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Raise Your Standards: Why Net-New Leads Are a Bad Goal for Marketers

June 16, 2014 | Justin Gray | 3 Comments |

Say I gave you a giant bag of delicious cookies. But 75% of them were bad—maybe stale, or made with salt instead of sugar. What if I told you I’d give you a bag of cookies every month, but with the same issue where only a quarter of them are edible? Doesn’t seem worth it after a while, does it?

Cookies = leads. Marketers have a bad habit of measuring success only by the number of net new leads generated. Which is dumb, because Gleanster Research tells us that only about 25% of leads are legit and ready to move to sales. Looking only at net new lead numbers is like telling your sales people that you hate them – and you definitely don’t want to do that.

The thing is, net new leads is just a numbers game, and chances are, you don’t see much gain month over month in those numbers. Oh, sure, you might see a small spike if you launch a new campaign, but you’re still collecting a lot of cookies that will never buy from you.

And you know what? You’re better than that. I know you are. Changing your goals probably means getting fewer cookies; however, more of those cookies are ready to be dunked in almond milk, consumed and resting in my belly…. Wow, this has gotten weird. Ok, fewer leads, but more of them are ready to move into sales and buy something. Better? Good.

Your focus should really be on QUALIFIED leads, leads that are educated, interested and convert at a higher rate than non-qualified leads. Here’s a few ways to shift your focus to the good cookies.

Add another question or two to lead gen forms—Don’t get crazy with this, but adding a qualifying question or two to your lead gen forms can help weed out those who aren’t seriously interested.

Get more detailed with your long-tail keywords—Going from “birdfeeder” to “hummingbird + birdfeeder” will help improve cost per acquisition and focus your incoming leads.

Create specific content—Instead of creating content around general topics, consider targeting a specific vertical or industry and create a slew of new stuff just for them. And if you haven’t already, for goodness sake, create some personas!

Score your leads—Most (good) marketing automation systems have lead scoring capabilities. Determine a ranking system for lead behaviors and figure out the threshold for sending to sales. Keep your data close on this; you’ll probably need to make adjustments until you find the right balance.

Follow these tips and before you know it, your marketing milkshake will bring all the good cookies to the yard. Or something. I’m hungry now…


  1. Avatar Keith Hawn on June 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    “Fewer,” “qualified” leads are still “net new” leads. Your headline doesn’t make any sense…

  2. Justin Gray Justin Gray on June 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Keith, I strongly disagree – but a appreciate the comment. It’s a battle we fight daily. Net New leads, at least as defined by most marketers mean new names added to the database. Qualified leads can be either net new names OR more probably individual that you already knew about who reached a qualification point through behaviors and trust. I most commonly identify with the McKinsey model described here http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/the_consumer_decision_journey opposed to a more linear and volume based model such as Sirius Decisions. I hate funnels when it comes down to it – simply because of how it promotes that marketers view the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1wqqnN03-w I’ll ask Whitney to chime in here as well as it’s her post. Thanks for stopping buy and I look forward to the debate.

  3. Avatar Whitney Kobey on June 17, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks, Justin!

    Hi Keith,
    I think Justin summed it up pretty nicely. The goal is to hand over more qualified leads not “net new”. We want Marketing to deliver to Sales hot leads – some of which have been in the database a while, maybe they were former customers or closed lost opportunities and are just now primed and ready for that sales call.

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