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Where are my leads?

Many senior sales executives are still looking for a predictable flow of leads at the end of a lead acquisition and nurturing “funnel.” And while many marketers have been struggling with expectation settings around predictable lead delivery for more than a decade, their sense of panic and angst around this issue has risen to alarming levels.

So what’s going on?

First of all, the funnel metaphor is broken. People no longer make buying decisions in a linear fashion. Second of all, people no longer listen to companies, but instead they turn to advise from their peers, friends, and other users of those products. Third of all, the potential number of choices they can have in their product consideration set is much larger than it ever was before, and the information sources that can get products into a buyers consideration set has grown exponentially.

A new study published in McKinsey Quarterly (requires subscription) reports that 2/3rd of touch points in a buyer’s active evaluations process are now consumer-driven marketing touch points: user generated reviews, word of mouth, and in store interactions. Only 1/3rd of the touch points are still company-driven. DID YOU HEAR THAT? You still control 1/3rd of the touch points!

So how should you think differently about lead generation?

First of all, ditch the funnel concept, and educate sales why the funnel no longer works. Second of all, make sure that there is uniformity among all the different customer touch points that you control: in-store display, packaging, attitude of your customer service department, online product information, educational information, etc. Third of all, position yourself to be findable for when customers can be influenced during their buying cycle – and in many cases that includes post sales as well.

One of the best things to happen to marketers is that most buyers leave a digital trail as they move through their journey. When they ask friends on twitter, you can see it. If they ask peers in communities, you can see it. And when they read or contribute to online reviews, you can see it if you want to.

You just need to make sure that you are there and generally helpful when those interactions happen. You also need to make sure that your branded content can travel as part of word of mouth, not just sit idle on your site. As the McKinsey Quarterly study says, you need to give prospects reasons to switch to you instead of excuses to stay with what they have – and you need to make it super easy for them to progress through their buying cycle.

I know: easier said than done. I am hoping that in the next few weeks we can expand on some of those concepts with some real case studies.

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