1. Define Your Lead NeedsUnfortunately, the term “lead” has gone the way of “literally,” which is to say that people carelessly throw the word around without much regard for what it actually means. A certain stripe of lead generation provider would like you to believe that all leads are the same — but this simply isn’t true. The type of contacts offered in the lead gen vertical range from unqualified, cold lists; to people who have opted-in to receive more information about a business, product, or industry; to leads who have been nurtured to the point of developing a consideration set that includes your company. As you can imagine, each of these “leads” is in a different stage of the buying process — some actually qualify as leads, while others are merely names on a spreadsheet. To get the most out of your relationship with a lead provider, you’ll need to evaluate which kind will be of most use to your organization. This means evaluating your marketing maturity — specifically your lead nurturing capabilities and alignment with sales. Are you able to nurture large numbers of leads at the top of the funnel? Do you have business development reps (BDRs) who vet leads sent over from marketing? Then a large number of leads would be good for you. Conversely, is your lead nurturing program in its infancy? Do you have a small sales team? Then seek out providers who offer lead nurturing services and can supply leads at the lower end of the funnel. These distinctions are very important, because your in-house capabilities inform the relationship you should develop with a service provider. So look for a provider that offers leads tailored to your unique targeting requirements.
2. Develop Realistic ROI ExpectationsCreating an ROI calculation for buying leads isn’t terribly difficult, but you need to adjust that framework based on the type of leads you pursue. Lower cost leads may seem appealing because you can buy a greater volume, but these leads are nowhere near ready to purchase from your company, so your return on investment date will be much farther out. Time is a resource like any other, so remember to factor it in when weighing the cost of purchasing leads. This will better position expectations within your organization and help you more easily integrate your outsourced leads into your in-house goals.
3. Single Out Reputable OrganizationsThere’s no shortage of companies looking to sell “leads” to B2B companies, but there is a substantial difference between a quality provider and a newcomer that may or may not value longevity. To find a reputable lead generation specialist, use their social media, website, and blog to ensure they have well-developed marketing on multiple channels. Is their content quality? Do they interact with thought leaders and like-minded B2B marketers? These are both important indications of a business’s dedication to engendering a sustainable, long term business. Finally, look for customer testimonials and lead generation case studies on their site. This type of social proof is a hallmark of successful companies with loyal customers.
4. Test Quality AssuranceData quality is the single most important factor for any B2B marketing program. And make no mistake — when you purchase leads, you’re purchasing data. Upstanding lead providers will have processes in place to clean their data and supply you with validated lead information. Consider that some 40 percent of all B2B leads contain some type of inaccuracy and you begin to understand exactly how important data quality is when working with outsourced lead generation providers. Like a software vendor that fixes bugs in their product, worthwhile lead providers will replace any leads who have inaccurate data in their profiles. This is huge because despite the best attempts of trained professionals, human error is unavoidable and even email validation software is imperfect. The important part is that the company rectifies the situation. Good companies will without hesitation.
5. Explore Program CustomizationCross-channel marketing is standard for inbound lead generation and it should be no different for the outbound version. A solid provider will be able to offer you a variety of programs across a range of mediums, from telemarketing to email nurturing, to content syndication. And these programs should all adjust to your targeting requirements, i.e., job title, industry, company size, etc. Complying with your targeting requirements ensures that a lead generation service can fulfill your expectations for lead quality, rather than just lead quantity.
6. Seek Out In-House ProgramsThe lead generation industry has layers, and transparency isn’t always a priority. Many marketing agencies will focus on the creative portion of a campaign and outsource the lead generation aspect to a third party. This can result in discrepancies regarding lead source and lead quality, and in the worst cases, it can lead to your company purchasing leads who never opted-in to receiving more information. This scenario isn’t much different than simply buying a list of names, because your lead provider is actually working through a proxy, moving the control farther away from you, the customer. Therefore, make it a priority to seek out firms that run their programs in-house. You’ll maintain greater control over the lead quality as well as your brand’s reputation.
7. Look for Extra SupportLike any business partner, you want your lead generation provider to go the extra mile to support your company. That means you need to explore the type of support a provider offers their clients — like sales training for your team to help close leads more effectively or content creation services if you need to outsource some of your creative needs.
***It would be an exaggeration to describes the lead generation industry as the Wild West, but there is a substantial amount of variation between providers. As such, businesses must do their research to separate trustworthy enterprises from list merchants hocking unverified consumer information.