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  • 8 Lead Generation Trends for 2020: Top Forecasts & A Look Into What’s Next Ahead

8 Lead Generation Trends for 2020: Top Forecasts & A Look Into What’s Next Ahead

Category: B2B News

In this day and age, many businesses still struggle with lead generation. With the increasing number of prospects on multiple platforms and the influx of data that marketers need to sift through daily, it is not surprising that tapping into markets is harder now more than ever. To help you simplify the task, we have compiled the most important lead generation trends that you should look out for in 2020.

This article will give you insights on the digital lead generation trends–from influencer marketing to chatbot usage–that are reshaping how marketers work. This should also give you a better idea as to why high-performing teams value marketing automation and why platforms for digital marketing are becoming a must for lead generation improvement.

Lastly, we have included some tips on how to use these trends to your advantage. This way, you can effectively optimize your lead generation campaigns as well as make sure you’re one step ahead of the competition.

lead generation trends

Industries are undergoing a digital transformation. As such, the requirements for high-performance lead generation has evolved for both B2B and B2C businesses. Consequently, companies have to keep up with the dynamic market demands that produced new B2C and B2B lead generation trends. Most of them also consist of digital tools and techniques.

However, lead generation is not purely online or digital. Note that 68% of sales and marketing teams say events are the best lead generation activity. This, mixed with other techniques like video marketing, provides value for prospects and pulls them towards your products and services. Of course, these efforts need the support of digital platforms. It is the only way data can be gathered, analyzed, and used for better decisions. Also, this is why many high-performing marketing teams begin to adopt solutions with advanced analytics tools. Others are looking to follow soon as well.

Lead Generation Priorities

Experts predict that analytics and data insights will drive effective marketing communications. These include critical processes from lead generation to customer relationship management (CRM). In the following sections, we’ll discuss strong and emerging trends that marketers need to give attention to and use for leverage.

1. Influencer Marketing

Brands today turn to influencers to help generate leads for them. This has been part of a set of marketing trends for a while. Influencers are persons, brands, or digital entities that have authority in their particular social media niches. They come in many different shapes and sizes ranging from podcast influencers to celebrity endorsers.

Businesses also use their relationships with micro-influencers to increase reach and engagement. These micro-influencers often have 1000 to 1,000,000 followers. However, they seem to engage more with their followers and peers than big-time endorsers. Thus, many brands opt for micro-influencers rather than big-name personalities.

Businesses can benefit from influencer marketing in many ways.

Firstly, they don’t have to invest so much in “infiltrating” the niche. They acquire the help of someone that’s already influential in it.

Secondly, many influencers use analytics and data themselves. By partnering with them, businesses may have a chance to understand their niches better.

Thirdly, marketers can employ a performance-based marketing scheme using influencers. This saves them money and resources as they only pay for results.

Lastly, businesses get access through different digital platforms as well. Thus, they increase their reach across many channels. An increase in both reach and engagement can also increase lead volume and quality. Influencers can be a great lead generating partners if you choose them well.

Influencer Marketing Budgets of Companies in 2019

$1,001 to $10,000

%

$100,001 to $500,000

%

$10,001 to $50,000

%

$0 to $1000

%

$50,001 to $100,000

%

$500,001 to $1,000,000

%

$1,000,001+

%

Source: BigCommerce

Designed by

Influencer marketing key takeaways:

  • Influencer marketing allows businesses to increase their reach and engagement in different platforms and various niches.
  • Many businesses employ a performance-based approach in their influencer marketing efforts. Cost-per-action schemes are being used. Thus, they have the option to just pay for results and save money.
  • Brands choose from different types of influencers from internet celebrities, podcasters, to micro-influencers.

2. Social Media Lead Generation

A recent report found that 55% of consumers purchase products they found on social media. To take advantage of this, many businesses started using social media heavily to market their products and services.

