Abraham Lincoln once said “If it’s on the Internet, it must be true.” Many of us today seem to share that same belief.
Two years ago we marveled at high school senior Mohammed Islam, who by the age of 18, had accumulated $72 million by trading stocks during school lunch.
And we all lost our collective mind when we found out you could charge an iPod with an onion. Here we were wasting money on Apple chargers when all we needed to do was visit the produce aisle of our local grocery store.
But, the most interesting thing about all these stories?
They were all hoaxes. Every last one of them.
Mohammed fessed up to fabricating his story and the onion charger video got so big that Mythbusters disproved it.
Who would’ve thought?
New York Magazine certainly didn’t. They were among the first to cover Mohammed’s rise to stock-trading stardom.
And neither did Business Insider, who actually named the high school senior to their “20 Under 20” list of finance prodigies.
So when misinformation can be spread to some of the most authoritative publishers on the web, how do we know who we can trust?
It’s a question your inner skeptic should always be asking, especially when it comes to taking advice about your business (or believing unfounded quotes from former presidents).
Today we’re going to play Mythbusters to clear up some of the misinformation surrounding lead generation strategies that will do more harm than good for your marketing campaigns.
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is the process of capturing information from prospective clientele who have expressed some interest in your business.
They may have submitted their name and email address in exchange for a downloadable cheat sheet, or their phone number and company size for a free consultation.
Whatever their motivation, these leads are imperative to a business’s success. Lead generation lays the groundwork for bigger email lists, more customers, and ultimately, more profit.
In the past, we’ve talked about lead generation tips you may not be using, and even provided a list of 30 lead gen examples to follow. But what about lead gen myths? Are there any you should be aware of?
Lead generation myths
1. You can offer anything in exchange for a lead
Here’s a real-life question I was once asked by real estate agent who wanted to generate more leads for his business:
“Hey Ted, we were hoping to get your thoughts on a lead generation strategy we’re using. What we’ve started doing is, once a week, offering up free movie tickets in exchange for personal information from people who reach our landing page.
We’re capturing their name and phone number, and so far we’ve seen a good number of leads, but we haven’t been able to convert many into clients. Do you have any idea why that could be?”
Okay – maybe this question will help clear it up.
If you saw an ad for a chance to win free movie tickets by simply typing your name and email into a form, you’d probably do it, right?
Of course you would. I would, too. Who wouldn’t want to see a free movie?
Now, more importantly, are you currently looking for a new home?
Chances are, probably not. I know I’m not, but that wouldn’t stop me from entering a drawing to win free movie tickets.
So what does that mean for my friend the real estate agent?
It means he’s going to generate a whole lot of garbage leads that won’t convert because most of them aren’t in the market for a new home, and only want to see a free movie.
To generate higher quality leads, he’d do better to offer something more relevant to the service he performs, like a whitepaper on the fastest ways to add value to your home before you sell.
After all, what good are leads if none of them convert?
Before you try to generate leads with an offer or a contest, make sure it’s relevant to your business’s product or service.
2. The more leads you generate, the more money you make
This is a common misconception among many business professionals. They say “more is better” and take that approach to lead generation without giving it a second thought.
After all, it makes sense: The more customers you can generate, the better your business will do, right?
In actuality, returning customers are who you should be focusing your attention on if you want your business to be more profitable. According to research, they’re up to 60-70% easier to sell to than new customers, and they’re worth around 10 times their first transaction.
Even more convincing, studies show that just a 5% increase in customer retention can boost a business’s profits by 95%.
So instead of prioritizing more leads, focus on more profit by learning how to maximize your customer lifetime value.
3. Shorter forms are better for lead generation
Conventional wisdom has taught us that when it comes to landing page forms, less is more.
Nobody wants to tell you what their biggest marketing challenge is, or to complete any of the other 15 fields you’ve decided to include on your form. They just don’t have the time or patience.
So, conventional wisdom would also probably tell us that with each additional question we ask our prospects on a form, we can expect to see conversion rates drop. Right?
Not exactly, claims conversion optimizers from Visual Website Optimizer.
