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I Created a Lead, Now What? The 6 Degrees of Lead Generation

If kindergartners studied marketing and sales, probably the first thing they’d learn about is lead generation. Leads are simple, right? Everyone knows about leads – you collect them, you escort them through a pipeline, you convert them with your sales and marketing Jedi mind tricks. It’s a basic, linear process that anyone can explain.

Except when it isn’t. Because the truth is, marketing stopped being linear a long time ago. And lead generation has evolved into a multidimensional process that looks more like a matrix than a straight line.

Think about your favorite TV show. (And if you’re one of those people who are too intellectual for TV, remind me not to come to your parties.) Now it’s possible that one day you saw an ad for that show and decided to watch it right off the bat. More likely, though, the marketers of that show reached you in all kinds of ways that cumulatively piqued your interest. You saw that super-exciting commercial. Then you realized your favorite actor was in it, the one who was killed off that other show. A banner ad popped up on Facebook. Then you were eating your cereal one morning and saw the cast interviewed on a talk show. The date and time of the premier, not to mention the plotline, were now firmly etched in your mind – and you set your DVR for it.

Mission accomplished. But if someone asks what made you start watching, you probably won’t be able to point to one specific moment that you made that decision. That’s how influence works.

And that’s how it works with leads. Ask someone how many leads they’re juggling and I guarantee their answer will be dead wrong. Why? Because they’ll consult a report that uses an algorithm that’s based on only partial information. Same deal if you ask “who’s responsible for this sale?” There’s always more than one person who wants to take credit – but rarely is there just one person who drove that sale forward.

Now don’t get mad, sales geniuses. I know you’ve got a bag of tricks that can sell ice water at the North Pole. But the truth is that most of the time there’s an entire daisy chain of interactions leading up to the purchase. And that means that countless leads are orbiting your business who may not be visible in your funnel.

Consider Lead A, wandering through an expo. He stops by your booth and chats with a representative, who eventually sends him home with a one-sheeter and some swag. Lead A forgets about your company for a week, until an email from you stirs his interest again and he reads your one-sheeter. Next he goes to your website and noses around a little. Now he’s seriously considering doing business with you – so he talks to some friends, sees what they’ve heard about you, and Googles you to see what kind of presence you have in the industry. Finally, he makes the call.

Lead B takes a different path. She first encounters your brand when she reads a recommendation in an online forum. She checks out your social media accounts to get a feel for your brand flavor. She provides her email address but ignores all campaigns for eight months, then happens to stop in one of your stores. She likes the sales manager’s pitch but does not buy. A year after that she attends a Google Hangout demo and “spontaneously” decides to make a purchase.

This is the incremental, cumulative nature of influence marketing. It’s rarely one touch that seals the deal. It’s a holistic process that’s more like weaving an appealing web of entrapment than shooting a single marketing arrow.

Do relationships matter? Of course. But in a multi-channel world, where customers absorb messages from print, social media, microsites and each other, they’re compelled by multiple forces to buy. Now more than ever, consumers make more of their buying decisions before they enter the official funnel.

That means that if you opt out of 360 marketing, your presence simply won’t be as universal and enveloping as your competitors. Call it a deficit in persuasion. Call it a failure to make an impact. But as good as your team is, as skillful as your nurture programs are, you still need to create that matrix of touchpoints to turn six degrees of lead generation into sales.

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