With Inbound marketing done right, your B2B technology sales funnel handles some pretty remarkable heavy lifting. This is absolutely vital in an era where nearly 60% of the sales cycle is over before prospects are ready to talk to anyone.

  1. Attract -- First, with the right goals and buyer personas, your content attracts exactly the right kind of decision-makers or evaluators at the exact moment of their search for a solution. For example, “How can I protect sensitive data on my law firm’s fleet of smartphones?”
  2. Convert -- Next, now that you’ve turned the right kind of strangers into website visitors, you’ll typically use calls to action (CTAs), forms, and landing pages to entice a percentage of visitors to tell you who they are in return for access to even more valuable premium content assets – often white papers, eBooks, templates, or webinar recordings. This lead generation, or lead conversion as it’s sometimes called, is a very important second step in your B2B technology sales funnel. Essentially the visitor hands over the digital equivalent of their business card – at the minimum, their name and email address – to get access to your best, highest-perceived-value content.
  3. Segment -- Third, the marketing team will typically use information gathered on the form to determine whether or not a lead is marketing qualified – generally, it meets the minimum criteria agreed upon by the sales team to be a qualified lead. For most of our clients, this involves geographic and company size factors.

In most cases, however, the early-stage lead is researching a broad problem they’re now aware of. The lead may not be ready to advance to the consideration stage – where they compare different product/service options – and in nearly all cases, for B2B technology companies, will not be in a decision-making frame of mind or ready to talk to sales for quite some time.

Lead nurturing campaigns and webinars are often used to educate prospects, build trust, and accelerate the sales cycle.

Are Leads with Freemail Addresses Really Leads?

But what happens if your top-of-the-funnel, early-stage leads complete forms with freemail addresses when they first convert to leads?

Should you let leads with freemail addresses enter your sales funnel? It depends.

The decision largely comes down to

  • Knowing your ideal buyer personas (target market) -- who's a fit? And just as important, who's not?
  • Building a scalable marketing and sales funnel

When you start to build a more scalable B2B marketing and sales process, most B2B technology companies need much more powerful marketing automation software than the well-known inexpensive email service providers (ESPs) can deliver.

Contacts Capacity Ain’t Free

Whether we’re talking about HubSpot or an alternative platform, before you even factor in the cost of marketing and sales staff (definitely not trivial), you need to plan on a minimum of $0.60 per contact per year.

So all of a sudden, subscribers and registrants that aren't a match start burning resources really quickly.

For example, if you knew that for every 1,000 unqualified contacts in your database, it burned $600/year, would you really allow that hit to your marketing budget/ROI?

Think about who exactly is a qualified lead for your business and, just as important, who isn't.

Now granted, some that are incredibly loyal to their @yahoo or @hotmail addresses will rationalize that it gets around overzealous email filters or skirts internal compliance monitoring in a larger company.

But for those that fit our buyer personas, freemail just isn't used.

Freemail Addresses and the Credibility-Destroying Business Card

Think about when you go to offline networking events and trade shows. How often do you meet a C-level exec from even a relatively small company who hands you a business card with a Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail address on it -- and no website URL?

Even the under-capitalized startup should be running their business...like a business. Given the rather nominal cost of basic web and email hosting – at the time of this article, about $7 per month from one of the popular small business web hosting companies like HostGator or GoDaddy – is someone really going to be a prospect for your B2B technology sales funnel if he or she doesn’t have $7 per month in the marketing budget?

So at the end of the day, who you decide to allow your marketing software to mark as marketing qualified is up to you. But if your target market is similar to most B2B IT companies, does it really make sense to poison your metrics and benchmarks with freemail leads?

Let’s face it. Those leads either don’t have legitimate business email addresses, or they’re pretending they don’t – being less than truthful for one reason or another. Either way, not qualified.

Again it all comes back to persona research, targeting, segmentation, and building a scalable process.


What do you do with leads that include freemail addresses? Do you allow them to poison your sales funnel? Share your take in the Comments box below.

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