Tracking Lead Gen ROI: The Lost Manual

We’re committed to helping organizations get great value from their leads. That’s why we’re excited to have guest blogger, Peter Genuardi of Strength in Members, share his perspective on tracking return on investment (ROI) for his clients. Peter’s company advises U.S. organizations on how to get the greatest value from their lead generation efforts. Read on to learn more about how to track overall value of your leads.

I recently spoke to a client at a large, international relief organization.  She told me that she had spent nearly $100,000 on acquiring digital leads over the last three years.  I asked her how much she had been communicating to these new leads and what the payback for her investment had been. My jaw dropped when she looked at me, and without batting an eye, she replied "Peter, I really don't know."

I was baffled.

"How could she justify making such huge investments in her lead generation program without knowing the numbers? " I thought.

Honestly, though, I shouldn't have been so surprised. It’s hard.

That same day, I was talking to my friends at I told them about this woman and how she struggled to figure out precisely “what” she was getting for her investment in new leads.  We agreed that the truth is that it's hard to track all of that info in one place. If you're using an email system that doesn't connect to your online fundraising tool, never mind your direct mail system (and so on and so on) you could literally spend days getting it all together.

So, What Should We Measure?
Well, in any good direct response program - whether aiming to raise dollars, drive actions, or even just change attitudes - we should focus on measuring impact in three key areas.

  • Audience Growth
    First, we need to examine the extent to which our investments in lead gen grow our audience. Think about growth of your audience across media. So, did this investment just result in growth of your email file? Did you capture postal address? Because if you did, you’ve created a pool of people to include in your direct mail program too. Send them your direct mail welcome package. Did this investment result in more social followers on Facebook, Twitter, or Orkut (hello Brasil!)?
  • Engagement
    Second, and perhaps most importantly, we need to look at how strong our relationship is with these new leads.  Are these people consuming information and engaging with your content? Are they opening and clicking emails and more importantly, taking action? What about social? Are they participating in conversations with you and with other people who make up the social fabric of your organization?
  • Conversions
    Finally, we need to look at metrics associated with the hard conversion activities you are after. For many of us, it’s simply donations or advocacy actions. For others, though, it could be event attendance or app download.  These are some of the easiest things to measure for each lead source, since they tend to be the key success indicator of many programs, which is to say, the program would be pointless without them.

So, Here’s How We’re Going to Help Solve this Problem
After my chat with the team, I told my client I would get to work right away on creating a lead source tracking tool to chart the performance of investments in new leads, compare their profitability, and help decide where to invest in the future.

The good news is we just finished building the tool for lead source tracking and I want to share it with you so that you can benefit from it, too.  

This spreadsheet will help you do the following:

  • Get Organized: Keep a list of the many MANY lead sources you have, when you acquired the names, and how much money you invested in acquiring them.
  • Track Performance: Enter the dollars raised and actions taken by people from each lead source on a monthly basis.
  • Assess Return: Compare fundraising and advocacy performance for each source. This will allow you to decide to fish or cut bait on acquiring names from any given source.

How To Use This Thing
This workbook is made up of a series of tabs. You’ll pick the tabs you want to use, based on the kind of programs you’re running.  You may just disregard some of them based on your program. Specifically, in this version, we have built in tabs to help you track fundraising-oriented and action (or advocacy)-oriented campaigns.

OK, now, on to what these tabs do:

  • Instructions: Ok, step one is to read the instructions on the instructions tab (they’re useful!).
  • Input Tabs: For both fundraising and action oriented campaigns, we have created “input” tabs.  In each of these you will add details about the name of each source, costs, and the amount of actions or dollars generated by month for up to 36 months.
  • Summary Tabs: This is where the magic happens. For both fundraising and advocacy oriented campaigns, we’ve created a summary tab.  This tab will automatically pull all the information from your “input” tabs and summarize the most important metrics for each lead source.

One last thing...You MUST come back and edit this thing once per month. In fact, right now go to your calendar and add a recurring 30 minute meeting for yourself with the title “Measure My Leads.” Do it!

Tell Us What You’re Measuring!

So, that’s it. Give it a shot. I hope you find this tool useful. Also, we’re open to suggestions, so tell us what you think in the comments, below. And let us know what you learn!

Good luck!