Today’s customers have a wealth of information at their fingertips — blogs, review sites, social media, and so much more. Thanks to this information, most customers know what they want, who they want it from, and what they want to pay before they buy.
Growing your business means reaching potential customers before they’ve made up their minds. The key to reaching them is lead generation (or lead gen, for short).
According to the sixth State of Marketing report from Salesforce, 32% of marketers own lead generation and 65% contribute to it. Marketing leads, sales effectiveness, and customer acquisition costs are the most important metrics for measuring lead generation success.
Let’s take a closer look at how lead generation works, and how the right lead- generation strategies can help you grow your business.
What Is Lead Generation?
Leads are people who are potentially interested in buying your products or services. Lead generation lets you reach potential customers early in their buyer’s journey, so you can earn their trust, build a relationship, and be by their side until they’re ready to make a purchase.
So grab yourself a cup of coffee, and let’s take a deeper look at how lead generation works, and why it’s so important to growing your business.
Digital Lead Generation
Lead generation used to require sales teams to cold call lists of people and hope for the best — but thanks to digital technology, we can now generate leads based on specific criteria.
Today, companies collect information about key prospects and tailor marketing messaging and sales pitches to their needs. This mainly happens through digital channels, using a combination of inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
Because customers spend so much time online, developing a strong digital presence is a key part of lead and pipeline generation. This is best achieved through inbound marketing strategies like content marketing, website forms, and search engine optimization — all of which work together to drive prospective customers to your website.
Technology has made it easier for companies to understand and target prospects. With the right data, you can tailor your online presence to your buyers’ needs and set the stage for lead generation.
Lead Generation Explained
When they engage with your brand, customers are looking for something more than an old-fashioned sales pitch. They want to trust your brand and feel good about buying what you’re selling.
In B2C and B2B alike, it’s up to you to earn that trust and build a relationship with each customer. That’s where lead generation and customer journeys come in.
While customer journeys may vary by industry, managing journeys is always about turning prospects into long-term customers. And every customer journey starts with a lead.
Lead generation isn’t about rounding up all the leads you can and forwarding them to your sales team. It’s about using the right channels to find high-quality inbound and outbound leads you can build relationships with.
According to Salesforce’s State of Marketing report, the top three channels with the highest lead generation ROI are social media, customer communities, and paid search engine marketing. Better leads yield more consistent sales and business growth.
The 5 Different Types of Lead
Knowing the five different types of leads can help your marketing and sales teams identify how to generate leads and work together to grow your business.
- New — any potential customer you know something about.
This could be customers who visited your website and entered their email address, stopped by your booth at a trade show and swiped their badge, or walked into your store and signed up for a mailing list.
- Working — a lead with whom you are having an active conversation.
This person could be signed up for your email lists, following you on social media, or on the phone with you right now.
- Nurturing — a lead who is not interested in buying right now, but may be in future.
Keep in contact with leads by sending them additional information like newsletters, product announcements, or upcoming webinar schedules so they remember your company when it’s time to buy. 73% marketers believe that webinars are the best menthod to generate leads.
- Unqualified —a lead who is not interested in what you have to offer.
This is also known as a dead lead.
- Qualified — a lead who wants to do business. This is also known as a sales lead..
Your goal is to convert as many new leads into qualified leads as possible. How your organization does this depends on a number of factors — what you sell, how much of your business is online, and so on. Still, the same basic lead-generation strategies of identifying, organizing, and working with leads should always apply. The more efficiently your business generates and qualifies new leads, the better you’ll be able to work with them.
How to Generate Leads
Understanding the different types of leads and how new leads become qualified leads is just the beginning. Next, you need to generate real leads you can nurture into new customers for your business. And remember, 86% of marketers say personalization provides a major or moderate improvement to lead generation.
Let’s put theory into practice with an overview of how lead generation works.
THE MARKETING FUNNEL
The marketing funnel is a way to describe how prospects evolve to become real customers. There are three parts to the marketing funnel:
- Top of Funnel (TOFU) — full of new leads looking for solutions, but who may not be ready to buy
- Middle of Funnel (MOFU) — populated by potential customers who are showing significant interest in your brand’s offerings
- Bottom of Funnel (BOFU) — has the fewest leads in it, but these are the ones who are ready to do business
Lead generation is mainly about filling the TOFU with quality leads. Great marketing is key to great lead generation. After all, marketing generates interest in products and services.
The best marketing strategy is to meet your customers where they are — and in this digital age, your customers are likely on the internet. Building a great website for your company is the right place to start. From there, you can expand your lead-generation strategies to include social media, blogs, and email campaigns that generate inbound leads and drive traffic back to your site. Making sure you set up campaign landing pages effectively to convert leads is also a must.
GENERATING INBOUND LEADS
Outbound marketing is about proactive outreach. It includes television commercials, print advertisements, internet banners, email lists, and good old-fashioned cold calling. By contrast, inbound marketing is about meeting customers along their own journeys with content and resources that will help them become interested in your business.
