Long, long ago, in a business model that has now been relegated to the history texts, lead generation meant finding the name, address, and phone number of someone who could be added to a mailing list, or identifying a homeowner who would open the door to a salesman. Once you had the name and address, you simply began sending marketing messages to them.
Now, according to Wikipedia, lead generation is a marketing term that refers to the creation or generation of prospective consumer interest or inquiry into the products or services of a business. Notice that the definition doesn’t talk about identifying the prospect by name, email, or address. It talks about creating interest.
The difference is that the old model was all outbound (push) marketing along a one-way communications channel. Marketers wanted to interrupt a prospect’s day by making them pay attention to a marketing message through a commercial, a direct mail piece, an ad in a magazine – something that stopped what they were doing by catching their attention.
The new model is about inbound (pull) marketing. Marketers want to make information available so that when consumers are searching for information about a product, they can easily find positive, relevant information about the marketer’s brand or product.
It’s a multi-channel world when it comes to creating customer interest. Marketing messages must reach prospects online, offline, through social, and mobile media – and it’s anything but a one-way communications channel. It’s no longer about interrupting people with marketing messages, it’s all about engaging the target audience in a two-way dialogue.
There’s absolutely no way that manual processes can keep up with the customer-centric sales model required in today’s multi-channel marketing cycle. Technology to automate and track multi-channel engagement is essential for complex distributed marketing organizations.
Here are two examples where automated lead generation tools can transform your sales cycle.
- Similar to other customers who have purchased your product or service (i.e., right title, right demographic group)
- Not actively searching for a solution (i.e., doesn’t know such a solution exists – or doesn’t know he needs it)
- Identified by marketing as potential prospect through the campaign targeting process
- Targeted with an automated drip campaign:
–Clicks on link (or receives message and doesn’t react)
–Additional emails, depending on what action the prospect takes
–Prospect qualifies for future sales contact (fills out form, requests contact, etc.) or opts out
–Automation tracks messages, and alerts a human agent when more direct action is required
- Clicks on your website (from a search engine, social media site, banner ad, or email)
- Downloads or interacts with resources on the website
- Submits a contact form that results in a marketing qualified lead
- Qualified lead passed to sales
- Sales calls prospect and begins the sales cycle
The automation in this case is more direct, faster, and much shorter. (The best results happen when the time between the prospect’s interest and the first contact from sales is minutes or hours, not days between initial interest and first call.)
How automated is your process? Do you have the technology to create qualification campaigns, awareness campaigns, accelerator campaigns, acquisition campaigns, call-to-action campaigns, and ad-hoc nurturing campaigns? Can you identify prospects within your pipeline that are ready for a re-engagement campaign? Can automation shorten your selling cycle and improve lead quality by nurturing contacts?
If you don’t know the answer, perhaps it’s time to consider a trial or pilot program with a marketing automation vendor who offers a multi-channel (distributed marketing) tool for your industry.