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How Lead-Generation Campaigns Differ from Other Types of Marketing Communications

Lead generation is a different animal from general advertising or marketing communications. The biggest difference is that lead generation relies on direct marketing, also known as direct-response marketing communications. Direct marketing comprises a set of marketing tools, approaches, and activities that are targeted, measurable, and driven by return-on-investment (ROI) considerations. But the key difference is that direct marketing's goal is to motivate an action. The action can be anything from a click, to a phone call, to a store visit—whatever the goal of the marketer is.

Based on customer information captured and maintained in a database and using a variety of analytical and communications techniques, direct marketing provides the underpinnings of some of today's most effective marketing approaches. These approaches include e-commerce, data mining, customer relationship management (CRM), and integrated marketing communications. But the major contribution that direct marketing makes to the business marketing equation is generating leads for a sales force, whether a field sales team, inside sales, or an outside sales resource like a distribution channel partner or representative.

Besides direct-response marketing, there are two additional ways that lead generation is different from other forms of marketing communications. For one thing, lead generation is about quality versus quantity. Sales people are an expensive resource for a company. The job of lead generation is to make them more productive. So, it's not about a wide reach and a lot of volume. In fact, fewer, better leads trump more, lower quality leads every time.

Second, lead generation tends to be down there on the ground. It's about helping sales, driving results in the field, and connecting to revenue. Often, lead generation is part of a function called field marketing and is seen as a more tactical set of activities than the strategic marketing that goes on in corporate communications, in brand building, and public relations. Some lead generators get miffed about their relatively tactical role, feeling that they are somehow viewed as lesser beings than the general marketers who think about so-called bigger picture marketing. This is a subject of ongoing debate in the B-to-B world. In my view, however, anything that is the primary occupation of 76 percent of CMOs is certainly worth a lot of respect.

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