The estimated reading time for this post is 9 minutes
A few weeks ago I wrote my thoughts about Demand Generation in detail (you can find the posting here). In this post, I’m going to do the same for Lead Generation.
As I feel that the two are often confused with each other, I’m hoping that you’ll read both posts together and you’ll then have a clear understanding of the differences between these two important marketing strategies.
Why Lead Generation?
It’s seems obvious to most people, but every business needs revenue to survive and meet their long-term vision and objectives. In order to obtain these revenues, the business needs to find clients that are going to pay for their offerings. What’s not so obvious is how you convert the general public into paying clients. That’s the primary purpose of Lead Generation; to find potential customers (let’s call them leads) who have problems that can be fixed by your offerings and will pay you for the privilege of doing so.
Lead generation is more than just finding the names and contact details of leads. Good lead generation programs increase the winning percentage of your sales team. Good lead generating marketers know how to communicate with your target market (medium) and know what to say (message) at the right time (timing).
Good lead generation programs increase the winning percentage of your sales team.
If done properly, lead generation activities guide the behavior of the lead through the marketing journey and increase or heighten awareness or pain of their problem. So lead generation techniques have the ability to drive actual behavior towards the eventual sale. Lead generation marketing activities can be directly tied towards revenue
Over the last decade, lead scoring is a process that has been used by marketers as the primary method to determine when the lead is “in the buying window” (thank you Jeb Blount). Traditional lead scoring defines the value for each content piece consumed or viewed by the lead and the timing of each interaction (time between review of each content piece and types of content). The lead is assigned weighted score according to each these parameters. In theory, the higher the lead score, the more interest in the offering by the lead. When a threshold is added to the process, marketing then knows when to hand off the lead to sales operations or sales development for contact and further qualification.
Well thought out lead generation systems create scores of qualified ready buyers for the sales team to grab and build the commitments to buy the solution. And there is nothing that says product-market fit more than a customer who will actually pay for your offering.
Results of Lead Generation Activities
If done properly, your lead generation activities provide your marketing operations team the following outcomes:
- Direct link between marketing and revenues – This is the holy grail for CEOs and CMOs. If set campaigns are set up properly then direct tracking of lead activity from initial acquisition to a closed won deal helps focus the marketing efforts on activities that are most effective and can provide marketers with additional ammunition to build increasingly effective campaigns.
- Accelerated path to revenues with a developing sales team– By providing sales operations with well qualified leads (sometimes called Sales Qualified Leads or SQLs) instead of just Marketing Qualified Leads (called MQLs), sales operations doesn’t need to have the best or most experienced players on its development or account team. This is especially welcome for organizations that are just developing their market and sales operations systems or rebuilding a new group of team players.
- Evidence ofIdeal Client Profile – If you’re like most marketers, the ideal client for your solution is evolving alongside the market. The best evidence that you’re marketing and selling to the right persona is when money is exchanged for an offering. When lead generation is done well and delivers leads that convert to revenue, then your marketing operations are easily validated.
- Confirmation of medium and message – One of the hardest parts of building an effective lead generation program is to recognize those messages and communication mediums that resonate and convert to revenues. Most marketing leaders start with either an omni-channel or bi-channel approach and iterate until they attain some level of acceptable results. Because lead generation is directly linked to revenue, with proper tracking, marketing leaders will clearly understand which messages and media resonate with their leads over time.
Types of Lead Generation Activities
For most organizations, most marketing-led lead generation activities are content focused and, as such, can be closely aligned with content management activities similar to demand generation (hence the confusion between the two).
However, the tone and tenor of your lead generation content will be materially different than that provided for demand generation purposes because it’s focus is not only on capturing your leads’ contact information but also to gauge the intensity and veracity of their interest.
Some of the tools and assets used for lead generation include:
- Landing pages – quasi web pages that are focused on capturing lead contact data usually with the promise to delivering some content or value (see Core Content below)
- Infographics– these are images that usually denote how an offering helps solve problems in simple visual graphic.
- Blog posts – Blog content allows you to position your organization as an industry thought leader or at least empathetic to your lead’s challenges. Your content should be placed on your own website but is generally more powerful when it’s found on other sites.