According to a study, 74% generate more leads by using social media techniques. These include ad campaigns and other efforts, such as influencer and content marketing. That said, we do not only expect social media usage to increase in the next few years. Social media techniques will also be optimized.

To wit, there are trending techniques and approaches to create social media buzz and engagement. These are PR stunts and different types of brand advocacies.

PR stunts

Public relations stunts have long been used from the time of the father of PR himself, George Bernays. These offline techniques created media buzz and engagement that have long-lasting repercussions. If you are familiar with Bernays, you’d know that he was the nephew of the psychologist (or pseudoscientist as others may say) Sigmund Freud.

Bernays used his uncle’s idea that human behavior stems from irrational forces. His whole approach was to harness these to drive conversations and sales. One of his magnum opuses was his stunt involving women sporting cigarettes as a symbol of female empowerment. In a time where women were not expected to smoke, he arranged for some to parade with cigarettes and for media to cover it. The news spread and soon decades of smoking epidemic ensued for both sexes.

Today, marketers still rely on stunts from time to time to create social media buzz. Many call this experiential marketing. It is also aided by digital tools like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) at times.

One recent example was Paddy Power, the book company with a good sense of humor. They arranged for a mariachi band called “Juan Direction” a play on the popular boyband One Direction to serenade Donald Trump in 2016 when he arrived in Glasgow. This took the internet by storm and elicited laughs and giggles from prospects. Admittedly, it increased interest in the business and leads.

Example of a PR stunt

A screen clipping of a Tweet featuring Paddy Power’s “Juan Direction”.

Types of brand advocacy

PR Stunts may increase engagements and views in a short span of time. However, some of them don’t really create a long-term connection and commitment. One tactic that businesses of today use to gain leads and customers is ‘advocacies’. This can be cashed out in two interconnected ways: social and commercial.

Firstly, businesses leverage social advocacies to gain views and engagement with their target audiences. Common advocacies are for the gender pay gap and climate change. Sure, many of these are legitimate. However, let’s not kid ourselves here. These, too, are marketing messages designed to create positive connections and relationships. They don’t only serve valid causes. They also generate relevant leads and reassure customers that they do business with an ethical brand. This is what we can call social advocacy.

Examples that fit this category include Patagonia with its environmental advocacies and Google with its renewable energy efforts.

Secondly, there’s what we can call commercial advocacy. Many refer to people doing this for brands as brand advocates. These are loyal customers who do not just do business with you. They also promote your brand through word-of-mouth efforts and digital word-of-mouth: social media.

High-performing marketers tend to identify organically-induced brand advocates (not paid influencers) and interact with them to cultivate some sort of partnership. This can later grow out to be a paid influencer-type deal, or the relationship could stay organic.

A great example of this would be the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program. This recognizes people passionate about the brand and helps them continue to contribute their expertise with the system to others.

Social media lead generation is hotter than ever

Both PR stunts (or experiential marketing) and different advocacies can contribute to lead count and quality. When used together, they don’t only create sudden bursts of engagement but also brand loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations. Of course, these efforts are most potent on social media as news and information travel faster in these networks.

Thus, you’d be better off using platforms for social media management to support these lead generation and management techniques. Also, you can choose to have a platform that has a CRM module to support your brand advocates (and paid influencers).

Lastly, remember to have your marketing campaigns visible on different social media sites and monitor key social media metrics to fine-tune your marketing efforts as you go.

Social media lead generation key takeaways:

  • PR stunts can increase visibility and therefore increase lead count. These, though, tend to swell up fast and die down more quickly.
  • Brands use different types of advocacies to increase and qualify leads. One type is social responsibility where companies appeal to leads using cause-oriented activities. Another type is the use of organic brand advocates. These are people that are vocal about your products and services that want you to succeed. Creating a good relationship with them could increase your leads in the niches they operate in.
  • Top marketing platforms can gather data from different social media networks for analysis. Also, they allow users to conduct ad campaigns and automate processes as well.

