Lotsa leads? Or quality leads? Pick one.

If you’re in marketing, you’re building a business. If you’re building a business, you need sales. To get sales, you need leads. It’s a basic equation. Whether you’re delivering campaigns for a storied global enterprise, or printing business cards in your dining room, you need leads. Names. Contacts. Prospects. Suspects. We’re talkin’ people, people!

And the more, the merrier, right? So throw all kinds of budget at the wall. Banner campaigns. Events. Lists. Who cares how you do it, just flood the joint with leads. Leads galore. Leads up to your eyeballs. You want to be sifting through sales prospects until you can’t see straight. You’re swimming in a pool full of 24-karat gold-plated leads. You’re in the money!

Except you’re not.

Once you’ve gathered hundreds of names from people with varying interest in your business, you have to start calling each one of them. Some names may be real gems with the budget, the need, and the authority to buy, but the rest are fools’ gold. A waste of your time. You’ll probably never find the right ones. You’ve got way too many leads. Is that possible?

Damn straight it is. It’s not only possible to wind up with too many leads, but it goes on in sales offices all across the country. You may be surprised to hear is that even well-run campaigns based on brilliant material aimed at highly-targeted audiences can deliver a long list of names that is 80% useless. Why does this happen? The answer is that the need for a big list of raw names often trumps their quality. Number is easier to measure than quality, and marketing leaders like you are often compensated for the raw number instead of quality measurements.

Why? Quality takes time. It might be two years before a lead you hauled in pans out, and by then you’ve already done the ‘see-me-in-my-office-bring-a-box-for-all-your-stuff’ dance with the boss. When sales flag, marketing gets the pole.

So what do you do?

First, fight the need to haul in huge numbers of raw leads. Don’t be afraid to ask the burning questions. If people are really interested in your product, they’ll give you the answers you need. Ask for this kind of information:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Role (Decision-Maker? Influencer? Recommender? Freaking Intern?)
  • Company
  • State
  • Zip
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Website
  • Company Size (Employees)
  • Reason for Search (Why are you looking for a new solution?)
  • Budget for Solution
  • Current Solution (Do you use a similar product now?)
  • Decision Timeframe (When do you plan to buy?)
  • Source (How did you find us?)
  • Have Sales Contact Me (Check the box)
  • Newsletter Opt-In (Check the box)

And depending on your industry, there may be many more dimensions you can ask about. And be honest; don’t try to trick people by calling it a ‘quiz’ or taking them through several form pages. If you gather this information, you can use it in two ways: to filter people completely out of the lead process, to be nurtured by an automated email campaign; or you can hand over everything to sales, and they’ll decide who to call first.

I know what you’re thinking; “My boss will never allow me to ask these things. He wants leads no matter what their interest.” You just have to ask, “If they’re not interested, why do we want their names?”

The truth is, in this era, it has never been easier to gather names. Your company can mine LinkedIn and other business intelligence vendors. You can get 70,000 Twitter followers by sticking a few interns on the project. You can throw budget at a bunch of banner and PPC campaigns and gather trainloads of people who will never buy anything. If you just want names to waste your sales organization’s time with, that’s easy.

Today marketing is about the targeted process. To make your sales organization happy, don’t firehose them with a list of 80% lousy leads. Hand over the best 20%. The lousy leads will be there when you need them.

Which you won’t.

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