Oh no, another article listing trends and promising lead generation marketing on steroids?
I understand if you are skeptical. Trends come and go. Some, like email marketing automation, change the game. Others, like the professed beacon revolution, flop hard and fall into oblivion. And yet others, like QR codes, against all odds make the most impressive comebacks.
Still, I believe it’s important to talk about the changes and shifts in lead generation marketing because if there ever was a time that erased traditional marketing blueprints, it was 2020.
Whole industries were transformed amid a crisis that shook up the market foundations, staggered leaders, and gave rise to new competitors. And yet, despite all the difficulties businesses might have faced, stakeholders and customers kept demanding more.
Even before the worldwide COVID tumble, an Accenture study reported that over 75% of CMOs admitted that past marketing formulas couldn’t hold up against the new disruptors, which seem able to win by delivering more relevant CX.
What are these disruptors? Or, more importantly, are they even relevant and achievable to your mid-market business?
In this article, I’m going to focus on strategies and technologies you can actually apply.
What is Lead Generation Marketing in 2022?
The concept of lead generation marketing — enticing and capturing interest in a product or service so the lead can enter the conversion funnel — hasn’t changed. It’s still all about sourcing information and assigning priority levels.
For me, though, this concept, and the one of demand generation, are one and the same thing. That’s, if you use the following, correct definition of a lead — a person who shows interest in a brand’s products or services, which makes them a potential customer.
The best lead/demand generation marketing provides you with data that allows you to score and nurture the leads on a personalization level that doesn’t feel automated — on a level that puts quality customer experience to the forefront from the very first touchpoint.
For consistency’s sake, I’ll keep talking about lead generation throughout this article, but keep in mind that, in my perspective, that encompasses what you might still consider the different concept of demand generation.
Now, let’s dive into the most actionable lead generation marketing trend that might just give you the conversion rates you’ve been envisioning for 2022.
What are the Lead Generation Marketing Trends to Use in 2022?
I’ve organized this article into a numbered list to make it easier to digest. Though, my belief is that all of the lead generation strategies and tips below have the greatest chance of success when approached as pieces of the same puzzle, depending on and driving each other.
1. Demand Gen Over Lead Gen
I know I said these are the same to me, and I haven’t changed my mind since that paragraph. However, a lot of marketers still split them into two concepts, and approach them in different ways.
A while back, I interviewed Cognism’s CMO, Alice de Courcy, on the topic of moving away from lead generation into demand generation. Alice believes that the lead generation approach, typically implemented by gating content and nurturing the "leads" with automated e-mail sequences and sales outreach, no longer works as it ignores fundamental changes in the market and consumer behavior, which are a big deal, considering how much the world has changed over the last two years. The key to this thought process, she elaborates, is in “really understanding and acknowledging that marketers won't move people in the market. They’ll move themselves in the market.”
For that reason, Alice rebuilt Cognism’s strategy to focus “on dividing it in converting the 1% that are in market, but then actually generating demand in the 99% that aren't.”
This way, she concentrated her energies on expanding her audience and generating new opportunities instead of “forcing people through funnels when they're not ready to buy. We've really adapted to a change in how people want to be marketed to and how they want to take on information and buy products.”
This has been working well for Cognism, and it might just work out for you, too, if you change your approach to lead vs. demand generation. We’ll have to wait and see how this trend play out this year, and reconvene in the 2023 edition of this article.
2. Website Chatbots
Chatbots exploded a few years back, fueling our sci-fi expectations of artificial intelligence on the level of human sentience. No need to remind you it was a huge disappointment. One that gave bots a lousy image they were unable to shake since.
Humor me a little and forget all you think you know about chatbots, and let’s look at them from a fresh post-2020 perspective.
Despite being hard on us all, 2020 gave the green light to creativity and innovation and gave us collective lightbulb moments that would have taken us years to reach otherwise.
Innovation turned from a perk to a necessity, and with that, chatbots got a second chance.
Now, when I talk about chatbots, I don’t necessarily mean NLP + Machine Learning chatbots. Yes, conversational AI is essential, and those kinds of assistants have their time, place, and application. But chatbots are much more than AI… or should I say much less? In any case, I am trying to draw your attention to the simple “dumbed-down” bots no one ever expected to live up to human complexity. The ones that take leads down predetermined paths of a carefully designed decision tree.
Because a simple conversational interface might just be the status-quo-breaking lead generation software, we’ve all been waiting for.
The secret to their success is the conversational approach that is just so natural on desktop as well as mobile and combines it with the practicality of a traditional user interface. In other words, they keep the turn-taking, information, and chatty vibe while removing the insecurity so often induced by AI natural language processing bots.
Rule-based chatbots with rich interfaces don’t leave the users in an agony of thinking about what they can or cannot ask or how they should ask it so the bot won’t get confused… Forget that.
