Posts Tagged ‘lead quality’

The Most Common Types of Bad Leads (And How We Help Detect and Correct Them)

How big of a problem are bad leads? According to recent figures from various sources, bad data costs American businesses over $3 trillion dollars per year, and over 10% of revenues for many of them. But many of these losses are preventable with proper data hygiene.

This article looks at some of the most frequent issues with marketing leads in your contact database, together with what kinds of automated solutions are available to address them.

Where bad leads come from

One of the most important things to understand about bad leads is that no matter how careful you are about data entry – or qualifying leads on the front end – bad leads are still a fact of life for any contact database.

Here are some of the more common problems you will encounter.

Bogus leads: For as long as lead generation has existed, there will always be people who want the goodies you offer, but don’t want to be on your marketing list – for example, window shoppers, competitors, or people who aren’t in your market. Using our comprehensive DOTS Lead Validation product, you can use both our confidence and quality score to determine which leads are viable, actionable leads.  We also have individual validation tools for specific contact record fields, like:

  • mailing address
  • email address
  • phone number
  • first and last names (detect celebrity, vulgar and garbage)

Incomplete leads: Depending on your intake process, leads may be missing critical data for subsequent marketing efforts, such as phone numbers or email addresses. Our DOTS Lead Enhancement products are designed to verify and append contacts’ USPS-certified addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and names, for your leads, and for specific telemarketing applications, DOTS Phone Append can search and append business and consumer phone numbers while identifying the line type.

Data decay: The one constant in life is change, and this is particularly true for business leads. Nearly a quarter of your leads go bad every year due to moves, job changes, new contact information, or other causes. Lead Validation not only checks the accuracy but the consistency of lead data, to help ensure accurate and up-to-date contact information.

Business versus residential: Suppose you are selling an expensive B2B solution, and your lead is a student in a dorm room who ordered your latest report for a class project and will never buy. Lead Validation can check whether a lead has a business or residential address, and weight the lead score appropriately. You can even cater your business logic to harshly grade a residential lead address, helping make better business decisions before your sales team even picks up the phone.

Duplicate leads: Someone signs up for your list as in two different places with slight variations in their address. Or they enter their address with the suite number in different places. Or they simply sign up multiple times. Our flagship DOTS Address Validation products will verify and standardize address data to make removing duplicates a snap.  This blog does a great job of describing how to use the USPS’ barcode to detect duplicates.

Potential fraud: Some leads have potential red flags that raise caution – for example, a domestic street address and an IP address from a known high-risk country, or a disposable or bot email address. Lead Validation detects each of these cases, and factors them into our assessment of lead quality.

In addition to these situations, some of the more important cases of bad leads are found by cross-referencing what may be individually good data: for instance, a name or address doesn’t match the lead’s phone record. Lead Validation checks over 130 data points as part of assessing a quantitative lead quality score between 0 and 100.

Bad leads: a solvable problem

The good news about bad leads is that you can manage this problem as a business process, with the help of a little automation. By combining good data entry and data hygiene practices with API-based tools that integrate directly with your marketing automation and CRM platforms, you can avoid many of the cost, manpower and regulatory compliance issues that spring from bad contact data.

Want to learn more? Download our free whitepaper Marketing with Bad Contact Data: A Recipe for Disaster, or contact us anytime.

Lead Generation Quality: Trends and Directions

Leads are the lifeblood of most businesses. And everyone knows that lead quality is important. But exactly how important?

A recent survey from research-based marketing firm Ascend2 puts some real numbers to this question. They surveyed 260 marketing influencers, mostly at the senior management level, across a broad range of B2B and B2C firms ranging from small businesses to 500+ employee operations. Their report “Strategies, Tactics and Trends for Lead Generation Quality” is literally hot off the press, with survey data gathered less than a month ago as of this writing in September 2019.

Survey says …

Here are some of the more interesting results from this survey:

Yes, lead quality does matter. 95% of respondents felt that a lead generation quality strategy was successful for them, with 35% viewing it as a best-in-class strategy.

Social media and email marketing are king. These two channels were viewed as the most effective tactics for improving lead quality by 59% and 40% of respondents, respectively, with website personalization coming in a close third at 38%.

Firms are putting their money where their mouth is. 88% of respondents plan to increase their budget for lead generation quality, with nearly 20% expecting this budget to increase significantly.

The key strategy: getting personal. Personalization of marketing efforts (60%) and improving content and content engagement (57%) were far and away the most popular strategies for improving lead quality among respondents – and also the two biggest challenges going forward. Data cleaning was also a key strategy cited by 15% of respondents, with 20% seeing this as one of their challenges.

