by Tony Vidler
Lead generation advertising is one of those things that every firm considers and is willing to do…but only if they are confident it will work. And every firm has seen too much of it that doesn’t work to have confidence in spending big money on lead generation advertising.
Yet, there is no doubt you can advertise pretty much anything, anywhere, these days. Advertising is easy to do too, often quite cost effective, and it feels like one has achieved something as the brand gets know to new segments of the market. While it generates good vibes and increased brand recognition, it is highly questionable when it comes to short term lead generation though in terms of effectiveness, or ROI.
The majority of advisers considering advertising are not terribly interested in creating a brand awareness campaign…they are interested in generating leads, or new client opportunities.
So how effective is advertising in generating leads for a professional services firm today?
There are several methods which are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Consumers are overwhelmed with advertising and for some adevertising methods the ROI is so poor it is madness to use them. Even if the advertising does generate immediate interest it frequently attracts the wrong sort of enquiries for most professionals.
In the category of “just damned expensive ways to get leads” that are out there today to consider you would have to include mass direct mailings, whether that is physical or digital. Equally, cold calling the phone book or a purchased list of suspects with little qualification is an increasingly appalling numbers game. Door-to-door (even where it is still legal!) is even less effective for most. Positional advertising (banners, sponsored adverts, etc) on social media networks are also very poor – though the incredibly low cost (generally speaking) might make them worth considering in the absence of any better ideas if you have high sales margins per customer, and they do help build brand familiarity and presence.
Static displays (billboards; yellow pages; print advertising; DLE brochures) are simply not dynamic enough. They are yesterdays news the day after you got them into the market.
Then there are the advertising options that work to a degree, though often with questionable ROI at the front end, which present a different problem: attracting the wrong sorts of clients. Phone or online directories definitely fall into this category. They work best in a commoditized industry or service, where the “product” is fairly homogenous, which we would hope is not where professional financial advisers fit in. As such they have a tendency to invite cost or price comparisons quickly, or sell on convenience factors. Both of these attributes undermine the real value of a professional, and almost inevitably the professional finds they are working with that most frustrating type of client: the price-sensitive, transactional, order-giver.
In a similar fashion, high pressure referral generation techniques and strategies or high pressure seminar selling tend to drive similar types of leads. Most of the leads generated from advertising or marketing this way will also be poor clients, or a poor return on investment.
Good effective lead generation advertising complements the rest of the marketing cycle, by addressing the necessary first step of simply getting attention. Having got attention – which really is the primary objective of the advertising itself – the rest of the marketing machine then swings into action, gradually qualifying prospective customers and moving them along the emotional buying cycle.
Great lead generation advertising today goes a step further than simply getting attention. It takes consumers to the next step: creating interest. Being immediately intriguing, or unique in style and approach, and appealing to a distinct outcome that the target market wants is effective. Add in appealing to positive emotions (fun, interesting, entertaining, humorous, etc.) and you are in with a very good chance of generating enquiries relatively quickly.
For immediate lead generation there will ideally be a “compelling offer”…the “buy now” concept. That is perhaps difficult to do when we are in a service business, but it is by no means impossible to do. But it is not critical either. It is good to have, but not a must have.
The best results in advertising for lead generation will be the ones which grab attention, generate some interest or intrigue, and engage fok in the advice process rather than try to appeal to an immediate decision to buy a procut or solution. So the shift to be aware of is that effective lead generation advertising is that which creates engagement in the process, rather than one which simply moves a product.