Lead Generation is Dead

What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of creating and implementing marketing activities focused on converting potential leads into sales. Lead generation marketers often gate assets behind data forms to collect names, email addresses, or any contact information that may be considered “leads”. These gated assets take many forms. Frequent examples include e-books, contact-us forms, webinars, etc. The collected leads are then passed to the sales team so they can follow up and persuade these prospects to purchase their product/software.

Does Lead Generation Actually Work?

If you are looking for leads to fill vanity metrics, then yes, lead generation works. You can target a big pool of individuals, gate an asset, and have people trickle in through the forms. However, if you are looking for holistic sales pipeline increases and an increase in closed/won deals, lead generation doesn’t actually work. In fact, lead generation focuses on the opposite. Its primary goals are volume of leads, lowered cost per lead (CPL), per marketing qualified lead (CPMQL), and per acquisition (CPA).

Marketers can easily launch new ads, gate offers like e-books and webinars, and find people (or bots) willing to fill out a form to download low-intent assets. The problem with this approach is that the people downloading your organization’s “How To…” e-books are not ready to purchase your product and don’t want to speak to a salesperson yet. But here we are, having the sales team reach out to these individuals and waste the time of everyone involved.

B2B marketers think this way partly because of a glut of attribution tools that have arisen over the past few years. These tools were supposed to help marketers and the leadership team identify the best-performing campaigns and accurately measure their success across different channels, platforms, and campaigns. However, new privacy laws and the rise of trusted communities and review sites that people use to find buying recommendations make these attribution tools outdated and inaccurate.

Take this scenario as an example: A coworker sends you a Slack message of an infographic detailing a recent issue you both were discussing internally. A day later, you see a sponsored video from the same brand on LinkedIn, talking about another issue that your company is in the middle of solving. In this video, they’ve laid out steps to actually solve it. Because of this, you then go to that company’s website by typing their web address into your browser. You like what you see, so you fill out the Contact Us form to see if there’s a good fit for you. You now know what they do, you have a need that they seem to solve, you trust their brand now, and you’re unlikely to skip on a sales call. The attribution tools will say your form fill came from Direct Traffic but misses all the previous steps that ACTUALLY CONVERTED you, and gained your attention. These tools will also show no ROI on the video you watched but never actually clicked.

Instead of focusing on proving quick campaign success and gaining an immediate return on your ad spend, focus on actually marketing your brand and sending your brand’s message directly to your ideal customer profiles (ICPs). If you truly understand their struggles, where they are on their buyer’s journey, and provide valuable, ungated information to help them along that journey, they will self-select and reach out to you when they are actually ready to buy. In turn, you’ll see your closed/won rates increase significantly, your sales cycles drastically decrease (because you’re only talking to people who want to buy), and your sales team’s time will be used much more efficiently. You will see a drop in leads, MQLs, and a higher CPL, but you will also see the most important metric improve, your cost of acquiring a new customer.

Dictionary.com defines marketing as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Marketing is supposed to build up your brand affinity and get your brand’s message to your ICP. We’ve lost our way as marketers and have been taught to focus on the volume of leads, chasing lower and lower CPLs. Billboards, TV, and radio ads were on the decline because marketers couldn’t specifically target their ICP, and audiences were too broad. We now have platforms that let you target your ICP by job title, company, age, seniority, and more. Why wouldn’t you send your brand’s message to that audience over and over again if you could?

If you’d like to learn more about why we tell our clients to stay away from generating low intent leads and how to create demand for your product, contact us, and we’d be happy to go over strategy. You can also check out our other resources to learn more tips and tricks to keep your brand rowing in the right direction.