3. Voice and Local Search

Voice and local search go hand-in-hand. In 2018, 56% of US consumers used voice search to find local businesses using their mobile devices. In the same year, 28% of consumers also used voice search on their desktops to do the same.

Moreover, around 50% of consumers visit a store within 24 hours after using their phones to search for the business or its products. From this, we can infer that there is a strong relationship between local search and voice search in marketing. They seem to go hand-in-hand when it comes to generating local leads.

In the next few years, we expect that marketers will take note of this and optimize their local and voice search performances. These include optimizing their listings, reviews, content, and voice search snippets, among others. By doing so, businesses can gain more inquiries and gather more leads.

Additionally, local search results will likely be the arena for intense competition between similar firms. Thus, laggards will likely suffer until they take this seriously.

Voice and Local Search

Voice and local search key takeaways:

  • Voice and local search are quite related. Practical uses for them include people looking for directions while driving. Hands-free voice search comes in handy when looking for physical locations that sell products you need or want.
  • Most businesses, especially with physical locations, need to optimize their digital touchpoints for voice and local searches.
  • Business lagging in voice and local search optimization should expect inferior lead generation and overall marketing performance than early adopters.

4. Chatbots

Companies, in general, have a broad expectation of what AI can do for them. However, some take advantage of a very specific deployment: chatbots. According to an Oracle report, this will likely rise soon with 80% of firms wanting chatbots by 2020.

Also, if we look at recent chatbot statistics and data, more consumers are open to the use of chatbots. This cuts across various industries from B2B businesses and B2C brands. Simply put, many believe that chatbots provide many benefits.

About 66% of Millennials and 58% of Baby Boomers consider having 24-hour support as the top benefit of having chatbots. Other benefits include accuracy and quicker responses.

Furthermore, 40% of Millennials say they interact with chatbots daily. This shows that a significant part of the market is already used to interacting with chatbot AIs. What’s more, is this figure will likely rise in the future.

However, there are still challenges concerning chatbot adoption. For starters, about 46% of people think that chatbots prevent consumers from interacting with human agents. Meanwhile, others fear that chatbots are not intelligent enough to give them the right service they deserve.

However, as chatbot technology matures and as demand for 24-hour support rises, we expect adoption to continue to increase. We also expect that more and more companies will use chatbots to generate leads on digital touchpoints.

Predicted Use Cases for Chatbots

37%

To get quick answers during emergencies

35%

To resolve complaints or problems

35%

To get detailed answers or explanations

Source: The State of Chatbots Report, 2018

Designed by

Chatbot key takeaways:

  • Businesses can benefit from chatbots by providing users with 24-hour digital support. This technology also allows users to gain quick answers and responses.
  • Moreover, businesses can save resources like productive hours and wages when chatbot technology can help replace human hours. This is especially helpful in providing support through non-office hours.
  • There are still challenges when it comes to chatbot adoption for businesses. This is because consumers still have reservations when it comes to using it. However, in the future, this will change as the technology improves and as younger consumers warm up to the technology.

5. Video Marketing

Video is so popular that by 2022, experts predict that video content will account for 82% of total internet traffic. This year, they anticipate it to reach 75%. Moreover, research shows that six out of ten people prefer to watch online videos than television.

As a result, marketers are taking advantage of this by using video marketing to increase reach, sales, dwell-time, and engagement on various platforms. Most marketers upload their video content on YouTube. However, it is also becoming more common for them to use sites such as Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Simply put, video content is really hot in marketing today. What’s more, is recent video marketing statistics show that this trend will not slow down anytime soon. The use and consumption of the media are likely to increase in the next few years. Interesting videos may gain new viewers. Furthermore, new viewers become new leads.

Thus, if you haven’t started creating or maintaining a digital presence for video content, it will be harder to compete with others in the near future. Your content might get lost in a sea of other media. Therefore, if you haven’t leveraged this technique yet, you’d be better off by starting to think about how to go about it today.

