Did you know there were rules about lead generation? I had no idea. All these years I’ve been stumbling around generating leads with no idea that I was supposed to be following the rules. And there are, apparently, a bunch of new ones we’re supposed to know and here is a book that explains it all (I mean everything) for us. The New Rules of Lead Generation by David Scott is an ambitious, comprehensive tour of the dark art and darker science of making the phone ring or the mouse click.

Mr. Scott is a veteran marketer, who cut his teeth with big companies, and now (surprise!) has his own lead generation marketing firm. He knows a lot about a lot of things and he has put most of it in this book. Maybe a little too much. Did I mention it’s comprehensive?

New Rules Cover

The first few chapters are a really terrific primer in the nuts and bolts of lead gen. What it is, what it isn’t and why it matters. I’m not sure I quite agree with the assertion that there are two marketing activities: brand awareness and lead generation. I think there is one marketing activity, which is demand generation. Leads are a symptom of demand, not a separate thing. But that doesn’t change the fact that just because we’ve created demand, doesn’t mean everyone is going to give us money.

Each chapter in this book comes with a handy review bit at the end, which is good because if you’ve been a marketer for more than about ten minutes, you are going to get bored pretty fast with the basics here. If you’re just starting or you’re considering marketing as a deliberate career move, it’s not a bad place to start.

In fact, if the book had ended here, it would have been an excellent guide to the basics of lead generation, and one that would stand up nicely over the years with not a lot of revisions. But it doesn’t stop after Chapter Five. It keeps going. There are another ten chapters of tactics. Really, really, really granular tactics.

Everything from display ads to cold calling and two, yes two, chapters on social media. Each tactic is explained, deconstructed, analyzed and put very slowly back on the shelf. Which is not a bad thing but one that will date this book in about ten minutes. The minutiae behind Google ads and Twitter promotions changes hourly, which is pretty bad news for a book in analog format that seeks to explain them. I don’t doubt for a minute that Mr. Scott will update the book regularly, but I’m not sure it’s wise to try to keep up with social media bidding models in your spare time.

Then there’s the creative advice. I understand the temptation, after you’ve explained all about how to run an email campaign that drives to a webpage, to then assert some best practices about how to design said page, but that’s seriously a whole other book, and the advice here is rudimentary and not helpful.

There are a lot of very helpful bits of advice here, though. His guidance on testing campaigns, particularly SEM and email, is very good, and something I’m going to try. He advocates a lot of testing and tweaking and A/B tests, but suggests you hit a large piece of your list at the outset instead of doing what most of us do and dribbling it out in tiny bits. The logic is that you’ll learn a heck of a lot more if you test and learn on 25% of your list than on 5%.

He also makes a fine point about SEM, which most of us forget, and that is that it’s okay to finish second or even third. Chances are the first place winner paid way too much for their click-throughs and you are the beneficiary of a little keyword dumpster diving by pulling off great return-on-marketing-investment (ROMI) for way less money.

He also makes a very strong case for not letting sales people anywhere near their cold call scripts. Amen.

Mr. Scott has a long and distinguished career in strategy and management. He’s worked for electronics manufacturers, Fortune 500 companies and now owns a lead generation agency. So why are there so few examples or case studies in this book? Surely it’s more instructive to show us lead generation in action than to lecture on abstract concepts. The few examples we have are personal things like this one:

“When I leased my BMW I received a hat, a shirt and a coffee mug with a BMW logo on it. Over the term of the lease, I received branded BMW magazines with reports on new car models, customer testimonials, and travel articles… BMW also entered me into various drawings for road trip excursions in Europe. Also, a friend of mine who had just bought a BMW roadster received a set of branded luggage the fit perfectly in the trunk of her new car.”

Well, based on that massive sample size of two, I’m more convinced than ever that LTV is a problem we can solve with loot bags and propaganda instead of with great products and responsive service.

The direct mail section features a campaign the author “heard about” where a bank gave away toy helicopters, plus he once received an adorable thing in the mail from a marketing agency. Really? Dude, there are thousands of amazing and terrible lead generation campaigns in market on any given day. About 90% of them are entered, for no good reason, into marketing awards programs. It’s just not hard to find examples of great lead generation, and it’s disappointing that a book like this doesn’t find them and then do the leg work of showing us how they worked, or didn’t and why.

The final chapter on integrated lead generation marketing is a bit disappointing. Integrated marketing is one of those things we claim to do since all the tactics are listed on one spreadsheet that must make them integrated right? But it’s sadly something few of us pull off. This tiny chapter does little to tell us how to pull it off, and offers a strange example of fictitious car insurance campaigns that are simultaneous but not, to my mind, integrated.

The chapter on trade shows reads like it was written for someone who has just crawled out of a cave and started up a technology company. Skip it, unless you have literally never been to a trade show before.

The book is well written and the chapter summaries are helpful, but it’s a very dry read with few anecdotes, war stories, case studies or examples. This is not a way to kill time on a long flight or inspire you to brilliance on your next campaign. It’s a solid overview of a large subject that would benefit from a bit of focus, a lot of research and a bunch of success stories with metrics.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a comprehensive Marketing 101 text book, this one is a great place to start. If you’re past that and wanting real world examples of lead generation that works, you should look elsewhere.