Putting the human touch back into lead generation

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I don't know about you, but as a b-to-b marketer who focuses on telesprospecting and lead nurturing, even I'm a bit overwhelmed by the fervor around social media marketing. Don't get me wrong. I've blogged for five years, and I've been Twittered, LinkedIn, Facebooked—and I'm waiting to be Pownced. But I think all these activities specifically in terms of lead generation can be “mis-leading” us to think that the amount of time we spend connecting virtually translates into successful lead nurturing and boosted sales. In terms of virtual lead-generation activities, we all need to collectively understand both offline and online that the real key lies in actively creating nurturing, trustworthy and “edu-focused” communication with potential customers or partners. B-to-b marketing in particular is really about how to collectively serve our clients so they can excel in their own businesses. I challenge you to ask, in these days of social media marketing and emoticons in e-mails, if b-to-b marketers are still spending enough time adding the human touch. Adding the human touch in lead-generation and lead-nurturing programs is still one of the most vital ways to truly connect on a deeper level with your potential customers. And the challenge for all of us—no matter what the advancements, what the decade and what the latest tools are—still comes down to creating a customer. Lead nurturing is about building trusted relationships with the right people. It is helping them understand that you understand their journey and decision-making process. How many of us take time to just sit with a potential customer and listen to their issues? And how many of us know the questions customers are asking themselves? Here are the most important ones: * How will this product/service help my company? * We're doing OK. Why do we need it? * Is there another company out there that is better? * Will its solution really work? Can it prove it? * Is the company credible? * Can we afford it? Lead nurturing and real communication should help people find the answers to these questions and remind them of the benefits of working with you. And in terms of lead-generation activities themselves, some of your lead-generation tactics may generate more inquiry activity than others, but that doesn't mean they are more valuable. I've talked with marketers who have analyzed their lead-generation campaigns and found some initially proved less effective at driving actual ROI but, on a long-term basis, they ultimately did produce substantial lead prospects. These insights and ROI measurements can only be gleaned over the long term, but if your status quo is to continue driving more campaign activity, you may never know the difference. At some point, if we are willing to stop and examine our decisions and the building social status quo, we will likely catch ourselves before starting more low-value activities or quit before we pursue them further. Now that's time well spent. I also have some tenets I keep in mind in terms of the complex sale challenges that b-to-b marketers face: * More ROI is reaped from the patient tending of potential customers (relationships) over time. If you commit yourself to engaging potential prospects long term rather than short term, you will gain customers for life. * Lead generation is a conversation, not a series of disjointed campaigns (or twitters, or Facebook photos exchanged or LinkedIn connects). * Build relationships with the right people and companies regardless of their time to buy. * Engage people as early in their buying process as possible (preferably before) so you can help create and influence their vision. * Companies don't buy, people do. Don't ever forget the human touch. I believe the phone is still the single best way to reach decision-makers and to begin a dialog when you have a complex sale. Just as a real cup of coffee makes one linger and listen far longer than a virtual one. Brian Carroll is CEO of InTouch Inc., part of the MECLABS Group, and author of “Lead Generation for the Complex Sale” (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and the B2B Lead Generation Blog ( He can be reached at
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