Our data driven world is enabling marketing and sales teams to develop strategies based on metrics and statistics. While this new metric-driven approach is undoubtedly beneficial, the sheer amount of available statistics can be overwhelming.

But, within the context of these metrics, businesses can determine the amount of time it takes to turn a prospect into a paying customer, what we like to call the “Prospect Duration”. This number will vary from business to business, but it’s important for each business to understand their number, and to strive for improvement.

Why Prospect Duration Is Important

There are few things more valuable than time.Knowing the length of time your typical customer spends on your product’s buyer journey is mutually beneficial for both you and your prospects.

Why? Understanding your Prospect Duration enables you to refine your sales automation around a metric driven exclusively by actual customers. Metrics like overall conversion percentage, while worth monitoring, includes many prospects who will never become customers. This can distract you from improving your actual buyer journey.

How to Compute Prospect Duration

Every business is unique, and it’s important to compute this percentage in a way that is accurate, fair, and simple.

The on-boarding process for my company’s product contains several steps. Our customers first experience a learning curve since we offer a niche service. Next, there is work and time involved in setting up an account and writing of ad copy. Lastly, there is our pay-wall. We offer a free trial, but we do require the entering of credit card details.

Here’s the formula we use: prospect duration formulaSegment this metric month-by-month to see how you are improving. Keep in mind the most recent months will be lower by default. You may also want to utilize the median as a factor, as it lowers the volatility caused by an older prospect converting and throwing numbers off. The key is to have a metric that is easy and accurate, so that you can monitor and benchmark improvement goals.

It’s also very important that the genesis of each prospect is consistent. When nurturing leads, you may want to expose potential customers to varying landing pages and/or personalized experiences. This is great practice and its importance should not be discounted. However, when measuring Prospect Duration, it is important that all “leads” are becoming “prospects” at the same point in their customer journey.

What’s a Good Number?

That’s easy; a lower number than what you have right now! Your Prospect Duration, no matter how you compute it, should be trending down as you advance your nurturing strategies.

The average length of time it takes a LeadServe prospect to become a paying customer is 25 days. The median length of time is slightly lower at around 17 days.

What does this tell me about our customers’ buyer journey? Should I be concerned about this, or happy?

A longer prospect duration indicates a product with a steep learning curve and/or a potentially time consuming onboarding process. While neither scenario is ideal, they may be a necessary evil of offering your particular product.

Tennis great Arthur Ashe wrote, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” The same is true for improving your Prospect Duration. Your work will never be done, the number with never be zero, and you will never run out of challenges. Don’t focus on where you are, focus on how to improve.

Getting Started With Lead Duration

Start at the top of your funnel. In other words, focus on the aspects of your buyer journey that affect the most accounts. Take a look at the diagram below.

prospect duration funnelThe funnel cloud on the right is much larger than the one on the left. However, if you look closely you’ll notice that only the top two funnel layers have been expanded. The bottom two are the exact same size. This exemplifies the impact of making improvements to the top of your funnel. If you needed to land a shot, you’d much rather throw the proverbial ball at the second funnel.

An example of a top-of-funnel improvement would be an improvement to the UI on your payment page (a step that everyone must complete). An example of a bottom-of-funnel improvement might be enhancements to international targeting features, a requirement for only a small portion of our customer base. You should never write-off a bottom of funnel improvement, but weight it accordingly.

Conversion rates will probably never stop being important, worthwhile numbers to track. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have complimentary metrics that help paint an even clearer picture. Prospect Duration isn’t a perfect science, but it helps keep pulse on the average length of time a customer spends as a lead in the funnel—something conversion rates alone can’t provide insight on.