This article has been updated for 2020.
Despite what you may have read from best practice pundits, lead generation is not easy. In fact, if we examine some statistics, we’ll see that generating leads is the biggest challenge for 63 percent of companies.
Consider the undertaking required to build and cultivate multiple lead sources: each channel requires its own strategy and continued optimization. While it’s more or less the ultimate goal for the demand generation department, it can be a painstaking, slow, and expensive process.
Consequently, building a holistic lead generation engine leaves many companies with fewer opportunities — at least in the short term. As evidence, BrightTALK found that supplying more leads was the top concern for 55 percent of B2B professionals — topped only by increasing the quality of leads.
When a majority of enterprises and nearly half of small businesses are turning to a particular service, it’s natural to ask: how does that actually work?
Although the amount of detail lead generation services give away in their branding varies, there are a few common denominators that most quality companies offer their clients. Here’s a breakdown.
1. Database marketing
Sheer reach is the primary value proposition that lead gen agencies offer to in-house marketing teams. Any agency worth your time will have massive databases of business and professional information. These information resources arm lead generation vendors with the means to target and personalize marketing campaigns on a level that’s simply out of reach for most in-house marketers.
As a result, lead gen agencies can customize campaigns they run for their clients using a relatively vast range of criteria, which translates into precise targeting.
Traditional inbound programs produce an amalgamation of opportunities and then use lead nurturing and other marketing techniques to obtain the information needed to identify leads who fit the right buyer personas. The databases lead gen providers have at their disposal expedite much of this information gathering and jump right to identifying which leads have buying intent.
How did these agencies obtain all of this information?
According to John Fedrick on Quora, lead generation services build their databases from a variety of sources, including social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and list acquisition.
2. Content syndication
So if the database does the targeting, then what actually makes people convert? This is where content syndication comes in.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, content syndication is essentially pushing your content to other channels in order to increase brand awareness and drive traffic back to your own site.
Traditionally, this has been accomplished by taking posts that have already been published on your site and partnering with other blogs to get them to post the piece. RSS feeds are another common medium for syndication, but these are done with the hope that larger sites will find the content interesting and pick it up.
But even if you do get your content published on a partner site, there are still several degrees of separation between the blog post you’ve syndicated and the action you want visitors to take.
Also, you may be able to broadly ascertain the readership of the blog, but you’ll still need to put up sorting mechanisms (such as progressive profiling) to separate leads who will never meet your criteria from those that do.
Lead generation services may use some of the previously mentioned syndication techniques, but they’ll likely use email to disseminate your content throughout their gargantuan network. And each email campaign will be hyper-targeted — thanks to the powerful data infrastructure these organizations bring to bear.
Why do they use email? Because it’s still one of the most effective mediums for generating leads.
Yes, telemarketing. It may have a less than sterling reputation in the consumer market, but B2B telemarketing is usually viewed in a different light.
While consumer telemarketing is usually predicated on regional and demographic data, B2B telemarketing uses firmographic data to better target leads. In fact, an SCI survey of 200 department managers found that only four percent found sales calls at work to be annoying, compared to 35 percent who found telemarketing annoying outside of the work environment:
The difference in setting heavily influences the respondents’ perspectives. At work, department managers expect to field sales calls, and in some cases these calls may provide new product or industry information the manager wasn’t aware of.
This willingness to participate in sales calls is one of the reasons Marketing Charts ranked phone calls as the second-best way for B2B salespeople to reach prospects besides referrals.
The goal of telemarketing campaigns can vary, but the most common goal is to set appointments for conversations with your sales team. The scripts and processes associated with telemarketing programs are typically proprietary, so you’ll need to talk through the details of this strategy with your service provider.
4. Lead nurturing
The previous two strategies, telemarketing and content syndication, are both outbound strategies, but that’s not the only type of outsourced lead generation available. Certain lead generation vendors have inbound programs set up that nurture leads from the top of the funnel to toward the buying stages at the bottom.
Again, the details of lead nurturing programs are less clear, because agencies may use these programs as a means to develop leads to sell to their clients or they may simply do lead nurturing for their own internal purposes.
However, if you find a vendor who does offer this service to their clients, then you’d be wise to learn more about their product offering, because nurtured leads with detailed contact information are much more likely to convert than leads at the top of the funnel.
Of course, these four offerings only scratch the surface of what the outsourced lead generation market offers. However, they do supply you with a solid framework for understanding the types of services in which these organizations specialize. Make sure to develop standards for ROI and test the ability of a company to work within your specifications when choosing a vendor.