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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.”

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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