As BtoB marketers, we know what follows flies in the face of all that’s instinctive. But the time has come for all of us to confront a tough reality – some of our prospect relationships just aren’t working anymore. And it may be time to turn these prospects loose.

Today’s metric-rich email, CRM and marketing automation tools have given us the ability to identify and profile prospects and track their reactions to our email and web marketing efforts in a way never before available. They have also helped identify the curse of today’s marketer – the passive opt-out. The individual who doesn’t formally opt-out of emails but never opens, clicks, responds or submits anything. And, unfortunately, our databases are full of them.

Is It Time To Say Goodbye To Your Prospects?Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

If you want an eye-opening experience, do a quick check of the prospects in your database that have taken any action over the past 12 months. We think you’ll be surprised at the low number. In our experience, it can range as low as 10% to 15% of the total.

So instead of continuing to try and entice the other 85% – the passive opt-outs – why not just purge them (or at least relegate them to a “low value” list) and target ongoing marketing at those who have at least expressed some interest?

By focusing attention on the prospects who have taken action, we end up creating stronger, more targeted email messages and calls-to-action – as well as providing more reasons for prospects to remain engaged.

The Hidden Cost

In the pre-email days (remember those?) we would regularly purge lists to avoid spending the $3+ cost to send something to someone of marginal value. But along came email and the cost-per-contact dropped dramatically. So it became easier to take the “batch and blast” approach.

Recent studies, however, confirm that this is seldom effective. The best way to convert a prospect to an opportunity is, not surprisingly, to start with a motivated prospect. And finding the motivated prospect begins by segmenting existing lists and databases.

To those who argue “but what about that one individual that I might miss if I purge or don’t stay in closer contact?” we suggest that spending time ensuring all campaigns are relevant to everyone, cripples the effectiveness of the marketing efforts directed to the smaller but critically important segment of motivated prospects. We are all increasingly concerned about falling responses, increased spam complaints and poor overall conversion rates. So maybe it’s time for us to say goodbye – before our prospects do.