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What is Lead Generation: meaning, techniques, and strategies

lead generation

So, you want to know the answer to the question, “What is lead generation?” Or maybe you’ve heard about the effectiveness of lead gen campaigns and want to try them?

Search no more! We will go into all things, starting from what a lead is to how to generate leads, what lead gen trends there are, and how you can find your first leads by yourself.

What is a lead?

A lead is a person or a company potentially interested in your product or service. Every lead consists of information that you have on them. For example, a basic lead would be a name, contact details, and company name/location/job title. 

Now let’s have a look at how to categorize leads. We’ve defined three main ways you can do it: 

Lead type 1: Based on the interest

Interest is the first point that helps you define leads and split them into two large subgroups:

  • Warm or inbound leads are the ones who showed their interest by themselves and found you on their own (for example, they came across your blog and subscribed to your newsletters).
  • Cold or outbound leads are a subgroup of leads generated by you thanks to your targeting strategy and a lead generation tool.

Lead type 2: Based on enrichment

The second type is based on the information you have on your leads. Depending on the amount of data you have, you can divide them into two subgroups: 

  • Non-enriched leads are thin on information. Most often, they only have the name and email address or phone number (one contact method).
  • Enriched leads come with a set of additional information you can use for personalization and multi-channel marketing: secondary contact details, company name, location, job position, pain points, etc.

Lead type 3: Based on qualification

This last type helps define leads based on the their qualification and stage in the sales funnel:

  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL) has a slight interest in you but is still not ready to communicate. Let’s say, they’ve subscribed to your blog newsletters or signed up through your lead magnet, leaving their contact information in exchange. 
  • Sales qualified lead (SQL) has expressed actual interest in your product and is one step closer to becoming a paying customer. For example, such business leads leave their contact information to get in touch with your sales team to learn some more details about your product.
  • Product qualified lead (PQL) has taken action to become a paying customer. They are similar to SQLs but with a slight difference: PQLs are typical for companies that provide a free trial (like Snov.io). These leads may be using your free trial but are asking you about some of the features available in paid plans only.

What is lead generation?

Now that we’re done with the leads meaning, let’s dive deeper into lead generation definition and what it entails.

Lead generation is a process of searching for people who may be potentially interested in your service and getting in contact with them to communicate further and convert. It coincides with the first step in the buyer’s journey – the awareness stage.

Purpose of sales lead generation

The main point in generating new leads is filling up the sales funnel. The more leads you generate, the more potential customers you have. The lead to customer conversion rate is never 100%. This is why turning leads to prospects to customers is of the utmost importance for any business trying to grow.

sales funnel and lead's journey
A typical sales funnel

Who uses sales lead generation?

Every business generates leads. Whether you are a company, an entrepreneur, or a sales rep, you aim to generate as many new leads as possible and convert them into paying customers with the primary goal of growing revenue

Generally speaking, leads are generated for further use by two groups – sales and marketers:

The sales group includes sales specialists, sales development representatives, and sales departments. Salespeople usually focus on generating cold leads to fill their task lists and then use them for cold calling, cold emailing, and cold marketing campaigns. They go for quantity first, score and filter leads out, and then work closely with the most engaged ones. 

The marketing segment consists of marketing specialists, marketing departments, and marketing agencies. Marketers usually focus on generating warm leads. First, they acquire business leads through different marketing channels, warm them up with relevant approaches, and then forward hot leads to the sales department or make the sale right away.

Sales and marketing have quite different methods and needs, but the goal is always a client, a deal, a sale.

So, how do you generate leads?

It’s time to discuss how to generate leads and quickly review inbound and outbound lead generation.

inbound vs. outbound

Inbound lead generation strategies

Warm leads can be effectively captured after visiting a page with engaging content relevant to their problems. The sources of such leads vary depending on the niche (most common being blogs, search engines, and social media), and so does the content.

Content marketing

Blog posts, freebies, and infographics are only the tip of the content marketing iceberg – your imagination is the limit. Depending on your goals and buyer persona, different content types will work better than others, so analyze and focus your efforts on content that attracts the best inbound leads. Here are some examples:

  • Articles and guides. Creating high-quality blog content is one of the best opportunities to generate business leads because it brings people to your page and positions you as an expert. Do thorough research before you write any article, optimize texts, and share only relevant content. 
  • Lead magnet. This can be any downloadable content you’re willing to give away for an email or relevant information. It can include e-books, cheat sheets, studies, examples, etc. Once verified, collected emails can be used to send highly personalized and targeted campaigns.
  • Videos. People perceive information better through videos. Create videos based on the same ideas as for any written content, as long as they solve the lead’s questions. Don’t forget to insert a link that will lead your viewers to an opt-in form, lead magnet, landing page, etc.
  • Podcasts. They are a great way to generate new leads, as they have become an integral part of our drives to work and professional self-development. 1/3 of adults aged 25-34 listen to podcasts monthly and 1/5 – weekly. So, if your business niche allows, try involving them in your inbound lead gen strategy.

