Generating an ongoing flow of sales leads is the most fundamental component of marketing for every business that requires new sales to sustain itself and/or for established businesses that want to expand.
Lead generation includes any, or a combination of, the following:
♦ Broadcast Advertising: Infomercials are a prime example here. Not only is an obvious product being sold, but that sale results in a valuable lead for additional and similar products. Such products may be sold by the same company and/or the lead may be sold to other companies that sell similar products. (Radio advertising would be another aspect of broadcast media).
♦ Online Lead Generation: This is a very rapidly growing and evolving arena as new methods for online lead generation are tested and other ones are refined to produce greater results. Online lead generation includes pay-per-click models; search engine optimization activities; video marketing; downloading free (or paid) information in exchange for lead info; responding to surveys; registering for online services; webinars; in short, any way that you can observe or imagine how to inspire an individual to enter their name and email (or more info) online could be a component of lead generation. (You can also Outsource Online Lead Generation.)
♦ Direct Mail: Lead generation through direct mail still works today, as evidenced by the amount of junk mail you and I continue to receive each week, in spite of the rising mailing production costs. Becoming effective at direct mail lead generation can make or break a lead-generating marketer, since the costs demand critical attention to testing, comparison and refinement. In my opinion, this is a fantastic proving ground for the development of any marketer worth his/her mettle.
♦ Event or Trade Show Marketing: This is a traditional form of formal and informal lead generation. The formal aspect of this is represented by all the ways that exhibitors desire to engage attendees at these expos. The informal aspect of trade shows is represented by the nature of many professionals who attend such conferences for the purpose of establishing new business leads through personal networking.
♦ Seminars or Training: You name it, and there are entities who provide seminars and training sessions for popular subjects, such as health, finance, insurance, software, marketing, etc. The seminars may be low cost or free and/or may be an important revenue stream in and of themselves. But for many such activities they primarily exist to generate leads. In recent years there has been a trend towards greater use of telecommunications, which includes teleseminars, and webinars, especially as an important aspect of online lead generation. However, in this paragraph, I’m primarily referring to its more established offline activity which is still a workable lead generation channel for some markets.
♦ Publicity and Public Relations: Getting people to call your business through mentions in the press is a very effective way to not only generate new leads, but it’s also a way to bolster each and every other method, too, since independent media lends greater credibility to your business. For some businesses, online press release services have become a primary driver of new leads.
♦ Whitepapers or Product Literature: Requesting free information from a company is a classic lead generation strategy that has been prominent forever and is one of the earliest methods on this list that was translated over to the online world. Because it is so commonly utilized, it is most effective with significantly unique and valuable research and/or some very creatively presented information to make it stand out in your industry.
♦ Email Marketing: Lead generation through email lists is still used, and is still effective, even though in the hyper-paced world of the Internet, this seems like an ancient activity. Although spam is universally vilified, you and I still receive a lot of it every day (in spite of anti-spam regulations in the USA in 2003). Unfortunately, that perception diminishes the effectiveness of generating leads via email marketing but does not make it obsolete. More targeted types of email lead generation are effected by offering something for free that is delivered via email, such as a mini-course, in exchange for their email address. Also, speaking of email newsletters, for more info check out Should You Offer a Paid Online Newsletter?
♦ Telemarketing: In the United States, telemarketing was restricted in 2003 with the opening of the National Do Not Call Registry, which gives consumers the opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls they receive. Regardless, the list only applies to residential phone lines and not business lines, as well, telemarketing can be conducted to residential lines for political organizations, charities, surveys, and for existing business relationships.
♦ Social Media: Lead generation through social media channels is noted separately here, even though it is an online activity. Social media merits a special mention not only because it such a dynamic and growing area, but also because social media channels, such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Flickr, Digg, etc., command such a large amount of Internet traffic that they have become a force independent of search engines and paid search models. For more info on “strategic” use of social media, be sure to read Social Media Chocolate Strategy.
Whether you are generating leads online or offline, the necessity for testing, monitoring, comparing and refining are the factors that will determine the best results from any lead-generation campaign or model.