If You Want Leads, Focus on Brand

Brand recognition makes everything better.

Have you ever worked for a company where everything was easy? Where the phone rang every day with people hungry to buy your stuff? Where every campaign was a success and every customer was happy?

And then did you ever leave that company and go somewhere else where everything was inexplicably hard? You were doing everything right. Everything that worked at the last company, anyway. The same business processes, the same technology, the same campaigns, the same everything (even some of the same people)! But nothing worked. The phone never rang. The leads never flowed. The sales cycle was forever long. Customers were a pain in the ass.

Believe it or not, brand was the difference.

Marketing Automation

You see, marketing automation systems have screwed us all. As the technology industry enjoyed the first apocalypse near the turn of the century, executives ran into the bursting tech bubble and ran back out with marketing automation systems tucked under their arms. They proceeded to thank the marketing tech community for inventing such fine marketing tools and then turned to all the marketers and said, “We are grateful for these tools. You have done well. We will now use these tools to kick your ass for the next 20 years.”

It’s true. We sewed the boots to kick our own ass.

And so we now live in a world where acronyms like CPC, CPL, MQL, and SQL are the lingua franca of marketing success. Your company could be falling off a cliff, but if you’re driving clicks and leads at a high volume and low cost, you’re golden. It’s not your fault that sales sucks.

If only that were true! Marketing would be so easy if all we had to do was drive leads. The truth is, leads are not a marketing strategy; they’re one outcome of a good marketing strategy. In fact, some of the largest, most successful companies I’ve ever worked with drive fewer “leads” than a lot of companies one-tenth their size. And some of the most lead-rich environments I’ve ever experienced spend a very small portion of their budget on lead generation. In the end (as in the beginning and the middle), companies with the most market share are the ones with the most brand recognition. Companies that invest more in brand recognition drive more leads and experience better business results than companies that invest more in demand generation.

I’m not saying that leads aren’t important. They’re extremely important! But you have to be zen about lead generation.

You don’t drive tons of great leads by focusing on lead generation. You drive tons of great leads by investing in brand recognition and building brands that people fall in love with.

And this is the kind of love you have to pay for.

The good news is that investing in brand recognition has a positive impact on outcomes like lead generation, sales velocity, pipeline conversion rates, total deal value, customer retention, and market share, among other things.

The bad news is that talking about brand recognition in most HCM tech startups will probably get you fired. In fact, one of the reasons that HCM tech marketing is in such a terrible condition is because we drove all of the brand marketers out of our industry with torches and pitchforks. And we replaced them with fine people who really get technology. The problem is, they don’t get marketing. Marketing is brand, baby.

Action: Remember That Brand Recognition is Important

Identify the portion of your budget that’s dedicated to brand recognition and the portion of your budget that’s dedicated to demand generation. Remembering that brand recognition improves most downstream outcomes such as lead generation, are you investing enough in brand advertising in industry, digital, and even geographic channels across paid, owned, and earned media?