Generate high-quality leads
We've outlined the formula that can help you drive high-quality leads at scale with every dollar. Select a step or scroll to get started.
It’s important to identify precisely what you want to achieve. Then you can make sure your marketing, media and campaign objectives and KPIs are working together to achieve that goal.
But first, we’ll help you outline your company’s lead-to-sale journey — which is the first step in understanding how to improve lead quality and drive more growth for your business.
- Map your lead-to-sale journey
- Know your business objective
- Align marketing objective
- Set your media objectives
- Pick your campaign objectives
Map your lead-to-sale journey
This may be a little bit of a mindset shift.
Many people use leads as their main metric for driving final sales. But of course not all leads are created equal — only some of them end up converting. So we recommend optimizing for the final sale itself.
Start by mapping out your lead-to-sale journey, to confirm the key steps that occur between a lead and final sale. Then, identify the value of each step to determine which customer actions are the strongest indicators of revenue (or a final sale). This exercise will help inform which key measurement signals — beyond the lead — will effectively drive more sales for your business.
First, ask yourself:
What does your current sales cycle look like?
What happens after a lead is generated?
Where is your customer data stored? In a CRM, or somewhere else?
Then, get some numbers handy:
What’s the value of a final sale to you?
What percentage of your leads convert into sales (ballpark)?
Lead-to-sale journey for Best Insurance
Now, map your lead-to-sale journey:
Start with the average value of a final sale
Identify the conversion rate between each step
Calculate the expected value of each step by multiplying its conversion rate by the value of the next step.
From optimizing for a lead to optimizing for a final sale.
He’s the Marketing Manager for Best Insurance, a national home and auto insurance provider. He mapped each touchpoint in their sales cycle: from lead to Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) to Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) to closed sale.
Then, knowing the average value of a closed sale ($5,000), he worked backward to figure out that if 4% of SQLs convert into closed sales, an SQL is worth/valued at $200. He did the same thing from MQL to SQL to calculate the value of each step along the journey.
Now that he knows how much each step is worth, he can use that to optimize the entire lead-to-sale journey for the highest-value leads.
Know your business objective
Talk to the CEO.
Or at least make sure you understand their main business objective. This usually falls into one of three categories: market share, revenue, or profit.
And keep in mind — great business objectives are measurable, timebound, and raise the bar above what you’re already achieving.
Now make sure your marketing, campaign, and media objectives are all working toward that same goal.
Brands using agencies
Hold a quarterly business review with your agency to ensure you’re making progress toward your business goals.
To create sustainable growth, shift your focus from driving lead volume or revenue to driving profit. Work with your team to identify profitability goals. Then, use those to inform your marketing investments.
Mike’s CEO’s business objective is to increase revenue by 20% by the end of Q4 – from $20M to $24M. Now that he knows that, Mike can start to see his role in hitting that goal. But first, he needs to check in with his CMO.
Align on your marketing objective
This is how the CEO’s business objective is achieved.
It’s usually set by the CMO, and can be anything from generating leads to growing offline sales. Here, we’ll focus on generating high-quality leads that turn into sales.
Brands using agencies
Make sure you’re aligned on your marketing objective, not just campaign KPIs.
From focusing on lead volume to focusing on profitable business growth. This positions marketing as a profit center, rather than a cost center.
Mike’s CMO’s marketing objective is to increase sales-qualified leads to $5M (a 25% boost) by the end of Q4.
This is good news, because Mike can clearly see how that will help their CEO hit her goal. Now he just needs to make sure his media objectives can do the same thing.
Set your media objectives
Now things get more detailed.
The media objectives help you meet the marketing objective — which, in this case, is generating high-quality leads. They’re usually set by the digital marketing team, and break down into two parts:
Performance objectives focus on the bottom of the funnel, measured by KPIs like phone calls and form submissions.
Brand objectives focus on the top of the funnel, and drive factors like ad recall, brand awareness, and brand interest.
