“Our lead generation budget is too big and creates too many sales opportunities,” said no company, ever. An effective lead generation strategy depends on successful tactics. Traditional approaches are failing—fast—because those approaches are under attack.
But, who’s doing the attacking? In most cases, these threats come from previously friendly sources. Lead generation engines like search, social media, and paid placement are handled by platforms that are now entering a disintermediation phase.
Even the most powerful lead generation approach—trade shows, conventions and other in-person events—are under attack because of cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If and when they do return, organizations like the Trade Show News Network predict that many will be transformed into hybrid events that will create a new set of lead generation challenges.
Let’s take a closer look at who’s attacking your sales lead generation, and what can be done about it.
The elimination of cookies
One of lead generation’s biggest allies recently announced a new direction. Like other search engines and platforms, Google had already moved to eliminate third-party cookies used to target ads. Now, Google itself will no longer track individual users as they browse the web.
The search giant describes this move as charting its own course to a “more privacy-first web.” Google’s David Temkin recently posted an article that provides more insight into the approach, saying that the decision is based on being customer-centric.
Individual data gathered by cookies may indeed help to deliver relevant advertising, but it’s led to what Temkin calls an “erosion of trust.” He quotes statistics from a study by Pew Research Center showing that 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies, and 81% say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits.
And let’s not forget the European Union’s GDPR data privacy laws which also dramatically impact cookie use.
To be fair, cookies aren’t all bad. They save user preferences, auto-complete forms, and generally assist with a better user experience. But without the ability to depend on Google and other platforms for this data to assist with retargeting and user activity, lead generation is left in the dark. Put on your battle armor if you like, there’s little or no way to protect this lead generation tool—even though cellular companies like T-Mobile have recently announced that they’ll soon start sharing data with advertisers to help with relevancy. Information collected won’t be attributable to an identity; however, it will link to a unique mobile advertising identifier that will only be applicable to the carrier’s subscribers.
The good news? Everybody is losing this tool, even if they weren’t using it for lead generation. So, it’s time to build a better cookie jar—or maybe even abandon the idea of this approach to lead generation altogether.
“Cable Cowboy” John Malone usually gets credit for the term. It’s a closed technology platform or ecosystem where the owner controls applications, content, media, and who can interact with users. Facebook and other social media platforms are today’s transformed versions of what Malone used to create with his cable companies.
These social media platforms are so massively popular that marketers have gladly looked the other way when considering the sober fact that they do not own, nor can they take away the information gleaned from data generated by the platforms.
On one hand, it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly be unable to rely on social media platforms as a lead generation tool. On the other hand, Facebook and its social media platform friends understand more than ever the value of the walled gardens they created.
As a marketer, you do not own the relationship you have with these prospects. You cannot use this data to continue the conversation for lead generation because it’s anonymous – you know you’re talking to someone, but you don’t know who and you don’t have their contact information. You are renting the relationship, and the price keeps going up. You will continue to pay more for temporary access to target audiences. You will only ever be able to access this audience using the platform’s audience management gateway. You will always be forced to comply with ever changing rules and limitations. Ever have your Facebook ad rejected? Reasons are a moving target.
It’s time to stop paying rent for the revocable privilege of lead generation. There are better options.
Ad bot fraud
Even with cookies and renting the services of walled garden platforms, only about a quarter of your digital ad spend reaches a real person. It’s estimated that up to $7 billion is wasted annually on bot-driven fraud.
There’s money to be made by those involved in fraud—your lead generation dollars. Real ad impressions are counterfeited by bots impersonating actual users. These bots demonstrate false genuine interest in ads served by websites by impersonating a device allegedly owned by a human. Device-driven fraud happens across all platforms. Those walled gardens are not immune.
Regardless of how legitimate or trusted the source, they’re unknowingly mixing fraudulent bot traffic with actual human registered intent. Your lead generation ends up capturing virtual nonentities that have no interest in buying your product or service – or in buying anything for that matter – bots don’t shop!
Fake sites featuring useless content, and fake apps with fraudulent inventory are gnawing away at your lead generation budget’s ability to provide actual prospect identification, too. Marketers end up with:
- Skewed lead generation attribution reports that cause you to make bad choices on digital advertising campaigns.
- Flawed analytics about who’s actually interested in buying your product or service right now.
- Overinflated PPC costs when fraud bots click and register intent.
- No way to measure the lifetime value probability of a target audience because these bots are not and never will be your customers.
There’s only one way to defeat adbot fraud, and that’s to stop using—or at least dramatically decrease your reliance on—casting a wide net on the educated guess of an anonymous digital entity’s motive for clicking on your ad.
Will trade shows and conventions ever go back to being a lead generation powerhouse?
