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October 20, 2010

Chasing Leads: Offline Lead Tracking in SEM Campaigns, Pt. 2

The newly coined term ‘results measurement’ is used by companies to define the purposes of lead tracking in SEM campaigns, and is a valuable means of understanding the many decision factors your prospects use to choose your company for its products/services. A finely-tuned lead tracking channel – often aided by your search engine marketing company – demonstrates to the potential customer that his or her inquiry about your company’s products/services was received with a sense of urgency. For SEM campaigns, proper lead tracking may not be the only fast track solution to increased sales, but does give potential customers insight into how your company values its leads. With a greater ability to track leads and responses, an immediate follow-up is also possible, allowing prospects to decide if your response time was fast enough and if your company provided a better customer experience than your competitors.

In the last article, we discussed how an ideal lead tracking scenario equates to greater success when it comes to closing leads in SEM campaigns. Plus, knowing where your leads come from helps determine which channel is the most profitable and, of course, which should be continually refined to bring in even more quality leads. Though this may be common knowledge, we are led to the two less-than-ideal scenarios that are unfortunate, though surprisingly frequent, despite the prevalence of comprehensive lead tracking software and tools.

Lead Tracking Scenarios

Scenario #2: Workable– The client company cannot, for whatever reason, have web leads automatically populated in its sales database, which, in this case, is often a proprietary system built in-house. Yet, there are still some ways to identify leads properly, which your search engine marketing company can help you compile for SEM campaigns. PPC leads, for example, can be supplemented with added parameters when sent to an inbox to reveal their source. With the right lead tracking in place, you can easily have emails pop right into your inbox with a header that notifies you that you’ve just received a lead via a specific channel. In these cases, the onus is on the person who enters the leads into the sales database to also include the lead’s source.

Ideally, your search engine marketing company needs to meet and/or correspond regularly with you to discuss the source and quality of each lead within your SEM campaigns. Leads can be analyzed at the individual level, so that when a lead closes, it can be attributed to the proper channel (organic SEO, email marketing, PPC, etc). With frequent collaboration between the search engine marketing company and the client company, ROI for each individual channel can be deduced, and expenditures on each channel can be properly allocated to maximize performance.

Scenario #3: Common but Unfortunate– In this scenario, the client company usually has limited offline lead tracking ability. Sometimes the leads are sent directly to varying sales people who use their own individual systems for tracking their leads within SEM campaigns.

Clearly, this limits the ability of the search engine marketing company to properly allocate ROI to individual web channels. Even if the individual sales people take note of where the individual leads came from, compiling all of that data into something useful can be a bit like herding cats. The client company also can’t determine which online sales and marketing initiatives are the most effective to developing SEM campaigns and could therefore unknowingly cut the most profitable initiatives when times are tough. Another consequence is that your sales department could be spending time chasing bad leads from the same sources day after day and not even know it.

Furthermore, when your search engine marketing company is trying to come up with ROI calculations, the math tends to get fuzzy. You and your search engine marketing company are left with vague numbers regarding offline closure rates, value of the average sale, and the like, making any attempt at deriving useful ROI figures a virtual stab in the dark. As you can imagine, such a system does not allow for informed decisions in regard to your individual online initiatives.

Increasing Your SEM Lead Tracking Abilities for Success

As a company, we work very hard to get clients up to at least the workable scenario (#2) in order to prove the value of individual online initiatives and to knowledgeably hone SEM campaigns for the best possible return. Even though scenario #3 isn’t the most effective and modern way to run a sales department, it is still fairly common. We’ve had many clients who had very weak tracking elements in place, and, step by step, we’ve cajoled them into a more uniform and robust tracking system.

Almost invariably, once clients see the impact on their bottom lines through improved lead tracking, they start demanding more and more tracking information and transparency – rightly so. Of course, any good search engine marketing company will be more than happy to oblige.

Scott Buresh, internationally recognized internet marketing authority and CEO of search marketing firm Medium Blue, is consistently published and cited by influential industry publications and contributed to How to Build Your Own Web Site with Little or No Money: The Complete Guide for Business and Personal Use (Brown, 2010), The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Atlantic, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google for Dummies (Wiley, 2004). In both 2008 and 2010, Medium Blue was honored to receive a prestigious American Marketing Association award. Medium Blue is an Atlanta search engine optimization company with local and national clients, including the Atlanta Humane Society, Afterburner, Inc., Oliver Wight Americas and DeKalb Medical. To see how we can help you achieve your online marketing goals, please contact us.