A lot of marketers rent lists. You might be one of them. You may have a great broker or other third party who you love. This is great. Lists can be very useful - but they aren't leads, they are just names.
Want to know if you have names or leads, consider the following: If the list has not specifically opted in to communications from you, than you have names. If you don’t know if anyone on the list has ever heard of your company or products, than you have names. If you have no idea where in the customer lifecycle these people are than you have names.
These names may have said yes to hearing from companies in your industry. They may even have said yes to hearing from people who sell what you sell. But if they haven't asked to hear from you, and really this is the most important thing, than they are just names. This doesn't mean names are useless or have no value. Names are great place to start but names are cold. I won’t get into developing a house list in this post but know this, I am not anti-list rental. I think names can be an important part of your marketing mix but it is important to know, and for leadership to know, what you really have when you get names.
Here are some reasons why you don’t want to call names leads:
- Leads are hard to get. Don’t de-value all the hard work you do in marketing to create a prospect that believes your company is relevant and interesting.
- Leads buy. If your organization isn’t using lead to sales conversion as metric for measuring marketing they will be soon. You don’t want to fill the pipeline with anything other than prospects that have you on their short list.
- Words are important. The word lead implies some future sales conversion. Leads make others in you organization think you have done something with these people and they can start to make business decisions on your 'leads'. This can lead to some very bad decision making.
- Names are (relatively) cheap, leads are not. It takes resources to qualify a name and turn it into a lead. Your budget is under scrutiny all the time and you don’t want anyone in your company to compare marketing’s cost to produce leads against a cost per 1000 list rental.
So institutionalize the concept of names versus leads. Make sure everyone in your company (especially everyone in marketing) understands the difference between a name and lead. Than get cracking at turning some names into leads.