In the case of this form created by Kindercare, when the additional “Comments or Questions” form field was added, conversion rate didn’t budge:
In defiance of all traditional marketing knowledge, leads were still rolling in at the same rate, but they were even higher quality than before.
What’s the takeaway here?
Don’t just assume a shorter form works better on your landing page. Sure, this example is the exception, not the rule. But how do you know your form won’t fare the same if you don’t A/B test?
4. Your lead generation should be handled 100% in-house
A lot of businesses believe that their lead generation would be best managed by their in-house team.
While this has its advantages, like streamlined cooperation between sales and marketing divisions, outsourcing to a specialist is can be just as beneficial, if not more so — especially for smaller teams.
“Using a partner freed up our time to focus on the more strategic aspects of our marketing efforts and has placed the accountability for day-to-day program management in the hands of a team with the necessary specialized expertise, processes and technology to make it work.
Sales and marketing advisory service SiriusDecisions reported on average 67% of Marketing Qualified Leads become Sales Accepted Leads. We saw 91% of our partner’s MQLs becoming SALs, and we were getting a 12:1 return on our marketing investment.”
As you can see, even chief marketing officers find it useful to outsource a portion of their operations to outside agencies.
Similar to the way new marketing technologies free up our time by automating mundane tasks, hiring outside agencies allows us to focus more of our efforts on the big picture, by letting agencies do what they’re good at.
When two companies come together to form a relationship like this one, everybody wins — including leads.
Here’s another remark we’re used to hearing: “The more your prospects trust you, the more leads you’ll generate.”
We even preach this one ourselves. That’s why we were shocked when we saw this case study from VWO.
In this case study, the business tested two variations of their form copy:
On the first, you’ll see one form field and no copy under it.
Now, conventional marketing knowledge would tell us that the second version would generate more leads. By guaranteeing that leads would have a privacy guarantee, it should’ve made people more comfortable converting.
Apparently that wasn’t the case because the second version saw a 24% drop in signups.
So what gives?
Evidently, the prescence of the disclaimer caused fear in visitors’ minds, and also distracted them from the conversion goal.
6. To generate high quality leads, you need to make form fields mandatory
Many marketers are under the assumption that in order to collect valuable information from their leads, all of their form fields need to be mandatory. Why would anyone knowingly offer up personal information that wasn’t required?
It makes sense to us. Personally, I’ve never divulged information about myself that I wasn’t required to, but that doesn’t seem to be the trend with other landing page visitors out there.
Take this case study for example:
In version 1 of an InDesign landing page offering a free price quote, prospects were required to complete four out of six form fields, with only “company” and “phone” being optional:
In the second variation, prospects were given the opportunity to choose for themselves which fields they filled out. They were all optional, and some text above the CTA button even emphasized that:
Variation 2 not only generated 31% more leads, but it also produced higher quality leads.
Now, if you’re scratching your head, don’t worry, we are too.
Usually lead quality and quantity have an inverse relationship. The more leads you generate, the lower quality they are. It’s rare to see a page that boosts both.
While we’re not exactly sure why it happened, we can hazard a guess.
Maybe by not pressuring prospects to fill out any information, they viewed it as a generous move on behalf of the business, essentially thinking:
“Wow, they’re going to give me all of this information without asking for anything in return? They’re going to trust me to give them whatever I want? How novel, and generous. I’ll return the favor.”
This “honor system” method of building forms is something you don’t see often, but if the results of the above case study are any indication of its potential, it’s certainly worth testing.
Will you test for these lead generation myths on your landing pages?
It was Edgar Allen Poe who uttered the famous words “Believe none of what you hear, nor any of what you see on the Internet.”
Okay, that’s not a real quote. But it’s still good advice.
The next time you read up on best practices for landing pages, don’t believe them wholeheartedly until you have a chance to test them yourself.
For all you know, your source could be misinformed, or just plain making up information without any data (like I did with those quotes from Edgar and Abe).
To quickly and easily begin testing other best practices, and ours, build your first landing page here in just 15 minutes, without the help of IT.