Lead generation is a fairly core activity to marketing. Sales people need leads to close sales. You might not always look at it in those baseline terms, but that’s the general process, right? Find people who want that thing you’re selling, be that Jesus or real estate, higher education or luchador masks.
You build someone’s interest, you make the offer, you close the sale. That’s the basic cycle. Let’s talk about leads and how lead generation might have shifted in the last little while. I’m thinking that our tactics and strategies have been born out of yesterday’s “mild interest” methods, versus a shift, I’m thinking, to today’s “they presented a need” method.
Sound Like Your Plan?
You have a product to sell. To get interest, you look for your target market of prospective buyers and try to figure out what they are like. You then try messaging them using whatever forms work for you. Maybe you buy some door knockers with your offer on them, or you buy radio spots in the 6-9AM drive time sports radio markets of 14 key cities. Maybe you’ve got a website that tells people the same stuff you put in your direct mailing piece, so that you have brand consistency.
Some number of people limply respond to your call to action. They opt into the next wave and your sales process kicks in to try and close them before they lose interest. If they don’t close, you just keep sending them information, trying to keep the pulse of that lead alive by reinforcing what you’ve been sending them.
In this above model, you have to keep coming up with new offers, new ideas, new ways to make something seem interesting and pertinent. Think about Ford for a moment. They are out there trying to figure out what else to say about their new Ford Flex so that people will swing by and give it a chance. But the thing is, we the consumer aren’t exactly reacting that way any more.
That was distraction marketing, or interruption marketing, as Seth Godin called it forever ago. That’s list building. And list pounding. And it’s not always bad to have a list, but how are you cultivating it?
The New Stuff
If you’re Seth, you call it Permission marketing. If you’re Hubspot, you call it Inbound Marketing. You call it whatever you want to call it, but we’re in a world where the power of marketing is in the hands of the consumer more than the marketer right now, at least in the wide area of the sales funnel.
The new lead generation shifts your methods as a marketer from “talk about your dumb product” into “empower the users.”
(That, by the way is the nugget of this whole piece.)
The lead process used to be “beat people with information until your sales person closes them.” Now, it’s a little bit more about relationships with products and companies. Look at Dell’s Digital Nomads. They are all about helping out a certain niche of prospect. They’re not selling. They’re equipping. It’s perfect. It’s exactly what I’m talking about.
The thing is, there are many more examples here. Smart people are finding ways to reach out and equip and empower their customers and prospects.
You think this isn’t sales? You think this isn’t lead generation?
Greg Cangialosi from Blue Sky Factory is an example that Julien Smith and I write about in our upcoming book, Trust Agents. Why? Because Greg practices a very real, very natural lead generation methodology (he wouldn’t call it this at all): be there before the sale.
This isn’t lead generation the way you’re thinking. This is being a human, thinking with a business mind, but acting human in the end. Greg hangs out where his customers hang out. Sometimes, he sponsors (by the way, Greg signed on to support my 2009 New Marketing Summit events, so if that requires disclosure, there you go), but lots of times, Greg just shows up to be part of the gang. He’s a published author in the podcasting space. He’s a media maker. He’s one of us (another point in the book with Julien). Greg gets it from a human and face to face way, but he also knows he can’t be everywhere. (Only I can.)
The web, silly. There are tools to have your conversations right out in the open where they might inspire other people (Twitter). There are tools that let you market by equipping people to do useful things with or without your dumb product (blogs). There are tools that let you meet more people and be there long before the sale (Facebook, LinkedIn, your various niche Ning sites, message boards, Yahoo groups). There are ways to reach the elusive and the on-the-go (podcasts – have you ever stopped to realize that moms are often too busy to read blogs, but could potentially keep one earbud in to listen to an iPod?).
And if you’re going to do this, and you’re going to want these to be your new leads, you have to do the other part of the equation and treat them like a new kind of lead. Meeting me at a party and getting my business card doesn’t make me a sales prospect.
Have you watched Boiler Room lately? Do it. That would be a “wood” lead.
If you’re going to use social media tools to work on “wide funnel sales” opportunities, then you’ve got to make a conversion engine, something that moves me from “love your blog” into “want your product.” And that’s a lesson for another time.
So, you’re the pro. Tear me apart. What’s wrong here? Don’t say scale. This isn’t about scale. Look how good scale’s been treating you lately.
What’s good and bad about these ideas to you?
Photo credit, Josh Staiger