers to plan and budget for the long term and to take a more holistic view that goes beyond cost-per-lead budgets.

Using ROI to measure lead nurturing success

Carroll began this conversation by describing lead nurturing investment. He gives an example that if you plan on spending $100,000 on a new lead program, $25,000 of that investment should be allocated to lead nurturing. Lead nurturing should command about 25 percent of a lead campaign’s budget.

When looking at ROI goals for lead nurturing, he believes you first look at the objective of the lead generation program — ten times, 20 times  return or whatever goal you set — and use that goal as a starting point for the lead nurturing goal.

He adds what companies generate from a lead nurturing program is going to be affected by a number of factors:

  • The product sold
  • The brand
  • The value proposition
  • The offer
  • The ability of Sales to convert leads into revenue

It’s also important to remember nurturing programs take longer to provide a return because a typical lead nurturing program involves multiple touches over a period of time, but marketers can point to building momentum toward final conversion as a positive result of nurturing.

Carroll says, “I documented a case study of someone seeing a four million dollar lead nurturing pipeline impact in year one, and that same company, the following year, with the same budget from that same lead nurturing program saw a fourteen million dollar pipeline impact because returns on nurturing over time grew to be exponential.”

A lead nurturing analogy

To complete all this talk about lead nurturing, here’s an analogy from Carroll:

I worked on a farm growing up and the farmer said, “You don’t pick your corn to check if it is growing. You have to nurture it. It needs sun, it needs water, it needs good soil to provide a yield.” And the same is true in these relationships that we are building as well.

Related Resources

No Budget and Less Time? Lead Nurturing in Five Simple Steps

Are Marketers Measuring Their Success or Someone Else’s?

Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges

(Members library) Lead Gen Overhaul: 4 Strategies to Boost Response Rates, Reduce Cost-per-Lead