February 10

Creative lead generation blunder?

Lead Generation


I just heard about a “creative” lead generation campaign (second hand) that made me wince.   

The company behind the campaign does commercial leasing and counts roughly 80% of the Fortune 1000 as their customers — so they’ve done quite a few things right.  However, this so called “creative" lead generation program might be a strategic blunder. 

The pitch
The company sells to senior executives big companies.  They created a 3-dimensional direct mail package including two baseballs signed by Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and three baseball stands.  Now, if you’re a baseball fan that sounds incredible huh?

I bet you know what’s coming… if you agree to meet with us, (no obligation of course) we’ll bring you a third base ball signed by (drums please) baseball great, Hank Aaron. 

Swing – it’s a hit!
Needless to say this campaign generated a ton of executive appointments.  I wonder if these marketers (who probably are strutting around over their spectacularly program) have traced the appointments netted by the “base ball” campaign back to either new customers or new leases originated (real revenue)?  I doubt it. 

My experience is that most companies celebrate the quantity of appointment activity but the revenue results from the appointments are seldom measured.  If that happened here…

Foul ball! (Sorry – I couldn’t resist) 
I don’t get it? What do autographed baseballs have to do with commercial leasing?  This “creative" lead generation campaign seems very um, un-creative and a cop out.   

Marketers who use expensive premiums like this are practicing what I call “appointment bribery.”  I can only imagine that their marketing team ran out of good ideas that articluate their value proposition or they simply gave up and chose the path of least resistance – buying access.   

Getting past home plate (okay – I’ll stop it)
The real goal of lead generation is to help the sales team – sell by connecting your value proposition with your audiences need.  Sales people must be meeting with those who have a clear initiative, want to do something about it and meet your lead definition of being sales ready. 

That’s not someone who wants the "free" expensive gift.  I can’t imagine what the campaign cost in dollars but I can only guess at the soft costs of wasting their sales people’s time. 

Numerous studies show that companies (with complex sales) don’t see increased revenue from getting their sales people more appointments.  In some cases, it will negatively impact revenue. 

A recent report by Aberdeen Group, “Sales Effectiveness: Helping Sales Sell” concludes, “The number one issue for most CEO’s and Marketers is lead generation – getting more leads to their sales team." The number one desire for sales people however, is MORE selling time with “sales ready” opportunities. 

On last thought, if I became a customer, I would wonder how they could afford to spend money lavishly marketing to me, then haggle with me over percentage points of interest on my lease?  I would rather they save their money and focus clearly demonstrating that I could trust them to help my company save money. 

Should marketers buy access like this?  Why or why not?

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. How about this approach…

    Send a baseball with the company logo & phone number on it. Promise them they can trade it for a signed ball when they call with the next lease requirement.

    Meanwhile the first ball does the job of staying on/in their desk. Second ball gets the call when they are an active prospect…not just a lead.

  2. At least they didn’t mail shoes with a note attached that says, “Now that I’ve got my foot in the door…”

    I know somebody that actually did that in a high tech b-b sales environment.

  3. The sales exec in me wants to scream “What a colossal waste of time!” The last thing I want is my sales team burdened with unqualified sales meetings, bought with trinkets.

    This is the kind of campaign that makes your sales activity artificially high and your close ratios artificially low. It’s hard to gauge your business this way.

    Do I think marketers buy access? Yes, some do. It’s the easiest path to lead generation – if you discount quality in your metrics and don’t measure conversion to revenue.

  4. Does the promotion meet with the brand values of the commercial leasing company? Did the campaign generate an roi? If so, pretty cool campaign because commercial leasing sounds real dull to me. When the “prospect” turns up, now both parties have something in common and in my experience, people buy from people they like and share similar interests.

    I’ve worked in b2b using sponsorship and we generated millions of annual recurring revenues using techniques just like these; the baseball caps are the trigger to open a dialogue then you swing the dialogue around to business.

  5. Great Post
    This has been a pet peeve of mine for years.

    This is the kind of campaign that gets everyone excited because it’s fun, it’s different and it’s creative.

    But there is nothing difficult about generating high response rates. The real challenge is in generating both high quantity and high quality leads.

    You’re right, just being willing to accept a meeting doesn’t qualify anyone as a real prospect. And bribing your way into an appointment without any idea of the prospect sales readiness is a waste of time and money.

    I know that face-to-face contact with a prospect is a good relationship building tactic and has some value. But wouldn’t it make more sense to qualify first, before you send this mailing?

    My guess is that we’re not going to hear too many complaints from the people involved. I’m sure the response rate was good which pleases marketing. And sales people are always saying they want appointments. And who knows … maybe they will close a few deals which would cover costs and keep everyone happy.

    To the previous comment … sorry, I don’t accept the fact that this type of creative campaign is needed because commercial leasing is boring. It may be boring to you and me. But to the people they are targeting, commercial leasing is presumably an important part of their job, and anything this company can do to make their job easier will be welcome – autographed baseballs or not.

    Bob McCarthy
    McCarthy & King Marketing, Inc.
    Milford, MA 01757

  6. I agree with everyone’s premise that lead generation is intended to create revenue but we don’t have enough information here to suggest the campaign is ill-suited. I’m not familiar with the leasing business but it may be that they needed to create new relationships and needed a “foot in the door” to establish contact. If so, this campaign may turn out to be very successful.

    I think its very dangerous to judge marketing campaigns without knowing the real purpose and logic behind the strategy. (the inherent problem with creative awards) In the end, it should be intended to drive revenue but, for a long sales cycle or multi-purchase potential, this campaign could turn into a bonanza of new business that may not have been closed otherwise.

    Hub Hardeman
    Vice President

  7. David Ogilvy once said that an ad that doesn’t sell is not creative. I agree. And a direct mail campaign that generates inquiries but no ROI is not creative.

    One way to reduce the number of “freebie collectors” that you attract is to link your freebie or premium with what you are selling (a free commercial leasing audit, for example) rather than offering something that just about everyone would want for free (an AM/FM radio, for example, or autographed golf balls).


    Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation consultant who helps high-tech firms attract new clients using creative, cost-effective direct mail. Subscribe to “Sharpe & Direct,” his weekly newsletter, at http://www.sharpecopy.com or phone 1 877 SHARPE COPY.

    A. Sharpe, Copywriter
    38 Wethered Street
    London, Ontario N5Y 1G9 Canada

  8. The critical MISSING ingredient in this “brilliant” lead generation program was to qualify their leads. The fastest way to unmotivate your sales people is to send them unqualified leads. Maybe the genuises who devised this program should hit the streets and try to close some of the appointments their program setup. Let them deal with the outcome of their silly idea. Next time they might create a system that produced better, more qualified leads.

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