Lead Generation Marketing

old fashioned rolodex

Lead generation marketing, sometimes called acquisition marketing, is catching the attention of people in your audience and location who would spend money on what you offer and cultivating a relationship with them, so they buy from you.

Lead generation marketing is a three-step marketing method:

1) Go where your people are;
2) Cultivate a relationship; and, 
3) Share your value proposition.

 This is the best marketing focus for small business owners because it ensures every penny you spend on marketing comes back to you in the form of new clients.

Lead generation marketing differs from other types of marketing. Businesses can also use it in combination with other kinds of marketing. For example, you could use content marketing as part of your lead generation strategy. The big difference between lead generation marketing and social media marketing is that in lead gen marketing, your focus isn’t on your social media performance; it’s on the quality and consistency of your pipeline.

How Does Lead Generation Marketing Work?

It’s pretty straightforward: the people who are receptive to your offer become your leads, and then your sales process takes over. That creates what’s called your Sales and Marketing Funnel.

Diagram of Create That's Sales Funnel

The problem is that too many small business owners make an error when they first begin, limiting their progress.

Lead Generation Marketing Requires Focus

The main challenge in lead generation marketing is to avoid being sidetracked. Remember, the goal is to go where your people are, cultivate a relationship, and share your value proposition. The only metric of success that matters is the actual number of leads you bring in.

The problem is that it’s very easy to get hung up on the many other ways to gauge marketing tactics. Measures like social media followers. Media appearances. Website visitors. Webpage speed.

These are not results. They’re leading indicators of your results.

Leading Indicators vs. Lagging Indicators

Publicity, recognition and “buzz” may help you predict whether you’ll GET results, but they do not represent results in and of themselves. In other words, if you build a massive, engaged social media following, you may be able to transition that into new leads to buy what you’re selling. If you get on a TV morning show, you might be able to reach some people who need what you offer. Sponsoring a hole at a golf tournament might get more people familiar with your logo.

None of these metrics tells you whether you’re actually meeting your goal of bringing in more leads. That’s because “number of leads” is a lagging indicator, an indicator of past performance.

There is an excellent example of how notoriety does not equal meeting your business goals:

Four Seasons Total Landscaping
Four Seasons Total Landscaping, 2020

In 2020, Four Seasons Total Landscaping was toiling away in obscurity in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania. One day, Donald Trump’s campaign booked a post-election press conference there and instantly, tens of millions of people knew about this family-owned lawn and garden company.

Their social media blew up, and their phone rang off the hook. Great marketing, right? Not so much. Their newfound fame monopolized their time, and precious few of these phone calls came from people who required landscaping services in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania.

Now, Four Seasons Total Landscaping managed to make some money from the T-shirts they began selling, and the mother-son team that owns the company did a great job making the most of their unexpected fame. My question is: did they want to make their money this way? Do you?

If You Want to Be Famous, Be Famous

When I worked in TV, I was pretty indifferent to being on TV. I wanted to be a journalist, I loved making videos, so I went into broadcasting. Many people I met over the years loved the “being on TV” part more than anything else, which tended to make them rather difficult to work with. I had a news director who used to put it this way: “If you want to be famous, go be famous. If you want to work here, the story comes first.” This maxim applies to marketing too.

If you want to make your living being a YouTube star, by all means do. However, if you want to make your living as a service-based small business owner, a viral video is an awfully circuitous route.  

First of all, to even be financially lucrative, you would need to be able to make one viral video after another and another and another. That is, of course, difficult. If you DO manage to do it, you don’t have a successful service-based business; you have a career as an influencer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t what you set out to do.

Lead Generation Marketing is for Everyone

That’s why lead generation marketing makes more sense than anything else. First of all, it’s reliable. It doesn’t take a 1 in 100 shot to get results.

With lead generation marketing, social media might be a tool you use to help you bring in leads, but you aren’t dependent on it or married to it. It’s just one stream of a holistic lead generation marketing plan.

That way, if Instagram’s algorithm changes or your account gets hacked, you still have leads coming in. You can simply lean more heavily on your other lead generation streams.

On the other hand, if social media IS your primary marketing source, you’re kinda screwed if anything goes wrong with it.

Measure what Matters and Focus on What Works

Personally, I LOVE it when the only goal that matters is lead generation because it lets me guarantee my results. It’s difficult to ensure success if you limit your methods.

Imagine you’re the coach of a sports team, and you only practice one great play because you know many teams have used that play to win. You’re deliberately limiting your potential if that single play is your sole path to victory.

That happens all the time to small businesses. Owners sink a lot of time and money into one aspect of marketing, whether that’s public relations or ads or social media. If something goes wrong, they don’t have another option at the ready. Instead of changing their strategy, they often double down on existing methods (also known as the Sunk Cost Fallacy).

Lead marketing comes back to that three-step formula we talked about:

1) Go where your people are;
2) Cultivate a relationship; and,
3) Share your value proposition.

There is no one right way of doing that; however, there are a couple of wrong ways, and we’ll talk about that next week.