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January 2023

Beware of Lead Gen “Silver Bullets”: A Short Story

We were chatting to a potential client about lead gen campaigns. We’d wowed them with our ideas and approach (obvs) and we were getting into the nitty gritty of “what good looks like”.

(Because you know we underpin EVERYTHING we do with metrics and measures of success).

We’d done our modelling based on audience sizes, conversion rates, pipeline velocity etc. and produced a view on what the art of the possible was. All hunky dory.

But the client then asked us to commit to delivering a guaranteed number of leads. Which may sound like a reasonable thing to request, but caused alarm bells to ring.

Here’s why.


Lead Gen Alarm Bells

We always do our absolute best to (and more often than not) deliver success on our clients terms, but there are never any guarantees when it comes to marketing. It’s all part of its wonderfully frustrating beauty as a discipline.

The answer to the question “Will this work?” should always be “It depends”.

There are no silver bullets. And if there were silver bullets and a “guaranteed” way of doing marketing, then surely everyone would be using them and no one would ever have a challenge with marketing ever again.

Anyone guaranteeing anything in terms of results that marketing will deliver is – in our humble opinion – either painfully inexperienced in the field or a bit of a chancer who’s probably had a drop of luck and now thinks they’ve “unlocked the magic formula for marketing success”.


Buyer Beware

Looking specifically at lead gen however, any agency or partner guaranteeing to deliver a quantity of leads for you will probably be doing 1 or more of the following things:


  • Keeping the threshold for what constitutes a “lead” very low. A name and an email address isn’t a “lead”, it’s contact information (at best). Someone clicking on an email isn’t a lead, it’s an email click. A link to someone’s LinkedIn profile isn’t a lead, it’s a link to a LinkedIn profile. In lead gen terms this is all pure junk.


  • Reselling these “leads” to multiple buyers. Just having a list of contacts that can be segmented by industry/role/whatever and allowing people to access it (for £$€) isn’t “lead gen”. It’s data peddling and/or list buying. So be very cautious if you’re offered a cost per lead – more than £50 PER CONTACT in some cases! – or discounts if you’re engaging in multiple “lead gen campaigns”. You’re basically just paying for more junk at a cheaper rate.


  • Washing their hands of things as soon as the “lead” is handed over. The “lead” didn’t convert? Well, did you ring them 17 times to qualify it? No? Well sorry, that’s your fault then. (An actual response I had once upon a time when on the client-side!)


Feeding the Beast

The thing is, looking for a guaranteed number of leads (and making sure that’s a big number) feels like the right thing to do and it feels safe. Especially when you’ve got a sales teams breathing down your neck saying “WHERE’S THE LEADS THEN,  MARKETING?!”. You need to feed the beast after all.


But when the beast then says “These leads are terrible! What on earth are you playing at, Marketing?!” you’re back to square one.

So the question becomes something along the lines of; would you rather have 500 “leads” that make you feel good (but then just go into a CRM and are left to rot for 6 months before being deleted out again) or 90 leads that are actually leads, convert through the pipeline at pace, and deliver ROI?

We know what we’d prefer.

With lead gen, quality always trumps quantity.


Lead Gen & The Bigger Picture

It’s also worth noting that lead gen can’t exist and deliver results for a sustained period of time in and of itself. There’s the age old stat that only 5% of your audience are actually buying or intending to buy right now.

With lead gen alone you’re fishing in the same pond as your competitors trying to lure one of these 5% onto your hook (just like everyone else is) whilst completely ignoring the 95% who will be buying at some point in the future.


Lead gen is (or should be) one element of your marketing activity and part of a bigger conversation around a strategic approach to marketing that incorporates brand building, demand gen, and the alignment of marketing activity to wider business strategy and goals (amongst myriad other things). But that’s a whole other blog post.

Anyway, getting back to the story about silver bullets…


Happily ever after?

We talked this through with the client and made the case as per what you’ve just read. We drew our line in the sand. What did the client think? What was their response?

In short, a happy ending for everyone.

They trusted our experience, could see we were talking sense, and we signed off everything with them (and got the ball rolling on campaign build and execution in short order).

And the results? Watch this space as the campaign itself hasn’t yet launched. But here are few other examples of where we’ve turbo-charged growth for other clients who are on the same page with the approach to Lead Gen:


So, there we have it.

That’s what you can learn about marketing from a stand-up comedian.

If you’re keen to find out more and also see some case study examples of where we’ve put all this thinking into practice for the likes of NetApp, Q Associates, Panasonic TOUGHBOOK, Logicalis, and Proact (to name a few) just drop us a line.