Marketing Minute: Does It Pay to Buy Leads?

From our sponsor: Chances are, if you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve at least thought about buying leads that you can contact directly. In fact, many of you have probably done it. I spent a good part of my early business years buying leads and data.

By Steve Krull

Should you buy leads, or should you rely on your own inbound marketing and sales to generate new business? It’s an argument that has raged in business for quite some time, really since inbound marketing became a recognized type of marketing.

When buying leads, you literally buy a list of company names, job titles and contact information from a company that sells these details by industry. With privacy issues continuously in the news, the risk of doing more harm than good with this approach has increased.

With inbound marketing, by contrast, you create engaging content to post on your website and promote via your other marketing channels. If you talk to marketers today, they will tell you the best thing is to rely on inbound marketing to create leads. But is it really as simple as that? Or is there still value in buying lead information and taking a more outbound approach to creating new business?

Will the information even be current?

Chances are, if you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve at least thought about buying leads that you can contact directly. In fact, many of you have probably done it. I spent a good part of my early business years buying leads and data.

But today, buying leads doesn’t generate the results it once did. And let’s be honest: It doesn’t feel good being on the receiving end of unsolicited emails and calls. (Yes, I still get some calls, don’t you?)

For a start, there are always questions about the quality of the leads you’re buying. Plus, you’re relying on a third party to give you relevant, up-to-date information. What if they don’t update their information regularly? You could end up buying a pile of irrelevant, outdated information and still be no closer to generating more business.

Finally, you have to remember that you’ll be contacting these leads cold. They won’t be expecting your call or email, and they might not even be in the market for your product or services. If they’re not, you’ve now spent money on contact information that has generated zero return. You could even alienate some potential leads if they find out you’ve simply bought their information and contacted them.

The one truth about purchasing leads is that it’s cheap. There is always a list available, and you can always buy it cheaper somewhere else. In my experience, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” seems to apply. 

Inbound marketing can take longer to work

The main difference with inbound marketing is that you attract leads instead of attacking them. By investing in content that answers your prospects’ questions, you can bring new customers to you without any of the old school cold-calling or sales emails.

The biggest drawback with inbound marketing is that it can take longer to work, depending on your leads’ buying cycle. First, you have to invest in marketing tactics like SEO, social media, and paid ads that get your content in front of prospects when they’re looking for answers. From there, you have to keep them engaged throughout the buying process to finally bring in the sale. All of this can take months.

So if you’re looking for quick business, inbound might not be the best answer (then again, I doubt buying a list is going to generate quick results either). The payoff is that when a leads gets in touch with you, they’re already interested and engaged with your company, so you have less work to do convincing them you’re the right product or service for them. The reality is that inbound leads convert better. 

Again, the reason for this is that your inbound leads have come to you. They are already engaged—unlike leads that may have never even heard of your company until you call or email them.

Building the infrastructure can be daunting

As I’ve said, I know what it means to buy leads and try to make money from them. For me, I’m no longer a fan of relying on purchased leads to generate business. 

I get it. Building the infrastructure to support inbound lead generation can be daunting. Plus, adding all of the processes on top of it requires some level of expertise. But not only do I feel it’s worth the energy to build, I believe it’s going to be easier on your sales and marketing teams in the long run. 

While it may take a bit longer, the payout from inbound marketing will be worth it.

Steve Krull is CEO of Be Found Online. If you have any questions or need digital marketing help, reach out on Twitter (@SteveKrull) or on LinkedIn.

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