The Pros and Cons of 6 Top Lead Gen Channels

How do you know when you’ve invested enough in a lead generation channel? How about when you’ve spent too much? When is it time to shift the budget and look for supplemental channels?

The answer is deceptively simple: Let the results tell you.

Heidi Bullock, the former VP of Demand Generation at Marketo, puts it well,

“Look for a point of diminishing returns. Where are your campaign investments providing value? At Marketo, inbound strategies like content marketing are the strongest channels and should be maximized. Beyond that, inbound tactics need to be supplemented with outbound, paid channels to create sustainable demand, and generate new leads from your website.”

Bullock brings up an important idea. There will be a point of diminishing returns for any lead gen channel.

Marketo sells inbound marketing software. They’ve written various guides about effective lead generation using their software. The fact that even Marketo turns to other channels is an excellent illustration of this concept.

At a certain point, lead gen channels begin to provide less bang for your buck. The key is to identify this point, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the channel you’re using, and select complementary channels to support it. To do this effectively, you need a strong understanding of major lead generation channels and their pros and cons.

Here’s what you need to know for six of the top lead generation channels.


Email is arguably the most popular lead generation channel – and for a good reason. 42% of businesses name email as one of their most effective channels. Email is the preferred channel of business communication. It carries just the right level of intimacy. It can be personal when it needs to be, but it’s also readily given out and informal enough for introductions. Email offers a great combination of impact and access.

On the other hand, these traits make email a popular channel. There’s a lot of clutter (literally) in the space. The average businessperson receives 88 business emails per day – that’s a lot of competition in the inbox.


Inbound is another often-praised channel. It’s the least intrusive of any lead generation methods. Users progress through their buying process at their own pace – for better or worse. Leads who progress through the inbound process are some of the most qualified and engaged.

Inbound is also affordable. Most of its costs are related to content creation and setup. These activities provide value, whether inbound remains a focus of your efforts or not.

On the downside, inbound can be hard to predict. Because each journey is ultimately user-driven, the flow of inbound leads is subject to fits and starts, especially for smaller efforts. Additionally, with so much of the process depending on the user, inbound can suffer from errors in user-provided data.


Selling over the phone is an old and stigmatized process.

Phone calls have the benefit of being tailored to fit the situation. A good sales rep can adjust their pitch to fit the call recipient. This gives phone calls the potential to advance leads very rapidly through the funnel. A good call can take a new contact to the consideration or purchase stages of the buying process.

The problem with phone calls is that, despite their high potential, they’re low converting. Many people don’t answer their phones. Even of those that do, most don’t want to sit through an unscheduled sales pitch. At best, phone calls can be inconvenient for the recipient, and, at worst, they can be downright invasive. It’s no surprise that cold calling is often met with hostility.

When you add this up, you can see why phone calls, especially cold calls, tend not to be a favorite of salespeople.


Events are a unique channel for lead generation. They provide face-to-face interactions that can be increasingly rare today. Things like trade shows or conventions allow you to share experiences with your leads, which can build relationships beyond a phone call or an email. This is especially important in B2B marketing, where personal relationships can be crucial to gaining and retaining contracts. At the very least, it’s harder to ignore someone to their face.

The downside of events is their cost. Between tickets, travel, and lodging expenses add up quickly. These expenses grow exponentially when you consider sponsoring or exhibiting. These costs can be prohibitive to smaller companies. Even for those who can afford events, high costs create a lot of pressure to justify the investment.


The largest advantage of lead gen through social media is that it tends to produce high-converting leads. According to HubSpot, social leads convert 13% higher than an average lead. A strong social presence can help to promote advocacy and reinforce the strengths of your brand, which may begin to explain the higher conversion rates for social leads.

The drawback to social media is that it can be difficult to do correctly. It takes a significant amount of effort to create a reputable social media presence. Generating organic conversions requires additional time and effort. Paid social media efforts can help to accelerate these timelines, though they can also get costly.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is much less common today. As a result, sending a physical letter can make your company stand out to the recipient. It also provides an opportunity to make your message more memorable by delivering it with a branded gift.

The biggest drawback to direct mail is it’s difficult to track. Unlike an email or a social media post, you can’t see who received a letter, opened it, and read through. To alleviate this, some companies will ask direct mail recipients to visit a dedicated landing page or enter a code. These tactics provide some insight into those who are most interested but still leave marketers in the dark for the majority of recipients.

The other issue with direct mail is the logistics. Sending thousands of letters is a much bigger challenge than sending thousands of emails. There are printing costs, postage, and storage. Not to mention, somebody has to fold and seal all the letters. Smaller campaigns might be able to be done internally, but larger efforts usually require the help (and costs) of a vendor.


Let us know what you think:

  • What lead generation channels do you use?
  • What is your primary channel?
  • Do you agree with our pros and cons?


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Comments (1)

Nice explanation and pretty well summed up. Thanks for sharing.

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