Return on investment is the top priority of every marketing campaign. How to get to that ROI, though, can be difficult to anticipate or calculate. If you’re failing to convert within the first few weeks, you may assume that your campaign is ineffective…but have you given it enough time to succeed?
Lead generation is a long term strategy. Time is as critical of a component for success as is your strategy. As we’ve previously established, lead generation is never a magic bullet. A single push investment, no matter how large, does not lead to sustainable results.
The time frame by which you can evaluate the success of your lead generation depends on many factors. You need to understand the implementation process, adjust your lead nurturing to match your audience and industry, anticipate your sales cycle, and hone in on your closing ratio. Every one of these factors is vital to evaluate just how long it will take for a lead generation campaign to see positive results.
In this blog post, we will dive into each of these factors, from implementation process to close, examining exactly how they will impact your timeline to ROI.
ROI Timing Factor #1: The Implementation Process
Every lead generation engine is different. Your path to conversion may diverge greatly from that of other industries, or even your own competitors. Whether you are partnering with a vendor or taking on the project yourself, simply building the engine takes significant time.
You’ll need to build out campaigns, write content for each campaign, source prospects for them, and segment these prospects for maximum relevance. If you hire a lead generation provider, their expertise will likely save you some time but regardless, no campaign is perfect out of the gate. Expect a potentially significant ramp-up period.
Here’s how that implementation process may break down, depending on your situation and strategy:
- Initiate the strategy. This involves determining internal capacity vs. the benefits and costs of working with an external vendor. Outsourcing tends to yield faster results and can account for potential internal resource and capacity gaps. Expect to take several weeks to evaluate your needs, budget, and potential solutions.
- Partner Onboarding. Onboarding timelines vary by provider. From signing your initial agreement to educating your new team on your tech stack, brand voice, and existing strategy, anticipate a few weeks to get the ball rolling. The more congruence that can be achieved during this process, the more effective the eventual lead gen engine will become.
- Determining your target and segments. Who, exactly, are you looking to target? What are their pain points and the nuances that would make them come to you for a potential solution? This step builds on existing target audience analyses to formalize both general and segment-specific audience insights. If you already have a formal target audience definition in place, it may be done in as little as a week or two. If not, expect at least a month of audience research.
- Building the content. Depending on your lead generation strategy, this may include anything from emails and call scripts to potential lead magnets and other content-based efforts. Given the time it takes to build each piece, your initial content build may take up to a month, but don’t underestimate the ongoing need to optimize your content for maximum ROI.
- Content and strategic testing. Up to this point, your strategy and content exists in isolation. That’s why testing your initial strategy, audience segments, and more is vital to understand whether general best practices actually apply to your specific situation. It’s a vital part of launching your lead engine, and should take at least a month to generate reliable results.
Add it all together, and you can expect at least three months of strategy building and testing before receiving a solid stream of qualified leads. Of course, your leads begin to trickle in before that as a result of comprehensive testing efforts. But while you cast that initial net, expect at least a few weeks before your lead generation engine results in consistent, reliable lead flow.
ROI Timing Factor #2: The Lead Nurturing Nuances
For true ROI, simply bringing new leads into your database is not enough. In fact, 81% of non-nurtured leads will ever make a purchase. Meanwhile, nurtured leads provide an average of 20% increase in sales opportunities and result in 47% larger purchases.
In other words, nurturing your leads is not optional; it’s a requirement for a successful lead gen engine that actually makes a difference for your business.
At the same time, building an effective lead nurturing strategy takes time. How much exactly depends on your methodology, audience, and industry, but the basic need for lead nurturing exists regardless of these factors. The simple truth is that most leads will need several connections before wanting to meet or close the deal; you will need to anticipate time for lead nurturing before you can expect ROI.
For example, a welcome email may go out to new leads the first week they are in your database. At that point, lead nurturing efforts kick in, from follow-up content to value-add content specifically designed to keep your brand and product front of mind for your audience.
A few factors will determine just how long your audience will need until they actually express interest and become sales-qualified:
- Your industry. Fast-moving industries with smaller average purchases will likely include shorter nurturing time, because decisions can be made more quickly and with fewer people involved in the buying decision.
- Your target audience. Nurturing campaigns specifically designed to reach decision-makers convert faster, thanks to fewer feedback loops required in the buying process. However, the bandwidth of your buyer will impact their availability.
- Your tested tactics. Your tests may have determined that, beyond email, your audience responds well to sales calls, demo presentations, or other tactics. Each step may lengthen your nurturing cycle considerably.
Almost every lead will need time before they convert and the timeline varies dramatically for each company. Use your past sales data to better understand your sales cycle and create internal benchmarks to anticipate time from initial outreach to a sales qualified lead and an eventual close.