From only focusing on performance marketing to developing a full funnel strategy — with brand goals that drive lower funnel outcomes.
Mike sets two media objectives for Best Insurance:
His performance objective is to get 50k sales-qualified leads through Google Search by the end of Q4.
His brand objective is to use YouTube to drive a 25% increase in branded search demand.
Together, those should help his CMO get that 25% boost she’s looking for.
Pick your campaign objectives
This is where the rubber meets the road.
Campaign objectives are the KPIs used to gauge the success of a specific marketing campaign. We recommend you keep a close eye on return on ad spend (ROAS).
Make sure all your goals support each other by involving the right people — from account managers to senior decision makers.
From measuring proxies like CPA or CPL to measuring actual business outcomes, with KPIs like Return On Ad Spend or Lifetime Customer Value.
Since Mike has two media objectives, he sets a campaign objective for each of them.
For his performance objective (50k sales-qualified leads): Mike wants to drive 200k conversions at a 120% target ROAS in Q1, with bookings from new customers.
For his brand objective (25% increase in branded search demand): Mike wants to capture 59M unique impressions at an $8 CPM over the same period.
If he does both, he should have no problem meeting his media objectives (which would help his CMO and CEO reach their goals, too.)
Success is built on strong foundations. Before launching any new campaigns, make sure you have the big three in place: robust measurement, a value-based bidding strategy, and powerful creative.
- Understand your customers
- Find your high-value customers
- Stand out with powerful creative
Understand your customers better with privacy-safe measurement
Collect and connect your first-party data to Google Ads
The most valuable data available is your company’s first-party data. Why? It’s high-quality, hyper relevant to your customer set and privacy-safe. It’s best to avoid using third-party cookies that are restricted by some browsers.
Make sure you’re collecting first-party data on your website using Google’s global site tag. Sitewide tagging is an important additional step you can take because it ensures accurate measurement across browsers in a privacy-safe way.
From there, connect your first-party data - this is the most important step you can take. If you're not importing first-party data (e.g., data in your CRM) with Google Ads, you’re leaving money on the table. By connecting your first-party data with Google Ads, you can see exactly who your highest-value prospects are, and only spend on them, thanks to Google's machine learning.
Strategies that integrate customer data across the entire lead-to-sale journey drive:
+20% incremental revenue1
+30% in cost efficiency1
Offline conversion tracking for web forms does not involve sharing any personally identifiable information (PII) with Google — in fact, it's against Google’s policies to upload any such data.
Fill in the blanks to find the highest quality leads
Now that you’ve connected your first-party data (e.g., data in your CRM), help Google fill in the blanks by adding the valuable customer actions (from the lead-to-sale journey exercise in step 1) and their associated values. These can be imported as unique conversion actions.
This will allow Google’s automated solutions to properly weigh the value of each step, so the system can optimize for the leads that are more likely to convert.
Measure the customer user journey: use enhanced conversions and upgrade to non-last click attribution
Increase the accuracy of conversion tracking across Search and YouTube by automatically matching customer data to logged-in user data, all anonymized, using enhanced conversions. This helps you to recover conversions not otherwise observed.
And don’t forget to upgrade to non-last click attribution. Before filling out a form on your website or calling for info, people may click or interact with several of your ads. Instead of giving all the credit to the last thing they saw or interacted with, non-last click attribution assigns credit to the earlier customer touchpoints that helped influence the ultimate conversion.
Data-driven attribution model was upgraded to also attribute non-last click credit to YouTube clicks and engaged views and Display clicks.
When compared to last-click attribution, data-driven attribution typically delivers more conversions at a similar cost to other attribution strategies.2
Comparing attribution models for Best Insurance
A data-driven model distributes credit differently for each interaction along the consumer journey.
Once Mike set up data-driven attribution, he saw that one of his display ads had a bigger impact on sales than he expected. Even though more sales were coming from the search ad, most of those people had interacted with the display ad first.
So Mike increased the budget for display ads as a result.
