Lead Gen. CPA. CPL. Per Inquiry. Performance marketing. Affiliate marketing. Co-Reg. These are all terms that describe pay-for-performance marketing relationships—where you pay third party companies for each lead they send you. They drive significant volume for call centers and other direct marketers, but more often than not, you end up paying for leads that don’t convert well. Why?

At Response Mine Interactive (RMI), we’ve identified six of the most common mistakes marketers make that kill online sales.  We’ll tell you how to avoid these mistakes—and show you how to turn your lead generation efforts into powerful customer acquisition channels.

Mistake #1:  Falling into the “Cost Per Lead” Trap

Whether you’re planning your lead generation strategy or analyzing campaign results, strike “cost per lead” from your vocabulary. The metric you want to focus on is cost per acquired customer. Your real goal should be to win a profitable customer at the lowest possible cost.

To achieve this, clearly define what a lead is and set the price you’re willing to pay for it according to how deep in the conversion funnel it is. Keep in mind that leads from different sources convert at different rates. Setting up a program to generate profitable leads begins with a close look at your business model. What are the telltale qualifiers for your best prospects? What are your close ratios? Expect to pay more for better or deeper leads.

Mistake #2:  Wasting Traffic with Poor Conversion

Have you ever listened to a group of marketers talk about their websites? The misguided brag about traffic to the site; the savvy ones talk about what happens to their traffic. The point is, generating traffic is the easy part. The hard part is the rate at which you convert traffic to qualified leads or sales. Improving your site conversion is the most important lever you can pull to increase customers.  Here are a few tips to boost your conversion rates:

  • Understand the intent of your traffic
  • Identify a different process and offers for less qualified prospects that are still in the research stages
  • Invest in well designed landing pages
  • Allow visitors to convert on their own terms either by calling or using a registration form

Mistake #3:  Failing to Use Content to Pre-Qualify the Person

What’s the best front-end way to qualify leads? “Use landing pages with a series of qualifying questions to ‘score’ each respondent,” many would say. And they would be half correct. A well-conceived registration form can certainly be a great qualifier. But putting the right content in the right places so that prospects can self-select is often more effective. By responding to relevant, compelling content, prospects qualify themselves.

Mistake #4:  Forcing the Form

Time is your worst enemy in lead conversion. An inquiry is more likely to convert if he or she calls a toll-free number instead of completing a registration form, simply because he or she is in the mood to shop now. Yet we know that many marketers rely on elaborate forms to snare prospects. RMI’s advice: Make the online form registration secondary. Encourage people to call if you can. Your chances of converting are much better with a trained human being talking to an interested human being. If you can, put the phone number to your call center or other fulfillment service “above the fold” and put the forms below the fold.

If you do use a registration form instead of, or in addition to, a toll-free phone number, it’s okay to ask a few qualifying questions. But let the offer and the value proposition carry most of the qualification load and you will get better leads. A form with too many fields to complete is frustrating to the user and is the main reason for high abandonment rates.

Mistake #5:  Stopping After Becoming #1

Many companies believe that achieving a number one ranking for their most popular keywords is the be-all and end-all of digital marketing. But why stop there? While number one rankings are great, the real goal is to acquire new customers. Consider implementing an organic SEO campaign to augment your pay-per-strategies. One strategy is to create content rich sites that are specifically developed to be more informative than a typical corporate site. In this case, these additional sites help drive more total traffic than the high ranking site can do on its own.

Mistake #6:  Failing to Invest in Testing

You’ve paid to develop a great website and great content. You’ve paid for SEO, keywords and performance-based media buys. So you’ve used your budget wisely, right? Well, did you allocate funds for a significant amount of testing? A little testing won’t get the job done. But an ongoing program of testing will.

Test. Test. Test. And then test some more. Have a continuous process for testing everything, with emphasis on segmenting your tests and learning as much as you can for each customer segment, offer segment, list source segment and all of the other building blocks of your digital campaign. Track and measure everything in the lead generation cycle such as:  referring domains, keywords, content, offers and sub-offers, landing page design, and registration forms. A smart testing program will produce a stream of incremental increases in the conversion rate and will have a cascading impact of success over time.

There you have it, the six most common mistakes advanced marketers make in lead generation. Those that can avoid these six mistakes and effectively draw, capture and convert online leads will thrive over those that can’t manage the opportunities, risks and details involved in Internet marketing. The rewards of the Internet channel are substantial, so capitalize on the opportunity to effectively sell your products and services online.

Author:  Ken Robbins, Response Mine Interactive