The lead generation landscape has evolved considerably. Just a few years ago, a company would hone its marketing message, determine its target market, pinpoint its vehicles (be it print ads, paid search, or blogging/digital media) and watch the leads flood in.
But today, the process of lead generation has become more nuanced as potential buyers are constantly being influenced by the sentiments of those around them. It’s why only about 17% of the more than 79% of organizations that engaged in lead generation programs last year are actually meeting their goals, according to the 2014 edition of The Black Report released by 360 Leads.
A chief reason companies are struggling to find and attract quality leads via their own marketing initiatives is because these efforts are being undermined by word-of-mouth messaging to those same leads from friends, co-workers and family members. That is, while word-of-mouth “advertising” can be a company’s greatest asset, it can also be its kryptonite. Just consider the following statistics about the power of word of mouth:
- A dissatisfied customer will tell between nine to 15 people about their experience. Moreover, around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people, according to this widely shared statistic by the now-defunct White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
- Happy customers who get their issues resolved tell about four to six people about their experience, according to the same White House study.
- It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience, according to "Understanding Customers" by Ruby Newell-Legner.
In today’s landscape, buyers are low-trust and marketing averse, meaning your lead generation efforts have become increasingly complicated. To survive this new era of lead generation, the first thing you need to understand is the importance that word of mouth plays in reeling in qualified leads. Every interaction your potential buyers have with your brand—be it through your call center, a conversation with your sales rep, or an in-person meeting at your trade show booth—is being tracked and remembered by your prospect. More so than in the past, you can’t afford to have a grumpy sales rep who takes out a bad mood on your potential buyer. That hiccup can spread like wildfire thanks to social media, customer referrals, and cyberspace.
Moreover, today’s companies need to be sure to flood the blogosphere and cyberspace with positive sentiments about their brands. The best way they can do this is to craft blogs, social media posts, white papers, and case studies that expand upon their thought leadership, brand awareness, and buyer empathy.
Case studies, for example, give companies the ability to highlight the work they are doing with their customers, partners, and key stakeholders to create third-party validation surrounding their brands. Similarly, blogs give brands the opportunity to demonstrate their subject matter expertise in their respective industries, which yields trust in a brand’s core competencies.
Our society is filled with smart customers, and brands can no longer be careless or sloppy with their lead generation efforts. The old bait-and-hook methods are becoming outdated and wholly ineffective. Today’s sales and marketing professionals need to examine lead generation through a whole new lens and remember that, in addition to having to stand out amongst a sea of competitors, they have to curry good favor from other potential buyers who will either evangelize about or slander their brand’s name.