A fundamental part of the business process is making sales. The problem is that to make sales, you need quality leads. That’s where lead generation comes in. But what is lead generation? It’s a process that can help you find potential customers and connect with them. Keep reading to learn what lead generation is, the best types of lead generation strategies, and examples of how these methods work in the real world.
What Is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is defined as the process of finding potential customers for your business and funneling them into your sales pipeline. These prospects are known as “leads” because you’re leading them through the buying journey.
Lead generation is a valuable part of marketing campaigns as it allows you to guide prospective customers through the buying cycle. Even if you have a robust client base, losing some customers is inevitable. You need to constantly bring in new customers — especially if you want your business to expand.
A lead generation campaign is all about finding ideal customers and converting them into loyal clients. Excellent lead generation can help your company grow by connecting you with the people who are most likely to appreciate your offerings and converting them into buyers.
There are two basic types of lead generation: inbound marketing and outbound marketing.
- Inbound Marketing Strategy: Inbound lead generation focuses on having customers come to you.
- Outbound Marketing Strategy: Outbound lead generation focuses on reaching out to customers.
Both approaches are great. However, digital marketing campaigns primarily focus on inbound marketing because it's easier to automate and less invasive.
The Process of Lead Generation
Lead generation has several steps that are designed to guide a potential customer from learning about your business for the first time to making a purchase. These steps focus on “cold,” “warm,” and “hot” leads.
Cold leads: These are people who might be generally interested in a product or service like yours but don’t know about your company. They may not even be looking to make a purchase right now. There are several forms of cold outreach, such as cold calling and cold emails, but it does have to be meaningful to convert visitors into leads.
Warm leads: These are people who know about your company and have an interest in products like yours. However, they haven’t yet decided to make any purchase.
Hot leads: These are people that both know about your business and are motivated to buy.
The lead generation process has several steps to reach cold, warm, and hot leads:
- Steer clients to your website and gather initial contact information to generate cold leads.
- Build your reputation with potential customers and convert cold leads to warm leads.
- Remind the leads about the problems they face and explain the value your business offers to convert warm leads to hot leads.
- Close the sale.
That leads to crucial questions: How do you generate high-quality leads? What can you do to manage each step of the lead generation process?
There are many strategies and tools you can use to bring in potential customers. Here are some of the best lead generation strategies for the modern world.
Types of Lead Generation Strategies
Lead generation strategies focus on different forms of customer acquisition. The digital era has given marketers like you hundreds of new possibilities for connecting with qualified leads. Here are some of the most effective channels to manage this, along with lead generation examples showing how they work.
One of the most common marketing channels for lead generation is email marketing. If someone is willing to give you their email address, you can be confident that you’ve converted them from a cold lead to a warm lead. You also have a way to contact them in the future to hopefully convert them to a hot lead and then a loyal client.
You can collect lead emails in several ways. For instance, in exchange for someone’s email, you can offer:
- A newsletter with tips, tricks, and sales information
- A coupon for first-time visitors
- A helpful lead magnet, which is pieces of content you provide for free
- A raffle entry
All of these tips give the visitor something valuable in exchange for something simple: their email address.
You can implement or improve your email lead generation strategy by evaluating how you collect emails and considering whether new lead magnets would be more effective.
Among digital channels, social media marketing is among the most effective. You can use both paid advertising and organic sharing to create new warm and hot leads on social media.
Your social media followers are typically warm leads, and many of their friends are cold leads. Your social media posts can do double-duty by convincing followers to make a purchase and share your content. As a result, you’re converting warm leads to hot leads — or better yet, to customers and/or clients. You’re bringing in more new warm leads if your followers’ friends decide to follow you as well.
The basic idea behind social media lead generation is simple: Link your website in your social media posts and profile. This helps drive traffic to your site, and anyone who clicks through your posts to your site is immediately a warmer lead. You can post things like:
- Sales announcements with a link to the sale landing page
- New release announcements with a link to the product or service page
- Helpful tips and tricks with links to relevant pages
- Contests where people earn the chance to win a linked product when they share your post
Make sure your posts aren’t just pushy advertising, though. That can cause you to lose followers. Instead, focus on providing valuable content that your followers find valuable and keep the links relevant to that content.
According to recent research, when people set out to make a purchase, 81% of people start by using a search engine. Most people use Google and other search engines to find the best way to solve their problems and products and services that can help be the solution. Content marketing enables you to reach and qualify these leads by improving your search engine optimization (SEO) for important search terms.
Better SEO means you rank higher in search engine results pages, which is critical for capturing organic search traffic. Research shows that 67.6% of people only look at the top five results on Google, so ranking high is the optimal way to get this traffic.
Content marketing is the best way to improve your SEO for specific keywords. With quality content, you can target keywords while providing high-quality information to your audience.
