Everybody wants more leads these days! Whether it’s growing your email subscription list, identifying buying prospects, or just forming relationships with individuals interested in your industry, collecting the contact information for individuals is one of the best ways to effectively sell your products and services.
When it comes down to it, that’s really all lead generation is: A strategy for attracting and managing communities of folks who are interested in your product, service, or industry.
But with all of the lead hype, there are bound to be a number of misnomers and myths about the best way to generate and nurture leads for your business. I can only imagine that this isn’t the first list of myths you’ve seen, but here are 6 of the most important myths that need to be busted before you can start generating leads like a machine!
Myth #1: Lead generation is the same as database marketing
Lead generation and database marketing are in the same marketing family, but they are not the same thing. Both involve a database: true. Both focus on collecting contact information for use in marketing materials: true. Both attempt to lump individuals together to send mass messages to mailing lists: FALSE.
Database marketing is the technique commonly used by companies who have the resources (and energy) to acquire humungous lists of individuals who may be interested in their brand message, and then sending them stuff. You’ve seen this stuff — solicited or unsolicited postcards, emails, flyers, or even phone calls. Sure, you may fit their target demographic closely enough that they feel confident in contacting you, but that’s no way to form a relationship!
On the other hand, lead generation is more of an organic strategy that is beneficial to both your business AND your consumer. The key difference between lead generation and database marketing is that in lead generation, your consumer has a choice, and the progression of the relationship is in their hands — you are just there to help! Modern lead generation means offering potential customers valuable resources to help them through their buying journey. That’s right, you’re there to help — not to sell. By being helpful, your customers can (and will) choose to begin their relationship with you by signing up for your email list, trial program, etc, hence becoming a lead.
It’s your user’s autonomy that really separates these two strategies. If you’re doing it right, your leads should have CHOSEN to be leads — not just matched up with some arbitrary demographic parameters.
Myth #2: Lead generation means I have to SPAM my audiences
What did I just say? Lead generation is about helping, not selling. It’s a well documented fact (well, now it is) that SPAM has never helped anyone accomplish anything. It’s an act of desperation businesses take when they feel disconnected from their audiences.
When you generate leads, you are attracting consumers to your brand — not trying to bully them into a sale. Focusing on lead generation that is organic, helpful and personal will always be a more effective way to develop relationships with customers and prospective customers. This is done not by SPAMming, but by crafting relevant and helpful messages that focus on your audience's needs, rather than your own.
Myth #3: Broadcast marketing drives leads because it makes more people aware of my brand
Broadcast marketing has been, and will continue to be effective in building awareness for a brand. When a TV commercial smacks you in the face by interrupting the latest episode of Dancing With the Stars, it’s hard NOT to be aware of the brand. But that’s a completely different ballgame. Broadcast messaging is an effective way to hit a lot of people with your brand message, but where’s the helpfulness? Where’s the valuable, helpful information that would prompt someone to visit your website or call your office?
Awareness is great, but using lead generation strategies like inbound and content marketing (that is, publishing content so good your audience would pay you for it) to attract prospects allow you to build a community of highly qualified, motivated prospects, rather than just anyone who liked the breed of puppy who starred in your latest TV ad.
Myth #4: Lead generation requires a huge sales team to manage all of these new relationships
A large sales team is a luxury that not all businesses are able to sustain, and that’s OK! At the time of this blog’s posting there are exactly 1.2 million marketing automation tools available for businesses of all shapes and sizes. From automated list segmentation to workflow-based email campaigns (That send emails to individuals automatically based on actions they’ve taken), technology solutions are becoming more and more commonplace for businesses who used to rely on large sales teams. This is not to imply that salespeople can be replaced by technology — but with marketing automation tools, a lot of a traditional salesperson’s work can be automated, leaving them to focus solely on the most valuable aspects of their job.
Here’s an example of the difference between a traditional sales cycle, and one supported with marketing automation tools:
Traditional sales interaction:
- Website visitor reads your latest case study, and decides to submit an inquiry asking for more information
- Email is sent to your top salesman (we’ll call him Dwight)
- Dwight immediately calls the customer, and begins qualifying them by asking questions and talking about benefits
- Customer likes Dwight, and likes the product, but isn’t ready to purchase, and needs to learn more.
- Dwight offers to call back in 6 months after the customer has had a chance to learn and get ready to buy.
Introducing marketing automation:
- Visitor reads your latest case study, and wants more information.
- They fill out a form that asks for their: industry, business size, main problem area, and buying timeline.
- Based on their responses, an email campaign is triggered that regularly sends them buying tips, industry info, benefits summaries and more. Always giving the consumer the power to move at their own pace, and take the relationship to the next level (connecting with a salesperson) only when they are ready.
- Based on the buying timeline they specified, Dwight is automatically notified that the customer should be checked in within 6 months.
In the first scenario, Dwight is spending a lot of time doing things manually which could be automated. And when business improves, Dwight only gets busier.
In the second scenario, Dwight gets involved only when the customer is ready.
Myth #5: Lead generation requires me to dangle free trials and other free stuff as bait
Yes and no. Modern lead generation techniques are increasingly dependent on a company’s willingness to give. But that doesn’t mean giving away your product for free, or even giving away anything that would otherwise cost you money. Rather, it means you are willing to give free help and value! If you sell wearable fitness trackers, for example, this means being open and transparent about the technology and research available within the industry. It also means being willing to help your audiences achieve their fitness goals, whether they buy your tracker or not! Fitness tips, diet plans, and even online communities would be great ways to connect with audiences, and start to create relationships with potential purchasers. Over time, the relationship can and will mature, and your product will be the first and most obvious choice.
Myth #6: I don’t know… lead generation just sounds kind of skeezy
This one is the worst of all! As I already busted in Myth #1, lead generation is often falsely associated with mass database marketing and SPAM, but when it’s done correctly, lead generation is ultimately about relationship building. Sure, “collecting contact info,” “segmenting lists,” “nurturing sales down a purchasing funnel” have all come to receive a negative connotation, but all of these things are intended to position your company as a helpful partner to your customer. Collecting contact info simply enables you to keep the conversation going; segmenting lists simply means understanding who you’re talking to, and doing so effectively; nurturing through a purchasing funnel simply means you are focused on helping the customer meet their goals. These ideas (especially the reference to a sales funnel ::shutter::) have been mis-used, and in many cases even bastardized, and turned into less helpful, more selfish sales strategies.
The landscape of consumer expectations is rapidly evolving, and requiring businesses to react and serve their audiences in new and sometimes unfamiliar ways. When fully understood, modern lead generation techniques help businesses build relationships serve their audiences, and ultimately drive more qualified buying traffic.