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What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation describes the marketing process of stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service for the purpose of developing sales pipeline.

Lead generation often uses digital channels, and has been undergoing substantial changes in recent years from the rise of new online and social techniques. In particular, the abundance of information readily available online has led to the rise of the “self-directed buyer” and the emergence of new techniques to develop and qualify potential leads before passing them to sales.

Why is Lead Generation Important?

The buying process has changed, and marketers need to find new ways to reach buyers and get heard through the noise. Instead of finding customers with mass advertising and email blasts, marketers must now focus on being found and learn to build continuous relationships with buyers.

Information Abundance and Attention Economics

With the growth of the internet, the world has changed from one of information scarcity to one of information abundance.  In fact, according to Google chairman Eric Schmidt “there was 5 Exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization and 2003, but that much information is now created every two days and the pace is rapidly increasing”.

The problem is that information abundance equals attention scarcity. This is known as attention economics. Social scientist Herbert Simon was the first person to discuss this concept when he wrote “in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.”

This has transformed the buying process. Buyers are overwhelmed with all the noise and they are getting better and better at ignoring the messages they don’t want to hear and researching what they do want to learn about on their own.

The New Buying Process

In the old world of information scarcity, the concept of “lead generation” meant marketing found the names of potential buyers and passed them to sales. Buyers expected that they would have to talk to sales and sales expected to speak to uneducated early stage buyers that may not yet be qualified. This has all changed. Today, buyers can do their own research online and can find a variety of educational resources through search engines, social media, and other online channels. Through content resources, today’s buyer can learn a great deal about a product or service before ever having to even speak to a sales person.  So businesses must make sure that they build their digital presence.

The chart below indicates how significant this shift is. Both decision makers and contributors are now going out to find you vs. you finding them.

Clearly, there has been a huge change in the traditional buying process.  In fact, according to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor. The reason this is happening more and more is because buyers have so much access to information that they can delay talking to sales until they are experts themselves.

Creating a solid lead generation strategy will help you build trust and capture the interest of your buyer before they are even ready to contact sales.

Additionally, you don’t want your sales teams spending time going down a list and cold calling. If you can generate leads for sales, the process is easier and you will see more of your leads being turned into revenue faster.

Rented Attention vs. Owned Attention

Attention scarcity is driving a shift from “rented attention” to “owned attention”. Historically, most marketing has been about renting attention other people have built. An example of this would be if you purchased an ad in a magazine or rented a tradeshow booth. But in the noisy, crowded market that today’s buyers live in, rented attention becomes less effective as attention becomes even scarcer. Of course, this is not an either-or proposition; you will ideally use a mix of rented vs. owned attention for your lead generation efforts to be affective.

How do you build your own attention? The answer is to become a trusted advisor to your prospects by publishing and creating valuable content assets and thought leadership. That is the key to being successful with your lead generation efforts in today’s complex buying landscape.

Leading Down The Funnel

With the new buyer it is important to note that your marketing efforts don’t end once a new lead comes into your system – what we call Top of the Funnel (TOFU) marketing.  Many companies do a good job at generating leads, but the problem is that most new leads are not ready to buy yet.  And if a sales rep does engage and the lead isn’t ready to talk with them, it reinforces the notion that marketing sourced leads are not great. As a result leads get lost, ignored, or snatched up by your competitors.

To prevent this from happening, good lead generation marketers will invest in lead nurturing and other Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) techniques to build relationships and trust—earning the lead’s business once he or she is finally ready to buy. Engage these leads through relevant content and make sure that you get your timing right.

Lead generation has moved beyond simply discussing TOFU. In order to have a holistic strategy, MOFU marketing must be included in all your strategic discussions to make sure that you have a good process for turning leads into sales.

Lead Generation Research

Many marketing departments are allocating more budget to lead generation tactics. Inbound marketing spend in particular has been growing as companies need to find more creative ways to get in front of the customer and break through the noise.

“Life before Marketo was like being in the dark ages. Marketo has put us into the modern era of marketing and increased lead generation by 71% year-over-year and increased sales by 18%.” – Doug Wotherspoon, Executive Director of Advancement, Algonquin College [Source]

Lead Generation Budget Trends

Below is a chart taken from MarketingSherpa’s Lead Generation Benchmark Survey. It is apparent that many marketers are starting to increase their lead generation spend greatly, particularly as it pertains to website optimization, social media, SEO and Cold calling from our call center.

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