Social media

Social media is getting its own section even though it could be lumped in with content marketing. Whether you like it or not, there’s no denying a well-produced and maintained social media presence means marketing power. 

Using social media, you can combine blogging, targeted ads, and more onto one platform and spread the word of your business far and wide. Each platform has its style, positives, and negatives, but inbound leads will find you there, especially if you engage in targeted sponsored postings and ads. 

SEO

SEO content and pages that drive organic traffic are possibly the best long-term sales lead generators. When people are looking for products, services, and solutions to their problems, you want to make sure your lead generation website is the first thing they see. For that, fill your content and pages with keywords and phrases that correspond to these search queries. 

Outbound lead generation strategies

Leads that are found can be harder to convert because they have not taken an interest in your offer voluntarily. However, using specific targeting and personalization, the so-called cold leads can be converted just as easily. 

Outbound lead generation includes two main strategies: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and lead sourcing. PPC is a paid option, while lead sourcing can be both paid and free, manual and automated.

PPC advertising

Before we get further into PPC, I want to address how more and more marketers refer to PPC advertising as an inbound marketing technique (that’s targeted ads were also briefly mentioned in the previous section). I believe that PPC fits better into the outbound for its interruptive nature. Still, it’s important to note that it can be used to enhance your inbound marketing.

If you know your perfect buyer persona and target audience, then paid lead generation can be a key to massive sales. You can run paid ads through Facebook, Google Search, ad networks, and many other paid sources that can provide lots of targeted traffic.

Usually, such leads are captured on custom landing pages created specifically for every campaign. Paid lead generation marketing campaigns also have more detailed lead capturing forms. This is done for a simple reason – you pay money for traffic, and you want your business leads to be as targeted and enriched as possible from the beginning.

This is a great method if you know your perfect target audience, have a budget to spend, and have sales resources to process many warm leads.

Lead sourcing

Lead sourcing is performed by extracting leads manually, semi-manually, or automatically from various sources with lead generation tools. It’s a great chance to test the waters and define your lead gen approach

Many lead generation companies offer solutions that can suit any need and price. As a result, lead sourcing can cost you nothing when performed manually or with the help of free email finder tools. But it can also eat up a good chunk of your budget if you go with lead generation companies with overpriced solutions.

Before you start sourcing, choose the lead source. Try a few and analyze which leads convert best. Diversify your lead generation if you can – having a couple of lead sources that work for you is always a plus. Here are some options:

Define your target audience, find the right company, decide on whom you need to get in touch with, and use an email finder to generate leads. 

email finder

Lead generation techniques

As you might’ve already understood, sales lead generation is a sophisticated process demanding lots of analysis and work. But it can be made easier (and more efficient!) with a few tips:

Use a tempting CTA. Your whole landing page should always look amazing, but your CTA must be extra alluring to motivate the lead to sign up. Use the potential buyer’s fears and desires when composing the CTA.

Optimize your website and landing pages for mobile. Almost 60% of users would never recommend a website that isn’t mobile-optimized. Make sure all elements are displayed correctly, and your lead can sign up from mobile.

Create evergreen content. Evergreen content is like a quality car – it may take more effort to create, but it will last so much longer and pay off much quicker than content built of fleeting trends.

Don’t forget about email marketing. According to numerous research, email marketing is still the best choice for business in 2020. Take advantage of it to nurture leads, onboard, share updates, and, of course, sell.

Be regular with your newsletters. When people subscribe, they expect something more than just one email. Create an email drip campaign with valuable content and choose the optimal email frequency to always be on your leads’ minds.

email drip campaigns

Create a referral program. Word of mouth works great in any business. So, let your clients share a referral link to bring you new targeted leads for a small bonus or reward.

Create a consistent stream of leads to fill your sales funnel. Lead generation companies can offer you various tools capable of providing you with thousands of targeted leads every day. If you see that inbound marketing isn’t bringing you as many leads as you need, take matters into your hands.

Lead generation examples for 2020

In 2020 try the following lead gen methods:

  • Chatbots. Among a wide range of features, they now offer lead generation. You can insert any question into the chatbot, from “What are you searching for?” to “Leave your email address, and we will send you a freebie.” They are a great choice for small teams as they are fully automated with no human oversight.
  • Video guides. Use them to divert traffic to your website, for onboarding, or for social updates.
  • Segmentation + personalization. When you segment leads, you can reach them easier and faster, and personalized content will help you convert even more.
  • Influencer marketing. Influencers are your shortcut to reaching a wide audience in your niche while also boosting your brand awareness and image. A few years ago, only B2C companies used influencers. Not anymore – B2B micro-influencers can help you score your white whale!

Wrapping it up

Generating leads can be a lot of work, but it pays off. There are many solutions on how to get leads; all you have to do is try to find lead gen channels that are best for you and your business.

We recommend you start with a lead sourcing method, as you can run such lead generation marketing campaigns at no or low cost and get high quality targeted leads. But don’t be afraid to use email finder tools too.

Go and launch your lead generation campaign today! Generate business leads consistently, experiment, optimize based on lead quality, and you will see your revenue grow.

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