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Unqualified leads don't mean any harm, but the truth is, they can be a drain on internal resources and can muck up your marketing data and campaigns. So by training your team or software platform to identify bad leads and remove them from your sales queue, you can save your company time and get a better sense of what truly classifies a lead as a promising one.

It's time to separate the good eggs from the bad. Here are three sure-fire tactics to help you do just that.

Remove Unengaged Email Recipients

In a more-is-always-better world of lead generation, it may seem counter-intuitive to try to weed out email subscribers. But if you have unengaged email recipients who have stayed on your email list for years, receiving your emails again and again without ever opening them, you may be causing more harm than good. What a lot of marketers don't realize is that these barnacle email addresses can actually hurt deliverability rates and your Sender Score if they hang on for too long. 

According to Return Path’s most recent Email Deliverability Benchmark Report , only 76.5% of emails sent globally actually make it into recipients' inboxes . That near 25% of undelivered emails can be attributed in part to ISPs raising the bar on reputation metrics, including engagement data . So if your engagement data is consistently low (e.g. a large percentage your recipients never open your emails), the deliverability of any email you send to your list can suffer.

So how do you clean out your list ? Start by looking at your last few months' worth of sends, and take the following actions.

How to Clean Up Your Email List:

  • Remove any email addresses from your list that have bounced (Note for HubSpot Customers: This happens automatically with the HubSpot Email tool).
  • Remove any email addresses that have not opened a single email from you in the last few months.
  • The marketers over at contactology had one more interesting suggestion . If your list contains a lot of general inbox addresses like or, you may want to examine the open rates of those addresses and scrub them if they are unengaged. Often, people leave general email inboxes when they don't wish to hear from you.
  • Create a dynamic list (in HubSpot's software , this is called a Smart List) that automatically updates with contacts who are unengaged. You can then use this as a suppression list in your future email marketing efforts.

unengaged list


Surface Bad Leads Through Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is another way you can start to separate your good leads from your bad leads.  The simplest form of lead scoring is to have a high-scoring offer and a low-scoring offer on your site. The low-scoring offer should be a piece of content that could be widely popular for visitors with a general interest in your focus area. For HubSpot, for example, that might be an ebook on Facebook marketing . Conversely, the high-scoring offer should indicate that the individual converting on that offer has a true and specific interest in what your company sells. So for HubSpot, that might be something like a demo request or a free trial of our inbound marketing software . In this simple form of lead scoring, you would prioritize leads for your sales team that convert on the high-scoring offer. Keep in mind, however, that this simplified lead scoring system may still leave a lot of good leads on the table.

A more advanced version of lead scoring can be achieved through lead scoring tool like the one found in HubSpot or another marketing software platform. Lead scoring tools help you assign points to other factors like the lead’s personal/demographic information, the number of interactions on your website, or a variety of other lead scoring criteria . Before you start a lead scoring program, there are a few things you'll need to do to prepare.

How to Prepare for Lead Scoring Implementation:

  • Meet with your sales team to talk about what makes a good lead. Are there certain titles or company types that indicate a good lead for your business? What type of content does a good lead typically download or read before buying?
  • Conversely, talk about what leads have traditionally been problematic. Are there any similarities among people who churn or don’t end up buying?
  • Create a scale from one to 100 for positive indicators. Add some negative scores for negative indicators.
  • Use a lead scoring tool like the one found in HubSpot to automate lead scoring and give each lead coming in a quality score. Then only supply your sales team with scores above a certain threshold.

For more information about how to implement an effective lead scoring system, check out this comprehensive blog post about how to score your leads so Sales works the hottest prospects .

Use Lead Nurturing to Warm Up Leads Who Are on the Fence 

When it comes to getting the most out of your leads, lead nurturing is often an even better choice than lead scoring. Instead of just shutting off contact with a less-than-ideal lead, lead nurturing enables you to keep leads engaged through a series of targeted emails without taxing your sales team or alienating your audience. Instead of scoring someone poorly who isn’t a good fit for a customer and cutting off all communication, why not use lead nurturing to help you pull engaged individuals out of your pool of “bad leads” and nurture them into advocates for your company?

The key here is to look for people who are actively reading your content, even if they're not a perfect fit for your company just yet. Even without buying from your company, consumers of your content can help you advance your bottom line by sharing your content and drawing others in. The following is a chart to help you discern how to approach different types of leads in a way that best suits their needs and maximizes your resources.

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For a more thorough introduction to creating an effective lead nurturing program, you can download our free, introductory lead nurturing ebook here .

Whether you use lead scoring, lead nurturing, or a combination of both, figuring out how to identify your highest quality leads, remove your unengaged leads, and target communications to all leads in between will make your sales team more efficient and maximize the potential of your lead generation program. Using marketing analytics like a conversion assists report , you'll also begin to understand what content is most frequently consumed by each subset and what key indicators can help you predict who will become a good lead and who is likely to remain unengaged.

What tricks have you learned in separating the good leads from the bad? When do you know a lead won't convert? Have any types of leads surprised you along the way?

Image Credit: katerha

free lead nurturing ebook

Originally published Jul 18, 2012 10:44:00 AM, updated February 01 2017


Lead Nurturing