Top Social Media Platforms for Video Marketing

81%

Facebook

74%

Instagram

70%

YouTube

Source: Animoto

Designed by

Video marketing key takeaways:

  • Consumers count on video content to learn more about products and just about any other topic out there. Thus, brands need to position themselves as thought leaders in their specific topic niches to excel.
  • Many marketers use different platforms to upload their video content. Some just upload the same content for all platforms. On the other hand, others create different types of content for each platform’s community. You have to decide which approach will get you a better ROI.
  • Moreover, like any marketing effort today that includes digital media, analytics is a very important aspect. One cannot make data-driven decisions without gathering and analyzing data. Thus, good marketers don’t just go by feel in video content marketing. They use technological tools to analyze and optimize content marketing campaigns.

6. Email Lead Generation

Marketers use different ways to generate leads on email. Some use landing pages to get newsletter subscription. On the other hand, others prefer events to generate email marketing leads. However, there are new techniques powered by better technology that transcend good old email marketing. One of these is interactive emails. Another is what they call Storytelling Emails (STE).

Interactive emails

Emails, as you know, could be boring. Many emails start with “Hi [your name],” and a bunch of sentences that don’t matter much when you open your emails at the start of your day. You can be at work or just starting your weekend. They just don’t matter. However, other emails may work better when it comes to click-to-open rate and engagement because they are simply more interesting.

Imagine opening an email with a colorful flying where you can click on its call-to-actions (CTAs). Compare this with text email with a shortened link. Which one engages you better? Intuitively, many of us would say the former. Surveys say the same. Researchers found that interactive emails increase their click-to-open rate by 73%. Also, videos boost it by up to 300%.

Marketers who get a whiff of this understand that this can help them increase lead volume and quality. Thus, many have set out to add CSS-animated buttons and even simple interactive surveys. Moreover, we expect the number of interactive emails to rise across industries. But this doesn’t mean that when you’re in the financial sector that your emails should be boring. Why not embed interactive charts in your emails from time to time?

Storytelling emails

Now, highly-visual interactive emails can be your medium. You already have your unique selling proposition and a winning content strategy. How do you deliver them in email form? Well, in recent years, some marketers prefer delivering them as stories. Many consumers do too.

Famous cognitive scientist Michael Gazzaniga found a general function in our brain’s physiology that makes us not only susceptible to stories but also storytellers ourselves. He called this function the left-brain interpreter. What it does is create a narrative for us of why we did a specific series of actions to try to make sense of it all. Put simply, it establishes reasons that allow us to make sense of what we did and our very selves. In a nutshell, it provides context.

We, inherently, love context. This is not just true in the rational sense. It is true in the emotional sense as well. Good storytellers do this.

Remember, branding is all about storytelling. All touchpoints should induce your audience to create plausible and positive stories in their minds about your brand. This applies to email marketing and lead generation as well.

We can’t really discuss STE through and through in this article, but here are some email storytelling tips that you could use:

  • Plan a sequence of emails with a theme.
  • One theme could be a “Vision” story about how you want to change or disrupt your industry.
  • Another is the “Origin” story of your brand
  • “Rapport Building” stories allow you to speak about certain issues and advocacies rather than your own products
  • You can use “Product Success” stories to show readers how your product/service helps other people
  • Use interactive media in emails. Also, don’t forget to use videos and infographics as well.

Email lead generation is here to stay

Last year, marketers used email for customer base retention (29%), customer engagement (22%), product selling (17%), and content delivery (11%), among others. It has been a go-to channel for marketers for decades.

Lead generation is not just the only use. It has been found that 43% of marketers have used email marketing to improve lead quality. Interactive emails and STEs will likely get more widespread adoption. Thus, marketers need to up their email lead generation game with great content and the best medium available. Be sure not to lag in this aspect.