Website bots are the top lead generation trend because they are the new online forms.
Online forms dominated the lead gen space for years, but they just can’t keep up. Traditional web forms lack the immediacy, the personalization, and “CX Factor” consumers are so vehemently demanding.
On the other hand, chatbots remove the “form dread,” conversationalize the interaction, collect and instantly apply the collected data into practice, customizing the flow for each lead.
The power and actionability of website chatbots as the next lead generation marketing trend is not just in their ability to convert. It’s also in their accessibility and ease of application.
You might still be a chatbot skeptical at this point, so let me tell you the cautionary tale of Growth Sprints’ Brendan Hufford. I interviewed Brendan for an episode of the Ungated Marketing podcast, where he admitted he became a “fan of conversational marketing out of necessity,” but once he started using chatbots, he “realized [their] potential as a conversion tool.”
He noticed chatbots were driving much more conversion for his clients than he was by focussing solely on SEO, his area of expertise at the time. The numbers he gave me can’t really be argued with: “The chatbots [were] eating my lunch; [they’re] making it look like I'm not driving more conversions. Because, you know, leads are only up by 5% or 10%. [...] But the chatbot is up like 80%.”
One of the reasons chatbots help drive conversions is on-page lead qualification.
Chatbots, especially rule-based ones, create the perfect balance between quality experience and data collection.
Firstly, unlike forms, they draw the users visiting your website into a conversation, a turn-taking dance that fills the craving for instant satisfaction.
Secondly, they can do so in a friendly and engaging manner, not just because of the conversational format but also because you will be able to showcase your brand identity, vision, and image through your bot avatar’s personality.
Thirdly, chatbots give you a gift or automated real-time personalization thanks to a feature called conditional logic. Conditional logic in bots allows you to divert paths based on the user meeting one or a series of conditions.
For example, if a user is a top-level decision-maker, the company has between 50-150 employees, is based in your best-performing market geographically, and the need is immediate. The bot can personalize the communication and push the lead directly to your sales team in real-time or help them set up an appointment. But suppose a lead matches all of the above EXCEPT the user is not a decision-maker in the company. In that case, the bot can instead push materials that would help them present your solution and persuade their company leaders.
Better yet, with a bit more work, you can create a bot that doesn’t just capture the qualitative data but assigns numeric values and scores them accordingly. If you are curious, check out this guide to creating a lead qualification bot with this specific functionality!
Rather than simply creating a lead magnet haphazardly generating more leads, create one that qualifies them, right there and then. Applying a conversational on-page qualification strategy will help your team automate while delivering the high-quality UX your leads deserve. And they're not only for the web, which brings me to the next point...
3. Instant Messaging Marketing
Using messaging apps in your lead generation marketing is not exactly a shocking revelation.
Many popular apps such as Messenger, Line, WeChat, or Viber have been open to businesses for quite some time. Furthermore, WhatsApp joining the list of business-friendly messaging platforms in 2018 really locks the direction in which things are moving.
However, 2020 orchestrated a giant leap in the matter of consumer acceptance. Even people who didn’t interact with a business using a messaging app (whether live or via chatbot) before were given a chance to experience convenience.
So, what makes a messaging app so much better than email, phone calls, or even a website bot/live chat? There are two reasons:
Customers’ Comfort Zones
Using messaging apps allows you to approach leads in an environment where they feel at home and comfortable. They have the power. They dictate the rules. And no, it’s not the same as email. Going to check a new message feels much more comfortable than checking your inbox. Replying to a message is much quicker and more natural than responding to a message.
For companies, reaching out to customers where they feel more comfortable also represents a business opportunity. Antony Chacko, the founder of Alpha Marketer, explains that “[having] a platform like WhatsApp, [allows you to] start a conversation. And the conversation, even if people abandoned the website, you can carry over [to] their phone,” increasing the chances of them purchasing something from you.
Thanks to asynchronicity, messaging apps take instant satisfaction to the next level. A level where “instant” is not even that important. Not only do they offer the convenience of the instant response from your side, but they also allow the consumer to respond whenever they want, be it instantly, in an hour, or the next day. It’s so powerful that a recent study reported a messaging app to be the best-rated channel among customers even though it wasn’t the fastest. A few minutes' delay on a desktop can be fatal. On a messaging app, it’s not a big deal because consumers don’t have to wait around staring at the screen. They can get on with their lives. In other words, it erases the stress of waiting.
These two things alone guarantee messaging apps will continue to play a critical role in lead generation marking in 2022. And the results are already out there.
Hash Ads, one of our customers, helped Stars of Africa, the biggest youth football academy in South Africa, boost player trials by 60% using a WhatsApp chatbot to guide players through the trial registration process. And Plum, an employee benefits platform that provides medical cover for organizations, is now processing 80% of user claims via WhatsApp, which improves both the user experience and the team’s efficiency.