These findings – particularly the last one – dovetail with a message we’ve been sharing for years: that lead quality is critical to marketing and CRM, and it starts with having clean, accurate leads in the first place. More importantly, lead quality is part of a larger trend in marketing: we are steadily moving away interruptive, “spray and pray” marketing, and towards building targeted personalized relationships that benefit customers.

Our take on lead quality

Our company was founded in 2001 with the idea of reducing the waste associated with unwanted and misdirected marketing contacts. Today, a similar goal has become one of the most important objectives of marketing: improving the yield and cost-effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

To us, this starts with contact data that is genuine, accurate, and up-to-date. According to figures cited by HubSpot, nearly a quarter of marketing emails never even make it to the recipient’s inbox, while nearly a quarter of your lead data degrades every year. This where the power of data quality plays an essential role.

Data quality best practices dictate that ensuring leads are correct at the time of capture and validating the accuracy before executing a marketing campaign is the most effective way to achieve ROI, assist in data privacy compliance efforts and improve customer satisfaction.

And the results are real. As the Ascend2 survey points out, lead quality has become a competitive factor that no one can afford to ignore nowadays. Thankfully, with the aid of a little automation, better lead quality is something every marketing operation can put into practice nowadays.

To find out how we can help your business ensure the quality of your leads, visit our product page and get started with a free trial key.

Lead Validation, Part 3: International Lead Validation

This blog concludes a series of deep dives into our DOTS Lead Validation (US and Canada) and DOTS Lead Validation – International (Global) services.

In the first blog, we dove into the core components or building blocks of the Lead Validation service: Name, Address, Phone, Email, IP Address and Business. We described how each component works, the types of tests we perform, and how these tests fit into the overall score returned, when we verify a lead through our service.

In our second blog, we delved a bit deeper into important features and capabilities of Lead Validation outside of the core components. These include Test Types, customizations, service messaging and other important outputs. These two blogs serve as a solid overview of the Lead Validation service as a whole.

In this blog, we will explore the closely related service called Lead Validation – International, which, as its name suggests, verifies global leads. Lead Validation – International corrects, validates and cross-validates name, address, phone, email, IP and business data from around the world, while providing a quality score for each component and an overall quality score for the lead.

The Similarities

The domestic and international lead validation services are almost interchangeable and share the same basic building blocks. All six components; name, address, phone, email, IP and business data, are analyzed, and most of the same basic tests are run on them. Both of these products do in fact run off of the same validation engine, and if the lead is either from the United States or Canada, the results should be indistinguishable.

In the same vein, the input and output structures for these two products are almost identical, making mapping from one service to the next extremely easy. All of the same output fields can be expected.  Even when there are differences due to different tests being run for a different country, the results are mapped back to the same easy-to-use result. Keep in mind that Lead Validation – International is a different service, and therefore a different license key is needed, but other than that a generated “GET” URL is identical.

All of this makes upgrading from Lead Validation to Lead Validation International a breeze. Service Objects is happy to help you move your license key, and best of all, there is no price difference between the two services. The same set of Test Types can also be used on both services, and work in similar expected ways: since US and Canadian leads are treated the same way in both services, it makes sense for the Test Types to be the same. There are slight differences for other countries, but those are seamlessly rolled into the same balancing and scoring that the US and Canada get.

Likewise, custom test types and customizations work the same way between these two products. Customizations are easy, since they would primarily be built into the shared engine doing the work. We want improvements made in one service to help the other! Likewise, the messaging system is also shared and can be seen in the Notes in our Developer Guide.  As before, all of the same tests are performed, so it makes sense that both services would also return the same set of notes. There are a few added notes for the international service, but these are fairly minor.

The Differences

While these two services are very similar in many ways, there are some obvious and key differences.

The most obvious is that Lead Validation is designed to validate leads only in the US and Canada, while Lead Validation International can handle all leads globally (including handling US and Canadian leads on a level equal to the domestic service). It might seem like a no brainer to just choose Lead Validation International, however, a key difference lies in how those services treat other countries.

For example, for clients who only intend to collect or process leads from the US, it is often easier for them if we just fail a lead outright because it comes from an unsupported country. In the case of Lead Validation International, we are validating the lead as is, so if it is a good quality lead from Japan, we are going to mark it as good regardless of whether it is a good lead for the user. We do identify the country represented, so programmers can either not call the service based on country or choose to exclude the results post-validation, if it turns out to be one they do not want.

