Don’t let Bad Leads Happen to You
Building solid opt-in lists are no easy task. Lead Management requires creating solid thought leadership pieces, forming relationships with bloggers and analysts, building and optimizing forms and landing pages, and creating viral marketing pieces. This takes time, patience, and hard work, and, even when you’re doing the right things, and bringing in great leads, sometimes there is pressure for quantity, even if your leads are high quality and meeting your goals. So, at the end of a quarter, tens or hundreds of leads short, how do you make your goal? Sometimes this pressure makes good marketers turn to bad methods. They do this by turning to disreputable list agents, use networking sites or online business directories for names, or do content syndication programs that pay affiliates to pass leads. Before you turn to these methods, it’s important to understand the consequences.
Disreputable list agents:
Some marketers avoid list rentals all together, while others inspect and audit lists to ensure lists are legitimate and properly opted-in before they buy to ensure good leads. Unfortunately, some marketers, anxious for inexpensive leads, will use the lowest cost vendors who may have less reputable practices. These vendors create their lists by scraping names off the internet or by buying names from third parties. In both cases, marketers may think that because the list renter is emailing the prospects that they don’t have to worry about penalties because of the spam complaints of recipients not opted-in. While this is true, email received by those who did not request it may cause negative feelings about your brand, hurting the chance for sales in the future. And, the leads you do receive may not understand how you began promoting to them or why they are on your list.
Networking sites and Online business directories:
Some companies create databases of contacts to help sales people understand a prospect’s organizational structure, or find the name of the decision maker for a target account. While these companies may offer the ability to directly import leads into your database, these contacts need to be kept separate from opted-in leads, and cannot be emailed as part of nurturing campaigns or counted as new leads.
If you do email these with other opted-in leads, you will not only hurt deliverability for all your emails, because these names will often mark you as spam, but also ruin your ability to understand the success of nurturing campaigns, because these names may behave differently than those who want your information. This alternative behavior will skew data and make it hard to tell what’s working from a nurturing perspective. Also, companies like Google and Yahoo post fake emails to these sites and blacklist those who email to these addresses trying to block spammers. If this happens to you, you will not only have deliverability issues, but may also lose the ability to send email through your marketing automation or CRM provider, as they typically have terms in their contract that prevent customers from emailing prospects who have not opted-in.
Many networking sites like LinkedIn will not allow you to download lists of names and emails, but others will. Those that do allow for this download of information should not be used for lead generation and nurturing for the same reasons as the online business directories above. People need to opt-in to your messages to be considered a lead, not just be a name you found on a website.
Indirect content syndication:
Content syndication is paying a third party to host a white paper, webinar, video, or other thought leadership piece in order for them to send you the names and contact information of those who downloaded your content. This is a legitimate way to do lead generation as long as these two criteria are met: 1. the asset is hosted on a site owned by the third party and 2. it is clear to the person viewing the document or video that their name is going to be passed to your organization.
Unfortunately, there are companies that will do content syndication that do not meet these two criteria. Typically, when this is done, a third party will take your asset and offer it to other companies for them to host on their sites. Those companies will pass the lead to the content syndication company who will then pass the lead to you. When this happens, it is often much less clear to the person downloading your asset that it is from you and that you will be contacting them as a lead. Also, because of the pressure for these companies to find leads for you, it is possible that the name is simply passed, and that no-one ever viewed your thought leadership asset. Companies may consider purchasing these services because they are often much less expensive per lead than legitimate content syndication services.
When you are faced with a quarter short on leads, or have a sales team calling you multiple times a day looking for new leads, it is never advisable to turn to these sources for lead generation. Even if there is short term savings, the leads you acquire will have high opt-out rates, report you as spam, and distract sales from good prospects. And then, even when you halt these bad practices, you’ll have deliverability issues that will prevent you from connecting with qualified opted-in leads.