Leads from PPC have you questioning the value of your investment?
Recently Search Engine Journal columnist Brooke Osmundson wrote an outstanding tutorial 5 Common Reasons PPC Leads May Not be Converting (to Closed Sales).
For this article, I’d like to dive a little deeper and potentially expand on a few of her thoughts.
Below are three additional considerations to keep in mind when thinking about leads and why they may not be converting to sales.
1. The Type of Lead Conversion Matters – They Are Not Equal
In other news, water is wet.
This point sounds obvious, right?
Well, there’s a very naive mindset some B2B organizations still cling to that all leads should be ready to immediately be put into the sales pipeline in order to be valid.
Otherwise, the program’s just a waste.
That path goes something like this:
In my experience, the example above may only work exactly like that linear path scenario when someone has already made up their mind they’re going to buy from you.
In that case, your sales department really isn’t “selling,” they’re basically functioning as a glorified “order taker.”
OK, maybe that’s harsh and reality isn’t quite that extreme.
But the brutal truth is that conversion asset (industry report, whitepaper, case study, webinar signup, etc.) may only lead to a near term sales opportunity if someone has already done the research, made the comparisons, received a recommendation, seen you at a trade show, etc.
Think about the possible conversion points you have in a B2B PPC program.
Some of them may include:
- Whitepaper (ever popular and a long time staple).
- Industry report.
- Benchmark study.
- Case study.
- Demo signup.
- Calendar appointment.
- Webinar signup.
- Lead form.
- Phone call.
- Chat Session.
To state the obvious, there should not be an expectation of a near-term sales pipeline opportunity for each and every one of these conversions.
Some of them, yes – a conversion would certainly indicate a high readiness to buy (phone call, calendar appointment, lead form)!
Most of them, no – you’re probably expecting too much too soon in the process.
See the next point directly below.
2. Not Understanding the Difference Between ‘Sales Qualified Lead’ Versus ‘Marketing Qualified Lead’
And there’s a huge difference, but when teams are reviewing PPC performance this is often not acknowledged.
Simply put, the “Sales Qualified Lead” (SQL) is highly likely to be making some kind of purchase decision in the near term.
- Understands the status quo.
- Knows it must change.
- Is actively exploring the options.
- Has intent to make a decision.
By contrast, a “Marketing Qualified Lead” (MQL) is just looking.
Maybe they’re curious.
Maybe they’re dreaming.
Perhaps they’re in a very early research stage and “don’t know what they don’t know.”
There could be any number of applicable descriptions for them, but two things are certain:
- They have no business being added to a sales pipeline.
- The sales team will quickly become frustrated with the leads you send over.
The difference between “Sales Qualified” and “Marketing Qualified” ties directly with the first point about all lead conversions not being equal.
It’s OK that they aren’t equal.
In fact, they shouldn’t be.
Under no circumstances should you treat a “Sales Qualified Lead” the same as a “Marketing Qualified Lead.”
Nor should you expect those leads to respond to a sales push in the same manner.
Reflect SQLs vs. MQLs in Your Reports
Reporting should be set up to reflect “Sales Qualified Leads” versus “Marketing Qualified Leads.”
Track Your Leads Over Time
Track marketing qualified leads over time and see how many eventually mature to sales qualified.
Be forewarned – it can take a while (or it may be super quick!).
Add Marketing Qualified Leads to a Remarketing List
Depending on the volume, marketing qualified leads should be added to a remarketing list.
That remarketing campaign should be designed to provide value to the lead, not hit them over the head with an immediate sales pitch.
Adjust Your CPL Goals
Cost Per Lead (CPL) goals should vary based on whether it’s a “Marketing Qualified” or “Sales Qualified” lead.
I won’t tell you how to run your business.
But if you’re like most, you’re willing to pay more for a lead that’s ready to go into your sales pipeline versus one that should only get emails for now.
Go Through Your Own (& Your Competitors’) Marketing Automation Experience as a Prospect Would
Most PPC managers don’t have a solid understanding of what the post site conversion experience looks like for a prospect.
You need to understand it.
Do the same (go through the marketing automation experience) with competing or complementary solutions within your space.
3. Lack of Self-Qualification by the Potential Lead
This might be better worded as “lack of opportunity for the potential lead to self-qualify themselves.”
Brooke touched on the issue of “budget being the main issue” in point #3 of her post and that is often a key driver in determining whether or not someone is a qualified lead.
This happens in:
- B2B Software & technology: SMB budget, but filled out a lead form for an Enterprise solution.
- Luxury Senior Living: Just using the word “luxury” in the ad and landing page without having language like “rents from $XXXX /month” will not help a prospect “self-qualify” themselves and you may end up talking to prospects who cannot afford it.
- Professional services: For example, you’re a financial planning firm that only works with estates valued at $1 million or more, but you aren’t clear about that so you get a lot of leads who aren’t qualified.
Other reasons a potential lead may not be qualified include:
- Compliance or regulatory challenges.
- Incompatible technology solutions (in the case of B2B software & tech).
- What the prospect thought you were offering isn’t actually what you’re offering.
- They’re just not qualified – today. That doesn’t mean their circumstances won’t one day change.
What’s that, you counter?
Audience targeting is the silver bullet solution PPC Marketers have been waiting for and that eliminates the need for any prospect to self-qualify themselves?
While I’m in full agreement that advanced audience targeting mechanisms are a welcome addition to the world of PPC, sometimes you’re still going to reach unqualified prospects with your ads.
Housing walks a fine line with regard to targeting options and sometimes ad approvals.
Your rental units may be priced for high-income earners, but laws (good laws, by the way) exist against housing discrimination so Google Ads, for example, restricts targeting capabilities.
In the B2B world, a lead from an “enterprise organization” doesn’t necessarily mean an “enterprise-level budget.”
If you’ve never worked in that sort of company or with that type of client, you might be surprised how tiny their budgets can be sometimes.
If your targeted audience size is too small, the ad platform may not show it so you’re forced to find ways to expand it just to get the ads to show.
Leverage Custom & Lookalike Audiences
They are your friends.
Cast a Wider Net
There may be times when you must cast a wider net to ensure you capture anything at all.
Remember, if the lead is unqualified for a near term sales opportunity, is that still the case for marketing?
Consider casting that wider net at the top of the funnel and follow up with a remarketing/retargeting strategy to further qualify that lead.
Try to Put Yourself in the Mind of Your Prospect
What additional info would you need (in the ad, landing page, call to action, etc.) to be able to determine for yourself if the potential solution “might” even be a fit.
As a PPC Manager, it’s not necessarily your job to solve all the issues outlined above (especially if you’re in a larger organization with a full marketing department).
However, that also doesn’t let you off the hook.
You need to have a seat at the table to understand the whole end-to-end process from lead to closed sale.
You’ll find that better informs your PPC strategy.
Work with the stakeholders in your organization to clearly define what is a “sales qualified lead” vs. a “marketing qualified lead.”
And then build your campaigns around that framework.
It will change the way you do business.
In the lead gen world, don’t fall into the trap of equating sales to marketing and vice versa.
They are not the same.
Marketing’s job is to set up sales so they can close the deal.
Remember that and build your programs accordingly.