Traditional lead generation models often come up short, with many CRM systems bloated with poor-quality data and unqualified names. This new environment presents a challenge: how can companies and brands find new leads, and successfully transform these leads into successful opportunities and sales?

Duolingo’s successful TikTok strategy is focused on raising brand awareness in cheeky, playful ways

Choosing the right digital channel

Online lead generation databases are thriving in both the B2B and B2C markets, although the actual results vary. In 2022, despite the seeming glut of lead-generation databases, tools and softwares, over 60% of marketing teams identify lead generation as their primary challenge, with 53% of marketers spending at least half of their budget on lead generation.

Digital dominates lead sources for both B2B and B2C, and these trends have increased post-COVID. Companies across sectors — technology, finance, automobiles, travel, hospitality, education, health care, professional services, are increasingly turning their attention to the internet to generate sales leads. Within digital, research indicates that the best lead sources for B2B companies are SEO (14%), email marketing (13%), and social media (12%), B2C meanwhile gets more leads from social media, digital advertising and email. 

The choice of social media and advertising channel is often driven by the end-product, with B2C favouring Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and B2B leaning on LinkedIn for high-value lead generation. The emphasis is figuring out your target audience, choosing the digital channel they most care about, and creating valuable or entertaining digital content in a format they can easily access. DuoLingo’s TikTok account is an example of successful social campaign that raises awareness among its target audience, and humanises the brand, by creating entertainment and engagement, in playful and cheeky ways.

Getting buyers the information they seek

From A/B testing the homepage and key webpages to content campaigns that target broader search teams and long-tail keyword SEO, refining your value proposition, webinars, influencer marketing, writing better ads, guest posting, social proof to build trust, sharing reviews on social media, publishing case studies and white papers, offering a free tool or product or freemium plan that lets customers “try before they buy”, the emphasis is on insightful content that isn’t easily available and structuring it in formats that appeal to target audiences — stories, photos, tweets, user guides, in-depth guides, how-tos, resource libraries, workbooks and templates.

The Washington Post launched the “Next Generation” initiative to accelerate the acquisition of younger and more diverse audiences through new products, practices and partnerships. The brand engages with audiences on Twitter, and has successfully connected with Generation Z, a task that many other mainstream newspapers have struggled with. The newspaper also uses its newsletters as lead generation tools, which they market and promote on social media channels and by email to registered users. They give readers an opportunity to enrol with The Post without necessarily becoming paid subscribers. But that means the paper then has an opportunity to be in regular contact with potential leads, and through the articles hopefully put them on the path to a paid subscription.

The Washington Post “Next Generation” initiative accelerates the acquisition of younger, diverse audiences

The emphasis with organic lead generation isn’t selling, rather it is raising awareness, and sharing information in the places where customers go looking for answers. The companies that best provide customers the information they most urgently seek, specifically through the channels they most prefer, are best placed to connect successfully with new leads. Then gathering data about who is engaged, with what content, and with what level of intensity, gives businesses a deeper understanding of what buyers want and how they can add value. This then allows brands to personalise each customer’s journey and time their pitch exactly when the customer is ready to have a buying conversation.

Measuring outcomes, not activity

Traditionally, marketing controls the early part of the sales funnel by generating leads, then sales takes over. But it’s not uncommon for customers to disrupt this sequence, for example, by going back to a product research step after interacting with a product or meeting a salesperson. The fluidity of the sales experience suggests a shift from measuring lead generation success by activity, “How many leads did a campaign generate?” to a mindset of measuring outcomes, “How much revenue was generated?”.

Out performers across industries tend to perfect omnichannel capabilities, with an emphasis on digital. They’re also more focused on testing, testing and testing again. Want to find out what works best? Test it. By offering a friction-free experience across digital and in-person touch points, the industry leaders have more digital interactions, generate more good leads, and more conversions and sales via both online and offline channels.

Understanding the decision-maker

For B2C and smaller and mid-size B2B, it’s common to have single decision makers. But, as companies grow larger, multiple people play a role in purchasing. Engaging and interacting with these businesses requires a much deeper understanding of who makes the buying decisions, how these decisions are made, and tailoring the offering to match exactly what the decision maker is looking for. Brands have approached this challenge by creating a database of content and campaigns for each persona from the CEO, CTO and CFO to the Purchase Manager or family decision-maker, and each buying stage. Key decision makers are usually very different, depending on the industry you are selling to, so a ‘one size fits all’ approach isn’t recommended. The more accurate a profile of an ideal customer and decision maker, the more likely you’ll be to find and reach them.

Don’t forget to engage existing customers

Existing customers are often the best and most valuable source of new leads — either through cross selling opportunities or customer referrals. Many businesses are implementing “next-product-to-buy” or “customers also bought” algorithms to identify parallels and push relevant products. Businesses have an opportunity to mine such historical data to identify cross-sell opportunities within their own customer base and then building targeted micro campaigns around those opportunities. Businesses have boosted revenues manifold, simply by identifying underserved customers. The strategy also helps retain loyal customers. Engaging customers at risk of leaving for a competing brand means quickly recognising the signs of customer discontent, and taking action well before they do.

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