When was the last time you struck up a conversation with a stranger? For most people it may have been a while, but if you work in sales you probably do this every day. Think about how you approach that situation. You probably introduce yourself, you might say a little something about what you do, then you start asking questions, right? Because if you don't get them talking, then you don't know what interests them and it's hard to connect. And if you let them stay silent and just keep going on and on about yourself, you might notice them start edging away from you. One. Step. At. A. Time.
Sales is a lot of talking to strangers, and lead generation is like all the small talk you use to get to know them. Lead generation services, whether through a marketing agency or a lead generation agency, focus on learning more about the prospect and delivering real value so you build rapport with them up front. Then, when they get handed off to a real person, all you have to do is convert those prospects into customers. Easy, right?
If you're at all familiar with lead generation marketing, then you're probably thinking it's just another part of your overall marketing efforts. And it is. But “lead generation agencies” often approach the task of getting and nurturing leads from a different angle than a marketing agency, and it’s important to understand the differences in approach. Let's take a look at what a lead generation agency actually does and how it differs from your standard digital marketing agency.
How lead generation agencies get leads
The whole point of a lead generation agency to collect consumer data that they can sell to brands. There are plenty of different lead generation strategies that agencies will use to gather data, such as paid ads, SEO, content syndication and social media marketing. All of these tactics can capture a targeted audience and bring in valuable information about prospects that could be converted to customers.
Paid ads, for example, can be targeted to certain web pages, pop up with specific search criteria or even be tied to other consumer data through Google. They're an easy way to find a niche audience of potential customers and speak directly to their needs. Search engine optimization (SEO) is another way to capitalize on customer searches because it focuses on populating your brand's information based on keywords and search terms. This is a great way to leverage your website's content and copy to capture new leads.
Content syndication can sometimes be part of a content marketing campaign but also helps with lead generation. The goal here is to have your content featured on third-party websites that can then direct traffic back to your brand. Think about it like a national newspaper picking up a press release printed in your local business magazine. It's your content and your message broadcasted to a wider audience. Social media marketing can work similarly. When you post to your brand's social media accounts, you have the opportunity to interact with customers and attract new ones.
I know what you're thinking. This is all fine and dandy, but how do these strategies produce qualified leads? Without getting into the techy details, when someone interacts with your brand, lead generation agencies can pull information about the person and their online habits so you have something to use when building your marketing strategy.
Businesses — whether it's B2B companies, SaaS companies, or an eCommerce enterprise — all have one primary goal: generate enough leads that they turn into sales so they can meet their bottom line. Plain and simple. The name of the game is customer acquisition, and without information about who's interested in what, getting people into your sales pipeline can be an extremely difficult task.
Lead generation agencies are great partners in this scenario because they can produce some big short-term wins for businesses. They specialize in delivering actionable information so you can plug it into your digital strategy however you see fit, whether it's email marketing, inbound marketing, free consultations or appointment setting. The data you acquire will give your sales team a launchpad to attract and convert potential customers, which means gains on your bottom line.
Typically, this information will come from paid media efforts, such as LinkedIn and Google ads, instead of outreach campaigns or landing pages because those paid campaigns can attract more people in a shorter time period. The agency you choose will probably look at the metrics for certain tactics in your industry and follow suit to get you the most bang for your buck (within their scope of data collection) as quickly as possible.
Although lead generation agencies are capable of implementing more long-term plans, the goals aren't particularly focused on growing your brand, or even progressing long-term business strategies. To see meaningful long-term success, most brands turn to marketing agencies. Marketers can help you define your brand, your market position, your messaging and your target audience. All of these elements provide a solid foundation for your other efforts to sit atop, which means you can grow your brand as a whole instead of just finding the best lead or shoring up your conversion rates.
Marketing agencies (at the least the good ones) are solely focused on your brand's health. They can help you achieve some short-term wins along the way, but overall, they're more concerned about your brand's integrity and building that strong foundation. Marketers can still help you generate quality leads, but their goal is to make sure you’re building momentum, so you can keep scaling up.
An agency might specialize in inbound or outbound marketing efforts, which can both lend a hand to demand generation on top of your other efforts. If they use a marketing CRM like HubSpot or Salesforce, they could even find ways to implement backend efficiencies with marketing automation. For example, you might automate your email marketing campaigns to send a certain email series to prospects depending on their position in your sales funnel. Having the more technical elements of your marketing tactics automated can help to ensure brand growth because you know your system is always working for you in the background.
Which solution to choose?
Both options offer valuable outcomes, so which you choose really depends on your business. Do you need some quick lead gen that ups your sales numbers within the next few months? Or do you need someone who understands B2B marketing and can look at your brand as a whole? The right option for you will depend on your current needs and in which areas your business is falling short, so take stock of your in-house operations before deciding on next steps.
There will always be immediate needs for your brand, but don't let those items on the top of the to-do list drown out other priorities. Yes, a PPC ad campaign might generate immediate solutions, but if you think your pipeline will dry up without these instant solutions, then that might be a sign that other areas of your brand need help too. In this situation, you might want to consider looking for agencies that can help you with a comprehensive, long-term plan of attack to bolster the overall health of your brand.
Momentum is Key
Every brand is faced with the reality of needing to get sales to keep the business going. The trick is seeing beyond that immediate need and solving for your five-year problems now. Lead generation agencies are great at solving for the short-term, but if you want your brand to have the momentum to keep expanding five years down the road, you need a strategy to inform all the little tactics (lead generation included) that will help you get there.