Lead Generation: A Beginners’ Guide to Lead Growth

Foster meaningful relationships

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Gartner discovered that a striking 80% of sales interactions between businesses (B2B) are now taking place in digital channels. This emphasizes the importance of reevaluating and changing how businesses attract new customers, a process known as lead generation. Effective lead generation is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity for business survival and success. However, many B2B companies still find it challenging to reach out to prospective customers.

Today, we’ll guide you through the ins and outs of lead generation, outlining top strategies and tips to help adjust your lead generation strategies the right way.

Why is Lead Generation Important?

As you might already know, lead generation is the process of finding and attracting people who could potentially be interested in your company’s products or services.

With lead generation, you can:

  • Create a personalized marketing strategy. Understanding your target audience enables you to tailor your messages to them.
  • Foster meaningful relationships with audiences. By nurturing these relationships, you can encourage purchases and inspire loyalty.
  • Significantly increase a company’s revenue. The more effective your lead generation efforts are, the more qualified leads you can find and the higher your conversion rate will be, leading to increased revenue.
  • Evaluate your marketing and sales effectiveness. If your lead generation efforts don’t result in an adequate number of high-quality leads, you might need to review your strategies.

Lead Generation in the Digital Age

The digital age has introduced new avenues to discover and attract potential customers, with channels like social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and content marketing taking the lead.

With its vast user base, social media has become a powerful tool for businesses to find potential customers. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter offer you the opportunity to interact with your audience in a more personal and immediate way. Whether through organic posts or paid advertising, social media can be harnessed to share content, showcase products, and offer exclusive deals. Using it correctly, you can also gather valuable data on user engagement.

Similarly, SEO and content marketing are invaluable tools for drawing traffic to your business website. By optimizing your site and content for search engines, you can increase your chance of appearing in search engine results for relevant keywords. Therefore, you can attract leads who are actively searching for what they offer and have a high intention to buy.

Adding a layer of sophistication to these digital lead generation strategies is artificial intelligence (AI). AI technology, like chatbots, can automate and personalize communication with leads, increasing engagement and efficiency. AI can also analyze large amounts of data to identify trends and patterns, helping you understand your audience better and tailor your strategies more effectively.

What is a Lead?

A lead means an individual or a business that has expressed interest in your product or service. This expression of interest can show in different ways; for example, they’ve signed up for your newsletter, filled out a form on your website, followed your social media profiles, or even directly contacted your business for inquiries.

That said, the journey from showing initial interest to making a purchase isn’t always a straight line. Think about it like a funnel, wherein numerous leads enter, but only a select few eventually convert to customers. Hence, all leads aren’t created equal, which brings us to two key classifications: marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

  • An MQL is a lead that engages with your company beyond mere initial interest. This could mean they’ve downloaded a white paper, attended a webinar, or responded to your email campaign. While they haven’t yet committed to a purchase, their actions suggest they might be more open to hearing your sales pitch.
  • A SQL is a lead that is ready to take the plunge. They’re ripe opportunities for your sales team to convert into customers. For instance, they might have requested a product demonstration, requested a quote, or even completed a purchase order.

What is a Qualified Lead?

A qualified lead is a prospect who is interested in your product or service and ready to buy it. This qualification could be based on factors like their need for your product or service, financial capacity, decision-making ability, or timeline for purchase.

Types of Qualified Leads

Qualified leads can include three types: cold, warm, and hot leads. Understanding them is critical for optimizing marketing and sales efforts:

  • Cold leads: They fit your target demographic but haven’t shown direct interest in your products. That said, they’re still engaged with your business, suggesting potential for future interest.
  • Warm leads: They’ve shown active interest in your company or what you have to offer. They’ve not yet made a purchase, but their engagement implies a higher likelihood of doing so than a cold lead.
  • Hot leads: They’ve shown strong interest in your offerings and demonstrated a readiness to buy. Hot leads are often considered the most valuable type, as they’re on the brink of making a purchase.

