Don’t focus on marketing automation when you start online lead generation

Don’t focus on marketing automation when you start online lead generation
Image by Vladislav Reshetnyak

As the CMO of a company with complex and/or expensive products/services you want to support your sales team by using the internet to generate new leads? Good decision. Now be smart and don’t let a common misconception mislead you.

Yes, I know: Big boys love new toys. But a marketing automation system is not a toy. It’s just a tool, nothing more. It’s not even necessarily required to generate leads. Of course, if you plan to pledge yourself to an inbound marketing strategy and stick to it, setting up a marketing automation tool makes sense. Sooner or later it makes a lot of things a lot easier. But if—for whatever reason—you cannot use a marketing automation system, this does not mean that you cannot start generating leads.

A landing page, a registration form and an simple email marketing tool are basically all of the technical assets you need to start. I know that from my own experience. OK, in this scenario you don’t have built-in personalized tracking and closed-loop analytics. You don’t have lead scoring. But for the very beginning you can live without those features. And if needs must, I even have some ideas how to recreate those features using Google Analytics and a bit of custom JavaScript.

A marketing automation tool is not the critical factor for your lead generation success

Why do so many companies talk about marketing automation before they have sorted out all of the other conceptual aspects like customer journey, buyer decision process, buyer personas, content mapping, etc.? Simply because it’s easier—and sometimes because it’s more fun, too.

It’s much easier to compare software features, test different systems or talk about APIs than to create a handful of meaningful buyer personas. Working on the conceptual part of an inbound marketing implementation sometimes feels rather uncomfortable. You have to grind out a lot of decisions. In some cases you realize that you don’t know as much about your potential customers as you would need to.

But a perfectly set up marketing automation system won’t bring you very far if you don’t know which content is the right one for a specific buyer persona in a specific stage of their customer journey. An extensive set of behavioral lead scoring rules is of no use if you don’t offer your leads something they can identify with and thus interact with.

Be a true lead generation artist

Give a piece of paper and a pencil to a person who really knows how to draw —and you get a stunning result. Some of those artists don’t even need traditional drawing materials. A box of sand or the dusty rear window of a car are enough.

Pictures On Dirty Cars

Give a super-fast PC with the latest Photoshop and an expensive touch-sensitive graphics pad to a person who has neither theoretical knowledge nor practical experience with drawing—and you’ll probably get a stick-figure.

If you put a lot of energy in choosing and implementing a marketing automation system before you have a profound concept in place, there’s a high chance that you end up with a stick-figure. So strive to be a true lead generation artist. Struggle through the sometimes uncomfortable conceptional tasks before you turn to the technical aspects of the project. This ensures that you can actually leverage the impressive opportunities of today’s marketing technology.