Lead generation has changed… have you?

TIME TO READ: 9 minutes

If you’re in sales, are you…

  • Still cold calling?
  • Still’ door knocking’?
  • Still buying old marketing lists?
  • Buying leads from lead companies, but the quality isn’t great?
  • Telemarketing, but it’s getting less & less effective?

What about these challenges?

  • Your sales team’s constant reluctance to generate their own leads.
  • Your current marketing activities are difficult to track ROI.
  • ‘Yo-yo’ sales results – great one month, nothing the next.
  • You are trying to do it all yourself – marketing, prospecting, sales, closing.
  • Should we go on…?

If any of these feel familiar, we hear you and feel your pain. So let’s look at lead generation in more depth, what it is, how it has evolved, and how you need to change along with it for your business to succeed.

What is lead generation?

A lead is anyone who indicates interest in a company’s product or service in some way, shape, or form.

Leads will typically hear from a business or organisation after initiating communication (by submitting personal information to receive a quote, offer, trial, or a subscription)… instead of getting a random cold call from someone who purchased their contact information.

Lead generation is the process of attracting offline or online visitors and converting these into someone with interest in the product or service you are offering. The changing nature of how consumers & businesses make purchases has meant that marketers have had to develop new strategies to identify and generate leads.

The history of lead generation

A little over 50 years ago, it was customary for salespeople to go door-to-door telling potential customers about the history of the brand they represent and the “amazing” product(s) it sells. Then, they would talk at length about how that particular product could transform your life, persuading you to part with your contact details (so they can send further information) or get you to purchase the spot.

In the 1950s, this kind of sales lead generation was prevalent because there was no other way for consumers to research products or services and find reviews like can be done today. As a result, salespeople could, to an extent, say whatever they wanted to get a sale. And the best part? It worked.

In the 1980s, telemarketing was born. It fast became one of the most favoured methods to sell products and services. Potential leads could be researched (typically through the help of another company), contacted to gather more information and then persuaded to buy a product or service.

Today, telemarketing is far less effective. Ask yourself, how often do you answer telemarketing calls?). You try to avoid them right? However, at a time when information was more difficult to come by, it was an excellent way for salespeople to engage with prospects on a personal level and get instant feedback.

Traditional lead generation in Australia

For many decades, the cornerstone of growth for most SMEs in Australia has been a good old-fashioned, no-nonsense sales and lead generation strategy.

Things like:

  • Cold calling
  • Networking
  • Trade shows
  • Referrals and word of mouth

All of these lead generation tactics will still work today for most businesses, and we’re not here to tell you they don’t.

It would be ridiculous to recommend sacking your sales team, closing off your networks and burning those lucrative, long-standing referral connections to have a shot at fulfilling some pipedream of digital marketing and modern lead generation success.

Someone who says that marketing alone can be used to drive growth in a business is a very dangerous kind of person. Someone like that should be avoided at all costs. But, on the other hand, someone who tells you that good old traditional lead generation methods are all you need is just as dangerous to the growth of your business.

What does a digital marketing strategy offer that a traditional strategy doesn’t?

It is a common misconception that digital marketing is here to remove the human touch from the world. That traditional salespeople and their old-school lead generation tactics are no longer relevant. That it’s all about modern marketing methods driven purely by data and analytics.

However, the truth is far less ominous; digital marketing can significantly enhance and complement your existing strategies, taking your business to a completely new level. Traditional sales is critical and will always remain so. As a business, we ourselves have a sales function, and we’re a lead generation company.

There are many things a well-researched marketing and lead generation strategy can help you achieve that you otherwise couldn’t:

  • You’ll generate more, higher quality leads.
  • You’ll better nurture new and existing leads.
  • You’ll close more deals as a result.
  • You’ll eliminate or at least reduce reliance on stressful cold outreach activities like cold calls, cold emails, or, God forbid, cold door-to-door (surely this stopped in the ’90s!?).
  • You’ll spend most of your time closing and less time prospecting.
  • You’ll eliminate constant peaks & troughs in your sales results.

It’s well-known that cold calling results in a 1-3% return on calls. Of course, this is different from industry to industry, depending on the quality of your data and the skill of your salespeople. Still, generally speaking, that’s the average return, which is clearly not that inspiring.

So, what can we do about the other 97% of people? They may all need what your business sells. And in fact, many of them do end up buying what you sell, either from you or a competing company with a better approach. People just don’t like to take calls or are guarded by very protective gatekeepers who are well trained in this.

The sad and true fact is that many people, no matter whether they need what you’re selling or not, will simply refuse to take a call and discuss their challenges or business goals. They know the caller on the other end will try to sell to them. So how do these people go about buying? And what’s more important, what is the best way to capture their attention and interest and turn them into nice, warm, sales-ready leads?

Not everyone is like that. Some people are completely happy being sold to and will openly discuss their needs. But the majority aren’t. Most people prefer to buy rather than be sold. Just like with those tests at school, many people choose to search for information on their own terms, in their own time and get in touch with potential suppliers on their terms. They don’t like being disturbed by out-of-the-blue sales calls.

Others respond well to email campaigns, while some love to get valuable information from social media.

The point is; if cold calling and other traditional strategies are your only methods of lead generation, without a digital strategy in place, you have to wonder, how many leads are passing you by right now, possibly right into the arms of a welcoming competitor?

The answer is; probably about 97 to 99%!

