When a Free Lead Can Cost You

Have you ever received a “free” lead in your inbox?  Depending on your personal experience, you may initially think it’s a free lead to let you sample what a particular lead generator can do for you. Or you may not even know how you actually got the lead.  What do you do?  Do you contact this prospect?  Your decision on how to handle the inquiry will determine how much the lead could cost you in the end.

There are a few variables to consider before deciding to contact a “free” lead.

  1. Do you know where the lead came from? Even if the lead source is listed, it’s important to know how it was generated to result in a consumer providing their information.  Did he or she know they were inquiring specifically for a product from your brand?  While you may not be able to track back the full path, at a minimum, check out the referring URL to ensure no bait and switch tactics were used.
  2. Did the consumer consent to contact, and in what forms? If you received a consumer’s contact information, it’s important that they consented to be contacted.  Because the lead is free, let’s make the assumption you did not provide authorized consent language. You must be able to answer…
    • What language was used?
    • Did they consent to be contacted by your business or only the lead generator?
    • Did the lead get to opt-in for TCPA consent specific to your business?

It’s important to have these answers because fines can add up quickly when it comes to consumer consent violations.

  1. Can you get access to the data collection of consent? You should also have access to opt-out data as it pertains to the consumer opting out on the lead generator side.  This is just as important as knowing if consent language and opt-in were available on the inquiry form.  Businesses are subject to fines and potential litigation for not observing opt-out requests.  This would also be helpful in opening up the option to email the consumer.  Email does not require prior consent, but once someone unsubscribes or opt-outs, a business can no longer email them unless he or she opts back in.  Without control of the consent language and the data being collected, emailing could be risky as well.

Businesses hold lead generators to higher standards today and justifiably so considering the regulatory environment.  Any source of a lead is subject to scrutiny and not knowing is not a defense.  Before you decide to contact that “free” lead, calculate the possible fines and don’t let it costs your brand money or its reputation.

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