Here’s How You Can Qualify Your Leads:

  • Use lead scoring: You assign numerical values to each lead based on behavior, engagement, or demographic information. For instance, a lead who visits your pricing page multiple times might be considered “hotter” than someone who only lands on your homepage. By implementing a lead scoring system, you can prioritize your sales efforts on high-value prospects, ensuring optimal use of your resources.
  • Understand prospects’ behaviors: This requires a deeper analysis of your leads’ interactions with your brand, which will support your lead scoring process.
  • Define your ideal customer profile (ICP): Knowing your ideal customer can guide your lead qualification process. An ICP typically includes demographic details, industry type, job role, and other relevant information.
  • Ask the right qualifying questions: By doing that, you can gain a deeper understanding of your prospect’s needs, goals, and pain points. Moreover, their responses can help determine if your product or service meets their expectations.

Sales Lead Generation Versus Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting involves more direct interaction with potential customers. It’s about initiating conversations, identifying needs, presenting solutions, and moving leads further along the sales funnel toward becoming buying customers.

Meanwhile, sales lead generation creates awareness and sparks interest. The goal is to attract leads and capture their contact information for future engagement.

Lead Generators and Lead Nurturing

Lead generators are strategies or tools designed to capture a lead’s interest. They can act like lighthouses, sending signals to guide potential customers toward your business.

Once the leads are generated, the next stage is lead nurturing. This is where you work on building relationships with them over time. You have to engage with them, provide them with values, and let them know you’re there for them.

Lead nurturing can involve sending follow-up emails, sharing relevant content, offering special deals, or simply engaging in a conversation on social media. It’s all about keeping the lead engaged and moving them through the sales funnel, with the ultimate goal of conversion, i.e., turning them into a paying customer.

Strategies for Lead Generation

The best lead-generation strategy for your business will depend on your goals, target audience, and resources. It’s essential to understand your audience — what they want, need, and value — and tailor your strategy accordingly. Remember that lead generation isn’t a set-and-forget task but an ongoing process that needs attention, analysis, and adjustment.

Let’s look at some of the most effective approaches, including inbound marketing, outbound marketing, sales and marketing alignment:

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a customer-centric strategy that strives to attract, engage, and delight customers. In the lead generation context, you allow leads to come to you, drawn by the value and relevance of your content.

The heart of inbound marketing is delivering value. You share meaningful and beneficial content such as blog posts, how-to videos, webinars, or e-books. In doing so, you showcase your expertise and develop trust with your audience.

For instance, when a visitor lands on your website, reads your latest blog post, and signs up for your newsletter, that visitor becomes a lead.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing involves reaching out to potential customers rather than waiting for them to come to you. Cold calling, email campaigns, and advertising are typical outbound marketing tactics.

Outbound marketing offers many benefits. For example, it can help you attract a wide range of leads. This can be particularly useful if you’re looking to expand your customer base or break into new markets.

It’s important to note that successful outbound marketing requires a well-planned and executed strategy. It’s not enough to simply blast out messages to a wide audience and hope for the best.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and marketing are the two pillars of any business organization. Yet, they’re often seen as separate entities operating in their own silos. However, their alignment is crucial in enhancing performance in lead generation, lead quality, and conversion rates. When these two teams work in harmony, the magic begins. According to Gartner, “organizations that prioritize sales and marketing alignment are nearly 3x more likely to exceed new customer acquisition targets.”

Think about this: the marketing team plays a critical role in creating awareness about the product or service, attracting prospects, and creating leads. On the other hand, the sales team follows up on these leads, engaging with them until they convert into customers.

When sales and marketing teams share the same goals and effectively communicate, they can focus on generating qualified leads. This alignment ensures that the marketing team understands what a qualified lead looks like from the sales perspective and the sales team knows how to nurture the leads that marketing produces. It also ensures that both teams understand each other’s roles, challenges, and expectations, leading to improved strategies and better results.

Best Practices for Sales Lead Generation

Use Personalized Outreach

As said above, not every potential customer is the same. Therefore, when you broadcast the same message to everyone, chances are, it’s only going to resonate with a fraction of them. So, instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, you should craft content that meets each prospect’s specific needs.

Focus on Building Relationships

Engage with leads regularly, provide value, and show genuine interest in their goals and challenges. Over time, you’ll become their go-to person when they need solutions, consequently turning potential leads into loyal customers.

Follow Up with Leads

Most people won’t make a purchase or sign a contract after a single interaction. Therefore, staying at the top of their minds through regular, thoughtful follow-ups can be instrumental in finally getting them to seal the deal.

