Is lead source still an important metric?

November 9, 2023
Marketing Operations Optimization
Is Lead Source still an important metric?

The immediate answer to this question is yes. OF COURSE, it is. But then you stop and think. Why does it matter WHERE they came from when you know it takes numerous touchpoints before a lead is qualified to hand off to sales? Doesn't it matter more, which channel, content, activity, inevitably leads the contact to MQL or better yet, make the plunge to become a client?    

Lead source is still an important metric because it gives you a high-level snapshot of the effectiveness of your organization's lead generation efforts.  From a budgeting standpoint, you can correlate effort and spend. BUT, do not stop there because you can generate a tonne of bad leads that never convert. So, you will have to look at other metrics to really determine if you can stop or start spending on a specific channel.    

That being said, I still believe lead source is an important leading indicator and must be focused on to ensure accuracy. Every single company that I have been brought into struggles with lead sources and attribution and I have been working with various platforms (Marketo, HubSpot and Salesforce) to attribution solutions. The reason this is such a priority is that in today’s modern marketing org there are MANY sources of information, many teams operating in earnest to drive results, but without thinking about how they are going to quantify their effort first.    

Defining Lead Source    

The first step is to audit where leads are coming from and create a definition for lead source. In one of my client’s databases, they had over 100 lead sources. We were able to narrow that list down to around 10! The narrowing down process all comes down to how you want to report your metrics to the executive team, how your lead generation process is running, and determining how your organization defines lead source.    

And there are many ways to define a lead source…         

  • Is the lead source how the lead was acquired? Paid, Organic, Partners, Sales, Referrals
  • Or is it where they converted? Website, social media, paid ad, conference/event
  • Or do you get even more granular with the type of asset that drove the initial conversion? Webinar, Whitepaper, High-Value Demo Request, Trial form fill, footer subscribe.

The answer to this question depends on how the executives would like to see the data. All of the clients that I have worked with usually have a variety from each column.

Where to start when developing a lead source attribution model    

If I were starting from scratch I would keep it high level and use UTMs (ON EVERY LINK) and lead source detail fields to track specifics of each type of asset/event. But if we are speaking about a more established business, I would look at a combination of Paid/ Organic and where they specifically converted. For example:    

  • Paid - Social Media
  • Organic - Social Media
  • Paid - Website
  • Organic - Website
  • Events
  • Partners
  • etc.

Regardless of what anyone thinks or writes in blogs, every organization has VERY different needs and no one list, blog post, or person can tell you what you should do! That being said, I LOVE chatting lead source, attribution and the like and have developed a framework that works for most B2B organizations after consultation and tweaking.  

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