4. Audio/Video Content
The video marketing trend erupted in 2019. According to Hubspot’s survey, 87% of businesses used video as a marketing tool that year, marking a 26% increase since 2016. The trend carried over well into 2020, noting only a minimal decrease with 85% claiming to use video for marketing. The more important thing is 92% of those businesses using video reported a positive impact on ROI. This has been the highest percentage yet.
Once again, no news here. Audio and video content has been on the rise for years. Podcasts, webinars, demos, live streams, product videos on your web, and all kinds of videos on your social media became particularly essential in 2020 when the face-to-face element has been taken off the table.
Podcasts in particular have been gaining a lot of traction over the last few years, with a 51% increase in listeners since 2019 in the US alone. According to Infinite Dial 20, 55% (155 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast in 2020, a 4% increase from 51% in 2019.
Even though podcast audiences are increasing, that’s not the only reason they’re a great tactic. No other medium can capture the attention of our audience for almost one hour every week, create a direct connection with the face (or voice) of the brand and even have them listen to ads willingly.
For instance, The Super Listeners 2021 report showed that podcast listeners scored high in terms of ads engagement and responsiveness. An impressive 76% of the interviewed listeners said they’ve taken action after hearing an ad within a podcast, be it visiting a site, taking out a subscription, or making a purchase. The same report also found that podcast ads are the most recalled type with 86% of participants saying they remember seeing or hearing an ad.
Now, launching a proper video or audio strategy requires time and resources. So, the answer to the question of whether you should go with a podcast or video is really a more practical one. Each has its limits and benefits. Video content is excellent when you have time to sit down and focus, but when you want to catch your target audience on the move, in a car, or on the train, a podcast is more suitable.
Obviously, I am not saying you should give up on the more traditional content such as articles. Each format has a perfect use case. However, when it comes to establishing thought leadership, allowing your audience to see who you are, how you think, and who you associate with is a potent tool.
5. Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing — another veteran refusing to leave the trends section, especially when it comes to B2B.
In fact, the ABM Benchmark Survey Report by Demand Gen Report from 2019 showed 94% of B2B marketers were engaged in account-based marketing, which is a massive jump from only 47% in the 2016 results of the same report.
What is it really about?
Yaagneshwaran Ganesh, Director of Marketing at Avoma and AMB expert, explains the concept as follows: “There are two ways of looking at [lead generation]. Are you going inbound, or are you going outbound? [...] The thing is, when you get a demand that is getting generated inbound or signups coming in inbound, you don't have control of seeing how big the deal is going to be. It might be somebody coming in and just buying two licenses of your product, which is, say, for example, if it's a $10 product, you're making $20. [...] But when you go outbound, you have little more control over the kind of companies that you're going after. Now, you can say that: ‘Hey, I want to look at the company of this size, who will have these kinds of requirements.’ So [...] my numbers per account will be much better [...] but how do I go about that? So, ABM is an extension of that product thought process.”
In other words, an ABM strategy is rooted in being clear about the types of accounts where your product is a better fit, making a list, and actively pursuing them. So, it relies on collaboration between Marketing and Sales,
The most popular content types used to drive ABM include targeted content based on specific:
- Industries (68%);
- Roles (62%)
- Account challenges/needs (52%)
In terms of content formats, the most important turned out to be:
- Case studies (86%)
- Articles and blog posts (79%)
- White papers (76%)
ABM is indeed popular, but 46% of teams still admit (despite being confident about having identified their ideal customer profiles) that there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to coverage. This might be the result of the lack of automation and synchronization in the process. Actually, 80% of companies still heavily rely on sales-team-selected accounts instead of a formulated data-based targeted account list.
Hence, ABM in 2022 is about personalization and minimizing dependencies, and streamlining the processes.
For account-based marketing to be effective, your marketing and sales teams need to define a list of your ideal customers based on the value they add to your business so they can target similar profiles. After that, you can focus your resources on leads with the highest possible conversion potential. It’s the very opposite of casting a wide net over a large unidentified audience and passing all of the captured contacts to sales, regardless of their quality. In the end, ABM helps focus your team efforts and resources on leads likely to generate the most profit for your business.
Bonus tip: remember podcasts? You can invite your top target accounts as guests and chat with them for an hour, opening the door for your sales team to go in.
6. Marketing and Sales Alignment
This might come as a surprise, but marketing and sales alignment is still a significant issue for many companies. In the 2020 Linkedin report, a staggering 90% of sales and marketing professionals expressed their departments are misaligned across strategy, process, content, and culture.
Shockingly, the same percentage of surveyees agree that if the marketing and sales initiatives and messages are aligned, it positively impacts the customer experience.
