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Lead Retention and Capture: How to Prevent a Leak in Your Sales Funnel

One of the trickiest aspects of marketing is the concept of a lead and everything that revolves around it. Most marketing professionals learn as they go along. While this is a fine strategy, would it not still be best to have all of your information upfront? Understanding leads, lead capture, the sales funnel, lead loss, and all other related concepts, whether you are managing an e-commerce brand or otherwise is a much more useful and effective strategy. This way, you do not need to waste time learning the concept because you have all of the right tools and resources available to “hit the ground running,” so to say.

If you are ready to take charge of your leads, then this is what you need to know in the form of information and a traditional case study.

What is a Lead and what does Capture Mean?

Leads, lead generation, and lead capture are troublesome topics for most marketing professional, according to a recent report by the Aberdeen Group. The report delineated that, “The number one issue for most CEOs and marketers is lead generation – getting more leads to their sales team.” While your marketing team is certainly concerned with lead generation, the sales team is more interested in reducing the selling time. Fortunately, there is a way that both groups can work together and to achieve their own respective end goals, and that is through the lead nurturing process.

However, before delving into the concrete information, let’s make sure that you fully understand what is being discussed. After all, if you are uncertain about the preliminary terms, then the rest of this case study is not going to make any sense.

According to Hubspot, a lead is “a person who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service in some way, shape, or form.” Now, we can break down this definition into two sub-categories:

  • Qualified Lead
  • Unqualified Lead

An unqualified lead is a lead that has not been nurtured enough to reach the end of the sales cycle, they are uncertain about your company’s offerings, they are uncertain about exactly what they are looking for, and chances are, your product or service is out of their price range. On the other hand, a qualified lead is already well through your sales funnel either through nurturing or self-interest, they are well into the buying cycle, they are in control of their needs, and they have a budget that works in your brand’s favor. Between the two types of leads you want to focus on qualified leads.

Now that you know what a lead is, the next point to focus on that will concern the bulk of this study is: what does lead capture mean?

Orilla Business has a great working definition of lead capture, which is “the process of pointing prospects in the right direction to get more information on what they are looking for.” Essentially, you are providing potential buyers with information about your brand that captures their attention enough to start going through the sales funnel. Your goal is to capture more qualified leads because there is a higher chance that they will buy into your product or service. The process of capturing qualified leads will be discussed further in later sections. For now, let’s go to the next step, which is to understand the sales funnel.

Understanding the Sales Funnel

The sales funnel is an imperative component to your conversion process. So, once you have a captured qualified leads, the next step is to funnel them through the sales funnel. Let’s take a look at what a sales funnel looks like:


Let’s parse this out. What you see above is a marketing sales funnel. A marketing sales funnel is a system that marketing professionals use to guide leads through the sales process. For the most successful conversion rate, you need a strong funnel that helps the lead flow through without being deterred. The funnel also prevents you from losing customers, so long as you do things right. These are the stages of a marketing funnel:

  • Inquiry/Discovery

The inquiry is the simplest stage. Here, you are gathering information about who is interested and who may be interested about your brand.

  • Marketing Qualified Leads

The real journey begins at the marketing qualified leads stage. According to Hubspot, this is the crucial handoff point between the marketing and sales team. That is to say, both teams need to have a clear understanding about what a qualified lead is and how to determine whether someone is a qualified lead. Once you generate qualified leads through lead capture, the lead is ready for a sales follow-up. The process looks like this:


Essentially, one your marketing and sales team have captured qualified leads, the next step of the process is to increase incest through following up quickly. By stimulating interest, you will be able to determine if the lead is a good fit for your brand. The ideal situation to reach with a lead is finding that the lead is a good fit and that has high interest. What you want to avoid is a lead that is a poor fit and has a low interest in your brand – which is an unqualified lead by definition.

  • Sales Accepted Leads

According to TrackMAven, the Sales Accepted Leads stage is the most important and most overlooked stage in the lead generation process. At this stage, the lead is passed off to the sale team’s system for them to pursue. Here, the sales process begins. Reaching this stage is crucial because it saves your sales team time in creating a final sale and you have completed all the work to convert the lead into a likely buyer.

