“It’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.” — Douglas Warner III, Former CEO, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
We’re not sure when Douglas Warner said this – but it’s never been more true than today. Lead generation has and always will be one of the most elusive goals in your marketing plan. Competition is fierce, and standing out is more challenging than ever. So what’s the answer? Honestly, there isn’t one answer – there is never just one answer in marketing.
If one thing hasn’t changed about lead generation over the years, it’s that it was, still is, and always will be a numbers game. If you’re not working on attracting new sales leads, can you expect results? Silly question, we know. But the answer is no – it was 20 years ago, and it still is today.
So which lead generation strategies should you use today to grow your brand awareness and generate sales? Well, funny thing – just like that silly question above – some lead generation tactics from 20 years ago still work today. Let’s call them offline lead generation tactics, and they can be just as effective as the online lead generation strategies we use now.
Old-School Lead Generation Strategies That Still Work
Before the digital world of today, there were far fewer verticals available to blast your brand. We had the media basics: TV ads, radio ads, billboards, magazines, and newspapers. However, none of them were personalized or very targeted.
What marketers realized about generating leads, especially b2b lead generation, is that it worked better with more personalized and targeted messaging – which is hard to do in a TV ad, not to mention cost-prohibitive. So the sales team had to develop ways to connect with their target audience in “hot” scenarios, i.e., fish where the fish are biting.
In this article, we’re going to look at six old-school offline lead generation tactics most used by marketers in years past – and how they are still relevant in our current digital world.
Networking is a billion-dollar industry – even today. Countless companies around the globe provide networking-based programs for businesses that want to increase leads through referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. However, networking is now as much online as it is offline – thanks to social media.
Networking is all about relationship-building and the philosophy of “buying from those we trust”. There are plenty of networking events available that can help you generate leads and set meetings via personal interaction. Likewise, personal interaction is happening online with social media. Groups form around interests, passions, careers, and hobbies, creating mini forums of folks already interested in your brand. You just have to put yourself out there and spend the time cultivating the relationships.
Trade shows are big productions and often pricey to attend as a vendor. However, there is rarely another opportunity to present your brand to a giant space filled with interested prospects. Think of it this way – they came to you! This is probably why trade shows are as popular today as 20-30 years ago, especially with b2b lead generation.
Trade shows are undeniably one of the best offline lead generation tactics for gathering qualified prospects. Attendees are there specifically to learn more about industry-specific products and services, which leaves the door wide open for future conversations. Trade shows are also an excellent venue for collecting data about your customers. You would be surprised by how many folks are willing to complete a short survey for a free t-shirt.
Just hearing the phrase sends shivers down the spine – the dreaded cold calling! It’s tough just to pick up the phone and call someone out of the blue to try and convince them that your product is life-changing. Yet, at one time, cold-calling was the go-to sales technique among lead generation strategies. It wasn’t unusual for salespeople to make up to 150 cold calls a day! Yet, rumor has it that cold calling is dead. But is it?
Not at all. Cold calling is still an effective lead generation tactic, but it’s getting a warm-up thanks to steady content streams. The key is to release plenty of high-quality content that warms up your target audience and paves the way for a not-so-cold call. Here’s an example – you publish a lead magnet on a subject associated with your brand, and someone finds it online and downloads it. Voila! Your sales team has a new prospect who has already shown interest in the product – effectively warming up the lead.
We touched on referrals earlier when discussing networking. Referrals, or word of mouth, is one of the most effective lead generation tactics out there. People have always been more willing to use or buy recommendations from people they like and trust, i.e., a referral. For example, you need your lawn cut every week. Where do you go to find the service? Easy – your buddy across the street who is already having their lawn serviced.
The trick to referral marketing is incentivizing current customers to refer your business to friends, family, and work associates. Incentives can be percentage discounts, free upgrades, or a freebie. Today’s modern referral marketing programs are often executed through social media channels or email, and the benefits are two-fold: warm leads and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
In 1892, Sears was the first company to use direct mail. The company mailed 8,000 advertisements to residents and received 2,000 new requests in response. That’s a 25% return! Over the years, direct mail became one of the most heavily used offline lead generation tactics – much to the delight of the USPS.
However, direct mail lost its touch when emails hit the scene because the digital version was virtually free and easier to execute – until it plateaued. So guess what’s making a comeback? Snail mail. Just don’t plan your campaign in a vacuum. Unless your piece is a heavily discounted call-to-action (which we don’t recommend), be sure and follow up with a call, email, or both! Otherwise, your efforts will be wasted.
