One of the leading phrases in articles about marketing is “lead generation”, or “lead gen”, for short. The term, which has actually been around for a while but is still an industry buzz phrase today, refers to the process of generating consumer interest – which will hopefully turn into potential sales, or leads – in a business, a service, or a product.
There are two types of lead generation: outbound and inbound. Outbound marketing is when companies reach out to prospective clients by pushing their message at them.
It is often also called “interruptive” marketing, because users make use of tactics – such as cold calling, outsourced telemarketing and e-mailing – thereby “interrupting” whatever the person they are trying to reach is doing at the time in order to read e-mails or answer a call.
On the other end of the spectrum, inbound marketing is all about being discovered naturally: potential clients find a Web site or company blog after performing an Internet search; or they see something that links back to the site or product on one of their social networking feeds.
They were poking around on the Web anyway, and found the business. The Internet is a fertile breeding ground for this kind of organic, inbound lead generation.
Some marketing experts argue that the days of those traditional outbound lead generation campaigns are already numbered, and that it should be on the way out. They insist that those methods are passé and therefore obsolete.
Not true, says Louise Robinson, MD of CG Consulting. Robinson’s Cape Town-based strategic marketing consultancy specialises in providing several lead generation services, including outbound, IT-focused, high-end telemarketing campaigns throughout the African continent and parts of the Middle East.
“In order to be successful, companies still very much need to practice outbound marketing,” says Robinson.
“While inbound lead generation tools are also becoming essential in today’s digital age, you can’t just build a search engine optimised Web site, or write a blog for your company and expect the hits to roll in right away,” Robinson says. “Keep in mind that the World Wide Web is a vast and crowded place, and yours will jostle with millions of other sites for hits.
“And even if your site does get eyeballs or hits, those might not necessarily translate into sales, which are what you ultimately want to achieve. So in order to make sure that your target market finds out about you in order to buy from you, you need to reach out to them and establish contact.”
Robinson says she is fully aware that telemarketing and even mass e-mailing have received a bad rap in recent years.
“But if done correctly – for example, by only contacting the people who will certainly be interested in what you have to offer, even when you are making cold calls – those kinds of outbound lead generation are still effective, which is why it has withstood the test of time.”
Even the big gun technology corporations, such as Dell, HP and Oracle, make use of good, old-fashioned, outbound marketing.
“It is necessary to be proactive and reinforce your product or brand by following up with former customers,” says Robinson. However, she cautions that timing is everything. “If you contact them when they are ready to make another purchase, you are more likely to turn them into repeat customers.”