We all love leads, don't we? Anyone engaged in the marketing and selling of any product cherishes that confirmation: someone is interested in your product and ready to be sold to. Leads are the lifeblood that keeps sales pipelines full. However, some recent in-depth conversations with individuals I consider to be true thought leaders in our industry have changed my perspective on this prized commodity. These conversations have led me to think that, as one put it, leads may be for losers.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that leads are unimportant. They are vital for a growing business. The problem is that too many companies mistakenly believe, or at least act as if leads are all that marketing is about. They aren't.
Let's consider two examples, one each from the B2B and B2C sectors, as the insights apply equally to both. Like anyone trying to establish a following in the multifamily industry, I devote considerable thought to engaging and growing an audience for 20 for 20. I pay attention to who reads my content and focus on publishing things that seem to interest the audience the most.
Broadly speaking, this is good B2B marketing practice. But during a fascinating conversation a few weeks ago, an expert told me, "Dom, you probably pay way too much attention to the number of conversions on your website." That gave me pause: As someone with extensive B2B marketing experience, I find few things more rewarding than seeing a steady flow of conversions when people download content from my website. It indicates that my message is resonating and that I've produced something relevant to my audience.
But as this expert pointed out, the leads you get from your content are the minority of the benefits that the content can provide. Marketing is fundamentally about reaching an ever-growing audience and providing opportunities to connect with your brand and products. There's a lot more to that than lead gen.
He went on to share that in B2B marketing, people are likelier to discover the companies and individuals they follow through appearances on webinars, podcasts, articles in someone else's publications, or plain old word of mouth. That is mostly upstream of leads, but lead gen is still where we tend to focus most of our attention.
Why this matters for multifamily marketers
It's a fixation that affects how we market apartments and it emerged from a series of conversations I've been having with senior multifamily marketers while preparing a brand new whitepaper that launches today. In collaboration with my friends at Engrain, we've been exploring the subject of unit-level marketing, an approach that could make searching for an apartment much more like searching for a home—or anything else on Google Maps, which is, of course, the way that prospects search for most things that have a location.
When we think about the hurdles multifamily marketers must clear to deliver an experience on par with today's leading e-commerce platforms, we run into this recurring issue: an excessive focus on leads.
I'm reminded of various marketing sessions I've attended at multifamily conferences, where the conversation inevitably turns to the number of leads you need to purchase and how to convert them into leases. Yet, in both B2B and B2C, marketing is mostly not about collecting and converting leads. It should address the upper stages of the sales funnel, which have become increasingly influential in shaping a prospect's decision-making process over the last decade.
Leads represent a specific type of information: they may signal that a prospect is ready for you to sell to them. They may equally signal that the prospect is indifferent to your product and will likely ignore your outreach. The common mistake is thinking that a lead or guest card marks the beginning of the consideration process. In reality, it's much closer to the end. With this in mind, leads shouldn't dominate marketing efforts as much as they do.
Many companies are already aware of this and are crafting sophisticated e-commerce experiences aimed at influencing people earlier in their consideration stages. That is when marketing has the most potential to attract and persuade new prospects—whether it's a multifamily community in the B2C context or professional readers of B2B content.
Avoiding being sidetracked by leads and focusing on the true objectives of marketing appears to be one of the biggest challenges for our industry's marketers, whether in B2B or B2C. If this topic interests you, check out the whitepaper that dropped today. It explores current practices in the multifamily sector, outlines existing constraints, and offers solutions to overcome them.
And, of course, it would not be proper for me to finish an article on this particular subject without reminding anyone who hasn't already done so to consider subscribing to this blog! 😊
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