Ruth Burr Reedy is an SEO and online marketing consultant and speaker and the Vice President of Strategy at UpBuild, a specialized marketing agency specializing in SEO, web analytics, and conversion rate optimization. This is actually the first post in a recurring monthly series and we’re excited!
When you’re onboarding a new SEO client who works together a lead generation model, what can you do?
Among the countless discovery questions you ask as you try to raised understand your client’s business, you probably inquire further, “What makes a lead a great lead?” That’s, what’re the qualities that produce a potential consumer prone to convert to sale?
A company that’s given some thought to their ideal customer might send over some audience personas; they might talk about their audience in more general terms. A product or service offering might be considered a better fit for companies of a particular size or budget, or be at a high price point that needs someone at a senior level (such as a Director, VP, or C-level employee) to sign off, and your client will likely pass that informative data on for your requirements when they know it. However, it’s not uncommon for these kinds of onboarding conversations to end with the client assuring you: “Just get us the leads. We’ll make the sales.”
Since SEO agencies often don’t have access to the clients’CRM systems, we’re often using conversion to lead as a core KPI when measuring the success of our campaigns. We realize enough to know that it’s insufficient to drive traffic to a niche site; that traffic must convert to become valuable. Armed with this clients’assurances that what they really need is more leads, we dive into understanding the kinds of problems that our client’s product is made to solve, the kinds of people who may have those problems, and the kinds of resources they might seek out while they tend to fix those problems. Pretty soon, we’ve fixed the technical problems on our client’s site, helped them create and promote robust resources around their customers’problems, and are watching the traffic and conversions pour in. Feels pretty good, right?
Unfortunately, this really is usually the point in a B2B engagement where in fact the wheels start to come off the bus. Taking a look at the client’s analytics, everything seems great — traffic is up, conversions are also up, your website is rocking and rolling. Talk to the client, though, and you’ll often see that they’re not happy.
“Leads are up, but sales aren’t,” they might say, or “yes, we’re getting more leads, but they’re the incorrect leads.” You may even hear that the sales team hates getting leads from SEO, because they don’t convert to sale, or when they do, limited to small-dollar deals.
Now, nobody could blame you for becoming frustrated along with your client. After all, they specifically said that all they cared about was getting more leads — why aren’t they happy? Particularly when you’re making the phone ring off the hook?
A vital to client retention only at that stage is to know things from your client’s perspective — and particularly, from their sales team’s perspective. The important thing to consider is that when your client told you they wanted to target on lead volume, they weren’t lying for your requirements; it’s only that their needs have changed since having that conversation.
Chances are, your brand-new B2B client didn’t search for your services because everything was going perfect for them. Whenever a lead gen company seeks out a new marketing partner, it’s typically because they don’t have enough leads within their pipeline. “Hungry for leads” isn’t a scenario any sales team wants to stay: every minute they spend sitting around, looking forward to leads to come in is just a minute they’re not spending meeting their sales and revenue targets. This really is stressful, and might even mean their jobs have reached stake. So, when they brought you on, is it any wonder their first order of business was “just get us the leads?” Any lead is preferable to no lead at all.
Now, however, you’ve got a good little flywheel running, bringing new results in the sales team’s inbox most of the livelong day, and the team features a whole new problem: conversing with leads which they perceive as a waste of the time.
An alternative sort of lead
Lead-gen SEO is often a top-of-funnel play. Up to the stage when the client brought you on, the leads arriving were likely mostly from branded and direct traffic — they’re people who already know just something about the business, and are nearer to being willing to buy. They’re already toward the center of the sales funnel before they even speak with a salesperson.
SEO, especially for a company with any kind of established brand, is often about driving awareness and discovery. The people who already know just about the business know getting in touch when they’re ready to buy; SEO is made to get the business before people who may not already know just this solution to their problems exists, and hopefully sell it to them.
A fledgling SEO campaign should generate more leads, but it also often means a diminished percentage of good leads. It’s common to see conversion rates, both from session to lead and from lead to sale, go down during awareness-building marketing. The bet you’re making here’s that you’re driving enough qualified traffic that even as conversion rates go down, your total number of conversions (again, both to lead and to sale) is still increasing, as is your total revenue