Compare apples to apples
We recommend consolidating platforms to bring all sources of customer data into one place. As your data scales and your process becomes more automated, this will be even more important.
Use the Conversions Report to understand how you’re completing goals across multiple sources.
Find your highest-value customers using automation
Some customers bring more value than others, and your bidding should reflect that.
In a perfect world, you’d be able to focus on your best customers — and have a strategy that adjusts to each user’s unique combination of signals and value. Of course, this would be incredibly time consuming and nearly impossible to do manually.
Fortunately, automation empowers you to have a digital marketing strategy that reflects the value each user brings you.
To unlock the full potential of automation, use broad match keywords to capture new searches, responsive search ads to deliver relevant messages and value-based bidding strategies to bid to your best customers.
There are a few different value-based bidding strategies you can choose from, let’s discuss the best one for you.
Our best-in-class example of a value-based bidding strategy is Target Return on Ad Spend (Target ROAS).
Unlike Target CPA (a conversion-based bid strategy), Target ROAS treats each customer differently. It incorporates the predicted value of each customer, their likelihood of conversion, and the value of each step (like a click or form fill) using the conversion values you reported earlier.
15% increase in conversion value when moving from Target CPA to Target ROAS.3
Target ROAS allows you to bid based on the value of each customer — not just how much it’ll cost to acquire them. Just input the average return you’d like to make on every dollar spent on ads, and it optimizes with your profitability goal in mind.
For example, if you’d like to make $3 for every $1 spent on ads, your target ROAS would be 300%. To find yours, use this formula:
Ensure you use the automation package of broad match keywords, responsive search ads, and a value-based bidding strategy like Target ROAS.
Not sure what your target ROAS goal is? Transition to Maximize conversion value.
Like Target CPA? You’ll love Target ROAS.
Target CPA controls for ad spend and treats all conversions equally, but Target ROAS controls for both ad spend and customer value.
Target CPA vs Target ROAS
Mike wanted to make $1M in revenue for $250,000 in ad spend. He deploys a broad match keyword strategy to capture potential new searches he can’t anticipate. He also uses responsive search ads to provide relevant, and personalized ad copy. Finally, he set a target ROAS of 4X or 400% — which meant he’d earn $4 for every $1 he spent on advertising. Google then optimized for customers that would help him hit that goal.
Stand out with powerful creative
Write more effective search ads
Research backs up what we know to be true: the creative aspects of an ad (like headlines) are still the most important element in driving sales. In the link below, we’ve compiled a list of best practices to make your search ads as impactful as possible.
Follow best practices for Display Ads
For Display Ads, make sure you have a strong image that follows all requirements, with a compelling headline and a clear value prop in the description. When possible, try to use an image with a single subject, a natural composition, and square edges. Avoid overlaying logos or text.
For more help picking the right photo, check out our Display Creative Best Practices Guide below.
75% of advertising impact is determined by creative quality.4
Use our recipe for strong videos
After lots of testing, we boiled down the essential rules for effective creative on YouTube. Make sure to share them with your creative team before they start on their next video ad.
Now you're ready.
Now it’s time to supercharge your efforts. We’ll break this section into two parts: capturing existing demand at the bottom of the funnel, and generating new demand at the top.
- Capture existing demand
- Generate new demand
Capture existing demand
We recommend you:
Start with a branded search campaign to capture customers who are searching for you and ready to call or submit their information in your lead form.
Create a non-branded search campaign for each of your services or products to engage with prospective customers when they're open to discovering new brands.
Boost your visibility by adding new relevant keywords and changing keyword match types in Keyword Planner.
Use lead form extensions to give users pre-filled forms with Action boxs like “Get a quote.” (They help prevent drop-off, too.)
Improve your ROI with Smart Bidding
First, prioritize your most valuable actions by setting up conversion actions. To do this, use the steps and values from your lead-to-sale journey in step 1. Then:
Good - If you don't have a cost-per-lead target (the amount you’d ideally pay for a conversion), start with a Maximize conversions strategy.
