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The Changing Face of Lead Generation

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few years professing the virtues of what I’ve been calling the lead generation trio made up of some combination or advertising, public relations and referrals.

GoDakshin via Flickr

The idea behind the trio concept is to acknowledge the need to spread your lead generation activities out and diversify them in a manner that allows prospects to experience your brand in different variations and from entirely different points of view.

The components of the lead generation trio are dependent upon one another to work. They support and compliment each other and the sum the effort is definitely greater than the parts.

Lead generation in general has changed dramatically over the last few years as traditional broadcast or outbound methods have grown increasingly ineffective.

This doesn’t mean, however, that marketers are left without proactive methods for generating leads.

The fundamental idea of the blended lead generation approach is still valid, but when choosing members of a lead generation trio, business owners must now take into the account the shifting online and social landscape.

While I still contend that advertising is a primary lead driver when employed correctly, I further believe that SEO, or the ability to be found, and social media, or the ability to create direct engagement, have become primary lead drivers and must be included in any discussion concerned with rounding out the new lead generation trio.

In fact, you could easily make the case that referrals have become a member of the social media family and that public relations is now a subset of SEO. I know this point of view won’t sit well with some PR practitioners, but here’s how I now see the major lead generation activities

Advertising – this includes online ads, offline ads, direct mail, pay per click and the all-important elements of ad testing, conversion and tracking.

I believe every business that focuses on promoting content using advertising tools and incorporates landing pages, including mobile landing pages, into their conversion process can still generate leads in a quasi outbound manner.

The thing that advertising has going for it that no other form of lead generation can match is control. This is the one vehicle that allows you to select who gets your message and when.

SEO – The area of SEO is really much bigger than page and search optimization. I use this term to incorporate the production and use of keyword rich content and the acquisition of links in ways that make it easy for prospects to find your business when they search globally, locally and mobily (I know that’s not a word, but perhaps it should be these days.)

Using this broader description of SEO makes it easy to incorporate a great deal of today’s public relations activity, a great deal of which is designed to create content, links and direct prospect contact under the banner of SEO.

Social media – I’ve been saying this for some time now, but social media behavior and tactics have simply become baked into marketing in general, and of late I’ve seen this behavior mature to the point where it’s become a stable aspect of the lead generation trio.

I know many people still cringe at the idea of social and sales being mentioned in the same sentence, but social platforms have now become such an integral part of content discovery and sharing that it is nearly impossible to effectively generate leads via any form of advertising without the integration of social and most forms of successful SEO now rely on social platforms as well.

In a way social media has become the ultimate referral vehicle. Throw ratings and reviews into the social mix and you’ve pretty much round out the new face of lead generation.

So, if you still view SEO as the art of search engine manipulation or social media as a tactic still struggling to produce ROI, think again. Advertising, SEO and social media are now the foundational elements of a solid lead generation program and like so many things that are meant to go together – you can’t have one without the others.

The SEO Cupcake

When asked to talk about marketing these days I spend increasing amounts of time explaining the notion of being found. Like it or not, generating leads by putting lots of valuable content in the places where people look for just such a thing is central to marketing success these days.

The SEO CupcakeWhen looking for a simple way to illustrate the important relationship between content, social and SEO, I decided to forgo the obvious pyramid or Venn diagram and chose instead the uber trendy cupcake.

I mean, who hasn’t stood in line these days outside an Airstream trailer in Austin or a chic little boutique in Soho, just to purchase one of these little delights? Okay, maybe you haven’t jumped on this trend just yet, but for illustration purposes the cupcake serves well.

Content – You can’t exactly have a cupcake without, well, the cup. The little wrapper is the foundation for the entire thing. Likewise, content is the underpinning of any attempt to score well in SEO – you need lots of it, in many flavors. In fact, there’s really no reason to preheat the oven without a firm commitment to the production of content.

Keywords – Now, if all you did were serve up wrappers of content you wouldn’t have a very tasty treat. We need to add the cake in your cupcake. We need to test out the flavor combinations that keep your customers coming back for more. Keywords, the actual stuff that prospects put into search engines to find a business like yours, are what give your SEO efforts tastiness and set the table for surfers and search engines alike.

Links – Of course, if you really want to attract the search engine spiders you’ve got to pile on the icing in the form of links pointing the way to your content. Creating great, keyword rich content, is the best way to attract lots of links and form a strong base for mounds of traffic fattening icing.

Social – There, you’ve got an awesome cupcake, now it’s time to add that all important finishing touch. Lots of folks get the connection between social and SEO, but they don’t fully appreciate that social without content turns a scrumptious desert into a health snack. It’s nice, but it won’t satisfy the surfer’s sweet tooth. In this case, one of the best reasons to even grow raspberries (participate in social) is to top off the cupcake and add a very attractive package to your overall content play.

Okay, so today’s lesson leans a bit to the goofy side, but I just couldn’t think of a better way to simplify the interdependent relationship and hierarchy of steps involved in winning the being found game.

 

Trends That Will Shape Small Business Next Year

2011 trendsLast year about this time I wrote a post from OPENForum titled 5 Trends That Will Shape Small Business in 2010 – I’m thinking I pretty much nailed them, which on the surface might seem easy because small business are often late to jump on trends. The tricky thing about understanding small business though is that when they do jump on a trend it’s often in ways that run counter to what the mainstream media reports.

Small business don’t care about a trend so they can get out in front of something, they care about things that seems obvious, practical and worth the scant bit of time they might be able to allocate to it. If you’re trying to sell to or understand small business, take a look a look at this year’s 5 Trends That Will Shape Small Business in 2011.

Here’s a quick look at what they are, but you’ll have to go read the entire piece to get the full view from a small business vantage.
1) Social simply is
2) Mobile finally lands
3) O2O becomes strategy
4) Networked referral automation
5) Apps over Web