Paid Search Isn’t the Only Lead Generation Solution

May 25, 2023

Nola McDonald
Lead generation is one of the most important marketing activities to focus on as brands prepare for the cookie-less future. Many marketers think of paid search as the primary lead driver, but there are many options at our disposal that can boost lead generation across the marketing funnel.

Paid Search Isn’t the Only Lead Generation Solution

Lead generation has always been important, and now more than ever, lead generation in the form of capturing first-party data is becoming increasingly important for brands with the rollout of cookie opt-ins with iOS 14 and the deprecation of the cookie on the near horizon. Marketers in the digital world have historically relied on third-party data to reach audiences, but with the loss of cookie-based targeting, first-party data will become one of the best ways for brands to reach the right audience with minimal wasted impressions. While Unified ID 2.0 exists as a precise targeting option, a layer of first-party data ensures that you’re reaching an audience that is actively engaged with your brand. This means that lead generation should be top of mind for marketers now and in the future.

Are lower funnel tactics my only option?

There are several tactics brands can leverage to drive qualified leads successfully and efficiently. Many marketers immediately gravitate to lower funnel tactics, like paid search. With the ability to target individuals who are directly raising their hand for a product or service, it is clear why this is a tried-and-true lead generation tactic. However, paid search can only do as well as the demand in the market and there are other tactics that can also drive qualified leads. Using higher funnel tactics to build awareness and trust can increase demand in the market to both assist paid search efforts and offer more touchpoints to connect with consumers. 

Tactics to consider that aren’t paid search

Offering more opportunities for consumers to opt-in will be a key factor for successfully driving leads. As we lose access to cookie-based targeting, first-party data captured by lead generation can be used to ensure accurate targeting, ultimately future-proofing marketing efficacy. So, let’s cover some tactics that can generate leads throughout the consumer journey for B2B* and B2C brands.

*Note: tactics marked with an asterisk below represent B2B opportunities

Traditional Media

Direct mail, including offers that provide an opportunity for a consumer to opt-in

  • Pros: provides an opportunity for immediate response and longer-term consideration
  • Cons: barrier to measurement and understanding the impact of media investment

Digital Media

Account-based marketing (ABM)* or highly-targeted prospecting 

  • Pros: visibility of exactly who you are reaching
  • Cons: requires a minimum number of companies or emails in order to serve; scale can be a barrier

Retargeting with tailored messaging based on user’s website behaviors

  • Pros: Individuals who have already been to a website show high intent, and re-engaging builds frequency while reminding consumers of a brand
  • Cons: Most sites require a user to opt-in to cookie targeting in 2023, and as a result, there are individuals that this targeting can miss if they don’t accept the cookie terms and conditions

Automated content recognition to target individuals who have been exposed to competitor advertising

  • Pros: makes competitor conquesting easier than ever in the digital world outside of paid search, offering an opportunity to expand conquesting to higher funnel tactics when an individual is just beginning their journey
  • Cons: requires trust in technology

Categorically relevant custom podcast reads with vanity URLs 

  • Pros: a great way to build awareness and trust, especially if podcast hosts agree to partner with the brand and read a custom script
  • Cons: potential for high costs per influenced conversion with most users not taking action after the first exposure to a message

LinkedIn*, Meta, and other paid social channels

  • Pros: Consumers are constantly looking at their screens, and social channels provide a great way to quickly click to convert while reaching someone in their leisure time
  • Cons: Walled garden data are becoming less advanced with new privacy policies

Direct partnerships to set your brand apart as a thought leader, including content creation, event sponsorships, content syndication, and eBlasts

  • Pros: Partnerships facilitate reach with audiences as they are in a research mindset, and are ideally placed where individuals get their industry or world news
  • Cons: High out-of-pocket costs are typical with direct partnerships; measurement is largely dependent on third-party tracking tags or publisher data

Having a tool box of media tactics is only part of the lead generation equation — media tactics are only as good as the content in the advertisements and on the landing page they drive to. To ensure that landing pages have the right “hook” to get a consumer to opt in (and therefore share their data with you), consider some of the following:

What marketers need to know 

While a cookie-free future seems like a distant reality, enhancing the focus on lead generation in marketing now is the best way to ensure that brands are set up for success. Collecting data and insights that drive action will give marketers the opportunity to test and learn what works best. This approach will also mitigate potential dips in performance and future-proof marketing practices before third-party data are no longer available.