Offline conversion tracking to boost lead gen strategies

Ever get the feeling you’re reporting on – or your agency or marketing team is reporting on – the wrong metrics?

Put another way, how high is your frustration level that your marketing team is bringing in hundreds of leads without any noticeable effect on your pipeline?

Smart marketers are using offline conversion tracking to solve the issues I just laid out. If you missed my SMX Advanced session, keep reading to learn:

  • What offline conversion tracking is.
  • Why it matters for lead gen campaigns.
  • When and how to use it. 
  • Success stories for implementation. 

This article will give you some to-dos that have helped many of my PPC clients get more revenue from their marketing spend.

What is offline conversion tracking?

Offline conversion tracking, or OCT, is a discipline that incorporates offline data to help marketers measure how their ads contribute to real business outcomes, not just marketing metrics (e.g., closed revenue, not just vanity leads). 

The data includes actions that users take somewhere other than your website, such as:

  • In-store purchases.
  • Visits to car dealerships that end in sales.
  • Visits to a local college to register for a course promoted online. 

In B2B, this often takes the form of lead nurturing and qualification – a lead may register immediately as an MQL upon filling out a form (which all marketers should be able to track).

But from there, progression through your CRM from MQL to SQL to opportunity to closed-won all happens outside of your website property.

Dig deeper: 5 best practices for tracking offline conversions in Google Ads

Why is OCT important in lead gen campaigns?

We don’t have as many controls at our disposal today as everything’s moving hard toward AI and machine learning. 

Without OCT, your advertising campaigns simply let increasingly powerful algorithms (Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn) find audiences likely to take a conversion action.

As most of us have seen, the combination of automation and basic form fills typically equals a lot of low-quality leads. 

With OCT data fed back into those algorithms, you can teach the platforms to find the right leads – those most likely to move along the customer journey and become customers or clients. 

One note here: incorporating OCT means there’s a good possibility that you’ll:

  • End up paying more per lead. 
  • Have to do the extra math of calculating cost per SQL or cost per opp to show the value of OCT. 

Still, it won’t take long to see the efficiency in action.

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When should you incorporate OCT?

Essentially, everyone should be testing offline conversion tracking. 

That said, the best use cases for implementation are if you’re seeing lead quality issues or if your account is experiencing performance plateaus, meaning performance is consistent but the account growth is stagnant. 

There are a few considerations to keep in mind, including:

Data density

  • Consider how many actions are taken within a 30-day time period when deciding how to optimize. 
  • If the number is too low, you might need to get creative or move back up the funnel a step (e.g., optimize for opportunities instead of closed-won or SQLs instead of opportunities). 
  • The best metric is always the one closest to the revenue (e.g., closed/won), but you’ll need to balance quality with enough volume to truly train the algorithms.

Data delays

  • Some offline actions (including closed/won deals if the sales cycle is too long) may fall out of the usability window. 
  • Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have a 90-day window to get data back to the platforms (Google’s window starts at the time of the click. Facebook and LinkedIn start at the time of the impression). 

Current performance

  • If your account’s current performance is strong, you’ll want to take a conservative approach to testing (test one campaign to start).
  • Remember that some metrics can look worse in the early stages.

How do you get started with incorporation?

In general, there are two ways that ad platforms connect your data back to their platforms. Google uses click ID (every click from your ad gets a unique click ID), and you’ll need to ensure that the click ID is associated with the lead info passed through your website. 

Some CRMs, notably HubSpot, absorb this information automatically, but if you’re working with one that doesn’t, you’ll want to use hidden form fields to ensure the information is being passed to your CRM.

Facebook and LinkedIn, meanwhile, rely on customer data to tie conversions back to ad spend. Information like name, email, and company is uploaded and then hashed by the platforms. 

Though the data connections differ, all the platforms have multiple options for OCT setup. Google and Facebook have robust partner connection options, including Zapier, and both offer automated upload options. 

Of the two, Google makes it simpler as you only need to set up a Google Sheets connection. Facebook runs this setup through its conversions API, which requires developer resources.

LinkedIn is newer to the OCT game. They rolled out the functionality in 2022, and I anticipate their partner list will continue to grow.

Each platform offers manual upload through CSV files, but that introduces more time and the possibility of user omission or error – this is something you’ll want to use in your platforms over the long haul, so invest in automation early.

Dig deeper: How to set up an offline conversion import from Salesforce into Google Ads

OCT success stories

By simply incorporating OCT into client accounts, we’ve seen results in a range of accounts:

  • 1% lift in pipeline with a 43% decrease in spend.
  • 55% decrease in cost per subscriber (as opposed to users signing up for free trials) with 185% increase in subscriber volume.
  • Improved conversion rates throughout the funnel, notably improving the “sign up to install” rate from 14% to 35%.

The common thread here is that each client is spending more effectively to engage the right users. 

In many cases, the first step is to realize that much of the marketing budget can be reduced in some areas with minimal growth impact – and reallocated to more impactful placements.

Maximize lead quality and ROI with offline conversion tracking

In this day and age of digital marketing, advertisers have fewer controls than ever to leverage in their campaigns. When done right, OCT is a powerful tool that can teach the algorithms to work more effectively toward your real business goals. 

As you incorporate OCT to improve your down-funnel metrics, ensure you’re also reflecting your work in a reporting narrative of how your marketing campaigns directly contribute to business growth and performance. 

In very little time, you’ll be able to spot more areas where an added layer of data can make the difference between vanity metrics and business success.

Watch: Offline conversion tracking to boost lead gen strategies

Below is the complete video of my SMX Advanced presentation.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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