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How Lead Response Time Can Benefit Your AdWords Lead Generation

Gary Garth

10 years ago



Too often I come across prospects or clients who are not producing sustainable results with their Google Ads lead gen campaigns. And for that reason, they pull the plug on the project after a short period of time.

This is particularly distressing to witness when the case is that their respective pay-per-click campaigns are actually generating leads at the expected cost.

‘Well, if the leads don’t convert at the anticipated rate, then they must be low-quality leads’. At least that is the statement I’ve often received when speaking with the marketing director or business owner who came to this conclusion.

Assessing 1,608 Leads And a Quarter Million of Ad Spend

At White Shark Media, we practice what we preach and roughly 50% of all our leads come from various Paid Search channels. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2013 on our own Paid Search campaigns, we’ve identified certain factors behind the scenes that are equally important to the critical cost-per-lead that we tend to discuss to infinity.

Like with most marketing strategies, it’s a good approach to start with the end goal in mind. With this mindset and by calculating backward from 1) Value per Client -> 2) Lead Closing Rate -> 3) Cost per Lead -> 4) Cost per Click, we attain a good understanding of how we would steer our AdWords campaigns toward a stronger return on investment.

The challenge is that we, as data-driven professionals, tend to obsess about metrics within our natural control that can be easily optimized i.e. bidding strategies for a preferred position with a maximum ROI, improvement of Quality Score for lower CPC’s, and landing page optimization for increased conversion rates.

However, sometimes the biggest gains require the smallest efforts and that is exactly what we experienced after dissecting the data behind 1,608 leads produced during 2013.

React With Sense of Urgency And Quadruple Your Sales

According to research by, 35-50% of all sales go to the vendor who reacts first to an inquiry. This is not surprising data considering that as a provider you’re being able to control the prospect’s expectations and questions at first hand.

Many sales professionals might argue the opposite – that they prefer speaking to an educated prospect at a later stage of the buying funnel rather than providing all the information early in the process (and spending valuable time while the prospect is just researching and comparing his options).

At White Shark Media, we noticed a clear correlation between our lead conversion rates and our ability to respond in a timely manner to inquiries.

When we managed to reach the lead within a couple of minutes after the contact form was submitted, our conversion rates outperformed our regular standards by nearly 400%.

Surprisingly, we experienced that this rate dropped to less than half when contacting the lead within 2-5 minutes; while waiting 30-60 minutes yielded to a plummeting performance all the way down to less than 32%.

The worst situation we encountered was when leads were received over the weekend or during a holiday when no sales reps were available. Leads of this nature performed 50% below our average.

lead response 1

Now, if we again refer back to the advertisers who never accomplished to drive successful results from their AdWords lead generation efforts, I assure you that the vast majority wouldn’t know their sales reps’:

A) Lead Conversion Rates

B) Lead Management Process

C) Lead Response Time

Nevertheless, these advertisers are the same individuals who spend thousands of dollars conducting A/B split-testing of their landing pages for conversion rate optimization and building the perfect website structure to increase the likelihood of successful engagement.

According to MarketingSherpa, 48% of marketers build one or more new landing pages for each marketing campaign. The sad reality is that all these hard efforts are of little value if their sales reps don’t have a fast and furious speed-call mentality.

Marketing And Sales Must Be Married – For Better or Worse

Part of our success with our Paid Advertising efforts is that our sales reps and marketing department are heavily engaged with each other. This relationship has resulted in an integrated Sales CRM (Base), which is aligned with our marketing platform (HubSpot), and with the usage of the AdWords new offline conversion tool and keyword-level call tracking. This integration enables us to identify the trends that result in monetization.

For example, we discovered that the ad schedule was a necessity in order to accomplish sustainability for our programs. Likewise, we identified that combining high volume converting keywords and ad copy doesn’t necessarily equal increased revenue. Detracting certain leads that our sales reps converted poorly regardless of their response time proved to be more profitable, which was confirmed by comparing the avg. revenue associated per inquiry vs our regular bread and butter targeted keywords with high commercial intent.

In order to gain all these insights, we monitored all processes closely and built a solid lead management system with aligned procedures. Our sales assistant measured the sales reps’ response time, our marketing department surveyed our reps on a regular basis, and we demanded brutally honest feedback and extensive call summaries from the initial contact to the end of the sale process.

This is not an easy task at all, but the payoffs are so immense and can essentially be the difference between a failed marketing project and sustained growth for a company.

Understand Your Sales Cycle and the Lead Nurturing Process

Another vital factor is to monitor your sales reps’ process when managing these leads. For most sales reps, the ‘nature of the beast’ is trying to convert leads with just a couple of touchpoints. After all, the prospect did reach out to us, so they are already interested, right?

The reality could not be further from the truth. Actually, according to Gleanster Research, more than 50% of qualified leads are not ready to purchase when initially reaching out to a vendor. If we automatically discard these prospects after only 2-3 attempts, our marketing campaigns would quickly lead us toward bankruptcy.

The fact is that your sales reps need to be impeccably persistent with the assigned leads if your Paid Search project is to prevail.

There’s no golden rule as to how many emails and calls they have to make before quitting on a lead. I like to ask (or I request) that our sales reps attempt to engage with the prospect at least 15-20 times. That is with a combination of emails and voice mails with a sense of creativity always trying to provide more value, whether it’s offering a complimentary competitor analysis, campaign assessment, or providing some industry-related case studies.

This methodology supports the frequently told statistic of how 80% of all sales are made during the 5th to 12th contact.

Shooting out emails will amplify the likelihood of getting contact, but emails are often ignored, the reason why phone calls still are my preferred method of contact. How else will you uncover the prospect’s needs and goals to customize your solution to their business objectives?

The Devil Is In The Details

When trying to contact leads more rapidly and thereby increasing conversion rates, remember to ensure that your sales reps also utilize social networks such as Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter to their full extent. Especially, when fighting for a prospect’s attention in the always-cluttered voicemail and email inbox. A simple outreach through these channels can favor you over the competition and increase your lead-conversion-rates accordingly.

Lastly, we also utilize HubSpot to continue interacting with the prospects that were not ready to purchase just yet (50% of all leads). With carefully segmented email lists including tailored content for their specific needs, we’re constantly reinforcing our expertise in the Paid Search avenue and staying top of mind.

Besides adding ongoing value for the benefit of the business, it also creates enormous credibility with your prospects, which essentially yields to increased conversion rates from the total lead program and helps justify the immediate high marketing expense that when quickly glanced from the surface doesn’t always make financial sense.

Fire Bullets, Then Cannon Balls

So, what are the takeaways from our experiences for you to implement within your own organization?

Like best-selling author Jim Collins corroborates in his book ‘Great by Choice’, you want to fire bullets before cannonballs.

From a marketing perspective, firing perfectly calibrated bullets translates into a flawless lead management system that involves a disciplined approach to lead response time from your sales reps. Until this is fully accomplished, you shouldn’t fire cannonballs and increase your marketing budget to its maximum.

In other words, when the majority of your leads respond: “Wow, that sure was fast, you guys called in a second” and your reps follow up with emails and calls a minimum of 15-20 times, that’s when you want to amp up your marketing budget for lead generation and determine whether it makes financial sense for your organization.