Win More Qualified Leads by Weeding Out the Junk

Peter Sharkey on 11th of Jan 2017
Improve lead quality

Improve Lead Quality

Are you getting free trial signups for your SaaS product, but they’re not buying? What about content downloaders who seem promising, but never engage with sales? Or website visitors who opt-in to your database but never become paid customers? If so, you may be drawing in junk leads—people who aren’t qualified buyers in the first place.

Clicks are easy, revenue is hard

Increasing clickthrough rates is on most marketer’s priority list. So are running smart A/B tests and finding conversion optimization opportunities. These are built into our marketing DNA. The problem is when all of our hypothesizing and testing and experimenting doesn’t actually lead to revenue. We optimize for the junk lead instead of the qualified lead; we choose the conversion rate win over the revenue win; we lose the forest amongst the trees. Let’s look at an example to illustrate. Given this scenario (compliments of Johnathan Dane), you would think keyword 1 is performing better: Keywords results comparison It has a higher conversion rate and a lower cost-per-conversion. But if you take a step back and look at the sales rate for each keyword, what do you see? Keyword comparison results with sales rates Keyword 2 is the actual winner, with a cost-per-sale of $40 in comparison to keyword 1’s $100 cost-per-sale. The cheaper cost-per-conversion lost in the big picture. This means high conversion rates can be the ultimate red herring, even though we marketers are obsessed with them. After all, increasing conversion rates is easy. Just pick less expensive keyphrases to bring down your initial cost-per-click! Remove company and phone number from your form fields to increase signups! Ditch the credit card requirement to win more free trials! Then you’ll really drive more leads! At first glance, the data backs up these decisions. Conversion rates skyrocket when you remove form fields, to the tune of 120% in an Unbounce test. In another study, Totango found that requiring credit cards for your free trial reduces your conversion rate from 10% to 2%. All this sounds great, right? What could go wrong? Well, sales. Wordstream’s Larry Kim analyzed 100,000 companies looking for CRO truth bombs. One of his findings concluded that a “CRO increase in quantity typically lowers quality of leads.”

Conversion rate and qualified lead comparison(Image source)

The point is that over-optimizing your conversion rates is a slippery slope, and opens the door to less qualified leads while driving up your true cost-per-conversion. Fortunately, there is a way to fix this problem. And it all starts with friction.

Start by assessing if people need more or less friction

Common sense tells us that people converting on their first visit is a good thing. No, a great thing—especially considering how hard you work to get people there in the first place. But that’s not always the case. When Moz performed a deep dive on their subscriber base, they found a startling difference between first-visit converters and individuals who visited multiple times before signing up. Turns out, the people who converted on their first visit were also the worst customers. Their customer lifetime value was low, and they were the most likely to churn. Contrast that with people who visited the Moz website more than eight times. You’d think these were just a bunch of broke window shoppers. But it just so happens that they are the most profitable, brand loyal customers with the highest customer lifetime value. The correlation was clear: the number of times an individual visited a website increased their profitability as a customer. Moz’s video about this experience was aptly titled: “How we’ve succeeded at converting visitors, and yet failed at earning great customers.”

Customer conversion whiteboard(Image source)

What does this mean? That in some cases, it actually makes sense to make your signup process more difficult. I don’t mean worse, or less helpful. “More difficult” means adding a few more hoops to jump through to weed out unqualified leads. There are a number of ways to add qualifying friction, like…

  • Requiring a credit card to sign up for a free trial
  • Adding additional form fields like company size, title, and other identifying factors
  • Funneling new leads to a group demo before they can engage with sales
  • Narrowing down your 30-day free trial to 14-days

Again, this isn’t adding complexity to be less helpful. It’s about adding qualifying friction to attract sales-ready buyers.

Optimizing for revenue, not conversions

How do you see if your qualifying friction (or lack thereof) affects your bottom line? Measure each step of your conversion funnel, and see how your experiments impact revenue. Google Analytics can give you this kind of visibility with funnel reports. Other analytics tools worth checking out include Mixpanel and Kissmetrics. Kissmetrics funnel report With these analytics tools in place, you can run tests—like introducing new top and middle of funnel offers or experimenting with different traffic sources—to see how they win more qualified leads and ultimately drive new revenue (not just signups).


Add qualifying friction to deter unqualified leads while paying close attention to how your changes affect revenue, not just individual conversions. It’s counterintuitive to put up barriers for potential customers, but finding ways to filter out not-a-right-fit customers is good for you and your business in the long-term…you just have to weed out the junk. How do you go about weeding out junk leads and winning more qualified leads? Let us know in the comments.

marketing automation templates

Try Autopilot today Start free trial.

Signup for free
comments powered by Disqus