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Creative lead generation blunder?

I just heard about a “creative” lead generation campaign (second hand) that made me wince.   

The company behind the campaign does commercial leasing and counts roughly 80% of the Fortune 1000 as their customers — so they’ve done quite a few things right.  However, this so called “creative” lead generation program might be a strategic blunder. 

The pitch
The company sells to senior executives big companies.  They created a 3-dimensional direct mail package including two baseballs signed by Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and three baseball stands.  Now, if you’re a baseball fan that sounds incredible huh?

I bet you know what’s coming… if you agree to meet with us, (no obligation of course) we’ll bring you a third base ball signed by (drums please) baseball great, Hank Aaron. 

Swing – it’s a hit!
Needless to say this campaign generated a ton of executive appointments.  I wonder if these marketers (who probably are strutting around over their spectacularly program) have traced the appointments netted by the “base ball” campaign back to either new customers or new leases originated (real revenue)?  I doubt it. 

My experience is that most companies celebrate the quantity of appointment activity but the revenue results from the appointments are seldom measured.  If that happened here…

Foul ball! (Sorry – I couldn’t resist) 
I don’t get it? What do autographed baseballs have to do with commercial leasing?  This “creative” lead generation campaign seems very um, un-creative and a cop out.   

Marketers who use expensive premiums like this are practicing what I call “appointment bribery.”  I can only imagine that their marketing team ran out of good ideas that articluate their value proposition or they simply gave up and chose the path of least resistance – buying access.   

Getting past home plate (okay – I’ll stop it)
The real goal of lead generation is to help the sales team – sell by connecting your value proposition with your audiences need.  Sales people must be meeting with those who have a clear initiative, want to do something about it and meet your lead definition of being sales ready. 

That’s not someone who wants the “free” expensive gift.  I can’t imagine what the campaign cost in dollars but I can only guess at the soft costs of wasting their sales people’s time. 

Numerous studies show that companies (with complex sales) don’t see increased revenue from getting their sales people more appointments.  In some cases, it will negatively impact revenue. 

A recent report by Aberdeen Group, “Sales Effectiveness: Helping Sales Sell” concludes, “The number one issue for most CEO’s and Marketers is lead generation – getting more leads to their sales team.” The number one desire for sales people however, is MORE selling time with “sales ready” opportunities. 

On last thought, if I became a customer, I would wonder how they could afford to spend money lavishly marketing to me, then haggle with me over percentage points of interest on my lease?  I would rather they save their money and focus clearly demonstrating that I could trust them to help my company save money. 

Should marketers buy access like this?  Why or why not?

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