Edward Ford, Demand Gen Director at Supermetrics, believes that one of the ways marketing’s success can be measured is the performance of the sales team. “Are they hitting their quota? Are they closing record deals in terms of the number of deals or deal size as well?” Since marketing can contribute to that, he further remarks that the team is doing its part to make other teams, including the sales team, successful.
Marketing and sales misalignments are a massive challenge for all, whether you choose ABM as your strategy or not. Though considering ABM is already one step toward better communication, since it kick-starts the conversation and paves the road to unified goals and KPIs.
Though that is just the beginning, if the change is to be permanent, it needs to dig deep into your processes.
Chatbots, once again, can help get your sales and marketing teams on the same page. You see the most common misalignment issues include Sales and marketing:
- Planning two different processes for engaging with potential customers;
- Not cooperating on sales funnel growth;
- Failing to integrate tools and systems.
Website chatbots centralize the engagement (conversations both automated and live) under one roof giving both teams control and overview via a friendly no-code interface. Better yet, after setting up common goals and a way to measure them, marketing and sales can work together to create conversational conversion funnels that work for them both.
Last but not least, you can easily integrate bots with most 3rd-party tools making real-time data export and import a piece of cake. For instance, Landbot includes a plethora of native integration including Google Sheets, Zapier, Salesforce, Zendesk, Mailchimp, Slack notifications, etc. which were designed with collaboration in mind. They allow you to export data out of a conversation as they are submitted as well as pull them back in when personalization is needed.
Also, bots don’t necessarily need to face your customers. They can also help out internally. For example, if it’s impossible for you to have a single system/tool for both marketing and sales, you can create bots to help team reps update or pull out fresh data from the systems at a moment’s notice.
Collaborating on creating a centralized system will also open doors to content that considers both the product (sales perspective) and the problem the customer is trying to solve (marketing perspective).
7. Community Marketing
It may not seem as straightforward as the lead generation trends mentioned up until this point, but a community can be a very powerful tool. But don’t just take it from me, take it from Michelle Goodall, the Chief Marketing Officer at Guild.
Michelle is an avid advocate of community-led marketing, who believes “there is a way of thinking about community-based marketing in the sales and the marketing funnel,” as a community can work “really well at the sort of interest and consideration and the desire areas of the marketing funnel.”
One of the most obvious roles a community can play in your funnel, and the most relevant for lead generation, is nurturing relationships with your prospects.
In Michelle’s words: “It offers you an opportunity to create a place in a space where you can showcase your expertise. You can build your credibility. You can nurture relationships with your existing clients or even your prospects as well. And essentially what you're doing is you're growing that sort of pipeline at the middle of the funnel and also improving flow to conversion.”
If you host potential leads (that might not be ready to buy your product or service for months) within a community and give them value, you are ensuring that when it’s time to make that decision they are likely to consider you rather than your competitors since “you're not just spamming them with sort of outbound stuff and activity… What you're doing is building relationships with them.”
However, if you want community marketing to pay off and indeed help with your lead generation, you can’t look at it from a barging-in-and-promoting-your-product perspective. You will need to dedicate the time to become a member of said community for the strategy to work.
Kalo Yankulov, Growth Marketer and Co-founder at Encharge.io — and community marketing expert — points out that “[you have to] try to provide value and engage with the community before promoting your software and all that, but it works pretty well if you're able to do that.”
Similarly to a video or podcast strategy, a community strategy for lead generation can be more time consuming and take more time to show results, but, as Kalo explains, “if this is your ideal customer profile that is living in that community, then I think it's totally worth it.”
Brace Yourself for Lead Generation Marketing in 2022
2020 changed the game forever. Things will never go less digital. Consumers will only grow more tech-savvy, more tech-comfy, and even more demanding of personalized treatment and your undivided attention.
Automation is the way… but only if that automation keeps a human touch.
Conversational assistants serve both of these necessities, and 2020 showed us bots are ready to disrupt and revolutionize business-customer communication.
Sure, maybe not in the sci-fi AI way we once imagined but with breathtaking efficiency and personalization (which was the initial hope & idea behind conversational assistants anyway). Plus, the no-code revolution democratized chatbot technology making them affordable and accessible to businesses of all shapes and sizes.
I listed the trends individually, so they are easier to digest. However, the reality is brands need to start bringing these efforts together if they are to survive and stay competitive in the years to come. The good news is, none of these trends are too futuristic or unattainable. They are all just a series of suggestions on how you can finetune and improve the actions you have probably already been taking.
Focus on getting the details right. Focus on aligning your goals and actions across departments and, most importantly, keep the whole cycle in mind. Lead generation marketing doesn’t stand separate from the rest, it depends on the system and the system depends on it.