Every year, reputable marketing publications and media sites proclaim that some aspect of marketing is “dead.” Usually, I don’t take these articles too seriously, but recently a headline from CMSWire caught my eye: “Are Lead Generation Days Over for B2B Marketers?”
After the click-bait title, the article goes on to say that no, lead generation days are not over.
It did make me think a bit, though. Our quest for marketing and sales leads may not be going anywhere, but it also seems we might be overdue for a different way of thinking about those leads. We still consider our lead pipelines in the same linear, “lead-to-MQL” approach discussed in the piece, and I think we can all agree it’s not working as well as it could. In fact, I’m not sure it has ever worked the way it was intended.
What are the factors that are preventing our collective lead generation efforts from becoming as successful as they could be—and are there ways to consider retooling our approach when it comes to how we’re building those engines? I’ll unpack that below.
Why Are Lead Gen Efforts Broken? Oh, Let Me Count the Ways…
There are plenty of reasons to discuss here, but I’d like to concentrate on a few that aren’t mentioned as often.
1) Qualifying leads too early.
If you’ve ever been around a marketer of a certain era (I count myself among this group), you might have heard them say some version of the following adage when talking about the lead generation funnel: “We don’t want to ask them to get married before we hold their hand” or “we don’t want to ask them to dance before we’ve even met them.”
This kind of 'qualifying' isn’t really qualifying at all.
Whichever example you use, it’s common sense. If a prospect just subscribed to your newsletter or read their first blog post, it’s a long way off from wanting a sales call. And yet, sometimes in our excitement, that’s what we do. Defining what a qualified lead actually looks like—and being honest with ourselves about our target audience's behavior—can be the best step toward cleaning up your lead quality.
We might even say that this kind of “qualifying” isn’t really qualifying at all.
2) Trying to find that “one tactic” for lead generation.
I completely understand, because I would also love it if there was a “silver bullet to beat all silver bullets” option—that single move we knew just worked to turn customers into prospects, no matter what. But, as we know, the ones purchasing our products and services, especially in the B2B space, have a long and complex purchasing cycle ahead of them.
That’s why it’s essential to spread out tactics across multiple touchpoints while keeping your brand and product messaging consistent throughout all of them.
It’s fair to acknowledge, as I’ve said many times before, that we can’t “boil the ocean” by spreading limited dollars too thinly across too many tactics. That’s why testing can help validate which set of tactics work best together in order to truly define the best mix for your business or brand.
3) Selling your product, not what your product can do for your customer.
When you have a product or service you’re really proud of, it can be tempting to focus marketing on features, not the challenges it helps to solve or the pain it can alleviate. I empathize with this one. However, if our prospects know very little about us—save for the unadulterated selling of our products—they’re going to lose interest and fall out of our funnel quickly.
Also, when we focus on features, we’re left to check-list decision-making; and many of our competitors will make the same claims, diluting our points of differentiation.
4) Going after new customers only.
Cross-selling and up-selling current customers seem like a no-brainer, right? And yet, it’s often an afterthought. Again, I get it—net new customers are always the goal because there’s usually more revenue there.
But don’t forget about the customers who are already happily playing in your backyard. If they’ve already purchased from you and are satisfied, there’s a chance they’ll buy again. Same with win-back campaigns—you might be surprised how easy it is to re-engage, but that means taking the time to try.
Don’t forget about the customers who are already happily playing in your backyard.
As your business grows and you’re considering product or service expansion, knowing what your current customers love about your brand can guide you to offer more based on their loyalty as well as their purchase and usage behavior. See how HubSpot has expanded over the past decade from a focus on content and inbound marketing to sales and service. Proof case extraordinaire.
5) Thinking you have a “secret sauce.”
I’m not saying this to be rude, I’m saying this to be helpful. So many companies believe they have insights and perspectives no one else has, so they keep them under lock and key, treating them as gated content and lead magnets for the purpose of gathering contact details.
Your prospects are smart—and impatient. The more you hold back your information, the less they know. And these days, they have no problem heading down the line until they find a similar company that will tell them everything they can without making them give up their email address and phone number.
There’s a lot of chatter now about transparency; so much so that many companies have added pricing so their leads are well-informed before your sales team gets on the phone.
A New Vantage Point: What If Your Lead Engine’s Fine, But You Need Better Motor Oil?
Let’s say you do the work to fix the broken pieces above. Now what?
Well, here’s the secret: The parts of a lead generation “machine” are pretty similar, regardless of business model or category. What can be different is what you build around the machine, or how you lubricate the engine in the first place. These are the tactical things you might not think of as part of the lead generation process, but absolutely make it run smoothly.
Here are a few examples:
- On your website, do you have distinct page titles and meta descriptions so Google doesn’t ding you? Do you have calls to action on all your pages—not just your Contact Us page—so you can help website visitors along on their marketing automation journey?
- On your blogs, do you have both external and internal links for SEO authority and stickiness, so visitors stay and continue to engage with your content?
- On your social media, do you have contact information built into your pages, and links in posts that make it easy to contact you? And, do your posts sound like a human being wrote them?
- With your marketing and sales teams, are they having conversations that lead to meaningful and relevant content focused on solving the problems of your ideal customers?
To truly fix lead generation, we have to realize that it can’t stand on its own. It requires all of our strategies, properties, teams, and tactics to be as optimized and polished as possible.
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