When it comes to lead generation, many marketers aren’t sure which are the best marketing tactics to use to provide their company with the largest number of qualified leads. In fact, many marketers aren’t even sure which marketing tactics should be used as lead generation tactics (as opposed to brand marketing tactics).

In order to define a tactic as a lead generation tactic, a marketing tactic has to meet several criteria:

  1. The marketing tactic should generate large numbers of qualified leads for you.
  2. You should be able to use the marketing tactic to target a specific audience of people who may want to buy your products or services.
  3. You should be able to measure the number of leads you get, each time you use the marketing tactic; and…
  4. You should be able to measure the costs and ROI that you get from using that tactic, based on your average Cost-Per-Lead.

There are seven marketing tactics that meet these criteria. I call them the “Magnificent 7,” because they are the best marketing tactics for providing companies with large numbers of actionable leads.

The Online Lead Generation Tactics

First, there are what I call the “online lead generation advertising” tactics. These tactics involve reaching out to your customers by placing Pay-Per-Click ads on various online venues.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) involves setting up ad campaigns on Google and Bing. When your target customer searches for certain keyword-related search terms (i.e. “durable golf shoes”), your SEM ad will appear at the top of their search results.

It only takes a few minutes to set up an SEM ad campaign, where it may take months of SEO work on your web site to move it to the top of “natural search results.” Also, the results of your SEM ad campaign are easier to measure, because Google and Bing give you a set of powerful analytics tools to record how many clicks your ad received, your average Cost-Per-Click, and other data.

Social Media Advertising involves placing banner ads with special offers on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. Your banner ads are targeted to social media users on those sites who may have an interest in your products or services. For example, if you post an ad for honeymoon travel packages on Facebook, it will appear on the pages of people who mark their status as “Engaged.”

Even Twitter is now offering its own form of social media advertising. You can send out “Promoted Tweets” with special offers attached. For example, if you send out a “Promoted Tweet” offering business accounting software, it will appear in the Twitter feeds of CFOs and other business executives who may have a use for it.

Display Advertising is the oldest and most widely-used form of online advertising. Since the early years of the Internet, display ads (also called banner ads) have appeared on millions of web sites. They’ve become so familiar that most web surfers ignore them today.

But display ads are now enjoying a resurgence on mobile devices. Mobile advertising has skyrocketed over the past few years, as marketers are adding video and animation elements to the ads, and using ads to create interactive experiences on the customer’s iPhone or iPad. Some mobile ads are now receiving Click-Through Rates as high as 15%.

E-Mail Marketing is another effective online lead generation tactic (although not really an online advertising tactic). Many marketers are reluctant to try e-mail marketing, because they’re afraid their marketing e-mails will be mistaken for spam.

But studies show that e-mail marketing works, if you know how to do it right. I recommend using targeted permission-based mailing lists, where you are sending out your marketing e-mails to potential customers who have signed up to receive special offers from companies like yours.

I also recommend following the guidelines for legitimate e-mail marketing, as set forth in the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. Using these guidelines can help to ensure that your marketing e-mails will get through to your customers, and won’t be blocked out by spam filters.

The “Tried-and-True” Tactics

The last three tactics I advocate using are the “tried-and-true” lead generation tactics. Some marketers argue that these tactics are obsolete, because they are too expensive, or because they are not “Digital Age” tactics.

But many companies are still using these three tactics, and they bring in thousands of legitimate leads for the companies that know how to use them in a practical and cost-effective way.

Direct Mail is a very effective tactic to use if you’re selling a product or service that you need to explain in detail, or if the customer needs to think seriously about whether or not to take you up on the offer. A direct mail package gives you the room you need to fully explain the features and benefits of your product or service in writing.

But direct mail is also expensive. It’s best to use it only if you’re selling a product or service that gives you a high ROI for what you spend on the campaign. Either you’re selling a high-priced item, like a car, or your customer has a Lifetime Value. Many insurance companies still use direct mail, because they know that people who take them up on the offer will pay monthly premiums that will provide them with a long-term return.

Cold Calling works best today if you’re selling B2B products to other businesses. Cold calling is different from telemarketing, in that you use a targeted calling list of potential customers. In other words, you’re not just auto-dialing people at random. You’re calling business owners and executives who might actually have a need or interest in your products or services.

Finally, Trade Shows are still a great way to collect leads, because they bring you face-to-face with customers who may be looking to buy your types of products or services. These days, people don’t attend trade shows unless they have a good reason to be there. If you pick the shows where your potential customers are most likely to be, these shows can provide a positive return for the money you spend.

Which Tactics Should You Use?

Which of these tactics should you be using? As many as will “work” for your type of business, as many as you can use successfully.

If, for example, using direct mail as a lead generation tactic (1) provides you with a significant number of actionable leads, and (2) is cost effective for your business, and provides a positive ROI, then you should definitely use direct mail. If the same principle (that is, both 1 and 2) applies to trade shows, or social media ads, or e-mail marketing, or any other lead generation tactic, you should use that tactic as well.

Ideally, you should test each of the seven tactics to find out how well they work for you, and how cost effective they are for your business. If all seven tactics “work” for you (and if you have the budget and resources), you should use all seven. If only three or four work well and are cost effective for you, you should use those three or four.