How do you measure your marketing performance and cost? Do you set a total budget for marketing and spend accordingly in ads, print and more? Do you just feel it out and if things look like they're working, let it go? Or do you change the subject when someone brings up marketing your company? Either way, if you're not budgeting for leads, you're very likely measuring your marketing inefficiently, if at all.
Using leads as a unit of measurement is the best way to track your marketing performance.
First off, let's define a lead, as different business types have different products or services that can be measured. If you sell a product online, a lead (as it pertains to this article) would be a qualified visit to your website, before the sale is made. If you sell services, it gets a little more difficult to determine the cost of a lead - but a lead is a customer contact brought to you by a marketing piece, before it gets turned over to your salesperson. If you own a retail store, it's more difficult to track, but consider store visits, along with website hits and phone calls as leads. Basically, we're calling a lead a potential sale, before it hits the sales stage, as the effectiveness of a marketing piece can't include the effectiveness of your sales staff, retail store, or website.
Why is breaking down marketing cost and return by leads more effective than simple dollars and cents? You can separate your marketing from your sales, and better identify successes and failures in each. I've heard quite a bit about how poor an advertisement is performing, when it's a killer ad and generates a lot of phone calls or online submissions. "The leads aren't good leads," they say, when really, the sales staff or the product itself is at the core of the problem. But the company doesn't see the total dollars coming in increase in proportion to the cost of the new website or ad, so the marketing gets the blame. Or conversely, they'll run an advertisement and see total sales increase, when really, the source of the increase is seasonal, reputation, or some other form of marketing or general increase in demand.
How do you track leads?
Another problem I run into is that people don't, or don't know how to, track leads effectively. With a website, it's easy to track the leads coming in because they're often stored in a database. But even then, the source of the lead gets pretty tricky to track. With phone calls, it's often difficult to figure out the reason the person is calling without directly asking them. So here are a few ideas on tracking where the leads come from:
- Always make sure to have Google Analytics set up to thoroughly track your web traffic and sources.
- Even then, due to privacy concerns, GA will identify a majority of your incoming traffic as "Direct," so create unique landing pages for each advertisement or promotion and track landing page visits.
- Put a custom tag onto all advertising links to your site (AdWords or third party ads).
- Make sure all ads have a unique call tracking number. There are several services that offer this, or even using something like Google Voice to create new numbers can be effective.
- Don't be afraid to ask your customers what compelled them to call you.
- Again, don't be afraid to ask your customers how they heard about you and keep track.
- Actually count your daily traffic and compare days with no marketing to days after your ads are published.
After capturing the data, you'll have to track and analyze it to really get an overall view of marketing performance. There are quite a few programs, called CRM systems (customer relation management) that you can use to track leads, contacts, sales and more. While you can get overwhelmed with the idea of utilizing one, a CRM can be make a big difference in business tracking and decision-making. Here's an article over at Forbes on choosing the right one. Quite a few of them are quite excellent; the most important thing is not which CRM is best, but which one is the best fit for your business.
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So... how much is one lead worth?
Now that we've decided that tracking marketing by leads is important, how do we attribute value to a lead? At the end of the day, an ad or website needs to generate actual dollars. It can get a little bit complicated to properly valuate a lead, but let's come up with a simple formula for someone selling a service:
- 100 leads come in over the course of the month from various sources.
- Out of those 100 leads, 35 of them booked actual work - that's a 35% conversion rate.
- Each job pays, on average, $500.
- The salesperson makes a 10% commission.
So, each lead is worth, following a formula of:
Lead Worth = (Average Job * Conversion Rate) * (1 - Commission Rate)
In our example, this gives us:
Lead Worth = (500 * 0.35) * (1 - 0.10) = (175) * (0.9) = 157.50
So in our hypothetical scenario, we come up with an average lead worth of $157.50 - each phone call or web submission is worth that much, regardless of whether or not it converts. Using this formula, you can also see how the ability of your sales staff directly affects your bottom line. If your conversion rate is lower than industry average, you're directly affecting the effectiveness of your marketing. In this example, if the conversion rate had been 40% instead of 35%, each lead would have been worth $180.
So, if our example company ran an ad in a magazine (here's a post I wrote on whether or not you should advertise in magazines) at the cost of $3,000 and it brought in 10 total leads, you can easily determine whether or not the magazine was worth the money. At a cost of $3,000, our example company makes only $1,575 - they made back just over half of the money they spent, a pretty sizable loss on the investment.
If they built a website for $5,000, and over the course of a year got 200 leads from it, then you can see how much of a ROI ($31,500 in sales from that $5,000 expenditure, or a $26,500 gain) they got.
This is a simplified formula, but you can easily modify it to include the cost of running a lead - add in numbers for the employee time managing the website or answering the telephones and deduct that from the value (assuming you otherwise wouldn't be paying for that time). For instance, if you build a website and now have a monthly cost to maintain it that you didn't have before, or you have to hire a part time associate to answer telephones that you didn't have before you began advertising.
So, instead of setting your marketing budget based on a total dollar volume or just a general feel of things, take the time to calculate the value of each lead, and run your marketing based on the number of leads and return on investment. You might find ways that you are wasting money, and ways where you could invest more to receive an even bigger return.
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