- Paid Media – Cost per click advertising can help you zero in on keywords and phrases sought by your leads in a variety of media. It can also be an effective way to circumvent your competition by bidding for search items relating to their offerings.
- Advertorials – using a news-style format that addresses specific challenges faced by like-minded prospects and clients can build credibility and trust if placed in the right media.
- Core Content – this includes all types of content that your lead might find of interest about your market, common market challenges and how your offering might help solve their problems. These core content pieces could be in the form of e-books, case studies, third-party reports (think Gartner or IHS) or product reviews (think Capterra).
- Email – Email is still the main direct response marketing system that works. A well crafted email marketing campaign with appropriate automation will not only test your message, it will also get leads to self-select their buying intent as they only have to hit “reply”.
- Events – Online or In-person events can generate both demand and leads for your offering and brand. Organizations must be careful in using this medium as the events can themselves be very time and resource intensive, but when used properly in an organized and orchestrated campaign, are a great focal point for the marketing team’s efforts.
- Chatbots – there is an increasing use of real-time or delayed chatbots on sites that address specific questions or concerns from leads. They create lead data through the use of tracking pixels, cookies and lead capture fields
Tradeshows and speaking engagements are great for demand generation, not lead generation
You’ll notice that I don’t have trade shows or speaking engagements on this list. That’s because I don’t believe that either of these activities will generate actionable leads for sales operations. I believe that both are great demand generation activities and if used properly can augment existing lead generation and qualification activities. I’ll write more on speaking engagements and trade shows in another post in the future.
How to Start Your Lead Generation Campaign
Though I’m not trying to sound like a broken record, your lead generation campaign (much like your demand generation campaign) starts with an understanding of your Sales Story including:
- A heading or introduction which briefly describes what you do
- A description of your Ideal Client Profile that relates to your activities
- A description of the problems you solve and pain you make disappear
- A description of your offerings points of difference vs your competitors and market
The Medium is the Message
Once you’ve got the content for your messaging you then need to choose the medium through which you intend to communication. I recommend allocating your content into two bucket: Core content and Tactical content. Core content is focused on building long term engagement and can also act to build demand generation activities. Tactical content is focused on testing messaging and media to specific target personas. This dual approach allows you to build a long term following and test personas to increase your following.
Use an Expert
You must assign someone on your team to complete these tasks and they need to have prior skills in their functional area. We’ve all seen infographics that are just way too busy to drive the point home or with a clear call to action and marketing emails that are either too long, too unfocused or to much me, me, me. If you’re really focused on lead generation then you should spend a few extra bucks and hire someone who’s been there and done that before, successfully.
Review and Realign
Have a plan to review each of your lead generation campaigns while the campaign is running and after it’s run its first course. Focus on what has worked and what hasn’t and work with your team to create a best practices guideline so as to ensure that you can replicate or redact for the next campaign. If you don’t embed these review periods during your campaign, you’ll likely never take the time do to this. I generally run 8 week macrocycles with 2 3 week microcycles and a 1 week mid-campaign review and a 1-week post campaign review (perhaps I’ll save this for another post another time).
Build a Fan base
Your leads may not be in the buying window today, but will likely be at some point the in future. So think of your lead generation activities as prospect journeys that will develop fans in your organization and offering according to your Ideal Client Personas. This is a not a touchy-feely exercise, each part of the journey should be measured for engagement (as you define it) and used as part of your review. By definition, your lead generation activities can be measured in actual sales (which is good) , those leads who don’t convert into short term revenue can be turned into fans that recommend you to their own networks (which is also good) so long as your messaging and media are geared towards building a fan base.
Engagement with your leads is, initially, arbitrarily determined by some random bright line. Over time, though, your engagement criteria will increase in precision as you can determine which lead behavior is most indicative of actual revenue results. One of the keys to increase this precision is to have both a clear line of site to transactions and, more importantly, why and how those transactions were completed.
Lead generation is the oxygen of any organization. As such, marketing operations plays a key role in building messages and using media that will connect with interested parties and generate leads that convert to revenues.
In order for marketing to deliver the Glengarry leads, sales leaders need to be actively engaged in a dialogue with marketing leaders about the nature of the market and how to find the best leads. When marketing and sales work together on lead generation, revenue is not far behind.