There are two things that you need to know about lead generation:
- 55 percent of B2B marketers spend more than half of their marketing budget on lead generation activities.
- 61 percent of marketers rank lead generation as their number one challenge.
When half of your marketing budget is spent on your top challenge, it’s clear there are certain conversations that need to be had.
Table of Contents
What is Lead Generation?
Simply put, lead generation is the systematic process of acquiring new business interest.
That being said, it’s important to clarify that lead generation is different from sales or business acquisition as it is not explicitly tied to the procurement of new business. As a matter of fact, lead generation is an inherently B2B term, corresponding to the acquisition of interest at any point along the buyer’s journey.
Whether you want to look at it as a journey, a flywheel, or something else, there are generally five critical elements in the modern customer lifecycle. They include:
- Interest and awareness
- And experience
If we use the traditional journey map, these stages of the customer lifecycle and the pertinent lead-generation activities land as follows:
Lead-generation tactics and strategies can be leveraged at any stage of the buyer’s journey. Before getting into the purpose of lead generation and the specific tactics you can deploy, there are additional definitions that you should add to your repertoire.
Lead: A lead is a viable customer/client for your business or offering. This viability can be determined based on various demographic or firmographic factors and must be assessed on a case to case basis.
Marketing qualified lead (MQL): An MQL is generally a prospect that is described as being “tall enough to ride the ride,” meaning they’ve exhibited an interest in your offering and meet the initial customer requirements.
Sales qualified lead (SQL): An SQL is any lead that has been successfully vetted by both the sales and marketing teams and deemed ready for the next stage of the sales process. SQLs are used in organizations that have complex offerings and tiered sales processes.
Product qualified lead (PQL): This is a newer school of thought that aligns with the notion of product-led growth. A PQL is defined as any prospect that has experienced true value through a free trial or free version of a product. Under this model, less selling is required as prospects have experienced value first-hand before they are sold on an upgrade.
Leads can be generated at any of these levels or can graduate to these levels through the usage of proper nurturing tactics. But before we get into those tactics, let’s briefly explore the history of lead generation.
Lead Generation: A Brief History
Lead generation is not a new idea, although the term might be. People and businesses alike have been leveraging lead generation tactics since the market days of the Middle Ages.
Here is a quick overview of lead generation over the centuries:
- 25 BC – 500 AD: Roman markets are bustling with people and the tact for word-of-mouth marketing is refined.
- The 1400s: The Gutenberg press was invented and newspaper ads began circulating.
- The 1800s: Coloured billboards and posters are created and the telegraph is used for marketing.
- The early 1900s: Door-to-door selling becomes the norm and radio/television marketing make their introductions.
- The mid-1900s: Call centers become a marketing staple, television advertising prospers, and other traditional marketing methods continue to flourish.
- The late 1900s: The first-ever CRMs are developed, email marketing begins, the internet is invented, and internet marketing begins to take flight.
- The 2000s: The social media phenoms are born, mobile phones and mobile apps are invented, and information becomes more accessible and democratized than was ever possible before.
Source: Brand Driven Digital
It’s essential to understand the history of lead generation because it shows how and why we are where we are today. Analyzing the history of lead generation reveals one key finding: that new innovations have rarely replaced predecessors. Instead, innovation has added to and sometimes enhanced existing marketing/communication mediums, creating the media-rich world that we know today.
Why Lead Generation is Essential
For B2B businesses in 2021, simply “doing marketing” is not enough. Running a generic Facebook ad campaign and writing blogs without any rhyme or reason will not achieve your objectives or reach your target markets. Success in the modern era requires marketers to methodically set objectives and to execute marketing programs with surgical precision.
There are three primary reasons why lead generation is absolutely essential to your business:
1. Lead generation is a message testing mechanism
There are two components to the lead-generation equation: figuring out what people are most interested in hearing what we have to say and determining what we need to say to garner their interest and attention.
Deploying lead-generation tactics across numerous platforms effectively gauges whether a message is resonating with a target audience.
Here’s an anecdote to explain what I mean:
You might believe that social-media marketing is the need that your audience is looking to have met, so you run a series of Facebook ads to promote social-media marketing. You end up hitting $100 cost-per-lead (CPL) and generating very little engagement on your campaign. In response, you might test other messaging variants, such as social-media management. Suddenly, you’re generating thousands of daily impressions and converting high-intent prospects at a $14 CPL. The lesson? By substituting one word, you more effectively convey the fact that you’re offering a managed service, not a product—and that’s what your prospects are truly looking for. Now you can take this lesson and apply it across all of your other marketing programs.
2. Lead generation means marketing integration
As outlined in the buyer journey above, lead-generation programs are generally targeted at specific stages of the buyer lifecycle. However, none of those programs work well in isolation.
Adopting a lead-generation mentality means adopting an integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy. IMC occurs when various programs are deployed across many channels with the intention of reaching the same audience on multiple platforms.
The logic is simple: increase touchpoints to increase conversions.
Here’s how an integrated lead-generation program can be aimed at influencing each of the stages of the buyer lifecycle:
- Content-based ads on Facebook and other social platforms can be used to generate awareness for your brand and funnel leads into a nurture program, where remarketing ads and email drips can push these leads towards a sales conversion.
- Google Ads and a dedicated SEO strategy ensure that prospects find you when they search for your brand, your content, or your services. This serves to enhance your brand authority and increase conversion rates over time.
- A reputation marketing program that boosts rankings and reviews across external sites ensures that trust is instilled wherever your brand shows up. This influences prospects at the information search level. For example, a prospect may have downloaded a content asset from a LinkedIn ad, then decided to look up your company on G2 to evaluate whether they might want to take the conversation further. Upon conducting this research, your reputation will likely determine whether or not this prospect takes the next step with your brand.
- Having an expertly crafted and conversion-optimized website makes it easy for prospects to make purchases or convert into paying customers. Additionally, deploying a transactional set of social ads to a website or content download remarketing audience can be a great way to add touchpoints and drive conversions from an audience with whom you’ve already interacted.
- When it comes to advocacy, great email marketing programs and newsletters are powerful tools to keep clients engaged and spark new upsell opportunities for your business. Other upsell tactics might include great webinars, events (physical or virtual), and branded podcasts. The value stream should never run dry after the conversion—in fact, the flow of content should increase.
3. Lead generation strategies predict further business success
A study conducted by LeadCrunch determined that only 4 percent of B2B companies in the world currently use a data-driven lead-generation strategy. They also found that those same companies outperform their competition by greater than 500 percent with respect to sales productivity and efficiency. That is the ultimate opportunity in lead generation and the reason you need to invest in reinforcing your efforts in 2021.
The Future of Lead Generation
It’s difficult to say for sure, but every indication suggests the future of lead generation may be mass personalization. The founder and CEO of LeadCrunch.ai put it like this:
“The future of lead generation will be defined by the unprecedented ability for artificial intelligence to find high-precision targets, then qualify them at machine speed and scale.”Olin Hyde
CEO & Co-Founder, LeadCrunch.ai
There was a time when marketing was all about mass communication; getting your message out to the greatest volume of people at minimal cost. However, with technological advancement and the introduction of artificial intelligence in marketing, it is now possible to tailor the prospect experience and do it at scale.
This is the future that technology is enabling, and it’s the same future that customers are seeking.