Examples of excellent lead generation content marketing include:
- Guides on how to solve problems using your products or services
- Round-up posts that cover the most popular products you sell
- Comparison posts that show your product or service to be the best
- Cheat sheets and checklists for managing tasks related to your offerings
Any helpful information related to your brand can be used to create relevant content that generates leads. Just make sure you brand your content pages and end them with a solid call to action to continue the lead generation process.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to let someone else do the hard work of winning you new leads. With affiliate marketing, you offer certain people — who typically have a large following on their personal sites or blog posts and/or social media profiles — a small percentage of any sales they make for your company. In return, these affiliates help market your offerings to their audiences.
Many affiliates do this full-time. They carefully cultivate a specific audience with a particular set of needs, preferences, and requirements. Working with the right affiliates gives you access to an audience of warm and hot leads.
As long as you choose an affiliate whose audience cares about your type of offerings, you can introduce your company to a broad range of interested people and only pay for the leads that actually convert.
Word of Mouth
Happy customers are the best lead generation around. If your current clients love what you offer, they’re going to tell their friends and colleagues about it and convert them to warm leads. Those people become much more likely to seek you out if they ever need to make a purchase.
One way to encourage word-of-mouth lead generation is by offering referral bonuses. You can offer discounts, free products, and services, or raffle entries for customers who refer their friends to your service. This saves you the time and effort of qualifying your leads since your current customers will do that for you.
Lead Generation Tools
Tools for lead generation are a lot different today compared to 20 years ago. Digital marketing makes the most out of lead generation through modern tools and technologies.
That’s why a critical part of lead generation is using the right tools for the job. There are several categories of tools that can make it much easier to generate quality leads. Here are the fundamental lead generation tool types you might need and how they help.
Contact List Builders
A contact list builder is a tool that helps you collect the contact information about potential leads.
The most common type of contact list builder is the email collector. These gather the visitor’s email in exchange for something like a newsletter subscription or lead magnet. They are typically embedded in your site, either as a popup or a sidebar. Great email collectors include Mailchimp and Jotform.
If you want to collect additional information from potential leads right off the bat, you can use a form builder instead. Form builders let you collect any details you want, including:
- Name and email
- Phone numbers
- Why a potential lead is contacting you
Form builders are great for collecting information about customer referrals and demo or consultation requests. Some top form builders include Google Forms and Typeform.
Landing Page Builders
Landing pages are specific pages on your site dedicated to a particular topic or service with a solid call to action. You can set up landing pages for different ads, offers, and emails.
When someone follows the call to action and signs up for emails or purchases through the page, you can track which lead generation strategy led them to convert. Landing page generators are an easy way to create professional, responsive landing pages quickly. Some solid landing page makers include Wix and ConvertKit.
Data Collection and Analysis Systems
To make sure your lead generation strategies are working, you need to collect and analyze data about your efforts. Some hosting sites have data collection built-in, but others don’t. You can add tools like Google Analytics and Leadfeeder to your site to track traffic, monitor user behavior, and study how to improve your site.
Once you’ve acquired leads, you need to reach out to them. You can use three main contact methods to follow up and turn leads into customers:
- Phone calls
Email and SMS are the most common, but phone conversations have their place, too. Some of the most popular email outreach tools include Mailchimp and Constant Contact. Twilio handles email and SMS, while CallRail is great for cold-call marketing.
Building a Lead Generation Strategy
How can you build a lead generation strategy that works for your business? It depends on your current capabilities and structure. B2B lead generation strategies for a large corporation likely won't work for a small B2C retail business. To build lead generation marketing campaigns that make sense for your company, ask yourself the following questions:
What technology do you already have? If you already have a website, email lists, and data tracking services, you can jump into social media lead generation and content marketing. However, if you haven’t built an email list yet, start there.
How do you currently win most of your leads? You probably have a channel that’s currently winning you many leads. If word of mouth is working well, you could expand to social media to keep building that personal connection. However, if you use email to create meaningful outreach, focus on content marketing to bring more people to your site.
What’s your budget? Some lead generation tools are expensive, while others are free. Organic social media lead generation, content marketing, and affiliate marketing have low startup costs but require a time investment, while email marketing can be more expensive but requires less effort.
How much time can you dedicate to lead generation, both upfront and every month? You can build your email lead generation tools once and automate them, which takes time upfront but is relatively hands-off later. Affiliate marketing is similar. Meanwhile, content marketing and social media take regular effort but don’t require a considerable investment to get started.
Choose the lead generation methods that work best for your company based on how you answer these questions.
Explore Lead Generation for Your Business
Lead generation is key to business growth. If you’re ready to start growing your business, investing in lead generation is an excellent way to bring in new customers.
You can choose from strategies like content marketing, social media, and email newsletters to bring people into your sales funnel and guide them through until they make a purchase. As you explore the lead generation process, you’ll be able to refine your approach and focus on the methods that work best for your business and your target customer.