What Comes After Lead Generation?

Steering WheelTwo weeks ago, I wrote Five Reasons Lead Generation is on its Last Legs, exploring the reasons why today’s common lead generation tactics are beginning to fail. However, the requirement that marketing deliver leads will not change.

Marketers need to move beyond today’s content for contact information exchange and embrace new ways to drive demand and capture more interested and qualified contacts. Underlying the new demand generation activities will be two key changes.

Relevance is the New King

It is no longer content or context. Relevance requires BOTH. As professional and personal lives intertwine, business marketing messages compete with new family pictures for attention. Can your marketing compete with my passion? This will be the new bar for relevance. It is higher than it has ever been before.

Your Audience is Driving

Ardath Albee has a great example of buyers driving the new research process in The Contagious Content Challenge. A buyer, educating themselves, resulted in a two day sale for a company with a 90 day average sales cycle. It happened because the buyer was educating themselves and came to the table simply needing final validation.

Your buyers will drive and control the research process. Demand creation activities must support the buying process on the buyers terms. They will determine the right time, channel and format. Your job is to ensure prospective buyers have the information they need to make a decision.

The Marketing Tactics that will Dominate

  • Inbound Marketing. For inbound marketing, your content is responsible for delivering your message and persuading the audience. As competition in inbound marketing increases, more content will need to be ungated. For inbound marketing, your content must be sharable and linkable, your registration page is neither.
  • Conversational Social Media. More companies will listen in social media, responding to individuals with tailored information. These responses will be the start of a real conversation, not a canned marketing response with content. Avaya’s widely cited case of a $250,000 sale via Twitter is a great example. In particular, note Paul Dunay’s response. He didn’t send a link to content or pitch a sales call, he offered to put them in touch with a technical contact to assist.
  • Opt-Ins and Contact Request. Buyers will have greater control of followup communications. An opt-in let’s buyers dictate when they begin receiving email. With increasing use of email prioritization like GMail’s Priority Inbox, sending email before it is welcomed will relegate later emails to the bottom where they will go unseen.
  • Social: Follow and Like. A follow or like leaves the buyer in complete control. It is easily reversed and cannot be subsequently abused like an email or phone number. Relevance, when combined with existing business connections, personal pursuits and friends and family, is critical.
  • Publishing. More marketers will become media companies, developing an audience that regularly turns to them for information. A publishing mindset will be key for developing thought leadership positions and, by producing sharable and linkable content, will fuel inbound marketing.

With buyers in control, tomorrow’s lead generation activities will capture fewer new contacts, however every contact will be opting in, choosing to follow or receive information from your company. While today’s practice of holding content hostage in exchange for contact information will continue, it will become increasingly more expensive and will continue to yield lower quality contacts.

What other changes will we see in lead generation? What other tactics will emerge as dominant sources of high quality leads?

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Comments

  1. says

    Great insights Eric. I’ve forwarded to my Thought Leadership project team, my online team, and my social media champions.
    I think two of the key points you mention (and there were several) were about Social Converstations, and Media Publishing. So often we are caught up with just pushing out marketing info via social channels, and call that a success. But the point needs to be about conversations. While not sexy numbers, ideally they lead to resolution of issues or, as in your example, sales. Second is Media Publishing. My online team is spearheading a project to “Think Like a Publisher” where we are collecting our content in different ways so that we can repurpose that info to match the channel – online, solution brief, solution detail, blogs, webcasts, video shorts, audio podcasts, etc.

    • says

      Tom, thanks for the kind comment and for sharing my post within SAP. I really appreciate the snippets of SAP insight you have shared in comments, and it is great to hear that making information usable across channels and formats isn’t something done after the fact, but is part of the plan and a priority from the outset. Thanks for sharing, I appreciate it!

  2. says

    Eric, there are many excellent points in your article. What you say about moving beyond the content for contact exchange is especially interesting. I am one of those that believes content is indeed king in B2B marketing. You mention the importance of relevance but this is why it is so critical to offer different forms of content to different audience segments. This is true both in outbound communications and on the website.

    Your comments about how the audience is driving and marketing tactics are spot on. You referenced the Ardath Albee example – I have seen similar instances of where the sales cycle was reduced significantly just because the right content was available to the prospect at the right point in the sales cycle.

    Thanks.

    Chris Ryan
    Fusion Marketing Partners

    • says

      Chris, I love the line Content is King, even though I believe content must also be discovered at the right time to have royal influence, thus relevance becoming the ultimate requirement. Why I like the line is it focuses on the purpose of your content. It is intended to educate prospects or establish your firm as a thought leader. But when it is gated, its primary job becomes capturing a lead and the distribution becomes so limited that it cannot make a meaningful market impact.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. says

    You’ve pinpointed the elephant in the room. Lead generation as we’ve known it cannot continue to work because the fundamental relationship between buyers and sellers has forever changed. Just as no one walks into a car showroom to get educated about a new car, buyers no longer need to engage with your sales team to evaluate your product offerings. All the resources they need to make intelligent technology decisions are at their fingertips.

    Vendors that once benefited from opacity in the market are losing out to a new breed of vendor that embraces an open flow of information. And yet, as you point out, removing registration gates is not enough. Early stage buyers can actually benefit greatly from the guidance, direction and expertise within vendor organizations. But the challenge is effectively delivering that guidance when the buyers refuse to identify themselves.

    At Buyerlens, we’ve been working on this problem from the buyer’s perspective. While we are still in early beta (with a long way to go) we’ve found that buyers want and need a way to engage with vendors in an anonymous and mediated fashion – a kind of Match.com meets Yelp for business buyers.

    Thanks for your insights, Eric. The sooner vendors look past lead generation and toward meaningful engagement, the better their results will be.

    Hoyt Prisock
    CEO, Buyerlens.com

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