Lead Gen Won’t Kill Marketing. Turning Back the Clock Will

June 16, 2010 at 10:46 AM 6 comments

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.

What this says to me is that lead generation is a distraction from the core value of marketing – to define and manage the brand.

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.


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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joe Zuccaro  |  June 16, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Great commentary. “Warm and fuzzy” Marketing somehow got in the driver’s seat – mainly because the technologies that can make them accountable didn’t exist.

    Now that web based technologies are here to stay, Marketers will have to “be” technologists – in addition to analysts, linguists, and “suppliers” to Sales. That is, supplying qualified leads.

    Lead gen or Lead management, whatever you want to call it, won’t kill Marketing. It will make it *respectable.* Respectable because the firm will understand how marketing impacts sales.
    Respectable because Marketing can take a greater lead in the direction of an enterprise by proving which efforts work, and which don’t.

    The right-brain stuff remains important, but is should not be in the driver’s seat. It’s about the numbers that count – namely, revenue. Not eyeballs. Not Clio awards. Not events or “branding.”

    • 2. Thompson Morrison  |  June 17, 2010 at 6:13 AM

      Thanks for your thoughts, Joe. I like to think that we as marketers need to be not only artists but also engineers. We have to be comfortable with numbers and the drivers behind numbers. But to be an engineer doesn’t diminish the art, it informs it. Makes us smarter. But the focus has to be on the customer, and a deep, empathetic commitment to listen, to learn and to engage. At the end of the day, it not the numbers, or the art, that will make us successful, but the relationship.

  • […] that stance.  Smart and thoughtful.  Rather than paraphrasing it, I’ll just send you here to read it yourself.  […]

  • 4. Keith Bossey  |  June 16, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    I don’t buy the fact that marketing cannot create leads. I’ve run very successful departments where lead generation was our primary measure. I recently blogged about this (http://www.bossey.com/?p=407 ) where I stated “The role of marketing is to create and maintain interest in the value proposition. Nothing more, nothing less. Much of what poses as marketing is over-thought and over-engineered and is focused too often on intangible factors that cannot be measured. This causes organizations to take their eye off the ball, allowing them to believe that marketing doesn’t have to be tied to revenues in some way.” In a B2B environment, marketing and sales need to work together to create leads, generate revenues, and be the ears of the organization – keeping the org focused on the customer. Great post!

    • 5. Thompson Morrison  |  June 17, 2010 at 6:25 AM

      Keith, thanks for your comments. But let’s be honest, We as marketers haven’t always delivered on the goods. Studies have shown that, in many organizations around 70% of leads are simply ignored by sales. It’s a terrible situation and is at the root of the tension with sales. I feel that the core cause is the definition of leads that we are delivering, It’s time, I believe, to radically rethink what a true “sales-ready” lead is within the context of the customer conversation. Scoring is not going to get us there, because scoring is still guessing, just trying to guess better. As the old Chinese proverb goes: “To guess is cheap, to guess wrong is very expensive”.

  • 6. Daniel Kuperman  |  June 21, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    Good point saying that marketing is about listening to customers. Totally agree. I also think that marketing is responsible for generating sales. Yes, that’s right… it doesn’t matter if you have sales reps, biz dev reps, whatever you call them, it’s all part of Marketing.

    So, if we need to generate sales, what do we call people who buy? Customers. OK, and before they are customers, what do we call them? Leads. That’s why marketing has been tasked w/ lead generation and is being measured on that. Is part of marketing, no arguing about it.

    The key issue (and you expertly touches upon it) is when you get so freakin focused on ‘how many leads did I generate this month’ that you forget the big picture, and that there are other marketing activities that although not directly related to lead generation (branding comes to mind) are a critical piece of the equation. And in listening to your customers you will come up with a bunch of other stuff that you have to do that will not directly translate into leads, but will ultimately increase your lead numbers. I think some people get too deep in the tactics of lead generation that they forget to think strategically.


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Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at www.fuseinsight.com


"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters



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