Just the phrase “lead generation” evokes a sense of antiquity. It elicits visions of sweaty telemarketers in a cramped boiler room, dialing furiously and spewing a line of sales patter to anyone who will listen.

But although the entire concept is passé, we will still get asked about it occasionally. People are sometimes surprised when I tell them that we don’t do that. “Why not?” they ask.

“For one simple reason,” I reply. “It doesn’t work.”

What exactly is lead generation?

The very concept is based on a dated, single-stream, one-directional sales methodology. It goes something like this:

  • A telemarketer (or these days, a Robo-calling system) initiates “cold” calls
  • If any interest whatsoever is shown (and the bar is VERY low!), the “leads” are followed up on.
  • In the follow-up calls, a great deal of emphasis is placed on “closing” the listener. (Think high-pressure car salesman.)
  • If the sale isn’t made immediately, a series of follow-up calls are made on a regular basis until a sale is achieved

Of course these days, there are also online models where the communications are made via emails, website forms, and other digital media. Either way, the success rate is extremely low. But besides that, there is another downside: it’s annoying. Which means that companies that use this actually degrade their reputation.

Why is it no longer viable?

The marketing landscape has changed. Dramatically. Consumers now have many channels with which to:

  • Seek information
  • Read third-party reviews
  • Discover alternatives
  • Communicate directly with companies
  • Request more details

People can — and want to — do their own research, at the time and place of their choosing, and make decisions which are much more informed. Contrast this with the “in-your-face” push-style marketing of lead generation, and you begin to understand why marketing itself has changed so drastically.

Introducing collaborative marketing

By combining the power of all the channels available to your business, you will not only enjoy a much higher success rate, but also could actually enhance your company’s image. How can you do this? Let’s start by updating the old marketing adage:

THEN: It takes 7 impressions to make a sale

Properly stated in today’s terminology, this can now be phrased as:

NOW: It takes 10 touches to generate a desired action

First, let’s define our terms. In classic nomenclature, an “impression” could come about as the result of a direct mail campaign, print or TV ad, in-store display, or other standard marketing technique. You’ll notice that all of these go in one direction: your company makes an impression on a potential customer.

Now, we introduce a new term: touch. A “touch” can consist of any interaction between your company and that potential customer. These can include online search results or ads, emails, your website, a myriad of social media channels, and third-party review/rating sites. Of course the mixture can still include all of the “classic” channels (above) as well.

Don’t forget that most of the online channels can encompass two-way communication: the potential customer fills out a form on your site, responds to your email, engages with you or other people via social media, etc. These are some of the “desired actions” that you are encouraging your audience members to take.

All of this means that there are many more ways that you can interact with your customers and potential customers. One of the challenges, however, is: how do you track, evaluate, and improve the process? Very good question.

Analyzing statistics in today’s world

Like most things in life, all of this extra opportunity and power has a corollary: understanding the process well enough to harness it to maximum benefit can be extremely difficult.

In the old marketing paradigm, you talked about a “funnel,” where at each step in the process you would lose a certain percentage of your audience. Parsing this single stream of data was fairly straightforward.

Now, you need to look at and absorb a complex series of paths and interactions to determine how to move your marketing forward. There is no “magic bullet;” looking for one is only going to waste time and be extremely frustrating. Instead, there is an overall picture you need to comprehend, that involves being able to see both the forest and the trees.

One of the key factors in this kind of analysis is that every marketing channel affects every other marketing channel. Thus, your PPC campaign will have an effect on your audience’s organic search behavior. When you send out an email to your list, it will show up in your website visit statistics. Making social media posts could change the amount and quality of the phone calls you receive.

Important tools in Google Analytics

To help sort through this mountain of data, Google introduced a concept called “attribution.” Based on the variety and frequency of methods people use to visit your website, Google assigns a value to each channel.

You are also able to view the specific channels that bring people to your website, in the order and frequency they occur. Here are a few examples:

User website paths

As you can see, the unique paths each user follows to access your site are intricate. (And these are only a few of the many, virtually infinite possibilities.) It’s not easy, but by properly analyzing this kind of detailed information, you gain a great advantage.

Choosing the right marketing professional

In order to take advantage of this obviously very valuable data, you need a lot of knowledge and experience. This is where a digital marketing professional can be invaluable. What should you look for in a marketing firm? In addition to an agency that has many years in the business, you should also stick with Google Partner companies. This simply means that they have taken the time and effort to achieve a high level of expertise.

In addition, it helps if you retain a firm with experience on “both” sides of the marketing cycle. That means that not only do they need to have a firm grasp on bringing people to your website, but they also need to understand how people interact within your website. In other words, they should know what makes a website effective in a marketing sense.

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