In the day to day challenge of lead generation, numbers matters. Metrics matter. And when lead flow slows to a trickle, this sets off an understandable panic in the marketing corner. Is web traffic down? Are my links broken? Email response down? All the while, the CMO just wants the problem solved.
The following is a true tale, verified here at The B2BLead. An established company with robust web traffic and established demand generation programs had a pretty predictable business with great SEO and certain seasonal spikes to demand. With years of experience and great insight into ROI, the programs in place were working well, and the challenge for the marketing group was simply to expand exposure over time to continue to ramp up sales. The average close rate on hand-raisers from inbound lead forms was around 50%.
For a few months, lead flow had become a little soft, but nothing dramatic. Then, suddenly, lead flow dropped quite dramatically. Leads were still coming in, but at no where near budgeted levels. In the face of this and the significant sales drop that came with it, this diligent team worked the process - was there a change in the marketplace - a major competitor undercutting them? No. A new vendor? No. A loss of customer satisfaction, an influential rant somewhere turning folks away? No.
They checked the tactical metrics - email send rates, deliverability, opens and clicks - steady. Web traffic, steady with the expected seasonal upticks, no downtime, no broken links, SEO programs still delivering.
Inbound lead landing pages showing sustained traffic, just vastly reduced landing page conversion and lead submission. Had the copy changed on the page, radically decreasing typical on-page conversion of 40% down to the now apparent 5%? No. Had the lead form seen changes, additional fields proving too intrusive, causing abandonment? No, fields were the same.
One item proved challenging, and always had for the marketing team, as there was a break in the conversion tracking as the lead form submission confirmation page was coming from another domain and the analytics didn't provide end to end insight - they'd never been configured correctly. With multiple business lines and domains each added over time, but all leads flowing into a unified CRM, this was simply how the system had been configured and was the lost piece of insight. They worked with the web developer, tested the form, made sure it worked. All the test information was fine. And they finally were able to reconfigure the web analytics to capture the missing conversion information.
Despite never finding the cause of the problem, at the end of testing the lead flow resumed normal levels. Relief! The team wasn't sure which part of the test found and resolved the problem, but they were happy the pressure was off and leads were back to normal - but now they were playing catch-up to replace the lost business by the end of the quarter.
A month later, the leads dropped off again. The team went through the process again start to finish, everything was the same as before, programs functioning and at typical activity levels. The only thing that turned up was the conversion script had somehow gotten removed on the confirmation page. The team asked their web developer to fix it, but his plate was stacked with other priorities, and it was left undone for over week.
The Demand Manager was getting extremely frustrated - and still unclear what was going wrong. Finally, as a last ditch attempt to figure out the problem, he contacted a couple industry pals who were not current customers and asked them to submit lead forms, assuring them it was just for testing the lead handling system.
Having seen no lead alerts by the next day he sent emails to follow up, reminding his friends they'd promised to test his form.They wrote back and said they had, and had already heard from salespeople.
The Demand Manager was confused - he saw a copy of every inbound lead from those forms - neither one of his friends' lead forms had come through. How had the sales people gotten in touch?
Well the answer was simple. Horrifyingly simple.
The salespeople who called his friends were not this Demand Manager's sales people. They were sales people from his competitor.
And how had the competitor gotten his leads? His competitor had bought them from the company web developer, the one who had been too busy to fix the confirmation page script - the same one who'd left it unconfigured for years. The web developer had redirected the lead forms to himself and made a deal to sell them on the side - and then only passed along some of these to his employer. It was impossible to calculate how many sales had been lost, because it appeared the graft might have been going on for years, and only came to light because of the sudden drop in lead flow.