The first was a survey of B2B marketers, conducted by the Information Technology Services Marketing Association. Results from the survey were published on the blog of eMarketers, in a post (hyperbolically?) titled Is This the End of B2B Marketing as We Know It?
This survey showed the shifting priorities of B2B marketers, with survey respondents indicating their top priorities for 2014 and 2016. In 2014, the top priorities had been:
- brand positioning
- lead generation, and
- brand communications.
Within two years, the surveyed marketers projected their top priorities to be:
- understanding buyers
- marketing technology tools, and
- competitor analysis.
For 2016, lead generation dropped into 5th place.
No doubt, this shift in projected priorities reflects the rising importance of social and mobile, and the need for brands to be where their customers are, offering them just what they want, at exactly the right time. No doubt.
But… the end of marketing as we know it? More on this a bit later.
The second survey that caught my eye was not a survey of marketers, but a survey of hiring and HR managers conducted by CareerBuilder. One of the things the survey asked was about hiring plans for permanent, full time staff in 2015. According to the survey results, what business function ended up in the #1 spot? Sales. Which, let me hasten to add, involves lead generation.
Now, I don’t seriously think that any serious marketer seriously thinks that lead gen is dead. Seriously. But, there was a third article that caught my eye, a little tangentially, about brand relevance in the social web, extolling the virtues of being “interesting” on Buzzfeed. Here, I take “interesting” to mean “attention getting”.
As digital markers, we are all too aware of the difficulty of creating interest and engagement as the digital space becomes increasingly fragmented and segmented. And getting attention is no small thing, and not to be taken lightly.
However, in the rush to be seen and liked, let us not forget the importance of lead generation. We can collect all the fans-follows-friends in the world, but at some point, someone in a suit is going to ask, “So what? How did that increase sales?”
How are your social media campaigns leading people towards a conversion? Your blog posts? Your videos and pictures?
Going forward, knowing our customers will become ever more important. Getting noticed will continue to be important. But, once we have someone’s attention, let’s not forget to ask ourselves that very important follow-up question, “Yes, but now what?”
Lead Gen, I think reports of your death have been premature.