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By Barry Hurd

RISMEDIA, Sept. 24, 2007-Finding a lost wallet with a driver’s license inside of it does not equal a valid lead, but to some lead companies the idea of “name, number, and address” is the only thing required to qualify as a lead.

In an age of “speed of thought” shopping online, a large portion of leads are perfectly comparable to having someone randomly send you a piece of junk mail to your house, or painfully call you at six o’clock as you sit down for dinner. Technology in the online marketing world has advanced so far that having anything less than a truly qualified lead is a sad story. A story of useless effort from a real estate agent, wasted time stolen from the unsuspecting victim, and some generally bad karmic energy.

So that brings up the question: What is a good lead?

I’ll use some of my own leads as an example.

Once every few days I sit down at a computer and ponder my thoughts. I often flip through my day planner and browse over the various scribbles and notes that I’ve taken through the week. I set aside fifteen minutes to quietly drink a cup of coffee and browse through a stack of e-mails from current clients, future prospects, and my readers.

I select one business problem and talk to myself about it. I do some searches online and I read an article or two. I look for the obvious answer that is usually seen when you stand outside of the box.

Then I write an article. Today I write about the topic “Social Media Marketing: Leads Are Not Created Equal”

I think to myself… “my leads are definitely not equal.”

My leads come from the thousands of professional minds reading my articles and who are trying to grasp the concepts I write about. My leads come from an educational standpoint: one of trying to relay not only my view, but also one that tries to make my readers think outside of the box. For many readers, they will grasp what I say and find a like-minded attitude and some common ground they can relate to.

When that happens something magical occurs in my own process of lead generation. They stop reading my article and start putting themselves in my shoes. They find themselves interested in who I am, what I do, and how I think. They ask questions that revolve around the topic I describe and sometimes they even argue with me. When they are all done reading my words, they browse to the bottom of the article and read my bio, sometimes clicking through to my other articles or to my company site.

Then they keep reading: usually for a few minutes, sometimes for hours. Many of them come back and read more. Eventually a percentage become interested in what I think and find my expertise to be something useful. They browse through the information I have given them on a variety of professional topics, they wander through product and service information that includes pricing for everyone to see…. and then they fill out a form saying “contact me”

That brings us to the point of the article: Leads Are Not Created Equal

I’m going to ask you what your close rate is for online leads… or any other leads for that matter.

Keep that number in your head.

Now I’m going to ask you what you think my close rate is for my online leads like the one I just described?


No… hasn’t been that low since I paid per-click.

How about 60%?

Yep. 60%.

That is 6 out of 10. In an industry of some of the most serious online marketing competition I have seen, my closing average is higher than ever.

Why? My leads are (for lack of a better word) perfect.

My leads know exactly what I do and how I think. They have come to the educated decision that my team is experts for what we do. They understand the core elements of the services we provide and the benefits it creates. They have read our articles and know how much it costs. When someone fills out my contact form and says that they are interested in finding out more- they really are interested in finding out more.

Having this control over my own lead generation is incredibly helpful. The process allows potential clients to read what I (or my team) thinks, they can follow changes in the industry, they can even ask questions. It also saves me a lot of effort since my leads have a better understanding of what I do compared to someone who just clicks some meaningless two line advertisement or gets a piece of garbage junk mail.

The next article of this series is probably the most important. Just like my business, the real estate sales process is about relationships and connecting. I don’t think about my leads as if they are leads. I think about them as people, unique and interesting people that may be some of the best people I’ve ever done business with. Some of those “leads” may not buy from me, but the relationship established in the process is an entirely new benefit for growing business. In that next article I’ll be giving some tips for understanding why any lead turns into garbage when you treat it like a lead, and what benefits you can find in examining leads from “outside of the box.”

To learn more about telling leads apart, see 3net Search Engine Marketing Blog

About the author:
Barry Hurd is president of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid nineties, Barry has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included NIKE, REI, TMP Worldwide,, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RISMedia.

For more information, visit

Other articles by Barry Hurd:
The Ice Age of Real Estate: How Social Media Influences Change in the Marketplace
Social Media Marketing: Understanding the Online Lead Generation Market
‘Conquesting’ the Online Marketing Battlefield