Steering WheelTwo weeks ago, I wrote Five Reasons Lead Generation is on its Last Legs, exploring the reasons why today’s common lead generation tactics are beginning to fail. However, the requirement that marketing deliver leads will not change.

Marketers need to move beyond today’s content for contact information exchange and embrace new ways to drive demand and capture more interested and qualified contacts. Underlying the new demand generation activities will be two key changes.

Relevance is the New King

It is no longer content or context. Relevance requires BOTH. As professional and personal lives intertwine, business marketing messages compete with new family pictures for attention. Can your marketing compete with my passion? This will be the new bar for relevance. It is higher than it has ever been before.

Your Audience is Driving

Ardath Albee has a great example of buyers driving the new research process in The Contagious Content Challenge. A buyer, educating themselves, resulted in a two day sale for a company with a 90 day average sales cycle. It happened because the buyer was educating themselves and came to the table simply needing final validation.

Your buyers will drive and control the research process. Demand creation activities must support the buying process on the buyers terms. They will determine the right time, channel and format. Your job is to ensure prospective buyers have the information they need to make a decision.

The Marketing Tactics that will Dominate

  • Inbound Marketing. For inbound marketing, your content is responsible for delivering your message and persuading the audience. As competition in inbound marketing increases, more content will need to be ungated. For inbound marketing, your content must be sharable and linkable, your registration page is neither.
  • Conversational Social Media. More companies will listen in social media, responding to individuals with tailored information. These responses will be the start of a real conversation, not a canned marketing response with content. Avaya’s widely cited case of a $250,000 sale via Twitter is a great example. In particular, note Paul Dunay’s response. He didn’t send a link to content or pitch a sales call, he offered to put them in touch with a technical contact to assist.
  • Opt-Ins and Contact Request. Buyers will have greater control of followup communications. An opt-in let’s buyers dictate when they begin receiving email. With increasing use of email prioritization like GMail’s Priority Inbox, sending email before it is welcomed will relegate later emails to the bottom where they will go unseen.
  • Social: Follow and Like. A follow or like leaves the buyer in complete control. It is easily reversed and cannot be subsequently abused like an email or phone number. Relevance, when combined with existing business connections, personal pursuits and friends and family, is critical.
  • Publishing. More marketers will become media companies, developing an audience that regularly turns to them for information. A publishing mindset will be key for developing thought leadership positions and, by producing sharable and linkable content, will fuel inbound marketing.

With buyers in control, tomorrow’s lead generation activities will capture fewer new contacts, however every contact will be opting in, choosing to follow or receive information from your company. While today’s practice of holding content hostage in exchange for contact information will continue, it will become increasingly more expensive and will continue to yield lower quality contacts.

What other changes will we see in lead generation? What other tactics will emerge as dominant sources of high quality leads?