Why You Can’t Use Google Data Studio for Reporting Leads

I’m a big fan of Google Data Studio. It’s flexible in the great number of inputs it’ll take and it’s easy to lay out powerful dashboards, but I have found one spot where it doesn’t work great: lead attribution. The problem in lead attribution is one of filtering: a “conversion” or “goal completion” in web analytics is often NOT a lead and it leads to a massive gap between marketing and sales. There are a ton of companies whose revenue is driven by leads, so it’s important that as marketers, we get this right.

Google Data Studio

What’s a Conversion?

In website analytics for a lead-generating website, website conversion is whatever can be most closely tracked to a lead. Typically, you would track a phone call via dynamic phone numbers, or you’d track an important form like a “request a quote” form.

What’s a Lead?

Filtering is needed before a conversion can be called a lead. Many of those phone call “conversions” might be current customers calling to re-book a meeting, the receptionist’s mom, or maybe one of those “you won a cruise” calls. Depending on your forms, you might be seeing the same thing: desperate job applicants filling out the request a quote form, companies from India trying to get your business by filling out the contact us, or by woefully unqualified prospects who didn’t check your pricing page.

A lead is usually a net new prospect that your marketing efforts drove to your client. Someone who wants a quote, demo, or meeting to discuss further.

This is what causes the massive gap in volume between conversions and leads. Many companies out there see an 8:1 ratio of website conversions to “real” leads. On top of that, some channels might be total dogs and send no real leads through to the client, despite a promising number of conversions generated.

Are you Breaking Client Trust?

Reporting on conversions erodes the bond of trust between agency and client. Once a month, you show the client a report showing 100 conversions, but they’re pretty sure they only saw about 15. Now to be fair, those 15 leads might have been amazing, but by reporting on 100 “leads” to the client, you show how little you understand about their business and about connecting marketing and sales.

Is my Marketing Really Working?

Clients really want to know if your marketing is working. They believed in you and wanted it to work at some point and that’s why you’re working together, but you need to prove it frequently and in a way, they can understand unless you want to get fired.

For a valued client who cares about lead generation, you should report on:

  • Sales Ready Leads (Month over Month or Year over Year if you’ve been working with them for a while.) Work with them to define what a sales-ready lead is and how to filter for them.
  • Which channels and campaigns drove those leads. Your client might think that all the leads are coming from your brand defense PPC campaign, prove them wrong!
  • Once in a while: dive right into a real lead and their whole journey. Show your client how marketing helped drive that multimillion-dollar opportunity and all the weird and wonderful touchpoints that were involved. These stories about how prospects interacted with marketing help paint a picture and because they’re real human beings. They’re very powerful because of how real the prospect and lead are.

To wrap up the statement made at the top of this article: you often can’t use Google Data Studio for reporting on leads because it doesn’t have access to real leads. Sales-ready leads exist in your marketing attribution software like ActiveDEMAND and can be reported on from those platforms.