5 lenses for evaluating lead generation approaches

List member Brad sent me the below, and it’s excellent and thought-provoking. It’s a page from David Maister’s book, “Managing the Professional Services Firm”.1

positioning services - Experiential marketing learning for independent consultants

(Here’s the full rez PDF: pmc-dropshare.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/Scan-Jun-29-2019-at-11.45-AM.pdf)

The framing of Maister’s preferred lead generation approaches is dated, because the book is not super new. I thought about “translating” his list into modern terms, but you can do that yourself pretty easily.

What’s perhaps even more interesting is to think about the underlying patterns that might be behind Maister’s groupings. Said differently: why are the 4 things that are at the top of his list… at the top of his list?

There are several lenses through which we can look at Maister’s list, and at lead generation more broadly. Briefly, they are:

  • Scale

  • Curation and access

  • Social risk

  • Demonstrated expertise, and the relevance of that expertise

  • Generosity

Looking at lead generation through these lenses frees us from being so time-bound. We can understand why Maister ranks lead gen techniques the way he does, we can understand which of the current crop of lead generation approaches2 are desirable, and we can vet any future lead gen approach that might come onto the scene riding on a golden, bejeweled chariot of hype.

Scale

You’ll notice the items at the top of Maister’s list lean towards the smaller end of the scale spectrum, although a speech at a client industry meeting could be to a group of 1,000 or more people (more likely to be numbered in the hundreds, though).

What is it about scale that matters when it comes to lead generation?

For one, larger scale makes it more risky for prospective leads to be vulnerable with you and with each other. Vulnerability isn’t required in every situation for someone to become a lead, but it can help in a lot of situations!

Smaller scale can create a sense of exclusivity; of being selected for a premium experience that not everybody gets to have. Lead generation activities that happen within this kind of exclusive, premium container are viewed differently because they take place within this container.

A message delivered to a small group of C-level folks you’ve invited to a breakfast event will be received very differently than the same message delivered to a large group of the hoi polloi. Like the real estate people say: it’s location, location, location.

The question to ask: Will the scale of this lead generation approach amplify the power of my message, argument, or the data I’m presenting?

Curation and access

Related to this idea of scale is the idea of curation and access to the curated group. Lead generation that happens within a curated container is received differently than that which happens in a container anybody can get access to, or anybody can buy access to.

Want to generate leads by posting on Reddit? Almost anybody can do that. Register an account, understand the norms around posting on Reddit, and get to it.

Want to generate leads by giving a TED talk? Almost nobody can do that. Spend a decade or more doing work that’s TED-worthy, get really good at public speaking, and maybe you’ll get invited to give a TED talk.

When you gain access to a well-curated forum to do your lead generation, we make some assumptions:

  • You knew somebody. If this happens enough and the quality isn’t there, we lose trust in the curator because they’re putting their buddies on stage rather than the kind of stuff we trusted them to filter for.

  • You know something. This is what we hope curation accomplishes: filtering for the really good stuff, so that the time, money, opportunity cost, and other things we invest in the curated forum are worth the investment.

The question to ask: Will the curation associated with this lead generation approach enhance the perception of your expertise?

Social risk

There is just something about taking a social risk in order to generate leads. Something pseudo-magical, something that amplifies the power of your lead generation efforts.

Social risk is:

  • Sharing ideas in a setting where you can be criticized.

  • Opening yourself up to audience questions without knowing the questions beforehand.

  • Exposing your full self, rather than a filtered version of yourself. On a podcast, I am filtered down to a voice. An edited version of myself, both literally and metaphorically. On a stage at an IRL event, there’s less filtering. There’s no editing at all, and my appearance, posture, clothing, haircut, facial hair, color and appearance of my teeth, length of fingernails, ability to make and hold eye contact, physical movement, appearance of nervousness or lack thereof, tone of voice, ability to project, ability to modulate tone and volume, need for pauses, ability to be silent during those pauses or alternately fill them with nervous filler words, and just… everything about me is on display. This is more risky than just putting an edited version of my voice out into the world.

  • Speaking and formulating an argument on the fly, rather than working from a script.

  • Holding your own in a conversation with people who are “above” you on some social ladder.

You’ll notice that the methods at the top of Maister’s list embrace more social risk than the ones at the bottom of his list.

The question to ask: Is this lead generation method using social risk in a way that amplifies its power?

Demonstrated, relevant expertise

This is the flip side of the curation issue. In other words, if you can gain access to venues or events where the curation filter is expertise, then the curator has endorsed your expertise, and — to the extend that we trust the curator — we start out seeing you as an expert.

The more the curator is filtering for relevant expertise, the better. A small event (or podcast) focusing specifically on using content marketing for indie B2C fashion brands will be filtering for relevant expertise in a very different way than the folks who select the speakers for a huge, broad appeal event like Inbound or Dreamforce.

The question to ask: What is this lead generation method’s curator filtering for? Broad appeal fame? My audience size? Or my highly relevant expertise?

Generosity

It’s not as obvious or easy to see, but there’s an element of generosity in Maister’s favorite lead generation approaches (the top two groups in his list).

Some of these approaches are costly. Travel and unbillable downtime are two costs asociated with IRL speaking. Bearing these costs sends the signal that you’re doing well enough to afford the costs, and if your talk gives more than it takes, then bearing these costs is an act of generosity.

Proprietary research can also be an act of generosity. It’s speculative, because you do it at your own initiative in the hopes of producing future value. When the research is oriented around client needs, it’s generous.

Consulting Takeaway: Evaluating any lead generation approach based on scale, curation/access, social risk, ability to demonstrate relevant expertise, and generosity will help you easily vet for effectiveness. In general, small scale, tightly-curated venues that prioritize relevant expertise while embracing social risk and taking a generous posture are the markers of effective lead generation.

Happy Tuesday,

-P

Notes:

  1. I’ve shared this before, but it’s so good it justifies sharing again (and again, and again): davidmaister.com/articles/the-problem-of-standards/

  2. More on this: philipmorganconsulting.com/pmc-daily-insight-flyers-on-sidewalks-and-bootstrapping-out-of-needing-to-do-that/