Lastly, many opt for top ranking email marketing solutions for their comprehensive features. However, there are free email marketing solutions that you can use as well.

Email Marketing for Lead Generation

Email lead generation key takeaways:

  • Marketers use different tactics to find email leads. Tactics include in-person events, website sign-up dialogue boxes, social media landing pages, and the use of mobile apps, among others.
  • Email marketing doesn’t only allow you to increase your leads. It also helps you nurture and qualify your leads. Doing this right will enable you to not just increase the volume but the quality of your leads.
  • Two trending techniques are likely going to get widespread adoption. Meaning, they will be the norm. These are interactive emails and STEs. If you stick to boring static emails, brace yourself for a decrease in click-to-open rates and subscribers.

7. Adoption of AI and Other Digital Tools

Lead generation remains a problem for many companies. Customers are all over the place. Most US consumers use different social media platforms in a day. On top of that, many shoppers still frequent physical commercial establishments. With that said, it’s not surprising that it is now harder to get a hold of leads and consolidate them.

To keep up with today’s multichannel market, a growing number of businesses turn to platforms that help them gather, analyze, and act on information from various touchpoints in one digital space. Just last year, 55% of marketing executives said they plan to increase their marketing technology investments. One of these is AI.

To wit, 30% of B2B marketers use AI to identify opportunities. Also, 25.5% who use AI deploy it to identify prospects based on the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). The trend here seems to move along the lines of getting AI to provide better decision-making environments. Furthermore, AI already serves as a component of existing marketing tech. This is true for 20.2% of B2B marketers that use digital platforms.

In the next few years, we expect more marketers to adopt different business technologies, including more AI to support lead generation activities, among other processes.

Artificial Intelligence Use Cases

The use of AI may not be a new trend. However, it is a strong trend that spans decades. The field is so rich in development and applications that businesses continue speculating on how to use them. Harvard Business Review reported that AI is poised to make the greatest impact on manufacturing, supply chain services, and marketing.

Surely, as new methods and hardware get developed, new applications will too. Currently, there are a couple of promising uses for AI. These also pose new challenges and risks.

Probabilistic artificial intelligence

Probabilistic decision-making is way different than deterministic ones. Unlike the latter, which can just say “yes” or “no”, it operates within a range from zero to one. If the “rating” or value is closer to one, this means that a variable is rated higher or is “more probable”. Also, if the value gets closer to zero, the variable is lower or gets “less probable”. When this system is incorporated into lead generation and other services, it will change the dynamics of lead qualification.

For example, in the finance industry, a probabilistic-based AI decision-maker will rate a person on how “likely” he is to pay back his loan based on history. Then, it will proceed to give a recommendation to the lender. A deterministic AI system would simply make a categorical decision of whether to “either accept or reject.” This ignores any level of uncertainty.

In general lead generation and qualification, probabilistic AI can provide businesses with multiple possible scenarios using historical data. It can run through different weighing of success or risk factors and dish all possible scenarios out starting with the most probable ones. In this way, businesses could understand how factors may affect outcomes. Thus, they can influence these factors to make outcomes more favorable.

Machine learning for the masses

Machine learning (ML) seemed to be reserved for large enterprises in the recent past. However, tech companies like Amazon have started offering solutions for in-house machine learning for businesses. Products include Amazon Lex and Amazon SageMaker. The former allows companies to build voice and chat text chatbots. On the other hand, Amazon SageMaker enables users to build, train, and deploy ML models.

They offer these in what they call the AWS Free Tier where products are offered in free short term trials, 12-months free, or always free deals. In the future, the adoption of such tools to create business-specific ML functions will likely become widespread. Offerings like this, in high probability, will democratize ML and AI.

This means that machine learning teams and departments will soon sprout out in various businesses. Also, this means that job positions like analysts, marketers, HR professionals, and C-suite executives will soon add machine learning literacy as a requirement. This is a likely future scenario that professionals and firms need to prepare for.