  • Sales Qualified Leads

The next stage of the process in the funnel is the sales qualified leads. According to Search Sales Force, a sales qualified lead is a “prospective customer that has been researched and vetted – first by the organization’s marketing department and then by its sales team – and is deemed ready for the next stage in the sales process.” Here, the lead has already given an inclination that they are going to buy and that they are a right fit for the brand. The sales qualified lead is also much more ready than a sales accepted lead to buy. The danger though for most marketing professionals is a leaky funnel. A leaky funnel means that you are losing out on leads at some important stage of the process. Hopefully at this point though, you’ve realized that your tunnel is right on track.

  • Closed Case/New Customers

Finally, as you can surmise, this stage is when the sale has been made and you have acquired a new customer. The key here though is to keep engaging your customers and increasing brand loyalty. This way, you not only retain customers, but you also ensure that they discuss your brand with others.

Lead Capture 101

According to Mad Marketer, lead capture is the process of gathering leads through a number of mediums. To better understand lead capture and how to implement it, let’s look at a few cases.

  1. Increasing Lead Capture by 27%: An Unbounce Case Study

The first case study we are going to address is a strategy implemented by Surety Bonds. Before we delve into the details, let’s start with some preliminary facts. First, the website draws a fair amount of visitors, but the visitors were not reaching the point where they filled out the lead capture forms. Unbounce decided to make some changes to the capture form, which it then tested through an A/B split test for 2-3 weeks. A few of the main considerations taken into account with changes to the forms were:

  • Where to put the form – used a more prominent location in the change
  • Changing the form from a link to a visible and prominent button
  • Placing the form on the homepage
  • And asking visitors politely by requesting their state instead of their business address

After making the changes, those in charge of the case study started receiving a higher volume of calls. The statistics also indicated that the offline conversion rate was almost as high as the online conversion rate. The take away from this case study is that you should never stop testing. Testing is a significant part of the process and to increase your lead capture rate, you need to put in the work.

The end result of Surety Bonds’ changes and increased lead capture:


  1. HP Brand Lead Capture Increase by 186% with an Email Opt-In Page

Another noteworthy study was performed by Marketing Sherpa for HP (Hewlett-Packard) Brand. Facing low lead capture numbers, the brand needed a way to increase its rate and this time, it decided to go with the recommendation of overhauling its email opt-in page by reducing the number of fields and gathering more data on the back end. With this change, experts reasoned that the team would be able to increase the conversion rate without undermining the quality of leads.

The team started by identifying the target audience and noticed that those who were interested were looking for more support on products and information about additional products. The original registration page looked like this (but with many more fields on the rest of the page):


As you can tell, it isn’t the most convenient set up and it certainly does not generate a lot of lead capture. The marketing team shifted the goal to “quantity,” which means that it asked much fewer questions but that were more targeted. The next changes to the form was to supplement the data and focus on a handful of fields such as first name, least name, email address, company name, and subscription sections. Finally the brand also designed a new opt in page and it looked like this:


The difference is extraordinary. As you can tell, the brand uses much fewer fields, the background allows for the form to stand out, and it is much less daunting to use the website than it previously was. With these changes, the brand was able to increase its lead capture rate by a whopping 186%.

  1. E-Commerce Site Doubles Lead Capture and Lead Conversion Rate (Overlay Changes)

Beacon Technologies has another interesting case study to report. In this case, a healthcare product line retailer was looking for an erosion of their back link portfolio. The brand was losing links to their website through attrition, like most websites do. The trouble was, the brand was also struggling to replace them with authoritative and relevant links. Overall, the brand’s links dropped from 580 to 220.

The goals of the changes for the e-commerce site were to optimize the site to increase the email capture soft conversion rate and to increase lead capture through email submission without reducing the quality of the user’s experience. The brand decided to install a light box that appears over the current active page as an overlay. This way, the visitor was able to still view the webpage beneath the overlay. As for the light box, it contained a distinct banner with a discount price and to receive the discount, the user simply needed to enter their email address. Making these simple changes, the brand experienced a 283% increase in email capture and 272% increase in conversion rate. The starting figures respectively were .59% and 2.19%.

To make things easier, let’s solidify the points of each case study. This is what you should take away:

  • Where you place your lead capture form and how your lead capture form appears matter
  • The design of your lead capture form and the number of cells involved is relevant to the user experience
  • In terms of e-commerce websites, you should focus on a quality overlay that allows visitors to still see the underlying webpage. In addition, a campaign that offers a discount for opting-in is highly effective to generate leads.

