It’s safe to say when Facebook launched in 2004, most marketers didn’t realize social networking and social media would forever change how business is done. Don’t feel too bad if you were among them — Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg probably had no idea he was unleashing a game-changing, lead-generating marketing tool at the time, either. Lots of marketing tools, tactics and trends began to gain traction with consumers as 2011 came to a close, and they continue to show promise for improved lead generation this year. Here’s what we think savvy inbound marketers should keep in mind as they plan, budget, analyze and adapt their lead generation and lead management strategies for 2012.
1. Mobile/M-commerce: Virtual Grocery Shopping in the Subway
Between tablets and smartphones, mobile is going to reach a tipping point. Last summer, UK-based grocer Tesco began testing virtual grocery shopping in subways and at bus stops in Seoul, South Korea, by outfitting subway station walls and bus stop kiosks with virtual grocery shelves. Photographs emulate store shelves, and each product is highlighted with a QR code. Commuters who have downloaded Tesco’s Homeplus mobile app could point their smartphone cameras at the QR codes, pay using their smartphones, and, if they order before 1 p.m., have the groceries delivered to any address that same day. Smartphones will continue to cannibalize standalone electronic device sales — analysts predict smartphone sales will hit $200 billion in 2012, a 52% increase over 2011 as consumers tote their smartphones with them everywhere they go.
Mobile tactics figure to become substantial sources of lead generation including the aforementioned QR codes, near-field and Bluetooth communications, social check-in promotions, mobile search, mobile Web, text/SMS/MMS, email and mobile advertising.
Next Step: If you don’t yet have a mobile strategy, start planning one, then implement it. If you have a mobile strategy, hone in on what’s working and what’s not when it comes to lead generation. Jettison underperforming channels, and add one or two new ones.
2. It’s Personal — Very Personal
With the recent announcement by search giant Google to merge its public search with its Google+ social network, this trend — which began to gather steam in 2011 — will realize substantial momentum in the coming year. Personalization technologies that let users decide from whom they will and won’t receive marketing messages or which emails receive priority in their inbox and which shall languish in email purgatory took hold in 2011 will continue to evolve requiring marketers in 2012 to be exceptionally focused on segmenting their audiences and delivering the right messages to each consumer in order to grow their leads.
Next Step: Examine the tools and techniques available to help you personalize your customers’ experiences so your brand is better integrated into their lives. Give them more choices — and more informed choices — to personalize their experience with your brand. Use this personalization to drive lead gen.
3. GeoSocial Mobile
GeoSocial Moblie began to spark interest in the 18 to 34 demographic in 2011. Geosocial services, such as Foursquare or Gowalla, which enable consumers to let people in their social networks know their whereabouts in real time — “checking in” — and comment on the venues they’re visiting will grow. Marketers who leverage GeoSocial Mobile to generate leads while, for example, consumers are raving about the killer apps — in this case, the appetizers at the hot club du jour — via geosocial services can still gain early adopter advantages.
Next Step: Claim your page in the geosocial services that are the most used in your area. Dip a toe into the waters with some clever promotions that get people excited, build buzz, and of course, generate leads in the process.
4. An Appetite for Apps
Today’s apps must meet a higher standard before consumers download them and integrate them into their mobile digital routines. A useful tool for lead generation and building brand loyalty, apps in 2012 must provide clear benefit and functionality, must constantly evolve to keep users engaged and interested, and should have a certain cachet in terms of what you might call digital style elements, cool animations or other features that, while small, delight users.
Next Step: Not every business needs an app, but if your business can add value to users’ lives by offering one, start exploring the process. Remember, an app is a long-term investment that requires lots of care and feeding, so don’t jump in until you fully understand what’s required. If you already have an app, come up with new ways to keep it fresh and keep the leads coming.
5. Automation Nation
A hundred years ago, marketers had just a handful of channels to reach consumers — newspapers, magazines, catalogs and outdoor signage (learn how digital signage can benefit retail outlets). Today, there are dozens of channels, subchannels within those channels, and new ones being conceived almost every week. Marketing automation came of age in 2011 and, in 2012, it will become essential in generating and managing leads throughout the sales funnel. As consumers and the technologies they use become more sophisticated, the lead-nurturing process becomes more critical, necessitating a comprehensive marketing platform to feed offers and content to prospects based on timing or actions they have taken that warrant additional contact.
Next Step: Automation for automation’s sake is worse than no automation at all. Use a comprehensive marketing automation platform with a solid marketing strategy that considers all your marketing channels for lead generation. Work on improving what happens to those leads after they come in to gain maximum effectiveness from your automation solution.
6. Information Integration
As marketers become more adept at lead generation using automation technologies, the amount of information gathered grows exponentially. The need to integrate all that customer data from inquiry to sale will be critical in 2012 and beyond. As segmentation continues to play a bigger role in how customers are approached, the number of channels used increases, the number of messages increases, and the need to give sales and marketing a 360-degree view of all customer interactions, an integrated marketing platform becomes essential.
Next Step: There is TMI — too much information — to not have a reliable means of integrating it all. Unless your leads are connected to your nurturing programs and your nurturing programs are connected to sales and service, you are leaking valuable data. Make 2012 the year you integrate your marketing from top to bottom.
7. Social Remains Center-Stage
Social media as a lifestyle and as a marketing tool became fully actualized in 2011. Marketers no longer questioned the effectiveness and importance of using social media, such as blogging and social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The lead-generation challenge in 2012 will be how to remain relevant in the conversation with the customers who have accepted you into their networks. The addition of chronology into the social dialogue with features, such as Facebook Timeline, means that marketers need to work harder than ever to keep consumers engaged with timely, relevant and useful content if they want to continue to maintain mindshare and screen space.
Next Step: The social media monster is a hungry one — it almost never has enough content. Use your inbound marketing platform combined with a solid social media editorial calendar to continue to use social media to generate leads but now, in a planned, coordinated, integrated manner that maximizes your social media ROI.
With lead generation at the heart of all inbound marketing efforts, make 2012 your best year ever by being more social, more mobile, more local, more integrated, automated and personal than ever before.