Lead Generation Metrics: Quality Over Quantity Or Vice-Versa?

“Should I focus on generating more leads, or higher-quality ones?” Some might consider this debate dead and buried, but it is actually still relevant

Matt Duczeminski
October 10 2018

In a recent article, we discussed the importance of focusing on the metrics that actually matter to your company’s bottom line. Throughout that article, we communicated a dual message:

On the one hand, it’s clear that metrics dealing with the quality of a customer’s relationship with your brand hold more weight than quantitative data points often referred to as “vanity metrics.” On the other hand, it really doesn’t make sense to dismiss these quantitative metrics entirely. You can’t expect to generate high-quality prospects if you’re not generating any leads in the first place.

Metrics only matter once you assign specific meaning to them. You’ll always need to dig past the “on paper” meaning of both quantitative and qualitative metrics to gain a true understanding of what they mean to your organization. That said, there are certain times in your company’s lifespan in which you’ll want to focus on quantity over quality in terms of your lead-generation efforts – and other times in which quality is king.

Let’s take a deeper look at each.

When Should Quantity Be Your Focus?

Choosing quality over quantity is best practice, but this doesn’t mean that quantity doesn’t matter at all. To illustrate this point, we’re going to look at three common instances in which quantity should be your focus.

A Wide Net Approach

We’ve all heard the saying “there’s plenty of fish in the sea.”

Yes, the ultimate goal is to catch high-quality leads that match your target persona(s), but there’s little chance of achieving that goal if you don’t first focus on attracting as many potential customers as possible to your brand.

This outlook applies to a variety of circumstances, such as:

  • When just getting your company off the ground and are trying to build brand awareness
  • When introducing a new product or service
  • When expanding to a new audience, marketing channel, or industry

In such instances, your company is essentially venturing into uncharted territory. Sure, you’ve likely done some preliminary research to help guide you (e.g., who your target customers are, what features they value, and/or how to best engage with them). But until you’re able to gather true, experiential data, your initial understandings will largely be based on conjecture.

As Johanna Rivard of Marketing Insider Group explains, focusing on lead quantity is essential “especially in the initial stages when businesses have less brand awareness and find it difficult to gather enough target audience data.”

Using such a wide-net approach will allow you to:

  • Understand the breadth of your reach, regardless of the quality of your individual audience members
  • Gather information on individuals who engage with your brand in any way – be it positively or negatively
  • Gain a rough understanding of your baseline to be used when assessing your qualitative metrics

Which leads us to…

Making Performance Projections

Once you’ve gained a better understanding of who your target customers are and how large your target audience is – and have seen results from your current efforts and initiatives – you’ll be in a much better position to make projections regarding your business’ overall performance. At the very least, you’ll be ready to begin creating and testing hypotheses using your initial baselines as benchmarks moving forward.

For example, let’s say you notice that website traffic has doubled month-over-month throughout your first three months in business. Along with this, your number of monthly conversions has also doubled each month.

Yes, there are certainly multiple reasons for this increase in conversion number – but it could be as simple as “more visitors = more customers.” If it really is that simple, you’ll want to know this before diving into the more nuanced and complicated data you’ve collected.

All of the “more important” metrics you’ll end up looking at each have a foundation in surface-level metrics in one way or another. Though you’ll want to dig deeper into the reasoning behind any correlations you find, you’ll need to notice these correlations to take this deeper dive, and that’s where quantity comes in.

Assessing the Accuracy of Projections

Some of your projections and hypotheses may prove to be quite valid and others…well…won’t.

Again, though, it’d be impossible to test your hypothesis if you haven’t been increasing the quantitative metric. Going back to our previous example, once you predict that increasing your visitor numbers will increase your customer base, you’d want to spend the next few months working on increasing your visitor numbers to see if your hypothesis pans out.

It’s important to keep in mind that while an improvement in these quantitative, surface-level metrics may lead to an improvement in your “metrics that matter,” this relationship isn’t trival. It’s not enough to simply say “by increasing Metric A, Metric B will also increase”; rather, you’d want to say something along the lines of, “okay, it seems that Metric B increases when Metric A does. Why is that?”

