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The Evolution of Lead Generation and What Matters Today

By Shelly Kramer – Contributing Writer, Co-Chief Executive Officer of V3 BroadSuite.

I’m hoping that by this point we all agree that the Web has changed everything – in our lives and in business. Lead generation has also changed. But the goal of lead generation remains the same: To find someone who wants to buy something you sell, or who can be compelled to take some action, whether they realize it or not.

Lead generation once meant educating potential customers who have never heard of you or your product. Today, because of the Internet, buyers are informed. They have a wealth of information at their fingertips, they do their own research, and are more likely than ever to take the first steps toward a purchase on their own.

The Changing Role of Marketers

As marketers, our role in the lead generation process used to be simply to devise ways to collect leads and forward them to the sales team. Today, marketers use a variety of new tactics to generate leads, and they are also responsible for nurturing, qualifying, and often developing those leads before the sales team is ever involved.

The focus for marketers now is on being in the right place, at the right time, with the right calls to action, in order to capitalize on opportunities to build relationships with these knowledge-empowered consumers, and to give them what they want when they want it. As a rule, marketers recognize this evolution of the lead generation process, but many are faced with the challenge of how exactly to make that shift and execute effectively.

Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Lead Generation is one of my favorite resources, as it shows you a step-by-step journey through the latest in lead generation tactics and metrics. This graphic, from the guide, shows how marketers’ responsibilities have changed:

evolution-of-lead-generation-1

The biggest change in how leads are found and nurtured lies in the balance of power, which has definitely moved from the sellers to the buyers. Consumers are in control—not brands and definitely not marketers. This is as true in the B2B space as it is in the B2C space.

As I’ve already mentioned, consumers are Internet savvy and don’t trust marketing messages. They rely on feedback from peers as well as information they find online to learn about products or services and to help them decide whether they’re worth the investment.

Without question, customers are well into the buying journey before they ever take your call or agree to sit through your product demo. This second graphic from Marketo illustrates how the evolution of media has driven the power to influence, and the ability to drive leads, away from the sales department and over to the marketing team.

evolution-of-lead-generation-2

Why We Need to Crush Silos

For lead generation today, what matters above all else is open communication and a clear, coordinated, cooperative relationship between the sales and marketing teams.

It’s also important to understand that operationally we need to break down silos. Effective lead generation relies on marketers’ ability to connect the website user experience your site serves up, plus what you’re doing with SEO and SEM, email marketing, content marketing, and social media strategy, with a well-integrated blend of sales expertise. None of these things can be effective on their own, although we see companies separating out these services and failing to integrate them all the time. Big mistake.

Remember that it’s equally important that you make sure your online and offline processes are aligned. You can have the best content marketing, webinar, social media, email, you-name-it marketing strategy in the world, or host some great in person events, but if the leads you generate as a result of these efforts aren’t handled effectively, and if you’re not connecting offline with online, you’re quite likely spending money on tactics that aren’t delivering any ROI.

Adapting to New Lead Generation Tactics

As far back as the days of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press or Henry Ford’s implementation of the assembly line, businesses have had to adapt to the introduction of new technologies; what’s happening today with the rapid advancement and acceptance of technology is nothing new. (Check out this infographic from GroSocial for a quick history lesson.)

Flexibility is necessary, but not always easy—especially when you’re trying to get both your marketing and sales teams up to speed. Best practices around the many complex things that comprise marketing today, including website best practices, mobile viewability, email, SEO/SEM, marketing automation, content marketing, and social media change so swiftly that many people find it difficult, if not downright impossible, to keep up.

I wrote about this toward the end of last year when I highlighted a report from Ascend2 that suggested that marketers still struggle with newer concepts like content and social media marketing.

Here’s a look at some results from their study:

evolution-of-lead-generation-3

As I suggested at the time, shying away from processes they don’t understand, while relying on tactics that are easy but outdated, might lead many marketers to fall short of their goals. Like with much in life, if you don’t adapt, you will get left behind.

Lead generation is evolving, and the modern marketer needs to understand that an integrated marketing strategy is table stakes today. Want to know more? Download Marketo’s resource The Definitive Guide to Lead Generation, which includes a lot more information about lead gen, a really awesome sales and marketing alignment checklist that we use all the time, and other information that will get you on your way (registration required.)

And if you do? Come back and let me know what you think in the Comments section below.

By Shelly Kramer – Contributing Writer, Co-Chief Executive Officer of V3 BroadSuite
Website: www.v3b.com, Twitter: @ShellyKramer

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