Thinking about buying sales leads? Here are 10 questions that you should ask first.
1. What is the minimum purchase?
List brokers try to capture as much of your marketing budget as possible. They do this by setting minimum purchase amounts and charging for filtering: both encourage larger purchases. So while you might find a broker with low minimum purchases, there is a good chance they charge high fees to filter their lists.
The key is to find balance. Often, buying an extra thousand sales leads won't cost as much as the first thousand. However, you might not want to use them all. You want to avoid using sales leads that don't fit your target audience, because interrupting the wrong people is a good way to erode the credibility of your brand (and is a waste of your time and resources). Buying names and contact information is the cheapest part of marketing and selling. You should only use the leads that are the best fit for what you sell; even if that means not using every name.
2. How do they collect and update information?
The interesting thing about information is that it spreads — leaks out — over time, making old information easier to gather than newer information. So if the company is only using web scrapers to collect information there is a good chance that you will be selling and marketing using outdated (and potentially inaccurate) information.
You should try to buy sales leads from companies that verify their lists at least once a year by talking with each person on them. You should avoid companies that are collecting ony self-reported information — have you ever lied on an online form?
3. How are titles assigned?
Titles can be confusing, because what a titles mean varies from company to company, e.g. salesperson vs. marketing vs. business development. While different titles at different companies mean different things, list brokers have to use the same title scale for their entire list.
Make sure that your sales rep can clearly articulate how titles are assigned. Avoid lists of "executives" or "decision makers". Everyone at a small company might be an "executive," and some "executives" have less power than others. The same holds true for "decision makers."
4. How complete is each record?
While list brokers might collect information on 30, 500, or even more fields, that doesn't mean that each record is complete. To get an idea for how complete each record is you should request a random sample of data that is not your target audience. This will give you an idea of how complete their records are.
While there isn't a vendor that will be able to provide you with complete records for every sales lead, they should be able to provide you with enough data to get multi–dimensional views of each person. Know what variables are the most important to you, and throw out records that don't met your minimum field requirements.
For example, if you target audience is marketing executives of software development companies over 50 people, you should delete the sales leads that don't include all three fields. You wouldn't want to send a mailer for janitorial services to a marketing executive at a software development company of 5 people — even if they are interested, they probably don't need your service or have the potential to be a profitable customer.
5. Have the sales leads been given the option to opt-out — or to opt-in?
You aren't buying sales leads if they don't want to be sold to. You want to make sure that your provider only sells the names of people that want to be sold. This means that they have sent emails and have filtered out sales leads whose information has bounced and the people that have asked to not be sold — opted out. The best leads are people who have not opted out, but instead have opted in: they want you to sell to them. QuinStreet and MCH Data are examples of the opt-in approach.
6. Who distributes the email campaign?
Sending an email is significantly easier than making a phone call. List brokers know this, and are afraid the value of their lists will be ruined if they are over emailed to. Have you ever changed your email because you where overwhelmed by emails? To protect the value of their data, some list brokers don't sell email address, instead they will deliver your email for you — you rent the email or even the full record.
7. Do you rent or own the list?
Renting lists can dramatically reduce the cost of each sales lead. This is a great strategy if you can get conversations: people responding with their contact information or buying. However, if you aren't successful, renting at 25¢ per email adds up. You need to have a great Call-to-Action, or better yet several great Call-to-Actions!
8. What is your Call-to-Action?
You need to make it very clear what you want recipients to do. I have received a lot of informative marketing pieces and sales calls — some very well designed — that never prompted me to take action. They assume that if I wanted their service I would know what to do. I never do anything. However, I have fallen trap to Call-to-Actions on poorly designed sites with content that has little value, and have done so over and over.
The best way to increase conversions is to make responding easy: provide several different ways to respond. Not everyone will be ready to buy right now, for those who are, there is the "Contact Us" Call-to-Action. More likely than not, people will be interested, but not ready to pull the trigger, so you should provide the option to stay connected with a Call-to-Actions such as: "Stay Connected with our monthly Newsletter" or "Follow us on Twitter." Beyond the ready and the curious, you can increase conversions by tempting people with something of value for their contact information. Examples are exclusive content such as eBooks or webinars, or even give ways of products or services. The key is to entice interested individuals into giving you their contact info. Once you have their contact information, you win!
If you need inspiration for click-worthy titles, visit Business Insider or BuzzFeed. Both sites have built businesses off creating compelling Call-to-Actions that require super-human will power to avoid clicking through.
9. How will they manage your current list?
There are three ways that list brokers can help manage your current sales leads. First, don't pay for information that you already have. Ask your list broker to remove any sales leads you already have: the industry term is to de–duplicate your list. Second, consider using the list broker to update your customer file. If the broker has different data than is in your CRM, you might want them to append — or add — new information and update your out of data info. Third, you should also ask if they can connect to the CRM you are using. This makes getting new sales leads easy, and helps avoid paying for names you already have.
10. Do they have a return policy for inaccurate sales leads?
Return policies save you money, and help list brokers maintain better records. When you send out a mailer or an email campaign you will receive two types of errors: hard bounces and soft bounces. Soft bounces are delivery errors based on temporary circumstances such as someone being out of the office, server error, or full inbox. It is likely that resending the email or mailer in a couple weeks will result in a successful delivery. Typically, you won't be able to get a refund or a credit for soft bounces. They are not the fault of the list broker. Hard bounces are permanent errors based on bad contact information. You can get a refund for hard bounces — they are the fault of the broker's inaccurate information. However, make sure to set this up before signing a contract.
In conclusion, when buying sales leads keep in mind that you are engaging people in a two–way conversation. Don't just think about what you are sending, but also think about how you want people to respond and how they might respond.
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