The Missing Lead-gen Metric: Lead-to-Sale Conversions

By Jeremy Leonard
Senior Vice President, Strategy and Operations, MediaWhiz

The science of microsite and landing page conversion applies to lead generation sites as much as it does to home pages. While it is tempting to focus squarely on designing websites so they have high conversion rates, it’s important that marketers also pay attention the conversion metric that establishes success or failure for any lead-gen campaign: lead-to-sale conversions.

Spend more than a week in the performance marketing space and one will hear affiliate marketers exclaim how they are going to “crush” a campaign, “kill” an offer or “blow through” their lead allocation. That type of hyperbolic thinking quickly leads to their traffic sources being crushed or killed by the advertiser. Only by implementing a quality feedback loop with the advertiser (or the agency representing the advertiser) will affiliate marketers achieve sustainability, the Holy Grail of every good lead-gen campaign.

And what drives sustainability? Quality leads.

While affiliate marketers may be paid on lead submission, if their leads don’t convert into profitable sales or high-performing list submissions, they quickly find their traffic scrubbed or outright banned.

The first, and most obvious, step in generating quality leads is to screen fraudulent leads. Fraud eventually enters any affiliate marketer’s traffic stream. It comes from a variety of sources, including bot-generated traffic, proxy masked traffic, traffic from unacceptable countries or high quantities of traffic coming from the same IP. The varieties of fraud know no end.

It is essential that marketers’ lead-gen site utilizes established fraud-detection tools like CPA Detective, TARGUSinfo or DoubleVerify. Checking a link-referral report every day no longer cuts it. Advertisers are going to spend substantial resources (call centers, merchant accounts or CRM programs) to monetize these leads. If an affiliate’s leads are sketchy, he or she can count on substantial scrubs. This typically occurs after they have paid for their own media.

Once a marketer knows that his leads are coming from quality sources, it’s important to remain in close contact with the advertiser to determine the lead-to-sale conversion rate. Conversion rates differ tremendously from industry to industry. Four examples are outlined below:

  •  The “Hard Bounce.” If an advertiser is building an email database, the affiliate marketer will know within 72 hours if her lead generated a “hard bounce.” Undeliverable emails are par for the course, but if marketers are exceeding 1 to 2 percent hard bounces, they should use the Unique User ID (UUID) to track down the source of bad leads and cut them from their program.
  • The necessary quality quotient. If an advertiser is an online merchant, affiliate marketers need to allow 35 to 45 days to determine if those leads are of the necessary quality. Whether the advertiser is selling a single item or running a negative option continuity program, it is only when the consumer receives their credit card statement that marketers know if they have a quality lead. When too many consumers contact their credit card company to refund the fees, the advertiser will either receive $100 penalties per refund, or, in a worst case scenario, will have their merchant account paused.

In this scenario, if an advertiser only has one merchant account, the affiliate marketers has just played a significant role in “crushing” her advertiser’s business. That is one reason why, when dealing with an e-commerce offer, “slowly ramping up the traffic” is a mantra that all affiliate marketers should follow.


  • The .edu dilemma. If an advertiser is an .edu or similar client, it can easily take 90 days to determine if leads are going to convert into education enrollments. Again, start with a well-balanced blend of traffic and consistently monitor the advertiser’s success by either affiliate ID or UUID. If an affiliate marketer “crushes” an .edu offer with a new source of traffic, he should slowly integrate that new source of traffic over a 3 to 4month period until those leads have a chance to convert into enrollments.


  • Measuring closed leads through lead scoring. If the advertiser is using a call center to close lead traffic, affiliate marketers should seriously consider “lead scoring.” Both TARGUS and eBureau provide excellent lead-scoring services. Marketers will need to work with their advertiser to garner leads that converted and leads that did not convert. A good lead-scoring program will find demographic and psychographic patterns in the converting leads. Once an algorithm is established, the affiliate marketer can score leads before the conversion pixel fires. If the lead has a high propensity to convert, then post the lead to the advertiser’s call center and fire the conversion pixel. If the lead has a low propensity to convert, route the lead to a separate “buy flow” that doesn’t involve an expensive call center and fire a different pixel.

If affiliate marketers want sustainable lead-gen programs they shouldn’t forget to focus on conversions after a lead reaches their site. Prevent fraudulent traffic, establish a quality feedback loop with the advertiser and, finally, set up a lead-scoring lead scoring algorithm to remain a trusted supplier of high-converting leads for brands.

About the Author

Jeremy Leonard is senior vice president, strategy and operations, at MediaWhiz, a full-service integrated digital media agency. MediaWhiz helps brands engage, acquire and retain customers more profitably through the combination of performance marketing capabilities, proprietary technology and digital-media expertise. Practice areas include: Affiliate, Search, Social Media, Display Advertising, Email and Data Acquisition.

See Jeremy Live!

Jeremy is sharing tips for efficient and cost-effective conversions with an eye toward quality and sustainability at Conversion Conference Fort Lauderdale 2012 on October 9th and 10th in Florida. Join him in his session on “Conversion Optimization for Lead-gen Paths.” See the full agenda or read more about this session. You can also follow Jeremy on Twitter for some pre-conference networking.

Save $100 when you register with Jeremy’s discount code FL12520. Only 6 days to go – get your Conversion Conference pass now!

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