It’s easy to live and die on every lead that finds your business. It’s a common mistake. Prospects seem so important that often everything you do is focused on attaining more. At any cost. Of any quality. Too late, you realize a mountain of bad marketing leads has piled up on your doorstep, and you have few sales to show for your effort.

What to do? As the song says, breaking up is hard to do. After all, you have invested in these “promising contacts” and it seems like a waste of resources to just cut them loose.

Can they be saved? It really depends on how they were acquired. If you’re not using smart lead generation, odds are that most of your prospects aren’t a great fit and no amount of nurturing will change that fact.

Your best bet is to redesign your approach and start focusing on finding leads that will convert. Add a little Inbound Intelligence to the mix. Your sales team will thank you and your marketing ROI will soar.

The Dangers of Bad Marketing Leads 

Bad leads are frustrating. They’re bad for morale. And, they cost you money.

Applying W. Edwards Deming‘s 1-10-100 rule, you would realize that

it costs $1 to prevent bad data,

$10 to correct it,

and $100 if you don’t.

Think about it. You work hard to send a motivated and energized sales team into battle every day. When they face a steady stream of bad marketing leads, even the best become discouraged. The cost can easily be quantified in the time spent on non-converting opportunities and the associated dollars you’re spending deploying your sales force, but it also shows up in other ways.

Inefficiency breeds complacency. Your sharp closers become dull when dealing with too many negative responses deep in the funnel.

Of course, this assumes your leads come with good data. Most bad leads don’t. It’s hard to qualify, nurture, and close when your prospect didn’t provide a solid email address or other contact information for your database.

Culling the actionable data from the pile is time consuming. Your team wants to be out in the field reaching great prospects, not processing and editing leads they already acquired. But, without a method for prequalification, up to half your leads can be worthless to your sales staff and need to be eliminated before they clog your CRM database.

Think of all the wasted automation usage this implies. All those upgrades to handle more volume only to be spent on leads with no intention of buying. It’s time to get smart. Choose quality over quantity. Make every lead count.

Improving Your Leads through Smarter Acquisition

The best plan for dealing with bad leads is to avoid them altogether. This takes skill, but it can definitely be done.

A winning strategy defines your buyer, thoughtfully nurtures your prospects, and uses data to create genuine opportunities to close.

Answer these four questions and you will be on your way to a winning lead acquisition strategy.

1) Who do you want to sell to?

Inbound Marketing is unique. It allows you the freedom to be specific. To target exactly the buyer you need and the customer who needs you.

Your branding starts with your positioning statement.

  • What are you offering?
  • What value does it provide and what problems does it solve?
  • How is it better than your competitor’s offering and
  • how can you prove this claim to be true?

When your brand has a clear position in the market, finding the right leads is easy.

To help guide your efforts, create detailed buyer personas which represent the exact customers your campaign is targeting. Look to previous sales demographics, social media analytics, and in-house surveys for information about who is most likely to want your product. When a lead matches your persona, you are on your way to a sale.

Use lead scoring to prioritize your contacts and pre-qualify your leads. Assigning scores is the best way to quickly and efficiently separate real customers from the rest of the pack.

2) How do you nurture?

The buyer’s context is fundamental to inbound marketing and sales. Never lose track of where your prospect is in the buyer’s journey.

Too many companies believe a lead will find their way from initial contact to close without help. This is a fatal mistake. Nurturing is your time to shine. To turn a good lead into a great opportunity. Or an opportunity into an advocate for your brand for years to come. Don’t miss out. Focus on the relationship throughout your funnel and see your conversions increase dramatically.

The most effective nurturing happens when content is tailored to specific moments in the buyer’s journey. If you anticipate your lead’s questions and deliver what they are looking for exactly when they need it, your chances to convert increase. So, segment your nurturing lists. One size cannot fit all.

Using your scoring metrics to further segment your nurturing pays big dividends. If your lead is a decision maker in the exact industry you are targeting, pull out all the stops. Send them personalized and targeted content appropriate to their value as a lead. You have the data, use it to your advantage. 

3) Are marketing and sales aligned?

No one likes a broken promise. When your marketing and sales teams are not aligned, this is exactly how your prospect is left feeling. And, when you lose their trust, prospects head for the hills in a hurry.

Marketing and sales is a collaborative effort. Each hand has to know what the other is doing. Sales should know everything a lead has been offered and be familiar with all the content they’ve received.

Both teams are driving to the same goal, whether the lead is marketing qualified or sales qualified. To achieve this synergy, everyone needs to understand how you value your leads and why.

4) What do you do with data?

Using customer analytics and predictive marketing to drive your efforts is a huge advantage over companies that are not. Are you enjoying this competitive edge?

Data serves you in two ways. It enables you to anticipate and service your customer’s needs, and it identifies where you are missing the mark.

To effectively use data-driven marketing, both sides of the equation need attention.

Backup plan: Identify Bad Leads and Get Rid of Them

Despite your best efforts, some bad leads will get through your ranks. That’s to be expected when you have an engaging campaign. But that doesn’t mean they have to stay on your lists.

If you’re paying attention to your buyer personas and positioning statement, figuring out which leads have crashed the party is simple. They’ll stand out like sore thumbs.

Here are the signs to look for when identifying bad leads.

  • Bad contact information
  • Inadequate budget
  • Non-decision making role
  • Low engagement with content offerings
  • Poor fit for your product or service

Not all of these indicators mean a lead is automatically ready for the cutting room floor. If you’re unsure whether your product is right for a prospect, reach out and try to take them down from the fence. Maybe you don’t know if someone actually has the power to buy. Make it your business to find out.


Once you have identified prospects unlikely to convert, trim your list. Or at least segment it to your best advantage by excluding low quality leads from costly promotions. This may seem harsh but you need the time this saves to focus on your real customers. In the long run, keeping your lists short but sweet will provide a better user experience for those that remain.

It may be enough to simply move prospects less likely to buy to a separate category of your CRM. This way you can include them when it doesn’t cost you, such as general e-mail campaigns, but not when you’re paying top-dollar for every contact.

Stay Strong & Focus Effort on Acquiring Qualified Leads

Garbage in means garbage out. This is true of many things but it works especially well when examining the relationship between leads and sales.

It’s normal to want more. Bigger lists, more subscribers, higher traffic numbers. To the uninformed, these all seem impressive. But, if they are not leading to sales, their value is suspect.

Sure, your sales team will want to ride it out. Keep trying to come away with a win. But, they’re wasting time. Bad marketing leads stay bad. They don’t miraculously turn into buyers despite your best efforts.

Be confident enough in your product to cut poor prospects loose earlier rather than later. You’ll be amazed at the resources this frees up to focus on customers ready to buy.

Never stop evaluating your lists. People change and their lead scores should reflect this fact. Math marketing tools give you a wealth of actionable information. Use it to continually refine your approach, hone your scoring system, and drive sales.

Remain vigilant. Keep your party exclusive. Attract the right buyers and avoid bad marketing leads. Your efforts will be rewarded. Your cost-to-lead will be impressive. Your conversion rate will amaze. These are the numbers that really matter.