The Best Lead Generation Channels of 2023, Ranked
Lead generation is the most important marketing activity most companies engage in, but limited budgets mean that few can afford to invest in every channel. To help marketers make informed decisions and optimize their budget allocation, we’ve ranked the top 11 lead generation channels based on proprietary client data gathered between 2018 and 2023. We broke the data down into the following categories for each channel:
- Monthly Cost: The average monthly cost of a well-executed campaign. Many of the below channels can be implemented at a lower cost, but their effectiveness diminishes greatly below this range.
- ROI: The average return on investment over 3 years. Examining a multiple-year period reduces the effects of seasonality and major events that affect the business climate.
- Customer Acquisition Cost: The average cost associated with acquiring a single new customer through each channel. As with ROI, we share the 3-year average.
- Time Until Results: The amount of time it takes to produce qualified leads. This factor can impact the practicality of investing in a specific channel, depending on your short-term and long-term goals.
- Difficulty: How much marketer skill is required to implement each channel effectively. Low difficulty is often an advantage, but higher-difficulty channels often produce better results.
The Top 11 Lead Generation Channels of 2023
|Rank||Channel||Monthly Cost||ROI||Customer Acquisition Cost||Time Until Results||Difficulty||Upshot|
|1||Thought Leadership & SEO||$12,000 – $15,000||748%||$647||4-6 Months||Medium||Over the course of a 3 year campaign, combining thought leadership and SEO delivers consistently high ROI.|
|2||Public Speaking||$25,000 – $40,000||856%||$518||2-4 months||Very Hard||Although travel and bookings can be costly, keynote speeches at industry events deliver excellent returns while increasing your company’s authority in its field—provided you have a compelling speaker at your company.|
|3||Email Marketing||$1,000 – $3,000||312%||$510||3-6 months||Easy||Relatively inexpensive and easy to implement, email marketing can provide moderate lead generation results, particularly when combined with other channels.|
|4||Webinars||$15,000 – $35,000||430%||$603||2-4 months||Medium||Webinars offer an opportunity to connect more personally with your audience, and are often attended by high-level decision makers. They can also be created relatively easily by repurposing existing content.|
|5||PPC/SEM||$3,000 – $30,000||36%||$802||1 month||Medium||Despite its low ROI, PPC is unparalleled in the rapidity of its results. PPC is best when combined with a slower but higher-ROI campaign, ensuring your sales funnel remains filled.|
|6||ABM||$25,000 – $35,000||240%||$4,664||4-8 months||Hard||ABM is high risk, high reward and very industry dependent. It is an important channel if your target industry consists of only a few, very large potential customers.|
|7||Paid Social Media||$5,000 – $20,000||192%||$983||3-4 months||Easy||Much like SEO vs PPC, paid social media trades low CACs for faster results compared to its organic counterpart.|
|8||Podcasts||$5,000 – $9,500||307%||$1,472||12-18 months||Medium||The success of podcasts is usually personality driven and relies on content quality and speaker reputation. It takes time to grow a dedicated following, and requires a long lead time before your company sees returns.|
|9||Trade Shows||$10,000 – $250,000 per show||85%||$1,390||7-9 months||Medium||For clients with high-value products or services, making a personal connection at a trade goes a long way to establish trust. However, your company competes for attention with every other booth at the trade show, including those who aren’t normally direct competitors.|
|10||Direct Mail||$1,500 – $10,000 per mailing||77%||$864||6-8 months||Medium||Direct mail has poor conversion rates, and substantial sized mailings are typically required to see results. This drives up the cost of direct mail making it a poor choice for lead generation in most industries.|
|11||Organic Social Media||$500 – $3,000||229%||$658||6-8 months||Easy||While organic social media is among the easiest channels to implement, it serves primarily as a lead nurturing channel rather than a lead generator. It is most effective when combined with other lead generation channels, creating a second or third touchpoint.|
The Highest ROI & Shortest Time-to-Results Lead Generation Channels
Depending upon your specific lead generation needs, you may wish to maximize either ROI or minimize the startup time before your chosen channel begins delivering leads. Below, we present the top 5 highest ROI lead generation channels, as well as the top 5 fastest lead generation channels.
The Highest-ROI Lead Generation Channels
|Rank||Channel||Monthly Cost||CAC||ROI||Time Until Results||Difficulty|
|1||Public Speaking||$25,000 – $40,000||$518||856%||2-4 months||Very Hard|
|2||Thought Leadership & SEO||$12,000 – $15,000||$647||748%||4-6 Months||Medium|
|3||Webinars||$15,000 – $35,000||$603||430%||2-4 months||Medium|
|4||Email Marketing||$1,000 – $3,000||$510||312%||3-6 months||Easy|
|5||Podcasts||$5,000 – $9,500||$1,472||307%||12-18 months||Medium|
With the exception of email marketing, implementation and execution of high-performing lead generation channels can be challenging. For example, a skilled speaker with already-recognized expertise is required to book high profile public speaking engagements. As a result, many companies will want to combine these channels with an easier channel that provides rapid returns while they train their marketing team. These can be found in the table below.
The Shortest Time-to-Results Lead Generation Channels
|Rank||Channel||Monthly Cost||Customer Acquisition Cost||ROI||Time Until Results||Difficulty|
|1||PPC/SEM||$3,000 – $30,000||$802||36%||1 month||Medium|
|2||Public Speaking||$25,000 – $40,000||$518||856%||2-4 months||Very Hard|
|3||Webinars||$15,000 – $35,000||$603||430%||2-4 months||Medium|
|4||Paid Social Media||$5,000 – $20,000||$983||192%||3-4 months||Easy|
|5||Email Marketing||$1,000 – $3,000||$510||312%||3-6 months||Easy|
The channels above require the least startup time, but often suffer from high difficulty or low ROI. That said, a low ROI can be mitigated through using it in conjunction with other lead generation channels. For example, combining PPC/SEM with a high-ROI channel like Thought Leadership & SEO can create a system that provides both short and long-term lead gen.
Executing a Lead Generation Campaign
As the data indicates, the most effective lead generation channels require a significant degree of marketer skill to implement correctly, and are best used in conjunction with other channels. As a result, many companies find that they need to partner with an outside lead gen agency to supplement their in-house efforts.
At First Page Sage, we’ve worked with companies across a variety of industries to execute successful lead generation campaigns. If you’re interested in learning more about our services, you can contact us here.