No matter what platform you’re using to analyze your inbound marketing efforts, you’ve likely noticed that there’s a confusing but distinct difference between measuring the number of new contacts you've generated online and the number of conversions that your website is producing. Another way we talk about these terms: Leads (which are contacts) vs. Form Submissions (which typically count as "conversions" on most marketing automation platforms).
What's the Difference Between a Contact and Conversion?
Upon first thought, contacts and conversions are two metrics that seem to go hand-in-hand for inbound marketers. Oftentimes, people tend to confuse the two, but having an understanding of what makes them different will help you better understand your analysis and drive your marketing strategy moving forward. A contact represents a single individual, whereas a conversion represents an action that an individual can take on your website.
Here at Weidert Group, we’re often asked which is the better metric to pay attention to. And while it’s certainly worthwhile to keep a watchful eye on both your contacts and your conversions, our simple answer is that your main focus should be on growing your list of contacts. Although it's nice to know that your content is garnering conversions, having a healthy, growing list of contacts will ultimately play a key role in fostering lead generation. Here are three reasons why contacts are a better metric to track than conversions:
1. Conversions can be a misleading metric.
Having a high number of conversions is great, but it's important to understand that having more conversions doesn't necessarily equate to having more contacts. It's easy to get excited about a flood of conversions coming in after you just sent a new promotional email, for example—after all, it confirms that your content is attracting interest—but consider who the email was sent to. Did you purchase a prospect list and send a permission pass email, or did you send the email to your existing list of contacts? If you did the latter, which is often the case, then all those conversions came from existing contacts and your contact list won't have grown at all. This is important to keep in mind because...
2. Your contacts are ripe for being marketed to.
That's right: your list of contacts is your list that is ready—and willing—to be part of your marketing activities. No matter how contacts were added to your list (whether they're older contacts you'd had from traditional methods or new contacts who submitted their information to you in exchange for content on your website), your list of contacts is full of people who have opted in to your marketing communications; people that could easily become marketing- or sales-qualified if they meet certain parameters. More contacts equates to more opportunities to generate leads.
3. Contacts have individual records that can be analyzed.
When it comes down to it, you just can't analyze very much about a conversion. On the other hand, each of your contacts has an individual record that serves as a log of all the different activities that particular contact has taken part in—including their number of conversions, complete with detailed information for each conversion. Using the data that's included in a contact's individual record is a great way to begin determining a contact's qualification for marketing and sales activity. Likewise, you can study your best contacts' records to better plan your activities for attracting and converting new prospects into leads.
Focus on your number of contacts first and your number of conversions second
No matter what marketing goals you're working to attain—a certain number of additional customers a month or a set increase in revenue per quarter, for example—giving your attention to your list of contacts and making strategic decisions to help grow that list will ultimately give you more opportunities to market to potential leads and nurture them on their paths to becoming paying customers.