Lead Gen Won’t Kill Marketing. Turning Back the Clock Will
A few days ago Chris Koch’s blog mentioned some comments by a senior marketing exec at the ITSMA Marketing Leadership Forum. The unnamed marketer’s thesis, in brief:
- Marketers are being forced to overemphasize lead gen activities, which they’re not particularly good at
- Marketers are good at the “mysterious arts of reputation, idea marketing, segmentation, and value propositions”
- Marketers should do “what we really do well—the creative, right-brained stuff.”
His prescription in brief: define and track leads, don’t expect too many leads from marketing, and take a long view in judging marketing efforts.
Underneath, what I hear is that, because they’re being graded on a part of the job they don’t like or do well, marketers are worried that the grownups aren’t taking them seriously. So what to do? Go back to the days when brand management was their main bailiwick.
What’s wrong with that? Everything.
First: to say that lead generation is an unpleasant duty, and that we really need to be understood for the parts of the job we do better (and which, coincidentally, are difficult to measure) is to discount the reason that marketing was pushed into lead generation to start with: survival.
These are very difficult times, and the recession has been very disruptive. All decisions are being made in survival mode, and leads are an essential component of survival. When you’re engaged in a death struggle, long-term benefits of brand management don’t look so important.
Which is not to say that lead generation isn’t a distraction from the main goal of marketing – it is. But not because marketing is lousy at it.
Which brings me to the second, and more important point: this view of marketing doesn’t take into account the potential of marketing, and where it needs to go.
Marketing is not chiefly about brands – it’s about the customer conversation. Your survival depends on the passion of your customers – how far they’re willing to go to buy your stuff and recommend it to others.
The brand is part of that, but it’s a means to a successful customer conversation, not the end.
Here’s the core issue: as a marketer, your real job is not to generate leads or manage the brand – it’s to listen strategically to customers. You need to recognize that your survival is measured by the depth of your relationships with customers.
Marketing’s role is to define strategic listening within the organization, listening that will allow you to deepen the relationship, generate better leads and guide the innovation process.
Your essential function as a marketer is to be the vehicle by which your customer’s voice is articulated in your company. You can do that better than everyone else. And when you do, and when your customers know you’re listening, you can turn them into brand evangelists.
Do that job well – really well – and you won’t have to worry about being taken seriously anymore.