The 7 deadly sins of lead generation

Posted by Oren Greenberg on 6 Jan, 2020
View comments Marketing
Not getting the leads you want? Read on to see if you're guilty of any of these errors.

Lead generation errors.

When you’re watching your marketing budget dwindle without generating the leads you were hoping for, it can feel like you’re staring into one of Dante’s famous Circles of Hell. Maybe you’re driving plenty of traffic, but that traffic just isn’t turning into qualified leads. People seem interested in your product, so why aren’t you making the sales you need to sustain and grow your business?

Well, in this post I’ll help you do a little soul searching and find out which of the 7 “deadly sins” of lead generation you may have inadvertently committed.

Or, if you’re just beginning to design a lead generation strategy, I’ll help you avoid these pitfalls and put your marketing budget to the best use.

1. You overlooked product–market fit

Think back to the early stages of your business, when you had your great idea for a product and started developing it. Did you verify that there was a market niche and a robust need for your product, or did you brush past this phase with pure enthusiasm for your idea? In fact, 42% of startups fail because there’s no market need for their product.

Establishing product–market fit, is an essential step to complete before you start heavily investing in acquisition channels. You must determine whether or not there is a real market demand for your product; because if there isn’t, no amount of promotion will make it sell, and you risk wasting your marketing budget with poor or non-existent ROI.

So, long before you start thinking about lead generation, you should launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This is a version of your product that has just enough functionality to test whether there’s a market niche for your idea, while not stretching your budget too far.

The MVP phase is the time to get really close to your intended audience – the people whose problem you’re attempting to solve – and learn whether your product meets their needs. Then you can test and adjust the product iteratively until you’re confident that you’ve identified a market for it. This is when your lead generation strategy comes into play.

2. Your approach is too generic

I expect you’ve come across many articles promising something like “25 tips for lead generation success” or “50 proven tactics for lead generation”. And no doubt, these often contain some genuinely useful ideas.

The problem is that no tip is guaranteed to work for everyone: your lead generation strategy must be tailored to your business.

When you’re devising your strategy, some of the factors to consider include:

  • your audience and their pain points
  • how your product alleviates these specific pain points
  • the unique features and benefits of your solution
  • your business model
  • onboarding processes
  • your stage of business growth

Different lead generation strategies are needed for SaaS businesses, depending on whether they have a high or a low Annual Contract Value (ACV). 

In brief, a high ACV business will offer a more complex product to a smaller range of big clients while a low ACV business will offer a simpler (often free signup) product to a large number of smaller clients.

Thus, a high ACV business is likely to use account-based marketing (ABM) for a much more targeted approach to lead generation, whereas a low ACV business may use a channel-focused route to drive volume of sign-ups.

You can see from this example that it would be potentially disastrous to assume that the tactics that generate leads for the low ACV business would work in the same way for the high ACV business – even though they are both under the umbrella of SaaS. So, when you’re deploying certain lead generation tactics, think about how they’ll work within the context of your business. Customisation is essential.

3. You didn’t define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

How can you create a customised lead generation strategy when you don’t have a deep understanding of your potential customers? The answer is... you can’t.

One way to tailor your strategy to your target audience is to create Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs). This is a key aspect of account-based marketing where you treat a particular account as a “market of one”, as you’re dealing with fewer high-value clients.

But creating ICPs can be a valuable exercise within any marketing strategy, because it’ll help you maintain an audience-focused mindset and result in a more accurate approach to lead generation.

You can find a step-by-step guide to defining ICPs in one of my earlier articles, but to summarise: you need to identify your best existing customers, research their common traits and then segment them based on these traits, list similar businesses to target within each category, and then test out your ICPs based on whether they result in qualified leads.

4. You ignored your prospects’ pain points

Content that’s intended for a lead generation purpose falls on deaf ears when all it does is shout about how great the company is and ignores the prospects’ pain points. This is another issue which is created when businesses get carried away by their enthusiasm for their own product.

Instead, your content strategy must be focused on addressing audience pain points. You must help your audience solve their specific problems. Your product can be presented as a solution within associated use cases, but your content should aim to add value in deeper ways. In addition, content must be appropriate to the pain points of prospects at different stages in the funnel.

5. You didn’t iteratively test your marketing channels

You might think that publishing (and promoting) content on as many channels as possible is the preferred route. After all, surely that will get your product seen by more people, and therefore will generate more leads overall?

Well, the truth is that every channel is different. And with no business boasting an unlimited marketing budget, you need to focus on the channels that offer the best ROI.

An iterative testing methodology will help you to identify the most effective marketing channels for your business. Once you build a hypothesis that certain types of content will generate leads on a particular channel, test it out and measure the results. If it doesn’t work, you can pull it before you waste too many resources, and if it shows promise you can fine-tune your approach to deliver even more leads.

It’s also important not to let ego get in the way of testing an idea. HubSpot’s Lindsay Kolowich advises, “treat every idea that’s brought to the table the same, whether or not you think it’ll ‘win’. This makes the testing program less personal and encourages a more holistic approach.”

6. You didn’t invest in the right tech

Testing different channels is just one aspect of lead generation that needs the right technology to succeed. As your business grows, more of your processes will become automated. Keeping track of leads, nurturing them towards conversion (and beyond), and learning to inform future strategy – all this requires multiple types and layers of software; and these solutions need to talk to each other.

The lead generation tech stack might include tools for:

  • Landing pages – hosting and analytics
  • Content management software – creation and distribution
  • Social media marketing tools – scheduling, analysis, social listening
  • Marketing automation software – track prospects and learn about your web traffic
  • CRM software – optimising the sales process and syncing up sales and marketing

With so much data to measure and traffic to monitor, you need the right mix of tools in your martech stack. The number of tools available is increasing year on year, with Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape infographic now featuring 7,040 solutions (a sevenfold increase in five years).

Take time to research those best suited to your product, business model, and audience – and seek expert advice before investing. You don’t want to buy two (or more) tools with overlapping functionality.

7. You weren’t in it for the long haul

Marketing in the context of a startup or scale-up is intense. There’s significant pressure to generate a high number of leads in a short timescale, in order to achieve the necessary growth.

However, it’s crucial to take a step back and remember that leads are people – people who make decisions at their own pace. According to Marketo data, around 50% of leads in any system are not yet ready to buy. Of course, you’ll get some who are ready to jump on the offer immediately, but most in B2B will need to investigate your value proposition deeply before they’re ready to commit.

Remember: a fast-converting top-of-funnel prospect doesn’t necessarily translate into a sales-qualified lead. Someone who’s quick to sign up may be just as quick to drop out, while someone who is slow, steady, and hesitant may be more serious about their interest. That’s why it pays to keep patience and invest effort (and budget) in nurturing slow-burning leads over time.

It’s your job to alleviate concerns, and listen to what people need to be able to make a purchase. There’s no use in rushing people towards a purchase before they’ve built trust in your value proposition.

Final takeaways...

With a solid strategy that avoids these 7 “deadly sins”, lead generation doesn’t have to be a purgatory.

Once you’ve established product–market fit, you can confidently embark on a lead generation strategy that is tailored to your business and its goals. And you can use Ideal Customer Profiles to maintain an audience-focused approach that addresses your prospects’ pain points throughout the marketing funnel.

By iteratively testing your acquisition channels, you can identify which will be best for ROI and invest your budget wisely. The right martech stack will help you analyse your marketing data for more accurate results and automate your marketing processes as the volume of leads grows. Finally, you won’t rush people – instead appreciate the barriers that need to be overcome before a lead can make a purchase.

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