About 40 percent of organizations engaging in B2B marketing say that live events such as trade shows and conventions is a top source for leads. Nearly 95 percent of mid to senior-level marketers say that live events are a crucial opportunity for prospects to form in-person connections that nurture and result in sales.
While the B2B trade show market size grew to about $15.6 billion in 2019, it plummeted to just $5.6 billion in 2020. Forecasts predict that even out as far as 2024, the market size will still hover more than $1.1 billion below its 2019 peak.
Most B2B sales cycles are already longer. Many organizations know they can’t wait for the sales lead engine built into live events to return—if it ever will. Virtual events are on the rise, as are webinars and other tech-powered alternatives to physical gatherings.
At first it seems that it should be easy to transform a physical event into a virtual one. Even if you do, there’s still a considerable obstacle that’s been created by the work from home mandates businesses enacted as a result of COVID-19. Traditional identity resolution of prospects visiting your website were somewhat helpful because you could employ tools to identify company names by server ID. B2B prospects working from home will be even more anonymous because the server ID is going to be their local telecom provider at their home address.
If you build it, they will come—but is it too late?
The general consensus is that only 3 percent of the B2B prospects in your market are actually ready to buy your product or service right now. The obstacles we’ve already talked about are already making it more difficult to identify those prospects as viable leads. It’s why you’ve been hearing about website visitor tracking tools that are able to identify who’s visiting and what they’re interested in.
It’s why there’s ongoing interest in lead generation solutions such as Visual Visitor and Lead Forensics. These tools can tell you the name of the company the person visiting your website works for – if they search from within their company network. In the PPE (Post-Pandemic Economy) this presents several problems for your lead generation efforts:
- IP Address Identity Resolution only gives you the company name
Knowing the name of a company someone works at is nice and may be helpful to your sales team if you are targeting very small companies with few employees. If you’re targeting companies with hundreds or thousands of employees, however, it’s hard to determine which person at the company you should reach out to. Is it one of the dozens of people in marketing, or purchasing or human resources? You know the company name, but not the department or individual who visited your site. Do you want your sales team spending hours calling dozens of “potential prospects” at a company, or do you want them focused on calling actual prospects?
- Work-From-Home has made prospects even more anonymous
Secondly, COVID-19 caused most businesses to implement a work-from-home strategy. We don’t know what this will look like post-COVID. It is safe to say that now that companies have experienced the increases in productivity and decreases in costs that come with work-from-home – and employees have experienced the time savings (and improved quality of life) of not having to commute to an office in rush hour or weather-induced traffic jams – we aren’t going back to 100% in-the-office any time soon.This means that prospects will be searching for your services from their home offices – and if you’re relying on an IP address identity resolution tool such as Lead Forensics or Visual Visitor, all you will get is their home Internet Service Provider identity – not their company name, and not their individual name.
- Once someone is on your website, it’s probably already too late
Forrester Research determined that 67% percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. If a buyer’s journey is that far along, they’re likely at the consideration stage—or even ready to make a decision – once they land on your site.Identifying them at this late stage is probably too late. They’ve probably already chosen a vendor. Is finding out who they are only at this point helpful? Certainly not for lead generation and nurturing.
The AI/ML game changer
Organic search, social media, and even cold calls/cold email don’t work anymore. Crumbling cookies, walled gardens, and battling adbot fraud are diminishing your visibility and your ability to accompany a prospect on their buyer’s journey. You either join too late—and the decision has already been made—or you simply don’t know who’s looking to buy right now in your market and where they are at in the buyer’s journey. They don’t want to fill out forms on your website. They can’t be tracked because they choose to be anonymous. Or their identities are obscured by advertising platforms who prefer to own that relationship.
The answer is Identity Resolution. You can’t wait for prospects to visit your website. You need to know who these leads are as soon as they’re showing the right signs as a buyer. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are capable of sifting through billions of points of information to piece together multiple devices and usernames either behind walled gardens or obscured by general IP addresses and resolve this information as a single actual human being who is ready to make a purchase.
It’s not a look-alike clone of someone who might be interested because they have similar characteristics. Identity Resolution delivers the name and contact information of who in your market is looking for your product or service. It can even identify what they’ve searched for.
You can continue to try to hold your ground and circle the wagons around an existing digital lead generation strategy, or you can dispense with it and tap into AI-enhanced methods of Identity Resolution, which simply remove obstacles caused by the new challenges thrown out by search engines, walled gardens, adbot fraud, and a growing desire by prospects to remain anonymous. It’s so powerful that Mark Cuban advises businesses to use it or face the prospect of being a dinosaur.
Learn more about how AI-powered Identity Resolution delivers exclusive, qualified sales leads for your business. Visit our website and learn more about how we can help you.