Another difference in validating global leads versus US or Canadian leads is in the quality of data. Many of the core components such as name, email and IP address are fully functional on a global level and perform all of the tests successfully. Others such as address, however, use different services for handling different countries.

We are very strong in the US and Canada, with a full suite of powerful validation features. However, while we are also strong internationally, there are specific countries and/or areas that the data just doesn’t exist for. For example, India does not have postal data for large portions of the country, making it nearly impossible to do provide accurate validation. The service uses what it is available to make the best guess possible, factoring in what we do know about the location in question and how it matches with other components provided. Likewise, with phones, contact data in the US and Canada is robust, but not always the case in other parts of the world. As with addresses, we have to be creative with matching location, other data points and looking for red flags with the number to give an indication of the likelihood that it is good.

European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

This is not so much of a difference between Lead Validation and Lead Validation – International as it is a necessity of the International service. For the domestic service, Lead Validation will fail any lead that belongs to a country that falls under the GDPR. This makes sense since Lead Validation users will not be interested in correcting and validating European leads.

Lead Validation – International tracks the location of the lead as a whole as well as the individual components. Any lead or data element found to be connected to a country that falls under the GDPR will be flagged with a note “IsInGDPR”.

That said, GDPR is one of many privacy regulations that are to be enacted.  Other countries are currently working on their own privacy compliance laws and even individual states like California have plans to create their own privacy regulations.  In any of these cases, we will do our best to keep pace with them and update both Lead Validation and Lead Validation International to track and flag new privacy acts as they emerge.


Hopefully, this blog gives some insight into the Lead Validation – International service and how it fits into the overall Lead Validation framework. Taken together, all three blogs in this series provide a good overview of the use and value of both services. If you would like to learn more about Lead Validation – International, contact our friendly technical support team anytime!

Lead Scoring: How It Fits in with Marketing Automation

Your marketing efforts live or die on the quality of your leads. Automated lead scoring capabilities can help figure out who is a potential purchaser for your products or services, and substantially improve the efficiency of your marketing efforts. But the term sometimes confuses people, because there is more than one kind of lead scoring. Let’s examine some of the differences.

Lead scoring versus lead scoring

If you use a marketing automation platform (MAP), it is likely to have some kind of lead scoring capabilities. Contact data quality providers, such as ourselves, also offer lead scoring – in our case, in the form of our DOTS Lead Validation and DOTS Lead Validation – International products. Similar terms, but each kind of lead scoring has a totally different meaning.

Marketing automation platforms often score leads by examining criteria such as demographics, purchase history, or so-called BANT (budget, authority, need and timeline) data: Marketo, for example, publishes a useful cheat sheet regarding lead scoring strategies. These scores may involve capturing data such as location, visiting your website, downloading a white paper, past purchases, and more.

Our lead scoring is different. We filter out potentially bad leads from your contact data, before you spend time and effort marketing to them. This is because we approach lead scoring from a data quality perspective, as opposed to predicting purchasing behavior. Here are examples of some of the bad actors we can help catch:

  • Someone who signed up for your mailing list with a name of “Donald Duck” and a bogus address, so they could get a free marketing goodie
  • A contact whose mailing address is in Tennessee, but whose IP address is in Tajikistan
  • Leads that came from an automated bot designed to scrape information from your site
  • Contact data that has gone out of date or is incomplete

So which kind of lead scoring should you use? The right answer is usually BOTH: make sure you have a database of genuine, accurate and up-to-date contacts first, and then analyze their potential value as prospects. This helps ensure you are working with clean data from people who are most ready to buy.

How we score leads

Both of our lead validation products analyze over 130 data points with your contact data, returning an overall validation score between 0 and 100. The six primary components we analyze include name, address, phone number, email address, IP address, and business data. Our Director of Engineering has written two recent blog articles taking a deeper dive into how we validate and score lead data, including this article on basic capabilities, and this article on advanced features.

A key feature for both products is the ability to set specific test types, which allow you to customize your analysis for specific use cases. This feature lets you customize which criteria are put to use in processing your contact data, such as favoring business or residential criteria, or not penalizing some data for being incomplete. For complex or custom use cases, we also offer the ability to create custom test cases employing your own business logic.

Building an integrated lead scoring strategy

Service Objects’ lead validation capabilities are designed to ensure the quality of your leads at the point of entry, using a simple numerical score that can be customized to suit your specific needs. These capabilities can be integrated directly into popular marketing automation platforms including Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot and others using real-time API interfaces.

Want to learn more? Download our free white paper Marketing with Bad Contact Data: A Recipe for Disaster, or contact our friendly product experts to discuss your own specific needs. We’re here to help put more power and efficiency into your marketing efforts and create more ROI for your lead data.