How to Prevent Lead Loss from a Leaky Sales Funnel

Another common problem that many brands face is a leaky sales funnel. The concept of a leaky sales funnel is fairly simple. It is when your leads are filtering out of the system at some point in the process. A leaky sales funnel not only costs you in terms of leads, but it also puts all of your effort to waste.

The first strategy that you can implement is to spot the leads. According to Hatchbuck, there are a number of ways that you can spot the leads.

  • Your Data

The first option is to take a look at the data. If you are using a CRM system, you have access to information like your pipelines reports by sales representatives, lead sources, and you also have closed reports. These reports enable you to determine where your strategy is running into problems during the sales funnel process. Another great source of data is Google Analytics.

  • Set Up Your Sales Funnel

Another recommendation to identify a leak is from Crazyegg. The recommendation is to set up your sales funnel because after all, you will not know where to find a leak if you cannot identify what your sales funnel looks like. In addition, you may even have varying funnels for different processes. Regardless, you should see how the rate changes between every stage of the funnel. If the rate goes down super dramatically, then you know there is a problem that must be addressed. Once you have generated your funnel, you should set it up in your analytics software to crunch the numbers. This is what this step of the process would look like – roughly:


  • Visualizing Conversions

After you have set up the sales funnel, the next step is to visualize the conversions. That is to say, you export all of the relevant data and use the built-in visualization features to see what your data is like as a whole. The funnel visualization process is not just a number chart like above, but it is a depiction of your funnel and the rates for every single stage of the process. By viewing things this way, you attain a better understanding of where you are in the process. This is what the visualization chart looks like:


After you have spotted the leaks, the next step of the process is to use strategies to patch up those leaks. Here are some of the most effective strategies available according to Sales Hacker:

  • Focus on the Red Flags

Before going into what you need to do to patch up your funnel, you should identify the red flags that are taking place. The red flags include a low leads to close rate (as seen above), low rate of opportunity to closed deals, low pipeline coverage for sales team to meet quota, high amount of stalled opportunities, and a lack of leads that have been followed up on. Once you identity the red flags, you can move onto the next step, which is to close your leaky funnel.

  • Strategy #1: Improve Lead Response Time

One of the main causes of a leaky sales funnel is when you extent a lead response time. According to Inside Sales, 35-50 percent of sales end up at the vender who responds to the lead first. The average response time is five minutes; therefore your goal is to cut it down to less than five so that you can out-do your competition.

  • Strategy #2: Track Attempts and Touches Up Until Initial Conversion

The next strategy is to test multiple cadences and see what works best for your business. You want to send a mix of difference communications to your leads and figure out which one performs best. Once you have identified, the best performer, you can get read of the option that did a poor job at keeping leads interested in your brand and what it has to offer. In addition, to improve the quality of your correspondences, you may want to send out a survey to determine what your leads are interested in. Once you know that, you can feel confident that they will remain in the sales tunnel throughout the entire process.

  • Strategy #3: Get Rid of Disqualified Leads

First, another reason that you may be experiencing a leaky funnel is if you are not qualifying your leads at the onset. Second, even if a lead starts off as qualified, that does not necessarily mean that they are going to remain qualified throughout the entire process. Therefore, you should nurture and follow up with your leads as much as possible to help them retain interest in your company. By keeping the interest in your company intact, you can ensure that the lead stays in the funnel up until the last step.

  • Strategy #4: Effectiveness of Each Stage of the Process

Finally, while your handoff from the marketing department to the sales department may be smooth, you may still have a stage of the process that is not effective. Once you identify the ineffective stage of the process, you should figure out what is deterring your lead from staying there. After you’ve done that, the marketing or sales team needs to create a campaign or strategy that will keep the lead committed to driving through the sales funnel so that your teams can make a final sale. If it helps, then many brands explain that one of the most off-putting experiences for users is if the customer experience is redundant. Therefore, if you want to experience true success at any stage of the process, then you need to keep information fresh, communication in-tact, and your customer’s experience as interesting as possible. Recycling information and feeding the lead what they already know is one great way to kill the funnel.

E-Commerce and Leads: The Top Five Strategies that Work

E-Commerce is one of the most popular segments these days for marketing professionals. As a result, you want to make sure that you are completely up-to-date on what it means to participate in e-commerce marketing and how to generate leads. While we cannot cover everything, and we have already covered some, about e-commerce, we are going to give you the general tools you need to implement effective lead capture strategies for your clients.

