What are the two top online methods for generating leads?

Face-to-face marketing better than digital

Lead generation. Keyboard

Business tends to fall into one of two main camps – you either sell something straight away, or you generate a lead to which you sell something later. Lead generation is really important.

Research consistently shows that the number one way of lead generation is referrals. Getting other people to recommend you is essential. This is because it provides “social proof”, a significant psychological factor in persuading people to do something. If you want people to want to buy from you, then generating social proof through referrals is a great start. The latest annual survey of lead generation in the business-to-business sector confirms the value of referrals demonstrating that this kind of marketing is more than five times better than social media activity.

Indeed, rather like other studies this research shows that real world, face-to-face marketing activities are superior to most digital marketing.

Graph of lead generation data

However, as you can see from the chart there are two digital marketing activities which are clearly much more beneficial than other activities. The study suggests that you can relegate search engine marketing and social media marketing to the “nice to have” category. But the study confirms two areas of online marketing that are the best things you can do.

Email marketing still tops the list

In spite of the fact that we all now receive several hundred emails per day, email marketing remains the top digital method of generating sales leads. If you are not using email marketing you are clearly losing out. Email marketing consistently comes out on top in a wide range of studies. It is the out front winner in terms of getting business. Yet, many firms appear to believe that search engine marketing and optimisation is where they should focus their activity. Whilst search is useful, it is six times LESS effective than email marketing, according to this research.

Write Reports

The second most valuable digital marketing activity is the production of white papers and reports which can be downloaded. This taps into another psychological feature of persuasion which is “authority”. People buy from companies they perceive as the “experts”. You can establish your level of expertise with regular reports and downloadable documents, but make sure you use lead generation devices within them, such as clickable links to detailed information about your products and services.

Indeed, if you demonstrate your expertise through reports, live events and email newsletters, you will be at the “top of the tree” in terms of lead generation. Sure, you can also generate leads from social media or search engines. But this latest study confirms the findings of dozens of other surveys; such things are a useful part of your marketing mix, but they are not the essential parts.

If you want to generate sales leads, it is time to relegate search and social media to “also rans”.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
Graham Jones
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