Lead Validation, Part 2: Advanced Features and Capabilities

Last month, we published a blog about DOTS Lead Validation, taking a deep dive into the services and core components that make up the building blocks of the service. This blog is designed to be a companion to that one – a Part 2 – taking a step back and looking at how those components fit together, as well as other important parts of the Lead Validation service.

Quick recap on Lead Validation’s components and scoring

In the previous blog, we focused on the core components of Lead Validation: Name, Address, Phone, Email, IP Address, and Business. Each component is analyzed independently using the tools and services previously described. The purpose of these tests is to determine how each given component looks unto itself. For example, if IP Address is being tested, we are looking at things like:

  • What is the IP’s location?
  • Is it a proxy?
  • Is the proxy anonymously hiding the user’s information?
  • Is it from a high risk country?
  • Is it potentially a bot?
  • Is it a mobile device?

After the components have been individually analyzed and scored, they are all cross-checked. Taking the same example of IP Address, we can look for things like this:

  • Does the IP’s location seem to match the location of the phone and address?
  • Are the IP and email linked?
  • Can we connect the IP to a given business?

The final component’s score is based on whether it is valid and whether it matches other components. This means that a failing score for the IP Address component could be either because a major red flag about the IP itself was found, or because it was clearly not a match for the overall lead itself.

The purpose of Lead Validation is to grade leads as a whole, rather than how they are as individual components. There are a few ways to tell why the component was given a failing score, which will be described later in the “Messaging” section.

All components are given the same treatment described for IP Validation, and those component scores (each 0-100) are added together to get an overall score, which is Service Objects’ recommendation for that lead. A bit more detail on this will also be described in the “Test Types” section below.

There are over 200 tests occurring in each run of a lead in Lead Validation, each of which is set to either true or false. Lead scores rise or fall based on passing or failing tests.

Lead Validation’s Test Types

Test types are a critical part of each run through the Lead Validation service. A test type is essentially a set of instructions that tells Lead Validation how to process and score the lead. It tells the service which components to test, which tests to perform and how to weigh and score each component. Components are given influence (the percentage the component contributes to the overall score) and threshold scores for when they are considered Accept, Review or Reject.

Each test is linked to a component and has the possibility of contributing a positive score for a pass and a negative score for a fail. Not all tests have both a positive and negative possibility. For example, taking the test that compares the IP Address and the Business together, it gets a big positive score if we can match them together but does not get a negative score if we cannot. It is a very good sign if we can connect the dots between them, but is not necessarily bad because we cannot, so it does not make sense to penalize for a failed test there.

Test types exist because not all needs are the same. Test types cover most combinations of input data as well as how they should be handled. For example, one user might consistently have Name, Address, Phone but occasionally collect Email. They might want two test types, one to handle Name, Address and Phone and one to handle Name, Address, Phone and Email. In this case they do not want to harshly score a lead for not including Email since they consider it optional. Another user may collect these same fields but while they only occasionally get email, they may want the system to score users lower who do not submit it. So, they would use the test type that expects all four inputs.

There are sets of test types that tell the system to process the lead as a residential lead, penalizing when given business data. There are also sets that tell the system to strictly process the lead as a business, penalizing harshly for residential data. And there are test types that are primarily focused on businesses but allow for residential data, focusing more on success in matching than penalizing because a business lead was given a personal email. There are also test types designed to work better with students. They are a bit harder to score, but students would be potentially more mobile, meaning some of the comparisons testing should be less harsh for mismatches. New test types can easily be added to the system as well as custom test types that are tailored to a specific user’s needs. More on that next.

Customizations and custom test types

There is a wide range of test types available that fit most needs, but sometimes clients have very specific needs, and it may be best in these cases to make a custom test type. Custom test types allow us to tweak everything about the test type, from high level balancing of component influences down to specific test scoring. We analyze requests for specific rules and scoring options to determine if a current public test type is needed, or a new public test type makes sense to create, or if the request is so specific that it just makes the most sense to create a private custom test type for our client.

The types of requests we see are things like:

  • I want to automatically fail the lead if any residential data shows up,
  • I want to fail any lead that returns a free email (Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.),
  • I want to fail any number that is a mobile phone regardless of its match to the lead.

Service Objects works with prospects and clients alike to tune and test specific test types to meet their needs.