Develop Your Marketing Skills with Trailhead

Salesforce’s Trailhead is an innovative platform that offers a variety of courses, modules, and certifications in marketing.

From understanding the fundamentals of CRM to mastering advanced lead generation strategies, Trailhead offers an extensive range of courses tailored for different skill levels. This valuable resource ensures that you’re not just following best practices but also staying up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques in sales and marketing.

Lead Generation Steps

Step 1: Identify Your Audience

Recognizing your ideal customer’s characteristics, behaviors, and pain points aids in crafting tailored lead generating strategies. The better you know your audience, the more effectively you can create messages that resonate with them.

Step 2: The Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey describes the process a lead goes through before purchasing a product or service. It includes the below three stages:

The Awareness Stage

This is the beginning of the journey when a lead realizes they have a problem or need. At this stage, you aim to create informative and educational content that helps them understand their challenges. The focus should not be on selling but on being a knowledgeable guide that provides solutions to the lead’s problems.

Strategies like SEO optimization and social media engagement play a vital role here. The goal is to capture leads by being visible when they search for answers online.

The Consideration Stage

As the lead moves to the consideration stage, they explore potential solutions to their identified problem. Here, your content should delve deeper and provide details about your product or service.

This is the point where personalized email campaigns can nurture leads, reminding them that your solution isn’t just relevant but potentially the best choice for their needs.

The Decision Stage

At this stage, the lead is deciding on the solution. Your job is to convince them that your product or service is their best option. This can be achieved by offering a clear call-to-action, providing demos or free trials, and showcasing testimonials. Also, address any remaining concerns they may have and build trust.

Lead Generation Tools

You can consider the following tools and technologies to streamline and enhance your lead generation process.

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software: It helps manage all your company’s relationships and interactions with current and potential customers in a central place. With CRM, you get a clear view of your sales pipeline, which allows you to spot opportunities, nurture leads, and close deals more effectively.
  • Marketing automation platforms: These tools are designed to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media posts, and other website actions. Hence, you can focus on strategy and creative work, leading to increased efficiency and productivity.
  • Lead capture forms: These are specially designed to collect information about visitors to your website. When used effectively, they can significantly boost your lead generation efforts.
  • Landing page builders: Landing pages are standalone web pages designed for a specific marketing campaign. The purpose is to guide visitors toward a specific action, such as purchasing or signing up for a newsletter. With a landing page builder, you can create these pages without any coding knowledge.
  • Analytics tools: They help you understand which strategies are working and which aren’t. They give you insights into your audience’s behavior, website performance, and campaign effectiveness. With this information, you can tweak your strategy to attract more quality leads and increase conversions.

Lead Generation Metrics

Here are four crucial lead generation metrics that you should closely monitor.

  • Lead conversion rate measures the percentage of your leads that eventually convert into paying customers. Calculate it by dividing the number of new customers by the number of leads.
  • Cost per lead tells you how much your business spends on acquiring each new lead. This figure is crucial for understanding the financial efficiency of your lead generation efforts. Calculate it by dividing the total amount spent on lead generation by the total number of leads generated.
  • Lead-to-customer ratio represents how many leads are required to gain a new customer. Calculate it by dividing the total number of leads by the total number of new customers.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) shows you the financial return on the money you’ve invested in generating leads. Calculate it by subtracting the cost of lead generation from the revenue it generated and then dividing it by the cost of lead generation.

Time to Transform Your Lead Generation Strategy

Lead generation isn’t just about accumulating a high volume of leads, but about attracting qualified leads.

This requires a thoughtful, strategic approach tailored to your business needs and goals. From optimizing your website for lead capture and leveraging the power of social media, to harnessing the effectiveness of email marketing — each of these strategies plays a vital role. Start refining your lead generation strategy, use the right tools and techniques, measure your results, and continuously improve.

Core UX Writer at Booking.com

Lavender Nguyen is a Freelance Content Writer focusing on writing well-researched, data-driven content for B2B commerce, retail, marketing, and SaaS companies. Also known as an Email Marketing Specialist, she helps ecommerce B2C brands develop high-converting, customer-focused email strategies.