These Are the Five Hottest Lead Generation Trends in 2017

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Every year we have new lead generation trends come and go. Some earn their place as invaluable marketing strategies while others fade away with a whimper. Whatever happens, there always seems to be a lot of buzz around trends, whether they deserve it or not. Which makes it difficult to know which ones will catch on and which of those are gimmicks simply getting their moment in the spotlight.

This can be frustrating for web designers and site owners – especially when trends shake up design principles only to fall short of expectations.

#1: Voice search

Like most trends, voice search is nothing new but 2017 is the year it’s being touted as a technology that will change the way people use the web. This shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise following the release of Google Home and Amazon Echo devices, but what does this mean for voice search as a lead generation strategy?

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Source: Google Home

Well, despite all the big predictions and fancy talk, voice search is doing very little for lead generation – and it’s hard to see how it can make a real impact at this stage. Voice technology simply doesn’t have much to offer in the consumer journey and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos openly admits this.

Voice search: Great for setting alarm clocks without using your fingers, not so good as a lead generation strategy.

#2: Personalization

We’ve been talking about personalization in the marketing industry for years but the technology has never really been in place to make it happen. Things are starting to change now as the big names in A/B testing software move into the next stage of conversion optimization.

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Personalization with targeted content using Optimizely

Instead of testing changes for everyone, personalization allows you to target different audiences with variations of your website, meaning the content of your homepage adapts for different user interests.

There are challenges with this approach to personalization, though. It can be difficult enough to get significant results from A/B tests, let alone throwing in multiple variations designed for different audiences. While each audience you segment divides your sample size for each experiment, further reducing the statistical significance of your data.

Clearly, personalization still has a lot of progress to make, but this is one trend worth taking seriously.

#3: Chatbots

Yes, chatbots dominated the marketing fanfare last year but they’ve stumbled into 2017 and pretty much landed on their face. The technology comes with plenty of promise and much of it is deserved, but it’s fallen victim to its own hype. User numbers are far below expectations and the vast majority of bots are failing to retain users beyond the first few sessions.

Suddenly, the tone is very different in this section of the industry. Instead of hyping up the bots, fingers are being pointed at reasons why the technology has fallen short of expectations. But the answer is obvious: far too much time was spent talking about how amazing chatbots are last year and not enough time designing bots that actually do anything useful.

I still think the bots will take off at some point but the party has been put on ice until brands and marketers take the design process more seriously.

#4: Live chat

Chatbots’ nearest cousin, live chat, is faring slightly better in 2017. This previously awful lead generation technique has been given a redesign (mostly to look like chatbots) and cropped up over a wide range of websites.

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Live chat on the Elegant Themes Divi theme page

The big trend is to place a live chat widget on your site, prompting users to start a conversation. They get instant feedback instead of waiting around for an answer and don’t have to use any dreaded web forms to get in touch. Some of the implementations work quite nicely on mobile, too, effectively replicating messaging apps.

In terms of a lead generation tool, there are big claims about the impact live chat is having for many brands. I take these with a pinch of salt, though, because there are various UX issues with using live chat in this way:

  • It interrupts the user experience
  • It distracts attention away from page content
  • It can hog a lot of mobile screen space
  • It relies on automated conversation
  • It takes more time/effort
  • It’s being used to supplement poor form design
  • If users need live chat to find information, your design isn’t working

Live chat does have a lot of merits from a customer service perspective but, as a lead generation tool, I’m not convinced. Slap it over a poorly designed page with crappy web forms and, yes, it might get better results. But I see no signs of live chat enhancing solid page design, good information architecture and forms designed to convert.

#5: Multi-step forms

Speaking of which, multi-step forms are the next step in form design evolution. Those nasty field boxes are replaced by a blank canvas to design your own multi-step signup process that looks and feels nothing like a web form. The idea is to remove friction and the stigma against web forms, as soon as people lay eyes on those text input fields.

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Multi-step forms are working like a treat, too. With strategic placement around calls to action and convincing page copy, multi-step forms are cutting out the conversion killers and turning web forms into the lead generation tool they should be. We’re now also getting form builder/analytics tools that make multi-step form design and optimization a breeze.

This lead gen trend is a keeper.

Stick with the proven lead gen strategies

There’s a constant obsession with finding the next big marketing trend in this industry. The slightest whiff of an untapped strategy gets people going crazy and it’s a shame to see so many brands jump on trends before they’ve proven their worth.

Looking at the five hottest new lead gen tools for this year, there are only two that really hold their own: personalization and multi-step forms. Funnily enough, these are the two that probably get the least publicity, which shows the dangers following popular opinion.

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What really matters is the most effective lead generation techniques haven’t changed. They’ve become a solid part of any good marketing strategy and they won’t be going anywhere for some time yet.

Lead generation trends come and go; tried and tested methods stick around for the long haul. So it’s pretty obvious where our attention should be focused.

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