At this point, you’ll want to shift your focus to quality.

When Does Quality Become Your Focus?

Your company’s success is often determined by the quality of the leads you generate. The higher the quality of your customer base, the more value each customer will provide your organization.

Let’s now discuss the times in which it’s important to shift your focus toward quality.

Once You’ve Defined Your Baselines

After investing in a given initiative over some time, your quantitative metrics will likely “top out” at some point. There will come a point in which you no longer see a consistent month-over-month increase in leads generated (and similar quantitative metrics) – at least without scaling up your processes in one way or another. At this point, your focus should shift from knowing how many people you can reach, to how many qualified leads you can reach – without drastically ramping up your investment.

As we said earlier, it may be quite difficult to nail down your ideal customer persona(s) until you’ve gathered some real-world data and discover who engages deeper with your brand and who doesn’t. Once you’ve gathered this data though, you’ll want to take a closer look at the characteristics of your high-probability leads so that you’re able to target this type of consumer moving forward.

Returning to our “fish in the sea” metaphor, focusing on quantity allows you to catch as many fish as you possibly can during your initial excursion; focusing on quality allows you identify the ones worth bringing home for dinner and which ones to throw back into the ocean.

(Disclaimer: Please don’t eat your customers or toss them into the sea.)

When Projections Pan Out (or Don’t)

After making a hypothesis about the relationship between a surface-level metric and a deeper one, you’re not only going to want to keep an eye on whether or not this relationship continues – you’re also going to want to figure out why this did or didn’t happen.

As explained by Rebekah Schelfhout of Search Engine Land:

“If you’re seeing additional traffic coming in year-on-year and your conversion rate has also increased, then you’re on track. If, however, you find that you’re getting more traffic in this year, but your conversion rates are down or below expectations, then it would be worth delving into the quality of your traffic and analyzing the key (year-over-year) differences.”

Schelfhout’s statement aside, it’s worth digging into the quality of your traffic even if you discover positive results.

It can be detrimental to note a positive correlation between traffic and conversions and simply say, “let’s keep doing what we’re doing.” It’s likely there will be a more specific reason for the correlation’s existence – and you’ll need to take a more granular approach in order to identify it. In doing so, you’ll be able to pare away at the less-effective portions of your initiative, and invest more resources into the parts of it that are truly responsible for bringing in more conversions.

On the other side of things, if the correlation between a surface-level and a deeper metric doesn’t continue, you’ll want to dig deeper to determine why it didn’t happen and gain a better understanding of the nature of the relationship overall. To do so, you’ll need to look at the qualities behind the quantitative data you’ve collected.

When Shifting from Acquisition to Retention

This is perhaps the main reason that the whole discussion of “quantity vs. quality” always ends with quality emerging victoriously. Acquiring a decent-sized customer base in the first place is important, but there comes a time in every successful business’ lifespan when the focus shifts toward keeping the most valuable customers onboard for as long as possible.

Given the choice between 100 one-off customers and five loyal, consistent, lifelong fans, that mere handful of people will provide more value to your company over time.

That said, there are two main signs that it’s time for your team to switch gears in this regard:

  • Your quantitative metrics have stagnated or began to show signs of slowing down
  • Your surface-level metrics continue to grow, but your “bottom-line” metrics aren’t keeping pace

As we said earlier, you’ll want to dig deeper into the reasons behind the changes in these trends without sinking excess resources into growing your audience base.

Quantity vs. Quality: Who Wins?

When it comes to generating and nurturing leads and customers, quantity and quality fit together. At some points, it’s much more important to focus on casting a wide net to catch as many leads as possible. Eventually, though, you’re going to want to know which of your customers are worth keeping around – and which are simply taking up space.

It all comes down to what value they provide your company. If expanding your audience is currently leading to business growth, who are we do dissuade you? If things start to stagnate, you’ll want to narrow your focus and begin generating leads of higher quality.

Matt Duczeminski

Matt is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he'd probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.

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