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The Waiting Game – How lead time should affect your Digital Marketing

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017
Written by Content Team

Digital Marketing is not a one size fits all service. There are a huge number of different strategies and platforms available for you to get in touch with your customers and convert them into leads or sales. When choosing which service is best for you, there’s a lot of things to consider.

Lead time is probably something that is the hardest to pin down when it comes to measuring the impact on your marketing. How long from your customers first point of contact with your industry are they actually going to take to purchase. It makes sense that customers who are likely to purchase 6 months later are going to be harder to measure a return from, given AdWords own conversion tracking only extends to a maximum of 90 days. Here then are a few suggestions for strategies you might consider implementing for lead times.

1 hour to 2 weeks lead time

Example: Most ecommerce retailers

We start with the very simple. If a user is likely to complete their purchase/lead within the first 2 weeks of getting them onto your website, tracking these via most standard tracking services is simple. Also, the amount of time between you paying for the marketing (be it cost per click or paying for reach) and actually receiving funds from your sale is the shortest. So you can be fairly direct with this marketing:

Search ads are probably the most effective here. Target searches the user will be most likely to be typing in at this stage and get them onto your website. The more likely the customer is to convert quickly, the more aggressive you can be with this. If you’re an ecommerce client, Shopping ads are also highly effective here.

The more expensive your offering here (for ecommerce and non-ecommerce websites) they more likely you are to need to add in remarketing as a service. A more considered purchase takes time and is far more likely to lead to price comparison. Ensuring that customers are followed up with remarketing will help to make you the first company they think of when it comes to their needs.

2 weeks to 6 months lead time

Example: Domestic Real Estate, B2C Services, High Value Ecommerce Purchases

The more time involved with these leads, the more important that remarketing becomes. Not only do you need to stay in your customers mind for longer, you may have to offer more in order to convert them. Keeping the content of your advertising fresh and varied throughout this this extended time will help to catch your potential customers eye more and make sure that after their consideration period, you are the company they choose.

Again, search ads are a great way of going about this. Customers may spend longer thinking about their options, but you still need to get them on in the first instance. Consider driving traffic to pages initially which showcase the benefits of your services more so than just trying to get the customer to sign on the dotted line straight away. Adjusting your search ads for returning users or directing them to different pages will also help to ensure that you guide customers through the various aspects of your service making them more likely to convert.

As I said, remarketing is key here. Looking at audience lengths throughout the buying cycle can allow you to tailor your messaging based on what the audience will be thinking about at that time, so they’re more qualified at the end and more likely to choose you over your competitors. This also helps with the ad variation, making it more likely that you will keep your audience’s attention throughout the process.

12 months plus lead time

Example: High Value B2B Services

The hardest thing about this particular lead time is that by the time a user gets to the point of actually searching for the product or service in question, their mind may well be made up, or they will at least have a few ideas in their head. Ignoring the months that lead up to that initial search can leave you with an uphill battle from the start. So this is one where it’s important to get to the potential customer before they search for your product or service.

That’s not to say that Search Ads are something to ignore at this stage. Customers will still search, and may well search a long way in advance of actually needing the product. Complimenting this with highly targeted Display advertising, Social media advertising across the most appropriate ad networks and potential email marketing (either via Gmail Ads or direct mail shots) will help to ensure that your message reaches the customers and keeps them informed of you and all your strong points.

However, it’s worth trying to remember to judge return less on the signature on the dotted line, for as we’ve said before, it’s hard to track users for that length of time. Interaction rates, views of key pages, time spent on your website, views of videos are all ways of giving the credit to the campaigns that seem to be hitting the most relevant users. These can also be used to define remarketing audiences, vital to ensure that you are hitting site visitors with the most relevant ad content and ignoring users who clearly showed no interest. Another great way of helping with this are micro moments, which can be utilised with any of the lead times, but become more important the longer the process. Now obviously the big moment is when the customer converts but there are so many other things that could be highly valuable. Have they subscribed to your newsletter? Did they comment on a piece that you wrote on your news section? Did they download a key piece of documentation (e.g. technical specifications of a product)? Tracking these can be vital, and can also allow you to potentially collect some client information for use later on. If you can offer a guide or brochure to users, then try and collect some basic information such as an email address and phone number. This can be used by your sales team to follow up on or for more marketing via email. Email addresses are also valuable additions to your remarketing, as these can be added to lists for remarketing or used to generate audiences of users similar to them for further marketing. Considering this and all the above can ensure that you have a great chance of winning the business at the end.


Example: Emergency call out, Health services

Some products are very hard to time. If you offer a service that requires a life event to trigger it’s need, then covering all the above bases is all you can realistically hope to do. Consider who your audience is likely to be and target those users with boosted social media posts and display ads showcasing yourself as a market leader in the field. Ensure that your website is quick and easy to navigate, so when a user comes onto the site and needs your services, contacting the right person is quick and easy.


As I said at the start, this is just one of many factors that should affect your marketing thought process. Ultimately though, not considering it can lead to putting emphasis in the wrong place. Doing this can kill your digital campaigns before they have a chance to develop and win your business.

One additional thing you might want to consider is how you humanise your business when your leads are in the waiting period. One way to do this is to utilise corporate headshots that highlight the fact that there are real people behind your business. We always advise working with a corporate headshot photographer to get this done as you’ll get a higher quality of image that will leave a better impression with your audience.