“These leads are junk.” It’s one of the most disheartening cries a marketer can hear from Sales, especially in a startup or scaleup where the quarterly revenue goals are always in focus. You’ve spent all this time developing a lead magnet, building a landing page, developing ads, configuring the martech to track attribution, approving the budget, and then running the campaign patiently to drive the conversions… only to have them classified as junk and not worth following up.

No matter your strategy, not every lead who appears in your CRM will turn into a potential revenue opp within your target persona, but there’s plenty you can do to boost lead quality.

A lead isn’t an MQL

Let’s be clear that a macro conversion, like a form-fill where someone provides their contact details, is just the start of a relationship with a prospect. It’s a lead, but it’s unqualified – and it certainly does not mean the prospect is ready for a sales call. (In fact, Gartner and Forrester are continually putting out research that shows B2B buyers want less and less time with Sales during their journey!) We’ve already unpacked the perils of what we call the Curse of the Automatic MQL and why leads should not get to the sales team before qualification and nurturing. But if you don’t want your leads classified as junk, the first step is to understand they aren’t opps yet.

Hello Mickey

Clearly, Mickey Mouse is unlikely to buy your SaaS product – yet here he is filling out the form for your newest lead gen magnet. The Mickey Mouse alias means the prospect wants the information but is not ready to be revealed. They may be at the very early stages of research; they may be cautious and not willing to share their true contact information. That’s ok – hopefully, the asset or experience you have unlocked will build some brand preference and educate them. There’s value in that – and they may convert on another channel later. 

If you have an attribution platform, you can connect the dots between Mickey Mouse and the Demo Request that comes in direct later on. The fact that you aren’t today doesn’t mean it’s not happening. You’ve just got Mickey stuck in the Dark Funnel.

Enrich, Enrich

One quick win is to run all those leads through a data enrichment tool like Apollo. Export them from HubSpot and import them into Apollo, and it’ll find the matches to build out the job title, company name, and corporate email address. It’ll take you five minutes. Or if you are feeling brave, there’s a connector to do it automagically. Same with ZoomInfo, Clearbit, etc. It’s much easier to match a lead to your ICP with a full set of contact properties. 

Conversions from LinkedIn disproportionately capture personal emails but are clearly in the target persona because LinkedIn’s targeting is much more granular than Google’s or Bing’s. People tend to create their LinkedIn profile with their personal email address, but you can capture their LinkedIn Profile ID as a hidden field, pass that to your CRM, and the enrichment will find their business email address. LinkedIn’s cost-per-lead (CPL) can be much higher than other paid networks, but they are very qualified, so it’s worth treating these leads carefully and doing your homework to enrich them.

Stop the Bad Guys

Bad actors like to write scripts to click on your ads and then fill in forms with nonsense. Perhaps it’s to mess with you, perhaps it’s to generate revenue for their own Made for Advertising site, or perhaps it’s to increase your costs on behalf of a competitor. Sometimes, it’s actual people being paid to do this. This is particularly common for cybersecurity startups. It’s annoying, but you can stop them with a tool like ClickCease. They have a database of known click-farms, and they build fingerprints of each lead that converts so you can block repeated requests from specific IPs. This will reduce your ad spend and increase the quality of your leads. 

Not all MQLs are Equal

You probably have a lead scoring system that ascribes points to specific actions like attending a webinar or downloading a white paper until the lead is deemed “qualified.” Some actions might instantly MQL a lead, such as a Demo Request. But let’s be clear: the prospect who is asking for a Demo is very different from the prospect who MQL’ed from a series of engagements on your content. The Demo prospect is committing time to learn more about your product in a live session. The Content MQL is warm but might not be ready to be sold to – they might still have questions, so that prospect needs to be handled differently. It would be easy to think of them as junk if you only wanted to get them in front of a screen share when that’s not their objective. Content MQLs might move at a different pace and need a more consultative approach than Demo MQLs, but they are still strong prospects that the company has invested in.

Just Say No

Despite all this, it’s a fact that some leads aren’t relevant. For instance, perhaps a prospect is using a VPN to tunnel into the US, and sees your paid ad, converts but is outside your target geography. You can just disqualify them. There are also going to be bots that slip through and fill in your forms. You can just disqualify those too. 

Let’s sum this all up with a lead “checklist” that you can start leveraging today:

    • Don’t automatically MQL your leads
    • Track attribution across a long lookback window
    • Use a fraudulent click blocker
    • Enrich the leads you have
    • Give careful thought to where prospects are on their journey

The end result? Your leads are not junk. They might not be ready, but you worked hard to get them, and there’s simply more work to be done to get them into the revenue pipeline.

About the Author

Morgan McLintic is the founder of Firebrand. With over 25 years’ experience in the tech sector, he advises clients about their marketing and PR strategy. Prior to Firebrand, he was the founder of digital communications agency, LEWIS in the US, growing it to 250 staff and $35m revenue.