To generate inbound leads, your content should add value to readers’ lives and draw them to your brand. Inbound marketing tactics like blog posts, e-books, and social media content have proven to be highly effective means of generating high-quality leads at a much lower cost than most outbound marketing tactics.
Keep in mind that consumer behavior changes constantly, and so do opportunities for inbound marketing. That’s why it’s important to periodically revisit your lead-generation strategies to ensure you’re responding to evolving consumer behavior and tech trends.
SOCIAL MEDIA LEAD GENERATION
The key to lead generation through social media is listening to your target audience. Through social listening, you can discover which topics generate the most interest with your audience, and what customers are saying about your brand. You can also strategically hone in on key ‘buy words’ in peoples’ posts that may indicate interest in the solutions you provide through your products and services.
Once you’ve gathered insights through social listening, you can pinpoint your messaging and create content that speaks to your intended audience on social media. But be sure each call to action lets you track prospects to the next phase.
B2B LEAD GENERATION
The lifeblood of most B2B companies is managing the customer journey — and every journey starts with lead generation. This means meeting B2B customers where they are, whether that’s on smartphones, social media, or desktop websites. Sixty-nine percent of business buyers expect personalized, ‘Amazon-like’ buying experiences. When you let your prospects know that buying from you will be seamless and simple, they’ll be more likely to become leads.
The best content strategy for B2B lead generation is to give your audience opportunities to take action and improve their own businesses. For example you can offer blog posts, e-books, or webinars on how they can enhance their tactics and find greater success by using a product like yours. By using your data to find the right prospects and giving them helpful advice, you’ll position your brand to consistently add value to the businesses of your ideal leads.
Managing and Nurturing Leads
Lead management is what happens after lead generation: it’s a bridge between marketing and sales. It’s a process that starts with identifying leads, moving on to qualifying them, and then with working them as sales opportunities.
If you’ve identified someone as a lead, they’re at least somewhat interested in what you’re selling. In lead management, your job is to help them learn more — about your product or service, about industry trends, and about successful customers they can relate to and be inspired by. Engaging and educating prospective customers is at the core of lead management and nurturing.
Part of lead management, lead nurturing refers to the specific actions that give your new relationship what it needs to prosper. Some leads will want regular emails, some will want quick responses on social media, and others will want to call you up and have a conversation about your offerings.
Focus on the nurturing tactics your customers like best — developing an effective lead nurturing strategy pays off. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate more sales-ready leads at lower cost and boast more sales reps making quota than companies that struggle with nurturing.
SOFTWARE FOR LEAD MANAGEMENT
Lead management software helps companies generate new leads and keep track of who they are, how to reach them, and how they were found in the first place.
This software captures information at the lead’s point of contact with your organization — such as a landing page visit, white paper download, or email open. Based on the lead’s action, they’re automatically scored and the software suggests a next action. Collecting data about how leads and customers are interacting with your brand online allows you to create one-to-one customer journeys and helps your salespeople focus on qualified sales leads while you send other leads on automated nurturing journeys.
Sales Pipelines and Lead Routing
All your hard work generating, qualifying, and nurturing leads finally pays off in the sales pipeline. When you fill your pipeline with quality leads, you’ll help your sales team actively close deals and generate revenue.
SCORING AND GRADING
As soon as leads enter the marketing funnel, you should start qualifying them to see which ones are worth additional time and effort. Lead scoring and grading technology can automatically calculate a lead’s value to your company (score) and likelihood of becoming an active customer (grade).
Lead scoring is based on a prospect’s activities, such as their number of pages viewed and forms completed. These activities indicate their level of interest. Lead grading is based on key factors pertaining to individual prospects, such as their location, industry, or company size.
Using lead scoring and grading together can help ensure that only high-quality leads are shared with your sales team — which optimizes their time by allowing them to reach out to the right lead at the right time.
Once your sales pipeline is full of high-quality leads, you’ll need to route them to your sales team. Lead routing is about assigning each lead to the sales rep best suited to guide them through a successful transaction. This could mean distributing leads by geographic territory, by deal size, or by products or services. This helps marketers streamline leads for sales, eliminating the need to comb through leads and guess which ones are right for sales.
Different sales organizations distribute leads differently. However you choose to share leads with sales teams, lead management software can help by creating fixed assignment rules based on lead qualification criteria and generating automated reports on pipeline status and sales team performance.
Get Started with Lead Generation
Lead generation is vital to growing a healthy business — and perseverance is key.
Today’s buyers today are well-informed. While they may want to feel connected with your brand, it needs to be on their terms. That means you need to be ready to answer their questions and respond to their needs whenever they want.
Great lead-generation strategies can help you find leads and nurture the qualified ones through the marketing funnel and into your sales pipeline. That’s the real definition of lead generation: it’s the difference between hoping for sales and actually setting things in motion so sales can happen. It’s a real commitment to business growth. the marketing funnel and into your sales pipeline. That’s the real definition of lead generation: it’s the difference between hoping for sales and actually setting things in motion so sales can happen. It’s a real commitment to business growth.