July 30

Lead Testing: 90% of successful lead follow-up occurred within 28 days of first contact

Lead Generation


If there is a chance to network and build relationships, there is opportunity to generate and nurture leads. Trade shows, workshops and webinars are gold mines for obtaining information. It’s fair to say 98% of attendees likely have an interest in your solution, and that is enough to begin the nurturing process.

Of course, it is very important to capture attendees’ contact information and product interests at that point of high interest, and then act on that interest before it fades.

Generating and nurturing trade show leads

In this particular test, conducted by Craig Mullenbach, Program Manager, MECLABS, and his team, an industrial testing equipment manufacturer wanted MECLABS to follow up on leads generated through campaigns and trade shows.

The goal was to determine

  • if following up on trade show contact information would translate into leads,
  • when calling should cease, and
  • if analyzing this process would allow us to optimize similar contracts in the future.

Answers came screaming through the data we tested.

The test found that 90% of successful lead follow-ups occurred within 28 days of first contact; 60% of those leads were actualized on the first day of calling.  Halfway into the calling (day 15) proved to be the last point at which 1% of conversions occurred. The graph below displays our findings.

Lead follow-up conversion experiment

Interest degradation

From my experience, the interest of a prospect drops off significantly over time after they leave an event or attend a webinar. The half-life is likely only a few days, and once you reach 20 days out, people can barely remember they attended the event, let alone remember a specific product.

During this test, the last conversion occurred on the 343rd day. At some point when running an experiment, you must determine the point when the diminishing returns make further data collection no longer worth your while.

What can you learn for your own lead generation and nurturing efforts?

For every company and every product, the correct calling procedures will vary. Say the product of interest is worth thousands of dollars. In that case, continuing to call into that 41st day may be worth your while — it just depends.

It’s all about maximizing the potential profit in the least amount of time. Beyond the specific results of this test, I think the biggest takeaway that will help you is this: Start testing your own lead programs if you aren’t already.

You can test different approaches and timeframes to see which brings your company the highest ROI.  You’ll learn what works, what doesn’t work and what value you can identify from analyzing this entire process. We found immense success, and we continue to refine it to better the data and practices we employ in this specific follow-up situation.

Creating a successful lead program is an iterative process

Each trade show, webinar, and/or workshop is an opportunity bursting with potential leads. Setting up a repeatable, iterative process that you can learn from and continuously optimize will help you get the biggest return for your investment:

  • Create a plan of action before the event – How will we turn this information into leads? What can we analyze and test from this information gathered?
  • Capture important information – Obviously, contact information is important. But, thinking beyond the basics will help your follow-up efforts. Why are they there? What information most appeals to them? What solutions most interest them?
  • Follow up promptly – As you can see from this test, follow-up should often occur within 30 days, if not sooner. But remember, it is important to determine the most successful timeframe for your own efforts …
  • Test your follow up efforts – Which timeframe is most successful? Which follow-up methods work best (e.g., email and a call, or just a call)? Which offers resonate the most? Which areas do we want to learn more about? And, ultimately, what will bring us the greatest results?
  • Take what you learned and build off it for next time – How can we improve? What elements   can we optimize and test further? How can we implement this new strategy?

Related Resources:

To Call or Email? That is the Question

Nine Simple Tactics to Drive a Higher Return on Trade Show Investment

Lead Generation: Phone calls turn first-time webinar into million-dollar leads

How to Do Lead Management That Improves Conversion

100 Tips for Trade Show Lead Generation

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. There are certainly lots of ways to generate leads. Always remember those ways and take note of the most effective means. It is just like taking care of a customer. You have to pursue their interests to generate more leads.

  2. Emily, this is a great piece on speed to follow-up. We’re always pressing for rapid response and ongoing nurture for future inflection points on leads. So often, companies get caught up on waiting for the show lead list or tripping up on the time to load into their CRM. Those companies who move faster from attendee badge scan to calling will win.

  3. Emily, your article is very informative and should be a clarion call to prompt businesses to follow-up on leads quickly. I have run marketing operations for several large software companies and now provide the same service for my clients. Based on the same type of effectiveness studies you reference, our standard is to follow-up on all leads by email within 24 hours and by phone within 48 hours. These two quick touches give us the best chance to convert individuals into qualified sales leads.

  4. Hey Emily, quick question: How was a ‘conversion’ defined? A Sales qualified lead? An opportunity created? A sale? Interesting data anyway, but would be good to know.

  5. Love the experiment! Following up with individuals from trade shows and webinars in a promptly manner has been extremely effective for us.

    I’m glad that you highlighted that a plan of action is necessary for a successful event. Often times this is the part that marketers skip, and this is where follow-up is deemed ineffective. At Marketo, we strive to be the first to send a follow-up e-mail to stand out from the crowd. Without planning the e-mail ahead of time, our timeliness would not be possible!

    -Carol Tang at Marketo

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