How to Deal with ‘Bad Leads’

A copywriter-friend of mine recently expressed her frustration at the number of “bottom of the barrel” leads she tends to get—

People who have never worked with a copywriter before, don’t understand copy, don’t have any real sense of urgency about getting started, won’t return emails…


She was considering upping the bar and telling her referral partners to pre-screen anyone they send her way.

That’s a mistake, in my book.

First things first, “too many leads” is a GOOD problem to have.

When you’re freelancing, getting a steady flow of leads is *infinitely* better than not getting them.

Even if the quality is iffy.

(I speak from experience here.)

The problem isn’t so much the leads themselves—it’s her system for qualifying them. Or rather her lack of a system.

When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by inbound leads like this, one excellent solution is to make the top of your funnel as automated as possible.

Let’s look at an example here.

I’m not freelancing anymore—but I have a very similar situation with setting up advertising and sponsorship deals for Simple Programmer.

Right now we get about 3-5 leads per week from startups and companies who would like to advertise on our email list, YouTube channel, podcast, etc.

Some of these leads think they can pay us $50 and own our 94,000 YouTube subscribers.

Others are willing and able to pay $5K a month or more to reach our audience.

It’s hard to tell which are which.

I’m taking a 2-step approach to managing this:

First, I track *all* inbound leads by entering them into a CRM tool. I’m building a database of prospective sponsors that I can nurture for the future. Over time I can set expectations about what it means to work with us, reach out regularly with offers and information, and eventually turn some of those lousy contacts into quality clients.

Second, I requiring ALL incoming leads to complete a short form before having further discussions with them.

The info I get from this is useful, but the real point is to give them a hoop to jump through before I invest time with them.

After I put a new lead into my CRM, I add the contact to an automated email sequence that prompts them a couple of times to fill out the form.

I don’t push too hard here. They’re already “in the system” and I can follow up more later.

Right now I want to see if they’re motivated.

The way this all works in practice is:

1. I get an inquiry about sponsorship.

2. I add them to my CRM for future outreach.

3. This triggers an automated email sequence prompting them to fill out a form with several qualifying questions (like “what is your budget for this”).

My overhead for dealing with “bad leads” is next to nothing.

Using an approach like this, you can keep the “mouth” of the funnel wide open, while still weeding out the low-quality leads before they suck up too much of your time.

And you never know which of those “bad” leads might turn out to be your best client someday.