I’m a big fan of online marketing, also known by many as inbound marketing.

I see a lot of value in SEO, blogging and social media. I believe every business should make some level of commitment to it.

I love being able to produce sales leads at a very low cost.

I love having my website come up on search engines when people are actually searching for what I do.

I love developing blog posts, tutorials, articles, white papers and social media posts around keywords that are important to my target audience.

I love all the email and marketing automation tools that allow me to stay in touch with my leads on a consistent basis at very little cost.

I love using email and social media to keep my target audience informed and engaged.

And as a content provider, I love the fact that inbound marketing never ends. It’s a work in progress with a never-ending need to create new posts, article, tutorials and white papers.


But, here’s what they don’t tell you …

The lead quality is terrible.

You hear all about how leads can be generated at a much lower cost than traditional outbound marketing methods like direct mail.

But they never mention how few leads are actually real prospects – and how those few nuggets of quality leads often get buried in the avalanche of tire-kickers, information-collectors, students and competitors.

Online marketers are very quick to tell you direct mail is intrusive, costly and old school. But they never mention that leads generated from direct mail come from an audience that you have pre-selected to match your customer profile in terms of industry, company size, job title and geography.

In contrast, online leads come from everyone and everywhere … as long as they’re willing to fill out a form. And you have no control over who those people are.

But they never mention that.


What you can do about it …

To be sure, poor lead quality can be frustrating and challenging, but not insurmountable.

As long as you go in with your eyes open – and have realistic expectations – you can plan ahead and make the proper adjustments.

Here are a few ideas:


1-Collect more contact information

To maximize lead capture, many marketers ask for nothing more than a name and email – and that may work very well for you. But if you knew the contact’s company and zip code, you could determine if the contact works in a company that fits your customer profile. It doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, but it’s a start.


2-Ask qualifying questions

While it helps to know who each of your contacts are, it’s also important to find out if they can meet your “qualifying” criteria. By asking the right questions (product/service interest, decision timetable, budget allocated), you can collect this information through a simple Q&A – either at the signup process or later on as part of your follow-up.


3-Confirm email before fulfilling offer

Not everyone gives you their real email address, but one way to be sure you have accurate email addresses is to set up an email confirmation system that only delivers your offer after the prospect has clicked through on a responding email.


4-Require company emails

Many people use their personal email addresses (gmail, aol, yahoo) when responding – in many cases, because they don’t want to be contacted again at their company address. While this is understandable on their part, it may not be acceptable to you. If this concerns you, you can require company emails.


5-Monitor responses to your offers

After the initial inquiry, your prospects will indicate additional interest in your company when they respond to additional offers, like attending a webinar or downloading a white paper. Assuming these prospects meet your demographic requirements, this is a good predictor of a potential customer.


6-Monitor your website

There are products that now allow you to see who is visiting your website. This may seem a bit creepy and voyeuristic, but if you can get past that, this service can help you assess a prospect’s interest in your company. You can see how often they visit your site and which pages they visit.


7-Develop a lead scoring system

Lead scoring is a process of evaluating the quality of a lead. It combines demographic information with prospect behavior to determine if and when a prospect is worth more serious and more aggressive follow-up.   Many of today’s marketing automation tools provide a lead scoring system that incorporates much of the information collected above.


Lead quality is a problem with all “one-to-many” marketing channels – both online and off. Any time you open up your message and offer to a broad audience, you are likely to see a very large percentage of unqualified leads. It goes with the territory.

But it’s much less of a concern in today’s world because email follow-up is so inexpensive.

Still at some point, you will need to decide when, or if, those leads are worth going to your sales team.


This article may be republished at any time as long as it includes the full bio and associated links below.

Bob McCarthy is a marketing consultant specializing in helping companies with lead generation and lead nurturing.  He has two reports you can download:  Step by Step Lead Generation and Lead Nurturing and Making Snail Mail Work – 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy.

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."