By June Tapia
February 18, 2020
Some people might argue that the history of lead generation is as old as commerce itself. After all, lead generation speaks to the piquing of a customer’s interest. It is impossible to do business without achieving this. If a buyer is not interested in something, business owners and traders would earn neither their money nor their cocoa beans.
Even so, most marketers credit the birth of intentional lead generation to Marco Polo. He was one of the first merchants to employ this consistently and on a large scale to attract more customers along the Silk Road. Not surprisingly, this occurred during the Renaissance period when Europeans set out to simultaneously enlighten themselves and others.
What makes Marco Polo stand out is his prominence in the trade industry. Kublai Khan, the father of the Chinese Yuan Dynasty, so respected Polo that he made him a member of his court. What kind of invaluable service could a European offer in Asia that would earn him a position that outranked many locals in a foreigner’s land?
Marco Polo understood the complexities of linking the Mediterranean to Asia and the trouble it took to cross this area. This was true for not just trade between Europe and Asia, but for intraregional trade as well. When people from hundreds or thousands of miles wanted to trade with foreigners from other lands, it was difficult to know when to meet them and where.
Marco Polo supplied this information as a paid service and matched traders and buyers. This helped their business to thrive and improved overall trade in the region. It is no wonder, then, that Chinese royalty honored him with a place at court.
The Gradual Modernization
Marco Polo was a mortal man, after all, so trade continued to evolve long after he died. Nevertheless, he created the blueprint of success that followed thereafter. With the Renaissance had also come the printing press, and this outlived him. Printed messages traveled fast and allowed people to not just organize markets but advertise to customers.
Transportation also improved. People no longer relied on riding horses or walking on their own two feet to get around. Sailing a boat became dated as well. Merchants and buyers could now purchase a ticket for a steamship or train to let engines ferry them along to their new destinations. This was especially true of Europe and particularly true of Britain.
Improved transportation coincided with the birth of the Industrial Revolution, which quickly spread to the United States. During this time, technology improved not just transportation but manufacturing. Then, as businesses learned to mass-produce goods, they looked for larger markets to consume them and began to consider their options.
In fact, in his book Capitalism and Slavery, the Honorable Dr. Eric Eustace Williams argued that the creation of new customers is the primary reason behind Britain’s decision to abolish slavery in the Caribbean. Williams was a historian who also served as the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Modern Face of Lead Generation
Industrialization certainly changed the economic structure of the countries it touched—some better than others. In England, industrialization often led to increased levels of poverty and child labor in its cities, especially in London. In America, the industrialized North was more prosperous than the South but also had high levels of poverty and child labor.
Over the past few centuries, several laws have been made to address the human rights issues that sprang up when farms and factories focused too much on profit and too little on people. Environmental issues also increasingly took center stage. This forced companies to not just pay fair wages but find new ways to make a profit from increased sales sustainably.
These limitations led to the popularity of printed ads. As countries moved more into the modern era, ads on radio stations and TV became popular. People also bought magazines to see what was the latest, hottest item to bring home. In short, a consumerist culture began to emerge.
The Current Face of Lead Generation
With consumerism and the strengthening of capitalism came more options for customers. Companies once again had to relearn how to better engage customers and beat their competitors. Around this time, the internet began to grow in importance. This created the single-greatest change in lead generation in the past few decades.
Digital marketing has now replaced much of the old newspaper clippings and TV ads that were so common. In their stead are the following favorite tools of marketers:
Shaping Up for the Changes Ahead
Even so, as many marketers share, the most recent change is not that companies have gone digital. It is an increasing focus on the customer experience, from awareness to post-purchase. Companies have learned that one loyal customer is worth more than 10 one-time buyers. Because of this, they have invested heavily in nurturing and strengthening relationships.
This has caused many companies to shed their stern exterior for something more playful and comedic. It also compelled companies to either find or create their green side, as consumers become more environmentally-focused all around the world.
Are you ready to upgrade your lead generation techniques and bring them into the new era? Contact LeadFlash today to see how we make this possible.
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