Let’s start with five lead generation strategies that are optimal for e-commerce vendors.

  1. Newcomer Emails

You need more than an opt-in email form to generate leads at the e-commerce level. Instead, you want to make the lead comfortable about giving out their information and in this case, the best way to do it is to offer something in return. Picreel suggests giving out free shipping or a discount on a product or service. By offering these types of incentives, users are more likely to not only opt-in, but they will also be more prone to make a purchase – which is one of your brand’s end goals.

  1. Add the Contact Number for Your Brand

Another recommendation by Picreel is to place your brand’s contact number to your web page. The contact number should be placed prominently on the page and should be completely visible so there is no question for the user on how to contact a representative. Keep in mind that the number you put up should be a 1-800 number. The read behind this is that the number is essentially a lead generation strategy that gives the customer an opportunity to contact your brand to have their questions answered. Since their questions can be readily answered, they will be more likely to become a lead and convert.

  1. Refer a Friend

If there are especially good deals taking place or a promotion going on, then it may be the perfect time to generate more leads for your e-commerce brand. When your existing customers visit your brand’s website, it can be extremely useful to ask your existing customers to refer a friend. For referring a friend, offer them a promotional discount on a product or service. To make the deal even sweeter, you can even offer the new referral a discount on something too.

  1. Pop-ups for Specific Information

Another great strategy is to use pop-ups to get information from your customers or to introduce information. For example, you can feature pop-ups on your website to tell your customers about your social media pages. If you want to ask for information, you can tell your customer to provide their email address and in turn, they’ll receive a discount. Either strategy works great for achieving the desired results – which are more leads for your e-commerce website and more conversions.

Overall, these tactics are easy to implement and they also provide you with what you are looking for. The better you get using these strategies, the higher the chance that they are going to lead to more leads and conversions.

Top Conversion Tactics

The final segment of our case study is top conversion tactics. Here are a few of the main tactics that you may want to try:

  • Overlay Strategies

According to Kissmetrics, overlay strategies are some of the most effective that you can implement for conversions. When figuring out your overlay strategy, it is imperative to first determine what your audience is interested in. After all, if they are not interested in what the overlay has to say, then the overlay will not be effective. Once you figure out what your overlay includes, you need to formulate how you are going to attract your customer’s attention. The best thing to do is to keep things as simple as possible. That is to say, do not ask too much but offer a lot.

Finally, you should “keep the end in mind.” This essentially means that since your end goal is to create an overlay that generates results, which should be your primary goal. Only after that should you take into consideration other factors.

  • Exit Intent Technology

Exit intent technology is a way to increase your conversion rate. It is the process of catching your visitors and enticing them, well before they leave your website. Overlay strategies are one form of exit intent technology and is used by more marketing professionals. For your exit intent technology, you can feature an overly that provides a call to action or some type of opt-in form.

Here is an example:


  • Content Upgrades

Finally, if you have not taken advantage of content upgrades, then it is time to do so. Content are is essentially changing the type of content that you offer on your website, social media, and blog posts for a higher conversion rate. The content is not traditional written content, but it can come in the form of sheets, tables, guides, and even audio If you are looking increase the level of conversions and lead generation results, then here are some of the most popular content upgrades that you can implement:

  • A cheat sheet that is a one-page information on content that you are summarizing. For example, if you are writing about HTML tags, then your sheet can be a list of tags that your user can download by imputing their email address
  • A list of resources for your reader to check out at the end of the post. This builds the user relationship and it further expands upon ideas already discussed
  • A quick start guide. Take note – users love guides. The more in-depth the information is, the more desirous the content will be.
  • Case studies – you liked this, right? Just think of what will happen if you offered one to your own users.
  • Printable diagrams that make understanding information easier for your user


Overall, lead retention and capture is an in-depth process that requires a lot of organization, understanding of the sales funnel and your audience, and the potential strategies that you can use. By taking advantage of this guide as a resource and tool, you will be able to make the right decisions to skyrocket your conversion rate and your lead capture rate.

Lastly, let me know your thoughts and what other tips for lead capture that have worked for you. Leave a comment below and I look forward to hearing from you.

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

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