Public relations has always been a big “get” in marketing. Traditionally, it has taken a great story, the right push, or a string pulled to get anything out of a press release. And the reward is significant – free marketing!
Public relations is just as powerful today as it has been for decades. The demand for high-quality content has given public relations a breath of new life. Whether you are guest blogging, sharing “new news” via your social channels, or guest speaking on a podcast or at a trade show, you are still generating free publicity and lead generation both on and offline.
Modern Lead Generation Strategies
These old-school efforts have stood the test of time for decades as top lead generation strategies. Use them in tandem with modern tactics, and your lead generation goals will skyrocket. Let’s take a look at what’s working in digital lead generation.
Businesses go back and forth on websites. With the rise in social media, do you need one? Short answer, yes. Believe it or not, the entire population isn’t active on social media. So why create unnecessary barriers for potential leads to find out more about your business?
A website is more than a place to park your company information. It’s an opportunity to publish valuable content, tell your story, and answer questions – all of which are important to potential and existing customers. A website is no longer about what you do; it’s about what you can do for your audience. A well-designed, written, and organized website will also boost your brand’s SEO (search engine optimization), which we’ll go into more about later.
In 1996, Bill Gates said, “Content is king,” effectively predicting its importance to the future of digital marketing. Content is at the center of everything and one of today’s top lead generation tactics. However, content marketing has to hit specific marks to work well for your business, including subject matter and writing quality.
Content marketing involves creating and sharing online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) to stimulate interest in products or services without explicitly promoting a specific business. Content marketing has become one of the most critical and highly regarded lead generation tactics to intrigue and, in return, promote a brand or facilitate an action.
SEO - Search Engine Optimization
If you type SEO into Google search, guess how many results you get? Around 50 million. This alone indicates how important SEO (search engine optimization) is to modern marketing – everyone is talking about it!
SEO in marketing is the process of improving your website’s ranking in search results on Google and other search engines. The one goal of search engine programming is to provide the best results to users’ searches – and search engines need content to accomplish this goal. There are plenty of tactics to employ that can help boost your content’s SEO behind the scenes and on-page, which you can read more about here.
The bottom line on SEO? Everything you do online to boost your brand or improve lead generation will affect your SEO and vice versa.
PPC - Pay Per Click Advertising
This modern led generation tactic drives traffic to websites and applies to the “fish where the fish are biting” theory in marketing. PPC stands for pay-per-click, which means the advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. This form of advertising is most popular with search engines, such as Google, but it’s also available through website owners or a network of websites.
PPC is highly effective because it is instant. Unlike content marketing and SEO, considered more “long game” tactics, PPC is highly targeted and flexible, allowing brands to quickly test dozens of audience profiles to determine which supports the highest lead generation.
Social selling uses social media networks to reach new prospects, educate them on how your company can help them grow their business, and nurture them through content. We like to think of it as networking’s online counterpart. Just as you would use networking to build lead generation offline through personal interaction and relationship building, social selling can achieve the same online through social networks.
Social selling is wildly popular in b2b lead generation – likely because the number of decision-makers between 18 and 34 continues to grow, and they are social media’s largest user demographic. Linked In has become one of the most significant drivers of social selling amongst all social platforms, thanks to a high concentration of b2b companies.
Webinars are another of the lead generation tactics b2b company’s favor because they are an interactive method for delivering valuable content while establishing credibility. Webinars are more time-intensive than other strategies in both content planning and production.
The success of webinars is highly dependent on attendance, so it’s important to do your research and market your webinar to the people most likely to find your information beneficial. We suggest establishing your buyer persona before creating the webinar content – and always create content that informs, teaches, or advises. An hour-long sales pitch is NOT engaging content.
A podcast is an episodic series of recordings that listeners can download and usually features one or more recurring hosts that discuss topics or current events. In business, podcasts can be an effective lead generation tactic if your topics consistently educate or deliver value around your product or service.
Like a webinar, podcasts can establish you as an industry expert and leader. The more people trust your expertise, the more likely they will buy or refer your products or services. Keep in mind that building a podcast following takes time and effort, so you must be consistent in creation and publishing for the results to materialize.
Finding customers is a highly competitive business, and it takes planning and patience to get results. Whether you go old-school, new-school, or both with your lead generation tactics, you need the right strategy to bring it all together for success. If you need help formulating a winning formula, our team at Living Proof Creative can get you there.