Better - If you do have a cost-per-lead target, set up a Target Cost Per Acquisition bid strategy.
Best - To optimize for your return on every dollar, use tROAS.
Target ROAS best practices:
Start with a target ROAS close to what you’re already achieving, and tweak from there. Starting with too high of a trget ROAS may impact your conversion volume and limit the amount of traffic your ads get.
Give Target ROAS its full learning period, which can be a few weeks — depending on how long it takes a lead to move through your lead-to-sale journey. (Your performance may vary widely during this learning period.)
After the learning period, continue to tweak your target ROAS to find the optimal balance of volume and efficiency.
Back to basics: Use this equation to see how profitable your advertising campaigns areGoogle Ads revenue - costs = Google Ads profit
The product package of broad match keywords, Target ROAS and responsive search ads are more powerful together.
When Mike reviewed his goals with his CMO, he discussed switching from Target CPA to Target ROAS. In addition to helping him maximize profits, this allowed him to tie his goals to the success of the CMO’s marketing objective and CEO’s business objective.
This helped him position Best Insurance’s marketing department as a profit center rather than a cost center — making his impact on the business even more apparent.
Generate new demand - expand to new platforms
Run a Smart Display campaign to automatically target people across all stages of the customer journey on the Google Display Network.
Use a Discovery campaign to automatically introduce your brand to new customers scrolling through feeds in Gmail, YouTube, and Discovery.
Run a TrueView for action campaign to capture potential customers who are using YouTube to decide what to buy.
New to TrueView for action?
Start with Maximize Conversion bidding. If you have a set KPI, use Target CPA bidding.
Mike wanted to generate demand with customers who weren’t already looking for insurance. In order to reach customers on new platforms, he launched a Smart Display campaign to broaden his customer base and win new conversions using a fully automated campaign across the Google Display Network.
In addition to a Display campaign, Mike also launched a TrueView for action campaign and harnessed the power of video to reach new customers across YouTube.
Time to refine
Evaluate & expand
As time passes, you’ll better understand how your ads are performing. Use this information to optimize your performance, test new strategies, and find more opportunities for growth.
- Spend your time wisely
- Test, learn, and refine
- Don’t miss the opportunity
Give automation time to learn
It can take around two weeks to get an accurate read on your data when using automated bidding solutions. Check the bid strategy report to see how many days are left in your learning period, and try not to make many changes to your campaign in the meantime.
Spend your time where it counts
Let Google find the opportunities
When you’re running hundreds of campaigns, saving time is critical. Your optimization score helps you do this by estimating how well your Google Ads account is performing, and gives you personalized recommendations that will help it perform even better.
80% of digital marketers’ time is spent on manual tasks like bidding, and only 20% is spent on strategy.5
Don’t leave opportunity on the table
Grow your slice of the pie
If your campaign is hitting its targets — but maxing out its budget — there’s probably more room to grow. Check your impression share in your Google Ads account — it’ll tell you how many impressions were gifted to competitors due to insufficient budgets.
Evaluate customer lifetime value
When planning your next steps, take lifetime customer value into account.
Figuring out the value of each of your customers isn’t easy. You’ll need to evaluate data from paid sources, organic sources, and your other marketing efforts. Figuring out lifetime value will allow you to bid to the full value each customer provides your business.
To get started, find out how much you’re earning from each customer, go into Google Analytics, open reports, and select “Audience > Lifetime Value."
The new insights page in Google Ads updates daily, and it shows curated insights unique to the business to help you understand current performance, identify growth opportunities and category expansions.
Mike was glad to see Best Insurance’s online sales increase by 30% in Q1, but he thought he could do more. He reevaluated his campaign objectives for Q2-Q4, adjusting his target ROAS and increasing his demand generation upper funnel tactics. He was able to help his CMO pass her $5M goal by the end of the year.
And when his CMO is happy, Mike is, too.