In addition to custom test types, Lead Validation is highly customizable. When it makes sense, there is an available set of generic fields called InformationComponents that allows new outputs to be seamlessly added to the service without breaking current integrations. Clients interested in making use of available new InformationComponents can do so at their own pace. We could add something if a new data point becomes available that we cannot fit into the current output structure and is considered a good new fit for the service. Often we are also able to seamlessly add new features via Lead Validation’s Notes messaging system. More on that in the next section.

Messaging and other key data points

The latest and recommended operation of Lead Validation (ValidateLead_V3) contains a new improved messaging system that allows us to easily communicate key messages to our users. These are represented in the outputs by the following field categories: General Notes, Name Notes, Email Notes, IP Notes, Phone Notes and Address Notes.

General Notes contain information specific to the overall lead – primarily the results of various matchings between components. These notes give users a good idea of how well the components connected to each other (or didn’t). The other notes sections (Email, IP, etc.) have more detailed information on specific things we found out about the individual components (both good and bad) and give a good indication of why a high or low score was returned. A complete list of notes for all categories can be found here:

Notes allow us to easily communicate important things we found out about the component. For example, going back to the IP Address component: IsPublicProxy identifies IP Addresses that have potentially been compromised and used fraudulently, IsBadSyntax identifies IP Addresses that do not follow the normal IP format, and IsHighRiskCountryIP identifies IP Addresses coming from countries known to conduct more fraudulent activities. In a soon to be released new build, IsBad and IsGood notes will be added to each component, giving a bird’s eye view of our best guess for the component. These are intended to help users determine if the components themselves are considered good or bad independently of how they fit in with the overall lead.

Other key fields that users can expect to see are:

  • A standardized address based on the given address.
  • The best fit phone contact we found.
  • Locations for relevant components such as IP, address and phone.
  • A Lead Type which uses name, email, phone and address to help determine if the given data was more likely tied to a residence, a business or a mix.
  • A Lead Country that uses the various locations found by IP, address, phone and email to determine the best country fit for the lead.
  • InformationComponents, which do not currently have any results but will in the future.


Hopefully this blog, in conjunction with the previous one, will give you a great overview to Lead Validation and what it can do. If you would like to learn more about Lead Validation, please visit our product page and developer guide.

Test Types and Why We Use Them

If you have spent any time around our DOTS Lead Validation or DOTS Lead Validation International services you may have run across the input to the service, ‘TestType’. This input is arguably one of the most important inputs to the Lead Validation services, and this is your guide to understanding how to use it effectively in your Lead Validation requests.

What are test types?

Test Types help us personalize the results from the Lead Validation services to help fit the data that you want verified. The biggest reason we use test types in our services is that we want our Lead Validation service to know which data points to validate, and how to contrast and compare them against each other. The test type will specify the data points that will be analyzed and ultimately return an overall score that reflects the quality of the data points you have.

Business and Residential test types

Our test types typically analyze two different categories of lead information: Business leads and Residential leads. Business test types generally have “business” or “b” in the name. These test types will give better scores to things like business addresses and phone numbers associated with businesses. The business test types will penalize a lead if residential information is given, and conversely residential test types will penalize lead information if it is found to be associated with businesses.

Which test type should I use?

Our baseline residential test type that analyzes all sets of data is “normal1p” which tests for Name, Phone, Address, Email and IP Address. If you submit a lead to the service without one of these datapoints, then the service will penalize the lead as having missing data. Depending on your use case, this may or may not be helpful. If you are taking information on a user-entered form and want all data points provided, then this may help ensure that you get quality lead info and not just garbage information from your users.

However, if you simply don’t collect some of these data points you will likely want to look at other test types that are more suited to the data you do have present. We also have a variety of other test types that are available for use. Only collect name, address and phone? Use “n-a-p”. Want to validate everything but IP address? Use the “noip” test type when sending validation requests. Below is a table of some commonly used test types, the data points they analyze and whether they analyze business or residential information.

Test Type Inputs Business or Residential
normal1p Name, Address, Phone, Email and IP address Residential
normal2p Same as normal1p but takes in a 2nd phone number Residential
noip Analyzes everything but IP address. Has the option for a 2nd phone number Residential
n-a-p Name, Address and Phone Residential
business Name, Address, phone, Email and IP Address Business
businessonly Performs same checks as the business test type but more harshly penalizes residential inputs Business
business-noip Performs the same checks as the business test type but does not check IP Business

Custom test types

The above list is by no means a complete list of all our test types. If you don’t see a test type that meets your needs there is good news; we can create custom test types for you that best suit the data you have! We can create special rules and scoring behaviors for a test type. The best way forward for this is to schedule a call with our Applications Engineering team to go over your requirements, and we can ensure you get the validated lead information that you are looking for.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us at