With great CRM and sales practices, tracking the return on investment (ROI) of any lead-generating strategy is as simple as pressing the big red ‘report’ button on your dashboard. One problem: Has anybody actually seen this magic report button?

The nature of our industry can make tracking difficult, which makes justifying the cost as insurmountable a goal as maximizing the returns. From search engine adwords to tradeshow mailing lists, advertisements to whitepapers, each tactic has a path that converts potential customers to advocates, customers who support, defend and suggest your brand to peers.

Simplified ROI is calculated as Sales Generated by Tactic minus Amount Paid to Fund the Tactic. Maximizing that ROI is based on your ability to take data gathered by the lead-generation tactic and break it down into actionable components.

Possible Paths
Know the possible paths that converts leads to prospects to sales and finally to advocates for your brand. These paths will split and recombine in a multitude of forking paths, eventually joining at Sale and progressing to Advocate.

The following figure connects a potential customer visit to an engineering search engine (such as GlobalSpec.com) to possible actions that transform into prospect by contact (phone, email, RFQ) or further research (visiting company website.) The same path represents what could happen on trade journals with buyer’s guides, distributors or other similar sites where engineers search for products.

Actual Paths
A possible path does not indicate a path taken. Look for roadblocks or possible paths that are not being taken often or at all. Dealing with Roadblocks Comparing possible paths to actual paths can show issues from call handling to web design to broken email accounts. While some roadblocks will be the result of technical errors such as broken links, misspellings etc., most will be a failure to meet expectations.

Looking at web reports, we might see the following. - 100 users search for widgets matching certain specifications - 75 view company product match in the search results - 50 visit company website - 2 convert to sales from company site
The data above suggests a roadblock at the website.

To properly dissect a roadblock, follow as closely as possible the path leading to it. If the path starts at a product search engine that eventually leads to the web site, go through experience yourself. Does each destination or step match expectations as a user on this path?

A path from a search for widgets has a roadblock at the company web site. Following the path, one might find that the link from products listed on the search engine brings users to a generic page on the company site detailing the company well, but offering little information about the widget being searched. While it may seem acceptable to show these users information about the company, they’re clicking to learn more about the product they’ve found through their search. They’re coming in with an expectation of information that the company may fail to provide upfront. Rather than work to navigate the company web site, most will hit the ‘back’ button, another prospect lost.

The above is rectified by ensuring the link provided with your product listings on search engines and industry trade journal sites tie in to that product as closely as possible. Should the web address in the company ad for RF widgets direct to Company.com or Yourcompany.com/rf_widgets? Which would better meet the expectation set by the ad?

Tracking and Analytics CRM systems can guide tracking and analytics at varying levels, depending on the lead generating tactics and CRM system used. Excel will let you do just about anything if you have the right formula or macro. Collect and analyze only the data that offers information on possible paths and actual path use. One could build a formula to track conversions of potential customers from Ethiopia and companies with “Advanced” in the name, but why? There is a very real danger of data paralysis, a condition of spending too much time searching for actionable data and not enough time actually acting on it. Gather information with purpose and caution. Find possible paths, explore actual paths and deal with roadblocks.