Marketing managers have been faced with the challenge of generating leads since the dawn of the marketing industry. In simple terms, a marketing lead is an individual or organization with an interest in what a brand is selling. Without interested buyers or potential buyers, brands will inevitably fail. However, in today’s marketing environment, where consumers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages, customers are leery of sales pitches and instead, prefer authentic brand engagements. But in order for marketing managers to message in an authentic way, they must first go back to the basics and have a firm understanding of the brand’s mission and vision statements. Clear and well-defined mission and vision statements, coupled with solutions-oriented content marketing, thought leadership content, authentic micro-influencer marketing, and the use of artificial intelligence are five strategies managers can use to increase lead generation and ensure organizational success.
Mission and Vision Statements
Mission statements define an organization’s present purpose, philosophy, and values, whereas vision statements are forward-thinking and provide strategic direction for the future (“Mission and vision statements,” 2009). Whether organizations deploy a “top down” or “bottom up” approach to developing their mission statement, the most important aspect is employee acceptance and engagement. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Management (Mission and vision statements, 2009), “[the mission statement] will only be successful if each employee commits to its success and internalizes it.” Every employee must embody the mission statement, or else the message and authenticity of the brand will get lost.
In addition to providing a sense of direction and purpose for an organization, perhaps the biggest advantage to developing clear mission and vision statements is to set a brand apart from its competition (“Mission and vision statements,” 2009). Understanding how a brand differentiates itself from others in the marketplace can be directly tied back to a strong mission statement. When marketing managers use their mission statement to develop their unique selling proposition (or unique value proposition) in marketing campaigns, they can develop unified messaging that is authentic to the brand’s core values. Likewise, when marketing managers turn to their organization’s vision statement, they can find forward-thinking insights to help inform their future marketing efforts.
Once marketing managers have a clear understanding of their brand’s mission and vision statements and begin to use them to inform their messaging, they can leverage other marketing strategies to increase lead generation. Successful trends in marketing today include solutions-oriented content marketing, thought leadership content, authentic micro-influencer marketing, and the use of artificial intelligence.
Content Marketing and Thought Leadership
Content marketing is a strategy where material (i.e., videos, blog and social media posts, etc.) is created and shared online with the intention of generating interest in a brand’s products or services (“Definition of content marketing in English,” 2019). Content marketing is information sharing, rather than a “hard sell” tactic. Content marketing will continue to have a strong impact on marketing initiatives because solutions-oriented content can help increase a brand’s exposure and reach (“11 trends that will shape marketing in 2019,” 2019). Marketing content to influencers can help a brand reach the right audience and increase leads when they share the content with their network (“11 trends that will shape marketing in 2019,” 2019).
In addition to expanding a brand’s reach, content marketing develops “favorable brand engagement, trust, and relations” (Hollebeek & Macky, 2018) with current or prospective customers. By focusing on increasing customers’ appreciation of the brand and adding value to their lives through education or entertainment, content marketing generates sales indirectly (via lead generation) and over the long run (Hollebeek & Macky, 2018). Content marketing increases emotional, cognitive, and behavioral engagements with customers, which in turn, builds brand trust, attitude, and brand equity (Hollebeek & Macky, 2018). This “soft sell” approach to marketing is more effective in lead generation because it positions the brand as an industry thought leader and focuses on building a relationship with the consumer.
Similar to solutions-oriented marketing is thought leadership content—content that offers information and encourages feedback from audiences in an effort to establish trust and position the brand as a leader in the industry (“11 trends that will shape marketing in 2019,” 2019). Thought leadership content can be in the form of live video, recorded advice, blog content, and content with real-time responses (“11 trends that will shape marketing in 2019,” 2019). Marketers use this strategy to focus on building relationship engagement and creating brand ambassadors who make recommendations to their networks and increase leads for the brand.
Influencer marketing is delivering a brand’s message to its target audience in an authentic way (El Qudsi, 2018). Traditional influencer marketing used to leverage celebrities due to their vast following, but the current trend in marketing is to use micro-influencers—influencers with fewer than 10,000 followers on social media. Micro-influencers are seen by their followers as relatable and approachable (El Qudsi, 2018). And Ismael El Qudsi of the Forbes Agency Council (2019) says, “The face and voice that you’re using to carry your brand’s message must be trustworthy.” What’s more trustworthy and credible than someone who could be a peer?
Not only do micro-influencers bring authenticity to a brand, they are better able to cut through the noise of other advertising and content creators. In an era of information overload, and consumers are relying on each other, now more than ever, for recommendations. Micro-influencers have smaller, more niche communities compared to other influencer groups, but they’re better able to connect with their followers (El Qudsi, 2018). Having a product recommendation from a trusted influencer can have a big impact on the decision-making process of consumers. As Barrett Wissman (2018) states, “When you consider that 40% of Twitter users have made a purchase as a direct result of a tweet from an influencer, it’s easy to see why many brands use influencers to spread their message.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) has many interpretations. In simple terms, AI is “a system’s ability to interpret external data correctly, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals” (Kumar, Rajan, Venkatesan & Lecinski, 2019). Where AI and marketing personalization converge is in engagement marketing, for example, where AI can use data to predict consumer buying patterns. Brands can then use AI to customize website content to match customer preferences and price offerings (Kumar, Rajan, Venkatesan & Lecinski, 2019). Marketers can also use AI to collect data about a brand’s audience to create precise buyer personas, leverage AI monitoring tools for social media listening, and use AI-powered intelligent messaging to improve customer service (Harrison, 2019).
Although utilizing mission and vision statements, content marketing, thought leadership, influencer marketing, and AI are not cutting-edge trends in the industry, they are evolutions of prior successful strategies for generating leads. As the marketing funnel shifts, brands are utilizing content marketing and thought leadership to share the value their product or service brings to the lives of consumers; and using micro-influencers to add authenticity and make brand recommendations to their trusting networks. AI, while not a new concept, is changing the marketing industry in how we use data to inform strategy. Although the marketing landscape is a bit of a moving target, these trends are not fads, and will continue to be leveraged in strategic lead generation efforts to ensure organizational success.
11 trends that will shape marketing in 2019. (2019, January 15). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2019/01/15/11-trends-that-will-shape-marketing-in-2019/#2c036b0536a6
Definition of content marketing in English. (2019) In Lexico, Powered by Oxford. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/content_marketing
El Qudsi, I. (2018, December 28). Micro-influencer marketing: What’s all the buzz about? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/12/28/micro-influencer-marketing-whats-all-the-buzz-about/#2c0aaf8217bd
Harrison, K. (2019, January 20). 4 ways artificial intelligence can improve your marketing (plus 10 provider suggestions). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateharrison/2019/01/20/5-ways-artificial-intelligence-can-improve-your-marketing-plus-10-provider-suggestions/#30b74ac95697
Hollebeek, L. D. & Macky, K. (2018). Digital content marketing’s role in fostering consumer engagement, trust, and value: Framework, fundamental propositions, and implications. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 45(2019), 27–41. DOI: 10.1016/j.intmar.2018.07.003
Kumar, V., Rajan, B., Venkatesan, R. & Lecinski, J. (2019, August 1). Understanding the role of artificial intelligence in personalized engagement marketing. California Management Review. 61(4), 135–155. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/0008125619859317
Mission and vision statements. (2009). In Encyclopedia of Management (6th ed., pp. 577–582). Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from Gale ebooks.
Wissman, B. (2018, March 2). Micro-influencers: The marketing force of the future? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/barrettwissman/2018/03/02/micro-influencers-the-marketing-force-of-the-future/#1ca5e6a26707