Lead generation...ad nauseam

I am hearing way too much about lead gen, lead gen, lead gen, as if it's the only task that deserves marketing's attention and budget. So here's an alternative perspective.

It's not.

Marketing professionals, and especially marketing professionals in software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, need to pay attention to the other parts of the job, too.

First a confession right up front. I've designed, built, fueled and serviced my share of "lead generation machines." These contraptions gobbled leads into the top, chopped & ground them into opportunities, and extruded deals out the bottom. And when the machine got balky, I crawled right inside for a tune-up. Tighten a filter here, apply some lubricant there, and crank it back up.

I assure you, I have no fear of the spreadsheets, leads/opps/deals ratios, and yield calculations that come with lead generation programs, and they do indeed have an important role.

But in some cases, the focus on lead gen - to the exclusion of other marketing activity - has gone too far. And that's not helping SaaS companies.

Companies selling SaaS solutions, even more so than those licensing on-premise applications, need to earn the trust and confidence of their prospective customers.
  • Prospects need to be comfortable that their provider can deliver useful enhancements over the life of the subscription.
  • They need to count on their vendor to provide an important application reliably.
  • They need to trust the vendor with sensitive data.
In other words, prospective customers are making purchase decisions based on the vendor's reputation.

And in SaaS companies, marketing has a critical role in establishing that reputation and projecting it to the market. They need to invest time and budget to create awareness, establish the company as a thought leader, and build a positive perception. Marketing is responsible for making prospective customers trust your company.

That's done through effective press and analyst relations, speaking engagements, by-lined articles, or participating in relevant blogs. It can't be done through lead generation programs alone. The results can't be measured in the cost per lead or the opportunity-to-win yield, but they are critical nonetheless.

SaaS companies that don't invest in establishing a positive reputation for themselves in the market will have difficulty attracting and maintaining customers.

Of course, for most marketing professionals, lead generation is still an important part of the job. And cost-effective lead generation is essential to success. (See my previous posts on hyper-spending and matching customer acquisition spending to growth.) But to paraphrase the lovely Peggy Lee, "That's not all there is, my friends."