In its simplest form, lead generation in the B2B market is the process of identifying suspects, getting their attention and initial interest, qualifying them as potential buyers, and then getting them to want to engage in a serious conversation about doing business together. This is what we mean by “getting in the door,” or lead generation if you will.
Note that the point of the process is not what you send out, what you say about your product, or how many email addresses you gather. That part is easy. Anyone can send out letters, make calls, run ads, distribute white papers, conduct Webinars, or staff trade show booths. What matters is what you get back. What matters is that you get back an expressed willingness on the part of a qualified prospect to engage in the conversation. That’s lead generation, where progress is measured by worthwhile conversations.
In other words, in an analogy to classic direct mail, it’s useless to send something out without a direct response mechanism. Likewise, lead generation is useless unless you get back an expression of interest on the part of the decision maker to talk. Just throwing things out there is spam, regardless of its form.
Lead generation can be done using a wide variety of methods. For example, consumer advertising can make people aware of the availability and benefits of a product so that they will look for it in the store, ask their doctor about it, call an 800 number to order it, or somehow go out and buy it.
Industrial analogues include trade advertising of an 800 number, getting people to stop in your booth at a trade show, generating responses to an e-mail, cold calling, direct mail/direct response, and offering coupons. In fact, there are hundreds of other options and creative solutions to the problem.
But the key is to focus on what you get back, not what you send out. That is, the key is that lead generation is something that the vendor sponsors – because they have a primary need for revenue – to get the prospect’s attention and explicit expression of interest. If the prospect doesn’t say “I want to talk with you about how you can help,” it isn’t a lead.
In fact, it wasn’t even worth doing.