This is why a digital marketing and lead generation strategy is vital to help you grow your business to the next level. By plugging the gaps in your lead generation, you make sure that at least a good percentage of those prospects you were going to miss out on now head your way rather than flowing right past your business without stopping.

Traditional lead generation – why isn’t it enough?

Only when sales and marketing departments are in alignment, and both are working in harmony can you truly ensure your business steps up its growth and gets anywhere close to its sales potential.

Without the additional touchpoints that marketing can create, the sales team will never be in a strong position to close as many deals as they possibly could.

At the same time, how can your marketing ever be fully effective without benefitting from the feedback of a sales function and the personal touch when a marketing-qualified lead comes in?

As the old Einstein quote goes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. We’re saying that relying on just traditional lead generation strategies, whether it be cold calling, networking, telemarketing, attending trade shows or a combination of all of them, is not enough if you want different results.

On the flip side, it is equally true that doing something new will deliver you new results. So, if you want to take your business somewhere it’s never been before, you need to do things you’ve never done before.

Lead generation in today’s world – what’s changed?

We know that traditional methods are still being used today. But what’s happened is that their strategies have changed. Key aspects that have contributed to this are technology and the changing role of buyers.

Thanks to the World Wide Web, buyers are more informed and educated than ever before. With a few clicks of a mouse, or taps on a smartphone, they can access all the information they need on a product or service, things such as online product & business reviews, forums, white papers, buyer guides and price guides. It is straightforward these days for buyers to do all their own research and not contact a salesperson until they’re right at the decision stage, even making purchases without a salesperson altogether, depending on the product or service. Many B2B products & services do still involve a salesperson at some stage, but often much later in the buying cycle.

Consumers also tend to be somewhat more sceptical. Many won’t necessarily believe all the advertising/marketing messages they are fed, especially those regarding new products or services without an established market presence or user base. Studies have confirmed that recommendations from people or businesses they know and referral leads can be 30% better (i.e. more qualified) than leads from other marketing channels.

Buyers now have all the power, not the salesperson.

This shift in trust means that marketers have had to change how they communicate with prospects and leads. Marketers have to acknowledge that buyers will be at different stages of the buyer journey, and each one will have their own understanding of what’s available to them.

For example, people looking for product reviews and case studies online may be at the ‘consideration stage’ of the buyer journey. People at this buying stage are looking for content to help them better evaluate what products & services are available. They’re not quite ready to decide yet but are getting closer. On the other hand, those still at the awareness stage of the buyer journey are only just realising a want, desire or need for a product or service, but they probably aren’t sure what’s available to them or what they should be looking for. Therefore, different messages need to be delivered at each buyer journey stage to help develop stronger relationships with potential prospects. This is known as lead nurturing. Lead nurturing over time turns marketing-ready leads into sales-ready leads and sales-ready leads into actual deals.

As well as prospect or lead nurturing, having multiple conversion points throughout the buyer journey is crucial. For example, using a strong call-to-action (CTA) in blog articles (such as the one below this paragraph) helps drive website visitors to relevant landing pages and encourages conversions. By placing specific assets on these landing pages, such as eBooks, white papers, or buyer guides, tailored to a prospects’ likely challenges, they will help increase your lead generation activities.

Remember: it is now essential that you provide website visitors with multiple ways to engage with your business. Relying on the ‘contact us page or button alone is not enough.

Click here to learn more about how Leads2Sales can help you with your B2B lead generation. 

Being found online: how lead generation has developed.

Along with the Internet came websites. So now, in this modern, digital world, your business website will meet your prospects well before you do.

To get new customers, B2B companies must be found online. If their website cannot be found, how can they generate leads? To generate leads, B2B companies must take advantage of search engine optimisation (SEO). This means adding content that users and search engines will find helpful.

Each page is optimised for a target keyword related to what the business does. With internal links to and from pillar pages and other content, search engines will see these as important pieces of content, giving it and the assets attached to it a boost in search engine rankings.

Over time, search engines and website visitors will see these pages as authoritative information and position the business as an authority for that particular topic. As a result, its search rankings will improve and its likelihood of being found by those searching for what the business provides.

The role of social media in the development of lead generation

The way people use the Internet has also changed. Consumers now use social media sites that were once used to build relationships with others to research products and services and read reviews before making a purchasing decision.

Using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, businesses can easily reach new audiences by including industry-related keywords and hashtags. This is why so many companies promote assets via LinkedIn articles and Twitter posts!

Additionally, using social media in a targeted manner and focusing on platforms where their target audience is active can position businesses as industry leaders, raise awareness, and generate interest. One key example is LinkedIn groups. A B2B company can serve its content directly to their ideal customers, those who share similar pain points and objectives with their buyer personas. And, with a very high percentage of B2B leads coming from LinkedIn, it is no surprise that many marketers use this platform in their digital marketing mix.

Lead generation has changed… have you?

As we can see, how businesses find, engage, and convert potential prospects have changed drastically. This has created opportunities for marketers to generate leads more efficiently and for salespeople to close more deals.

While technology has played a crucial role, it’s constantly evolving, and marketers must keep up to stay competitive.

Despite this, traditional lead generation methods should not be overlooked. Instead, marketers need to take advantage of these methods in a way that engages modern consumers, as it becomes harder to stand out from the crowd.

Whatever industry or expertise you’re in, the best methods for generating leads (online or offline) are those which are most effective for your target audience. As long as you have the right strategy in place, any technique can be effective.

Want to learn more about how to generate more leads for your business? Contact Leads2Sales today and learn about our lead generation programmes for B2B companies.