This is the second post in a two-part series.

My first post on Cost Per Lead Advertising discussed the first five steps in a simple 10-step process that can make Cost Per Lead advertising a highly effective and scalable channel for new customer acquisition.

This installment will cover the remaining five steps, which elevate the process from data enhancement activities to rigorous business intelligence.

Before we tackle the final five, let’s review all 10 of the steps that ensure success when buying and processing internet leads:

  1. Real-time data capture
  2. De-duplication
  3. Lead validation
  4. Lead certification
  5. Lead verification
  6. Lead enhancement
  7. Confirmation emails
  8. Lead distribution/delivery
  9. Lead returns (negative feedback loop)
  10. Conversion tracking (positive feedback loop)

Follow Up, Follow Through

6. Lead Enhancement:  Append and/or score the leads
After verifying the lead data is real, you may want to append additional information about the lead or score the lead based on its propensity to become a customer. There are a variety of services available to enhance the value of a lead through additional information. For example, using just an email address there are services that will allow you to append information like age, gender, location, household income, marital status, home ownership, etc. This information can be used to reject a lead if it doesn’t meet your criteria, prioritize it in your sales queue, or to route it to different locations.

7. Confirm user interest with a real-time auto-responder email
After submitting a web form requesting contact, consumers expect a real-time auto-responder email confirming their request. For the auto-responder, you need to track the number of emails delivered and opened. You’ll also want to track bounces, unsubscribes and spam complaints.

This is a critical part of the lead acquisition process because it provides multiple functions:

  • It is another touch point for sales. Include a phone number in the email to give the consumer the opportunity to make an inbound call or a link to purchase a product.
  • If the confirmation email bounces, marks as spam or immediately unsubscribes, you should be able to return these leads to your vendor for financial credit.
  • The performance metrics of the auto-responder email are a good indicator for tracking the performance of your lead sources. All metrics should be broken out by lead source.

8. Deliver lead data into your company database
If you are making outbound calls to your leads, immediately send their data into your sales application to initiate calls. The application that captures and stores the lead in this step could be a salesforce automation application, call center application, or CRM application.

Speed to contact is critical. Calls should be made within the first 5 minutes of lead capture (see MIT study from step 1 above). If you aren’t making outbound calls, we recommend waiting 24 hours after the auto-responder email is sent before adding the lead in your internal database. This provides the opportunity to return any leads that are rejected as a result of the auto-responder email before adding them to your prospect database.

9. Return bad leads
Returns are a critical step that many lead buyers simply fail to implement. No matter how many automated checks you add to your process, at least a few bad leads will still slip through. The only way to find out is to actually contact the consumer.

For example, if a person completes a web form with someone else’s information and that information was completely accurate, the lead could make it through all the steps above. Therefore, you must have a return process.

Lead vendors usually try to limit their financial risk by contractually limiting the number of leads a buyer may return. They call this a scrub cap. Vendors have been forced to require scrub caps because most lead buyers don’t return leads on a timely basis. Scrub caps are a poor solution to this problem. Would you shop at a store that said you could only return 10% of the product if it is bad? The key to addressing vendor concerns is to agree to return bad leads within a relatively short time frame (7 days after receipt) and with a detailed return reason for each lead. This allows them to manage their risk while still giving you the opportunity to get credit for bad leads. For this to work, you need to automate your returns process.

10. Track conversions against media spend to optimize campaign
After returning bad leads and getting financial credit from lead vendors, you have a real view of your media spend by vendor.  Now you need to compare this media spend to the results of the campaign.

Tracking the cost per conversion by lead source provides the information needed to optimize the campaign. Optimizing means eliminating non-performing sources, renegotiating lead prices with underperforming sources and raising prices for the highest performing sources.

Proactively increase lead prices? Many lead buyers might ask why they should increase payouts. It seems counter-intuitive. However, in CPL advertising if you can justify a higher price per lead this will typically allow the source to expand their marketing efforts and generate more volume.

A note of caution: When eliminating a lead source, the source will often try to submit leads through one of your active vendors. There is a lot of brokering of leads happening behind the scenes with lead vendors. To prevent this, track the actual source of the leads. This can only be reliably done through independent lead certification (see step 4).

Putting It Together
With a solid lead acquisition process as outlined above, you can test a variety of lead vendors to find the right mix for your custom rules-based lead flow without wasting money on media. The key to implementing a process flow is technology.

For the vast majority of lead buyers, available pre-built solutions have proven to be more effective and less costly than trying to devise and implement an in-house platform.

The ActiveProspect platform easily implements the model CPL process flow discussed here. But no matter what technology you choose, it is worth investigating third-party solutions in the market before initiating internal development.

To learn more about our solutions and how you can create a custom process flow for your Cost Per Lead advertising channel, send us a message or call us at 888.624.4159.