Thus, this offers a couple of challenges. First, business professionals will be required to understand the basics of data science. These include fundamental concepts and the philosophy behind basic techniques such as Bayesian statistics. Second, businesses that don’t have competencies when it comes to such things will have a hard time catching up with rivals.

How we deal with these challenges is likely to define our organizations in the coming five to fifteen years.

The Role of AI in Marketing Strategy

How marketers use Artificial Intelligence

30.5%

Identifying market opportunities

25.5%

Identifying prospects based on ICP

14.4%

Projecting future revenue performance

20.2%

Components of existing marketing tech

Source: The State of Artificial Intelligence in B2B Marketing, 2018

Designed by

Adoption of AI key takeaways:

  • AI will likely be used by more marketers to plan their strategies and make data-driven decisions.
  • Moreover, AI is already embedded in other marketing tech tools. Thus, in the future, marketers will be using AI whether they want to or not. AI comes with the package.
  • We expect more marketers to invest in and use marketing technology for automating different processes like reporting, email marketing, social media marketing, and many more.

8. Analytics and Data Insights

Thanks to the availability of digital tools, data is easier to gather, process, and analyze. So, we expect marketers to incorporate more data analysis into their operations as well as invest in analytics tools by 2020.

After all, today, the largest online retailers already use more than one analytics platform. A study showed that 30% of the Top 250 organizations have both Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics. As such, more SMBs and entrepreneurs will most likely follow suit soon.

Last year, 57% of enterprise organizations started using data and analytics to drive strategy and change. Experts expect this figure to rise in the foreseeable future as well. Thus, lead generation will be more data-driven and analytics will play a big part in it.

Last but not least, there’s currently around 39% of companies that deploy their analytics solutions on the cloud. Furthermore, 41% more are considering the same. This is because cloud solutions offer more flexibility than strict on-premise ones. Thus, it’s no wonder why many would migrate their analytics to the cloud in the near future.

Benefits of Data Analytics

Analytics usage key takeaways:

  • Data and analytics are being used by companies to improve their chances of making better decisions. Top companies do it more and better. So, businesses will need to invest more in learning how to leverage analytics if they want to remain competitive.
  • We expect more companies to adopt the use of data and analytics for marketing processes such as lead generation.
  • Also, more companies plan to migrate their analytics to the cloud. Moreover, more marketing tech platforms will include more powerful analytics capabilities in their systems in the future.

What Will Lead Generation Look Like in 2020 and Beyond?

Lead generation will likely become more omnichannel as time goes by. High-performance firms are poised to use multiple channels to gain, qualify, and nurture leads. These include in-person events, social media, email, SEO, content marketing, and even chatbots. Thus, marketers need to have a well-rounded arsenal to maintain their competitiveness.

Furthermore, technology and omnichannel support are the future. They are set to be the top drivers for lead growth. So, understanding how to use them is pertinent to success. To learn more about this, be sure to check out our lead generation statistics report.

Also, let’s not forget that lead generation new trends may emerge. So, we need to be on our toes at all times. But, for now, here are a few tips on how to get more quality leads in 2020:

  • Invest in a comprehensive marketing platform that has omnichannel capabilities.
  • Learn more about general and specialized marketing KPIs from social media metrics to website analytics.
  • Create a culture around data-driven decision making.
  • Develop technological competencies to support your modern omnichannel lead generation efforts.
  • Keep track of and monitor how competitors and high-performing teams conduct lead generation activities.
  • Adopt a user-centric approach and understand how your customers interact with all your touchpoints.

Future-proofing your organization is a hard job. This is especially true when something seemingly so simple like lead generation is getting disrupted by various trends. Just like the stock market, there are short-, medium-, and long-term trends with different strengths (volume) and velocities. There are uncountable market forces in play as well. All we can do is keep up, adapt, and disrupt to the best of our abilities.

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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