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4 Reasons Marketing Should Just Give Up

No. Not that kind of give up. The kind where you realize a lead (read: an email address) simply isn't interested and, thus, you should give up on that lead.

If you stop and think about it, most of you probably don't have a part of your email strategy where you call a lead dead and remove them from your database. (In fact, I'd even bet a fair portion of your exec team still believes in blasting your database over and over and over again regardless of the age of a lead.)

So when is the right time to give up on a lead?

There's no real right time, as it depends on how long your buyer's journey takes, whether upper management want to keep trying to hit that same buyer with additional marketing over time, whether your product requires a compelling event to be purchased (think something like being hacked which causes your company to purchase vulnerability scanning software), and whether you have additional products you can sell to the same buyer.

I spoke recently to two different customers that are looking at their email database in much the same way - they have really old email addresses and are simply hitting them, hoping to get a "hit" here or there. It's a shotgun strategy, at best. And today's marketing requires a sniper approach.

So here are 4 reasons why you should "give up" on those old, dead leads.

1. Your metrics are out of whack

If you have a ton of really old (but still viable) email addresses, your delivery rates may be great but your open rates will always suck. So, when you are wondering if it's the day of the week or time of day that you send emails, or perhaps the subject line that's causing such low open rates, you should consider old emails still in your database. That large number of old leads is causing your number of opens to be divided by a much larger number than it should.

What to do:

Pick a timeframe when a lead is considered no longer viable (based on age) and remove them. Or if management isn't willing to remove them, run a test without those old leads and see if your open rates improve to make your case.

2. You're only going to aggravate the buyer

Remember, we're in the era of the buyer; that means they're in charge. So, they came, they saw (what you had to offer) and they passed. If you are still actively pursuing them, you might just be doing more harm than good and are going to be seen as the creepy stalker. Again, if you have multiple products or your product requires a compelling event, you need to walk a very careful line to keep them engaged.

What to do:

Depending on your product offering, I'd suggest engaging the buyer with really good and helpful content over more product details over a longer period of time. Anything that helps them do their job is always appreciated and builds trust between you and the buyer.

3. Consider the source

Many companies have a single bucket of emails and pay no attention to how those emails got there in the first place. Take the least interested lead you can have (without renting/buying email lists): the tradeshow lead. This is someone who, in most cases, at best, wanted the flying monkey or light-up thingy you gave away. They don't even remember visiting your booth. in fact, they've never even indicated they are the correct demographic for your product. And you're emailing and emailing (and emailing) this person.

What to do:

Marketing Operations should be able to build some filters into your email campaigns that specifically treat these leads differently. Identifying if they are even interested in your type of products would be a great first step. (A great example is TechEd - which I speak at most every year - where there is a mix of developers and IT pros. If you sell software to IT pros, and half your leads are developers, you're wasting your time with them.)

4. You're only hurting yourself

Stay with the TechEd example. You email a bunch of developers who are definitely not your buyer and what happens? They eventually unsubscribe, or worse, report you as spam - which impacts your company's email reputation. But let's just stay with the unsubscribes. No biggie, right? Wrong. Even those that unsubscribe are part of a list that had to be pulled, sorted, checked against other lists, etc. While an individual email address doesn't add a significant internal cost to Marketing, over time, you may have thousands or even tens of thousands of dead names that are adding to the time it takes to execute. And if they don't unsubscribe and decide to look at some product of yours our of curiosity, you could be wasting Sales' time as well following up.

What to do:

In the case of tradeshow leads, I use a booth process I developed over a period of 5 years to identify the approximately 25% of booth attendees that are somewhat interested, as well as the approximately 7% of attendees that are truly interested in your product. Doing something like this at the booth helps determine what kinds of marketing or sales strategies you'll employ for each level of lead. In any other case, it's important to actually look at the leads, see the titles, even ask for filters from your lead gen partners to help ensure you are as close to your demographic of buyer as possible.

Giving Up Is Part of Marketing

It's obvious old leads should be retired. But with so many companies still thinking with the "email blast" mentality, rather than a buyer's journey mentality, these leads stick around well past their welcome. You should stop and ask your marketing ops folks when is the last time they've cleaned out emails that have not engaged. And if you don't like the answer, it's time to build a strategy to move those old leads out.


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