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Are Inbound Leads Really Leads? I Believe the Majority Are Not.

I think some of the information being touted by companies that have a stake in inbound marketing can be misleading. What I am talking about is the categorizing of all inbound inquiries as “leads.”

Ask any salesperson if all inbound inquires are leads, and when he or she stops laughing, you will probably get an earful about how inquiries, unless they have been prequalified, are a waste of salespeople’s time.

I blame the mailing list and database compilers for starting the problem by calling the contacts in their databases or mailing lists “leads.” In my experience, contacts from compiled databases aren’t leads until they have been qualified. Until then I believe they are really just “suspects.”

Not-yet-qualified contacts, such as inquiries (responses) generated by inbound and outbound marketing, are a bit better than suspects, as they indicate that someone actually took some kind of action (e.g., inquired, downloaded, visited, registered, or attended). But I wouldn’t classify these inquiries as “leads” either; I’d classify them as “prospects.”

Now back to my earlier comment: that some of the information being touted by companies with a stake in inbound marketing can be misleading. I believe that if studies like HubSpot’s The State of Inbound Marketing 2010, instead of categorizing all inbound inquiries or responses as “leads,” rather talked about a lower cost per “prospect” from inbound than from outbound marketing, the results would be a more accurate reflection of reality.

Which leads me to another observation (no pun intended) . . .

The majority of inbound inquiries need to be nurtured and qualified with outbound marketing in order to be “qualified” as leads. Don’t believe that? Look beyond the hype and you’ll see that even inbound marketing companies like HubSpot use outbound marketing tactics such as e-mail and telemarketing to proactively follow up on, nurture and qualify their inbound inquiries.

The bottom line?

The most effective lead generation programs involve both inbound and outbound marketing.

What do you think?

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Comments

Of course all inbound contacts are not leads but what is interesting is to compare the conversion rate of inbound vs outbound. For most companies it turns out that inbound converts better, which means that contacts generate leads and leads, if well nurtured, generate sales. So raw inbound contacts are not leads but are more likely to become so than outbound contacts.

 

Christophe, You say “inbound converts better.” Do you have data you can share that validates that statement? – Mac

 

“Ask any salesperson if all inbound inquires are leads, and when he or she stops laughing, you will probably get an earful about how inquiries, unless they have been prequalified, are a waste of salespeople’s time.”

All I can say is Amen.

 

I think that this is very interesting conversation that is going on here. I do think that inbound contacts tend to be warmer than outbound, however. This is simply because with inbound, the person has already taken an action that is positive toward you. Is there still a chance that you can screw it up? Of course. But at least they have taken a step.

 

Outbound marketing is needed in most cases if you want your company to actually be noticed. If we’re taking a look at inbound, we’re assuming that people already know about your product/company. But in most cases, and especially the case where you’re a start-up company, in order to get noticed you will have to do some research/outbound qualifying.

 

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