Everyone has their pet peeves about our industry; mine is labelling.

We have built some nasty habits, including that of giving everything a label, of bucketing activity into this or that channel, or creating new labels for things we don’t know where to place. Worse still, we have tried to bucket media by buying models such as CPA, CPL and CPC.

If we take affiliate marketing for instance, which essentially leverages the reach of third-party partners to drive relevant traffic to a brand’s owned properties, we have repeatedly labelled this as ‘performance marketing’ because it is generally bought on a cost-per-action basis; yet performance marketing spans a whole range of activity across multiple channels, and is not limited to affiliate partners or a specific buying model. Lead generation has also been a victim of these bad habits, often referred to as a ‘channel’ because it too is bought on a cost-per-lead basis. More often than not, marketers are actually referring to email which is a channel; a specific medium used to reach an intended audience.

I totally understand the obsession with a label of course. In an industry with such a fast pace of change, businesses struggle to find a home for all marketing activity.  They try to slot everything into pre-determined departments or teams within the business. Labelling has been a convenient way to assign ownership of particular media buys.

However, the obsession with bucketing leads to silos, several departments or teams vie for a slice of the pie and compete against each other. The risk is that we forget the consumer. Consumers do not react differently to media bought through different buying models or different labels.  Marketing is all about the consumer, and we need to get back to that truth.  We need to integrate audience planning and buying across channels.

So what then is lead generation and what role does it play as part of the marketing mix? What channels drive leads? And what are the benefits of running integrated lead generation campaigns?

A lead is simply a prospective customer

Lead generation is a vital part of any marketing plan. Brands must run prospecting strategies to drive awareness and consideration of their brand, products and services before closing the deal and convincing consumers to take the desired action. A lead is simply a prospect who has shown some level of interest in a brand’s product or service; a prospective new customer. It is a consumer that sits between the awareness and consideration stage of the consumer journey.

What a lead is to a specific business can vary. For instance, for automotive brands, a lead may be a test drive booking, for retailers a lead may be a subscription to a newsletter, and for education brands, a lead may be a brochure download. A lead often involves the exchange of an email address, the identification of a becoming a known consumer versus an unknown consumer. Whatever a lead refers to, lead generation is ultimately a KPI for awareness and consideration marketing that helps to meet an overall business objective, such as sales growth or market share growth.

Lead generation is cross-channel

We are often guilty of referring to email campaigns as lead generation campaigns.  However, lead generation occurs across all marketing channels. An automotive client can stimulate test drives from their owned channels (e.g. SEO, CRM), their earned channels (e.g. social, content marketing) and their paid channels (e.g. display, paid search). In the same way, leads can be driven by email campaigns across owned (e.g. CRM), earned (e.g. partnerships) and paid (e.g. affiliates). Lead generation is not limited to online channels either. Any marketing that drives consumers to exhibit interest in a brand or product can be considered lead generation  – submit an email address, place a phone call, engage with content.

Integrated lead generation (beyond email) improves marketing effectiveness

Using email to drive leads leverages rich data sets (often a combination of first and third party data) to segment and reach consumers with the right message, at the right time, based on their level of interest and consideration of a brand’s products and services. That data is often enriched through data capture forms, which can feed marketing effectiveness across channels.

Integrated lead generation, therefore:

  1. Enriches owned data and CRM
  2. Enriches prospecting strategies across channels with richer consumer data
  3. Provides insight into consumer behaviours, attitudes and preferences that can feed a brand’s communication strategy
  4. Enables consistent segmentation across all channels through correctly tagging email campaigns to ensure:
  • Leads can be nurtured across channels with constant dialogue to drive action
  • Consistent experience across all touchpoints to provide a better brand experience
  • No budget wastage in retargeting the same consumers through different channels

At the end of the day the consumer is what matters. Lead generation is a critical part of connecting the right consumers with a brand’s owned content.  It converts leads from unknown to known, enabling brands to nurture those consumers to take action through owned channels. If we can stop labelling and bucketing, and focus more on integrating, then brands can achieve much greater marketing effectiveness.