Lead Generation - The Modern Web Is Bringing Us Back To Person-to-Person

I remember back in the early days of my marketing career, lead generation was a different animal to what it is now. I'm not actually sure if it easier or harder - probably a bit of both in some ways. I know I enjoy it more nowadays.

Lead Generation - The Modern Web Is Bringing Us Back To Person-to-Person

Anyway, in this post I want to compare lead generation back then to the lead generation of modern times. There are some huge differences nowadays, although the more I have thought about it, the more I think that the modern web is actually bringing us back to the days when we relied on person-to-person relationships to win business.

Only now, it's helping us do it on an unprecedented scale.

Also, just to say - before we start: I'm not going to be talking in terms of inbound marketing, direct sales etc in this post - I'm just going to talk in terms of active lead generation and passive lead generation. This is what I used to call them and I'm feeling nostalgic :-) You can chop and change terms where you see fit.

The Traditional Lead Generation Of Yesteryear 

I think that in the late 90's and early 00's the term lead generation meant only one of a few things - as I said above, I used to think of them as being part of either 'Active' lead generation, or 'Passive' lead generation.

Traditional Active Lead Generation
  • Door to door marketing
  • Telemarketing work
  • Business networking

Traditional Passive Lead Generation
  • Newspaper or magazine advertising
  • Local directory/business classified advertising
  • Possibly some local radio or TV advertising

It sounds ridiculous now, although if you had the above covered, you were ahead of the game and you'd often see great returns from well planned marketing campaigns that used the above as a template.

Wow, how things have changed. Try getting away with only focussing on the above nowadays and you'll soon be making great friends with empty order books and flat balance sheet figures (or worse).

The Gamut Of Modern Lead Generation Methods

Okay, so this might not actually be a complete range of modern lead generation methods (maybe no-one knows them all any more) although the point is to give you an idea of how things have changed over the past few years.

Modern Active Lead Generation

  • Intelligence-based telesales - yep, still worth it and definitely still works
  • Business networking - come on, we all do it for leads and only leads

Modern Passive Lead Generation

  • Organic search results
  • Search engine marketing/PPC
  • Banner/Display advertising 
  • Content marketing
  • Video marketing
  • Lead nurturing/Email marketing
  • Social media marketing

So, here you can see that we have a lot more areas to take care of. Still though, they serve the same purpose as the 'traditional' passive lead generation methods mentioned above - we want them to result in prospects coming to us.

So It Looks Like Lead Gen Has Stayed The Same?

Really, the 'higher level' areas have stayed the same. We are still using a mixture of active and passive lead generation methods in order to connect with our target audience. In the late 90's and early 00's we might have used the Yellow Pages to attract customers, nowadays we'll probably prefer to use Google Adwords. Although we are sometimes led to believe that the idea of Inbound Marketing is something new, it isn't (the content has changed however - this is discussed below).

So, in essence, here is what has stayed the same:

  • We're still trying to attract new leads into our sales pipeline as we always have
  • We do this by a mixture of active (direct) and passive (inbound) methods, just as we always have

Sounds rosy, right? Carry on as normal? Nope - the game has completely changed, forever. 

Absolutely Crucially, Here's What's Different

Firstly, It's About Control

Essentially, there has been a shift in control. Back in the late 90's and 00's, we'd have been telling potential customers the following things:

  • Who we were
  • What problems they had
  • What our products and services did
  • Why they needed to buy our product

Back then, the average prospect just didn't have the information required to have control of the situation. 

Again, how things change. Fast forward to the present day and here is what is really happening:

  • Potential customers have already identified what their problems are
  • They can go online and find their own solutions
  • They can find their own preferred suppliers 
  • They have completed most of the buying process before they even come into contact with a sales rep

Secondly, It's About Content

Although I said that some things have stayed the same and that we are still trying to attract customers onto our books through passive lead generation, the content by which we do this has had to change drastically. 

Because people now have so much control and can research solutions to their problems, we have to change our content to suit that scenario. This means that:

  • We don't tell any more
  • We need to build trust
  • We need to build rapport
  • We need to show our prospects that we understand their position
  • We need to help them understand that we can help improve it

We're Meeting Prospects Who Are Already Near The End Of Their Buying Journey

The important change to note is that we have moved from a position where we - as the vendors - were mostly initiating the buying journey and telling our prospects what they needed and why they needed it. 

Now, we meet the prospect further down the buying process, after they have identified their problem and understand the various solutions available. Here. where we need to convince them that we understand their problems and that we are the best people/person to solve it for them. 

We do that by altering our content, our advertising and our message to be one that is more aligned with the point at which each individual prospect is along their own buying journey.

En Masse And In Person - The Web Has Brought Us 1:1 Lead Generation On A Huge Scale

Maybe my perspective is a bit skewed because I can remember the sales and marketing days without so much digital power behind us, although to me - in a way - I think that the modern web is actually brought back to the days when you had to actually meet someone to close a deal.

Here's why:

When all you could do was arrange an appointment and then sit in front of someone, look them in the eye and try and convince them you were the right person for them to do business with, this is what you had to do:

  • Build rapport
  • Build trust
  • Show your prospect that you understood their problems
  • Help them understand that you could solve them for them

Sound familiar?

That's exactly what we are doing now with modern passive lead generation, digital marketing, inbound marketing - whatever you want to call it, the aim is the same. 

We're trying to connect with our prospects on a personal level, the only difference is that we are using digital means on a large scale. We still want to engage with each person though.

In Sum - A Few Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, I'm really excited about this shift. Who knows where advancing technology will take our lead generation efforts in the years to come - one thing for certain is that we will be able to get closer and closer to an person-to-person relationship with all of our prospects, no matter where they are or what part of the buying process they are at.

For example, let's take an already existing example - Google+ Hangouts (I'm just picking this service because I like it). To me, this is a perfect example of a platform that can easily get us 'Person-to-Person' with our prospects across the globe. After all of our content marketing and lead nurturing to warm the lead up in the first place, how refreshing to be able to quickly and seamlessly interact and arrange business one-to-one with our prospects. From e-Book download to Google+ Hangout - neither side is just an email or a number any more and we can really get back to the buzz of building real, authentic provider/customer relationships.

And who knows where we'll go from here. I don't think it gets any more exciting that that, for both sides.

Thanks for reading,

By Alan MacDougall

Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.

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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.
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