There are a lot of options if you want to get leads.
What you end up paying for these leads will vary on just about as big a scale. Regardless of the price, not all lead generation companies are created equal.
I want to start this article with a stern warning: paying for leads can be dangerous, especially if you plan on marketing to these leads. Buying leads from a shady provider and loading them into your lead nurturing software, like HubSpot, breaks the terms of service, and can result in your email functionality being removed.
With that said, there are some lead generation companies that are legitimate. So, I’ll assume you will do your homework and only work with companies that generate leads ethically. Still, there’s the question of how they will price their services, and what you should expect to pay.
B2B Lead Generation Pricing for Services
Some lead generation companies price their services in the range of $2,000 to $20,000 per month. Appointment billing lead generation pricing ranges between $50 to $400 per appointment.
There are pros and cons to both of these models which we'll cover below. But first, let's come to an understanding of what a lead actually is.
What Is a Lead?
You need to have a very specific definition of "lead" when you consider working with a lead generation service. Here are three types of leads that we normally refer to in the marketing world:
- Lead: A lead is any contact in your database. We used to keep up with how many contacts we had in our database, but we soon realized that "leads" is a vanity metric. A lead could be a contact who doesn't fit your target customer profile and who hasn't shown an interest in your type of service. Those contacts are basically worthless.
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): An MQL is a contact who matches your target customer profile and has the ability to buy from you. These are potential customers, but they haven't yet said they want to talk to you. They're warm, in the sense that they're in your target area, but they're not hot, in the sense that they want to buy from you—yet.
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): An SQL is a contact who matches your target customer profile and has shown a specific interest in your product or service. This usually means they've set up a phone call, consultation, demo, etc. to talk to a salesperson. These are the leads that really count; the ones who have raised their hands and want to talk.
So, before you sign on for any type of lead generation service, you need to be strict about what you're willing to pay for.
DO NOT PAY FOR "LEADS." A contact who can't be your customer or has no interest in becoming one is literally worthless to you, so don't pay for them.
Only pay for MQLs or SQLs.
I covered the reason leads are a vanity metric and qualified leads matter in a recent live marketing workshop. The video below starts at the point where I cover this topic.
One of the reasons we no longer track leads and advise you not to pay for them is that the inbound marketing methodology that used to work 10 years ago is now broken.
It used to be possible to nurture a generic lead through a complicated buyer journey through the funnel. It worked because consumers wanted it to be that way. They wanted to do extensive research before talking to a salesperson.
But things have changed. Inbound marketers have flooded the internet with so much nearly identical content that consumers don't have time to sift through it all to find a solution. They want you to solve their problem fast. They're much more willing to talk to a salesperson early on, IF you can show them that you have the best solution to their problem quickly.
The shift in consumer preferences is the reason we've pivoted from an Inbound Marketing Agency to become a Growth Marketing Team. You can learn more about how we generate better leads for our clients here.
That shift is why we say don't pay for leads. If people are good prospects for your business, they'll indicate that much earlier on than they used to. Your chances of nurturing a cold lead through a complicated buyer journey are just too small to warrant the effort and expense.
RELATED READING: How To Align a Lead Generation Agency With Your Sales Team
2 Things to Avoid
When you start shopping for lead generation services, you'll see a pricing range as wide as the Milky Way. That's because "lead" is a broad term today, and these firms mean different things when they use that term.
Cheap, unqualified lead generation companies come in two flavors.
- Lead Generation Software: This is software which you run to mine sources like LinkedIn for people with the right job title at the right kind of company. These sources usually range from $100 to $1,000 per month.
- Cheapo Contact Miners: This is similar to Lead Gen Software, but the company runs the searches for you and delivers a list of contacts. If you see a price of $5 per lead, or lower, this is the kind of company you're looking at.
The reason you want to avoid these companies is because they're not actually generating qualified leads. They're cold contacts that haven’t shown any interest in your company, service, or product.
We get contacted by companies using these types of services all the time. They do their best to sound like they are contacting us one at a time, but it’s easy to spot when you get a cold mass email.
My go-to action when I get these, is to mark as spam!
Notice what I said? I flag every one of them as spam.
If I do it, I’m sure a lot of other people do it, too. This is why this is not a long-term strategy - enough spam complaints, and your email provider will shut you down.
RELATED READING: Lead Generation Services: 3 Things to Know Before Signing a Contract
Two Common Lead Generation Pricing Models
In contrast to the options above, there are companies which use a variety of methods to make the first set of contacts for you. In this case, the contacts provided are qualified leads, and the leads have expressed some kind of interest in your product or service. Because the lead generation company has evaluated their interest and the contact has indicated an interest in more information, they can be considered a real lead.
Per Appointment Billing
Appointment billing lead generation services price their services in the range of $50 to $400 per appointment. The advantage of this arrangement is that you're paying for actual meetings with leads instead of paying for the lead generation company’s time and hoping you get enough appointments to make it worthwhile.
Per Month Billing
Some lead generation companies price their services in the range of $2,000 to $20,000 per month. These companies deliver appointments with qualified leads, not cold contacts. The advantage here is that you can budget for a fixed cost, and you could potentially end up getting better value than with a Per Appointment billing company.
Should You Buy Leads?
The problem with lead generation companies, for the most part, is that they are temporary. You might get the leads, but you’re not attracting the leads - the lead generation company is. When you stop paying, you stop getting leads.
Think of lead generation as a pipeline. When you pay a lead generation company to deliver leads, you're renting their pipeline and having them turn the faucet on. When you stop paying them, they turn the faucet off. In this case, the cash you shell out for these services is not a long-term asset. The benefits don't live on after the cash is expended.
Now, what happens if the lead generation company decided to increase their prices? You have to either pay more, or get less. And, that very thing is happening, as industries get more competitive.
A Better Long-Term Alternative
Rather than buying leads, why not build a lead generating pipeline of your own?
The upside is that you own the source of the leads, so you control the price per lead, to an extent. And, the money you invest in building the engine can pay dividends multiple times over, rather than one-off purchases of leads.
The downside is that it takes a lot of work, and most companies are used to paying for leads and calling it a day. They don’t have the infrastructure or human capital to build a lead generation engine.
That’s why you should consider hiring a marketing agency to build it for you. But, just like lead generation companies, marketing agencies have a wide range of pricing models as well.
In our post, Lead Generation Companies vs Marketing Agencies vs Internal Staffing: Which Is Best? we cover some of the key considerations, most of which revolve around whether your goals are short-term or long-term in nature.
I mentioned the idea of a pipeline earlier. This point is worth driving home. Have you heard the buckets vs. pipeline story? It applies in the comparison of lead generation companies to marketing agencies. Here's a short, entertaining version of it.
So, keep in mind that when you pay for lead generation services, you're basically hauling buckets, whereas a marketing agency can help you build a pipeline. We've built lead pipelines for many companies and 10x-ed their traffic, leads, and customers in the process. You can learn more about how we do that here.
One of the keys to building a high-value lead generation pipeline is optimizing your website for conversions. In our post How to Generate More Leads From Your Website With These 8 Tactics, we outline several of the techniques we use to get the maximum value from our website traffic. Here are the eight tactics.
- Optimize pages for your customer
- Start heat-mapping
- Find ways to make conversation and feedback easy
- Make forms easy
- Use lead flows and exit pop-ups
- Track everything
- Learn more about reporting
- Test, test, test
Read the full post here.
And, since we're on the topic of pricing models, we can show you how digital marketing agencies price their services with a free eBook. The conventional models are Fixed, Hourly, and Value, but we'll give you the inside scoop on a fourth model which we've found to deliver the highest ROI for your business.