Marketers Debate Quality Versus Quantity in Lead Generation

Most marketers agree that lead generation has never been easy. But it’s been further complicated by the disjointed purchase habits of today’s multi-device, multichannel customer. In the past the main priority in terms of lead generation for marketers has been to generate as many leads as possible; but that’s proving to be much harder when businesses struggle to classify leads as, well, leads.

“The definition of a lead has definitely changed, simply because marketing is now on the hook to deliver specific types of leads with prospects at certain stages…,” says Scott Vaughan, CMO at marketing software provider Integrate. “Definitions vary considerably, and it’s important to agree on a clear definition [of a lead] between marketing and sales—and between you as a marketer and the source you are contracting with for lead generation.” So, is the idea that more leads are always better still valid? Often, no.

“A lead now needs to have some sort of marketing qualification done to it before it gets to sales; I think marketers need to be more and more careful about what they’re sending to sales, and marketing needs to be very cognizant of where their prospects are [in the funnel],” says Shelby Britton, senior product manager at Adobe. “If marketing is sending over better quality leads, they’ll increase the trust with sales and have a better relationship with sales.” Generally, a single, qualified lead can trump 10 unqualified leads. Of course, the relationship between quality of leads and quantity of leads isn’t as conflicting as one might assume. There are a number of factors that determine whether a business should prioritize quality over quantity or vice versa.  Some examples include company size or campaign scale.

“Some companies or campaigns may need a large volume [of leads] that meets basic criteria, and then use the tools and techniques to nurture [by] using marketing automation, retargeting, etcetera. Other companies may need precise leads with specific titles or people in specific companies, otherwise known as a named account lead-gen strategy,” Vaughan explains.

“There’s a place in the funnel where you bring in as many people as possible, and that’s called contact acquisition; and all the volume needs to happen there. Then, start nurturing those folks,” Britton says. In some situations, this section of the funnel becomes the priority, tipping the optimal strategy toward quantity and away from quality.

“Even for the most sophisticated and precise organizations, qualified leads will always be a percentage of total leads generated,” notes John Reese, SVP of marketing at CRM software provider Velocify. “Because of that relationship, if your desire is to produce more qualified leads, in most cases more total leads must be generated.” Reese cites specific situations, such as entering new markets, which might warrant the pursuit of large amount of leads. However, Reese says, even that situation doesn’t warrant devaluing high-quality leads. “I believe quality should always be a consideration,” Reese says, “even when quantities are a priority.”

Of course, email still reigns in lead nurturing, but some experts say marketers would do well to add some spice to their email messages. “If [people] aren’t opening your emails then you can’t start the conversation, but there’s a lack of creativity that makes people delete or not open emails,” explains Gundmundur “G.B.” Heidarsson, CEO at email intelligence company eDataSource. “Every fifth email I get is saving me money, or improving my marketing, or inviting me to their webinar. There’s not a lot of intrigue there; nothing that keeps it interesting.” Heidarsson says that an overly stringent adherence to best practices is a likely culprit for the dearth of exciting and engaging email content. “Try new things,” Heidarsson continues. “Things won’t backfire that badly as long as you stay in ethical and legal boundaries. Think about your approach, not what others are doing because its best practices.”

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