Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service. Some examples of lead generators are job applications, blog posts, coupons, live events, and online content.
These lead generators are just a few examples of lead generation strategies you can use to attract potential customers and guide them towards your offers. (We talk about more strategies later.)
Whenever someone outside the marketing world asks me what I do, I can’t simply say, “we create content for lead generation.” It’d be totally lost on them, and I’d get some really confused looks.
So instead, we say, “we work on finding unique ways to attract people to my business. we want to provide them with enough goodies to get them naturally interested in my company so they eventually warm up to the brand enough to want to hear from us!”
That usually resonates better, and that’s exactly what lead generation is: It’s a way of warming up potential customers to your business and getting them on the path to eventually making a purchase.
Why do you need lead generation?
When a stranger initiates a relationship with you by showing an organic interest in your business, the transition from stranger to customer is much more natural.
Lead generation falls within the second stage of the inbound marketing methodology. It occurs after you’ve attracted an audience and are ready to convert those visitors into leads for your sales team (namely sales-qualified leads).
As you can see in the diagram below, generating leads is a fundamental point in an individual’s journey to becoming a delighted customer.
Lead Generation Process
Now that we understand how lead generation fits into the inbound marketing methodology, let’s walk through the steps of the lead generation process.
First, a visitor discovers your business through one of your marketing channels, such as your website, blog, or social media page.
That visitor then clicks on your call-to-action (CTA) — an image, button, or message that encourages website visitors to take some sort of action.
CTA takes your visitor to a landing page, which is a
web page that is designed to capture lead information in exchange for an offer.
Note: An offer is the content or something of value that’s being “offered” on the landing page, like an ebook, a course, or a template. The offer must have enough perceived value to a visitor for them to provide their personal information in exchange for access to it.)
Once on the landing page, your visitor fills out a form in exchange for the offer. (Forms are typically hosted on landing pages, although they can technically be embedded anywhere on your site.) You have a new lead. That is, as long as you’re following lead-capture form best practices.
See how everything fits together?
To sum it up: Visitor clicks a CTA that takes them to a landing page where they fill out a form to get an offer, at which point they become a lead.
By the way, you should check out our free lead generation tool. It helps you create lead capture forms directly on your website. Plus, it’s really easy to set up.
Lead Generation Marketing
Once you put all of these elements together, you can use your various promotional channels to drive traffic to your landing page to start generating leads.
But what channels should you use to promote your landing page? Let’s talk about the front-end of lead generation — lead gen marketing.
If you’re a visual learner, this chart shows the flow from promotional marketing channels to a generated lead.
Content is a great way to guide users to a landing page. Typically, you create content to provide visitors with useful, free information. You can include CTAs anywhere in your content — inline, bottom-of-post, in the hero, or even on the side panel. The more delighted a visitor is with your content, the more likely they are to click your call-to-action and move onto your landing page.
Email is a great place to reach people who already know your brand and product or service. It’s much easier to ask them to take an action since they’ve previously subscribed to your list. Emails tend to be a bit cluttered, so use CTAs that have compelling copy and an eye-catching design to grab your subscriber’s attention.
Ads and Retargeting
The sole purpose of an ad is to get people to take action. Otherwise, why spend the money? If you want people to convert, be sure that your landing page and offer match exactly what is promised in the ad, and that the action you want users to take is crystal clear.
The great thing about using your blog posts to promote an offer is that you can tailor the entire piece to the end goal. So, if your offer is an instructional video on setting up Google Search Console, then you can write a blog post about how to select your marketing metrics … which would make your CTA highly relevant and easy to click.
Social media platforms make it easy to guide your followers to take action, from the swipe up option on Instagram stories to Facebook bio links to bitly URLs on Twitter. You can also promote your offerings on your social posts and include a call-to-action in your caption. Learn more about social media campaigns in this post.
You can break down a lot of barriers to a sale by offering trials of your product or service. Once a prospect is using your product, you can entice them with additional offers or resources to encourage them to buy. Another good practice is to include your branding in your free versions so you can capture other potential customers, too.
Referral, or word-of-mouth, marketing is useful for lead generation in a different way. That is, it gets your brand in front of more people, which, in turn, increases your chances of generating more leads.
Whatever channel you use to generate leads, you’ll want to guide users to your landing page. As long as you’ve built a landing page that converts, the rest will handle itself.
Why not just buy leads?
Marketers and salespeople alike want to fill their sales funnel — and they want to fill it quickly. Enter: The temptation to buy leads.
Buying leads, as opposed to organically generating them, is much easier and takes far less time and effort, despite being more expensive. But, you might be paying for advertising anyway … so, why not just buy leads?
First and foremost, any leads you’ve purchased don’t actually know you. Typically, they’ve “opted in” at some other site when signing up for something, and didn’t actually opt into receiving anything from your company.
The messages you send them are therefore unwanted messages, and sending unwanted messages is intrusive. (Remember that disruptive call I got when I was trying to eat my spaghetti? That’s how people feel when they receive emails and other messages from people they didn’t ask to hear from.)
If the prospect has never been to your website and indicated an interest in your, products or services, then you’re interrupting them … plain and simple.
If they never opted in to receive messages specifically from you, then there’s a high chance they could flag your messages as spam, which is quite dangerous for you. Not only does this train to filter out emails from you, but it also indicates to their email provider which emails to filter out.
Once enough people flag your messages as spam, you go on a “blacklist,” which is then shared with other email providers. Once you get on the blacklist, it’s really, really hard to get back off of it. In addition, your email deliverability and IP reputation will likely be harmed.
How to Qualify a Lead.
As we covered in the first section, a lead is a person who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service. Now, let’s talk about the ways in which someone can actually show that interest.
Essentially, a sales lead is generated through information collection. That information collection could come as the result of a job seeker showing interest in a position by completing an application, a shopper sharing contact information in exchange for a coupon, or a person filling out a form to download an educational piece of content.
Lead Generation Strategies
Online lead generation encompasses a wide range of tactics, campaigns, and strategies depending on the platform on which you wish to capture leads. We talked about lead capture best practices once you have a visitor on your site … but how can you get them there in the first place?
Let’s dive into lead generation strategies for a few popular platforms.
Facebook Lead Generation
Facebook has been a method for lead generation since its inception. Originally, companies could use outbound links in their posts and information in their bios to attract strangers to their websites. However, when Facebook Ads was launched in 2007, and its algorithm began to favor accounts that used paid advertising, there was a major shift in how businesses used the platform to capture leads. Facebook created Lead Ads for this purpose. Facebook also has a feature that lets you put a simple call-to-action button at the top of your Facebook Page, helping you send Facebook followers directly to your website.
Twitter Lead Generation
Twitter has Twitter Lead Gen Cards, which let you generate leads directly within a tweet without having to leave the site. A user’s name, email address, and Twitter username are automatically pulled into the card, and all they have to do is click “Submit” to become a lead.
LinkedIn Lead Generation
LinkedIn has been increasing its stake in the advertising space since its early days. When it comes to lead generation, LinkedIn created Lead Gen Forms, which auto-populate with users profile data when they click a CTA, making it easy to capture information.
PPC Lead Generation
When we say pay-per-click (PPC), we’re referring to ads on search engine result pages (SERPs). Google gets 3.5 billion searches a day, making it prime real estate for any ad campaign, especially lead gen. The effectiveness of your PPC campaign relies heavily on a seamless user flow, as well as your budget, target keywords, and a few other factors.
B2B Lead Generation
B2B is a particular business model that requires a particular approach to lead generation. hubspot found that SEO is the top resource for capturing business leads, followed closely by email marketing and social media.