Jonathan BeatonGuest Post by:  Jonathan Beaton, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at the NYC based tech startup, Organic Motion

There are a million blog posts and comment threads discussing which channels are the most effective when it comes to lead generation and new customer acquisition. This results in many arbitrary discussions that lack the proper context for any meaningful dialogue to occur about choosing the right lead generation tactics to grow/scale sales and marketing.

In my experience, there are many factors that have a much heavier influence on the overall effectiveness of a particular lead source (as opposed to the lead source itself). For example, the characteristics of the specific markets you are attacking play a significant role when it comes to predicting the best marketing channels. Additionally, many people overlook the fact that there are huge fundamental differences between a product and a service company that greatly influence the role of marketing when it comes to new customer acquisition.

Rather than shouting about how one particular lead source is better than another, I am going to do my best to overview the major lead sources and speak to when they tend to work best and when they do not. Keep in mind, I am specifically commenting on these sources’ ability to generate leads and fill the top of the funnel. A well rounded marketing strategy involves an integrated approach and considers branding as well as lead generation.

Inbound Marketing/Content Marketing/Social Media/SEO

When it works -

This is a particularly hyped marketing channel at the moment but in many cases justifiably so. If you are a technology provider going after a large market that is actively searching for a solution to a problem you solve – inbound marketing is fantastic. The marketing automation software market is a great example of this. Thousands upon thousands of marketers are actively searching each day for ways to improve and track marketing performance. Companies such as Marketo and HubSpot went to work creating educational content on how their technology (marketing automation software) can play a significant role in this process. Marketers bought in and a whole new market was born.

When it doesn’t -

Creating useful and educational content is useful 100% of the time. However, marketing that content to a narrow market will not do much to fill the top end of the funnel as it does in the example I used above. Markets that are very small/narrow are hard to attack using just inbound marketing. There are simply not enough prospects actively searching, sharing and/or consuming information to actively engage. At my existing company, Organic Motion, market research determined our product to be a great fit at large game development  studios. We also were determined that the best entry point at these companies was the Director of Animation. This information greatly limited my potential market to around 50 different individuals. Inbound marketing can still be used to create a buzz and get the word out within the industry itself, but I certainly could not sit back and expect those 50 animation directors to come find us.

Search Marketing – PPC and SEO

When it works -

Search traffic can do wonders when it comes to filling the top of the funnel. These leads are active and often are already in an active buying process. However, search marketing works best when a significant volume of prospects are actively searching for an already-defined solution. Therefore, if the market you are going after is of reasonable size and most likely already aware of your product or service category, then the search volume for the main keywords is usually rather significant. For instance, if 10,000 people a month are searching for “marketing wizardry” then you can expect a significant lead volume from that particular keyword.

AdWords – 10,000 Search Volume X 3% CTR X 10% Conv. Rate = 30 Leads/Month

 OR

SEO, Top 5 Organic Ranking – 10,000 Search Volume X 8% CTR X 40% CTR X 15% Conv. Rate = 48 Leads/Month

When it doesn’t -

The opposite of what I mentioned above applies here. If you are marketing a fairly unknown product or service, there will certainly not be that many people searching for it. Also, if the market you are targeting is tiny, the search volumes will be too. That being said, that is usually the BEST time to invest in SEO so that as your category gains notoriety, you will be in a great position to capitalize on it. For instance, if only 1,000 people a month are searching for “marketing wizardry” you could expect similar results to the ones demonstrated below.

AdWords – 1,000 Search Volume X 3% CTR X 10% Conv. Rate = 3 Leads/Month

OR

Top 5 Organic Ranking – 1,000 Search volume X 8% CTR X 40% CTR X 15% Conv. Rate = 5 Leads/Month

Paid Online Advertising – Newsletters, Publications, LinkedIn, etc.

When it works -

Paid online advertising works best when your target prospects share common interests amongst each other. When this occurs, it is usually easy to identify niche publications, blogs, newsletters, etc. that have the attention of your most desired prospects. For instance, if your company develops HR software, there are plenty of publications that cater to HR professionals. These are great places to promote white papers, research studies, webinars or any other educational content to fill the top of the funnel.

When it doesn’t -

Paid online advertising falls down when you have not properly researched and defined a target market. For instance, if you are advertising within a HR publication, your product and messaging needs to be custom tailored to get the attention of the correct decision makers.

Appointment Setting/Cold Calling

When it works

Appointment setting and cold calling can still be a very effective technique when it comes to filling the top of the funnel. Most lead sources have a ceiling when it comes to lead volume. Appointment setting tends to be one of the most costly channels but still cost effective; especially if your other channels are maxed out. Cold calling is a numbers game so for it to work effectively you need a large and well defined target market that bites on your value proposition. Understanding the demographics such as job titles, company size, etc. and matching them with the right value proposition is key to making this work.

When it doesn’t -

I mentioned in the intro that there are differences between generating leads for a service versus a product company. Generally speaking, margin/profitability is much less for service companies. Additionally, win rates on lead generation channels are usually lower at service companies then they are product companies. Service companies differentiate themselves based on their reputation and the trust they establish. Their sales lifeblood traditionally comes from referrals and word of mouth. It is very difficult for a service organization to generate enough revenue from cold calling to justify the costs associated.

The above channels are certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list but are definitely ones that can be used successfully given the right circumstances. Generating leads that turn into revenue is a very difficult thing to do. Trial and error is a big part of sales and marketing. However, I hope this list at least gets you going in the right direction.

Jonathan Beaton is the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at the NYC based tech startup, Organic Motion. He encourages you to follow him on twitter

  • PieterVereertbrugghen

    Yes, this list gets me going in the right direction. TX for sharing.

  • http://www.influitive.com/ Cassandra Jowett

    I would add another source to this list: high-quality referrals from your advocates, including customers, partners and investors.

    When it works –
    While the volume of leads may be much smaller than other sources, referrals convert into opportunities and closed deals at a much, much higher rate than any other type of lead. Unlike all the other sources you’ve listed above, referral leads come with a personal recommendation and a third-party source of information from a trusted peer baked right in – something that inbound, social media, PPC, ads and cold calling can never accomplish.

    When it doesn’t –
    If you’re not getting a significant number of customer referrals, it’s for one of three reasons:
    1) Your customers are unhappy.
    2) You’re just not asking.
    3) You’re not providing a great referral experience that keeps advocates informed about what happens when they provide a referral and where their referrals are in the sales process.

    • http://4eyesmarketing.com/ Jonathan Beaton

      Could not agree more, especially for service companies. Referrals are the only way new customer acquisition ever gets any easier.

  • Idan

    I wonder if others agree that telesales is not recommended for a service business. won’t it depend on whether you’re marketing locally vs. nationally/globally?

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