I’m out on a date with a girl I have been crushing on for a long time. We had a great date planned: dinner and a movie. But as the day goes on, I start to get more and more nervous about the date. Will she like me? What if she doesn’t?
I start to doubt myself and my ability to make a good impression.
By the time we’re sitting down at the restaurant, I’m a nervous wreck. I can barely look her in the eye, let alone strike a conversation.
I order quickly and eat even faster, hoping to get the date over with as soon as possible. We go out for a movie, and it’s the same. For some reason, I can’t seem to get past my anxiety.
Fortunately, my girlfriend is patient and understanding. Even though I made a complete fool of myself, she still wants to go out with me again.
Phew! That was a close one.
Now, let’s apply this story to lead generation in digital marketing.
Simply put, lead generation is the process of turning strangers into prospects and then from prospects into customers.
It’s the journey a person takes from the first time they hear about your product or service to eventually becoming a paying customer.
And just like my story above, the lead generation process can be filled with doubt, anxiety, and even fear.
But if you can get past that, there is a lot of potential for success.
What’s a Lead?
A lead is a potential customer who has shown interest in your product or service.
For example, if someone fills out a form on your website to receive more information about your product, they would be considered a lead.
It’s the same with a girl agreeing to go on a date with you. She’s showing some interest, but she’s not yet invested.
The lead generation process begins when a stranger becomes aware of your brand, product, or service and ends when they become a paying customer.
In between, you must take several steps to turn that stranger of a potential customer into a paying one.
Types of Leads
Not all leads are created equal. Some are more qualified and will be further along in the buying process, whereas others will just be getting started.
Here are the different types of leads based on how qualified they are and what stage of the buyer’s journey they are in:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL):
As the name suggests, marketing qualified leads are contacts who’ve somehow engaged with your marketing team’s efforts. They’ve shown an interest in what you have to say and are more likely to convert into customers, but they’re not ripe for a sales call.
For example, if someone downloads an eBook from your website, they would be considered an MQL.
Product Qualified Leads (PQL)
PQLs are leads who’ve used your product and taken actions that indicate they might be interested in becoming paying customers.
For example, if someone signs up for a free trial of your software, they would be considered a PQL.
Service Qualified Lead
A qualified service lead is a lead who’s indicated to your service team that they’re interested in becoming a paying customer.
For example, if someone calls your support line and asks about pricing or if they upgrade to a paid subscription, they would be considered a service-qualified lead.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
Finally, sales-qualified leads are the hottest and most qualified contacts. They’ve engaged with your marketing and product teams and are ready to talk to sales.
For example, if someone requests a demo of your product or inquiries about it, they would be considered an SQL.
Now that you know the different types of leads let’s look at how lead generation works in digital marketing.
What’s Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process of attracting prospects to your business and increasing their interest through nurturing so you can eventually turn them into paying customers.
The lead generation process begins with creating awareness of your product or service through marketing efforts. Once a prospect is aware of your business, they need to be engaged in some way so their interest can be further piqued.
That’s usually done by providing valuable content like blog posts, ebooks, or webinars. Once a prospect is engaged, they need to be nurtured, so their interest doesn’t wane.
You can do this through email marketing or by providing valuable content. Eventually, the prospect will be ready to buy, at which point they can be handed off to your sales team to close the deal.
Why Do You Need Lead Generation?
The simple answer is that your business will struggle to grow without lead generation.
Your marketing team needs to generate leads, so your sales team has someone to sell to — it’s as simple as that.
The long answer is that when a stranger initiates contact with your business, they start a relationship.
Lead generation aims to turn that stranger into a paying customer, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
It takes time to build trust and rapport, a job bestowed on your marketing team.
Lead generation starts at the second stage of the inbound marketing methodology when a stranger converts into a lead.
That usually happens when they fill out a form on your website, but it could also happen when they subscribe to your blog, download an eBook, or attend one of your webinars.
Once the stranger becomes a lead, they enter the second stage of the inbound marketing methodology: conversion.
At this stage, the visitor is no longer a stranger but a lead.
A lead is someone who has given you their contact information with the express purpose of hearing more from your business.
Now that they’re a lead, it’s your job to nurture them until they’re ready to buy.
That might happen quickly or take months (or even years).
The important thing is that you keep them engaged, so their interest doesn’t wane until they’re ready to buy.
The Lead Generation Process
The lead generation process begins with creating awareness of your product or service.
Once a prospect is aware of your business, they need to be engaged in some way so their interest can be piqued further.
- Everything begins with a stranger discovering your business through your marketing channels, such as your blog, website, social media page, paid ad, etc.
- They’ll then visit your website and click on your Call-to-Action button — a button, image, or link that encourages them to take some sort of action, like subscribing to your newsletter or filling out a form.
- After clicking on your CTA, they’ll be directed to a landing page, a specific page on your website designed to capture their contact information in exchange for your offer. For example, if you’re giving away a free eBook, the visitor must enter their email address to receive it.
An offer could also be something like a webinar, eBook, blog subscription, or even more information about your product or service.
Once the visitor enters their information and submits the form, they’re now a qualified lead.
That’s how everything fits together in the lead generation process:
A stranger visits your website > They click on your CTA > They’re taken to a landing page > They enter their information, receive an offer, and become a qualified lead.
Lead Generation Marketing Tactics
Lead generation marketing combines all these elements to create a cohesive strategy to attract strangers, turn them into leads, and nurture them until they’re ready to buy.
The question is: what channels and tactics should you use to promote your website or landing page? Because that is where the conversion first occurs.
There’s never a shortage of marketing channels and tactics you can use to generate leads. The key is experimenting with different tactics and seeing what works best for your business.
That said, here are some popular lead generation marketing channels and tactics you can use to get visitors that you can convert into leads:
One of the most effective ways to guide users to a landing page is through content marketing.
This could be in the form of a blog post, an eBook, or even just a helpful article that points them to a landing page.
The idea is to create a helpful content piece that solves the user’s problem or entertains them. In between the content, you can include CTAs — in line, at the bottom, in the hero section, on the side panel, etc.
The more the user gets delighted reading your content, the more likely they will click on your CTA and enter their contact information on your landing page.
The sky’s the limit with content marketing. You can get as creative as you want, and there are endless possibilities for how you can use it to generate leads.
Email marketing is an excellent strategy to target users who already know your product or have interacted with your brand.
For example, suppose someone has visited your website but didn’t take any action. In that case, you can retarget them with an email campaign encouraging them to come back and take a specific action, like subscribing to your newsletter or downloading an eBook.
You can also use email marketing to keep in touch with your current customers and remind them of your product or service.
That is a great way to generate repeat business and turn your customers into brand advocates.
Paid ads are a great way to generate leads when you’re starting and don’t have a lot of organic traffic.
You can use paid ads to drive traffic to your website or landing page and then use effective CTAs and landing pages to convert those visitors into leads.
Paid ads can be a great lead generation tactic, although quite expensive.
You must ensure you’re targeting the right keywords and audience, or you could end up wasting a lot of money.
You can use social media to promote your offerings and include CTAs that lead users to your landing page.
Referral marketing, or word of mouth marketing, is when you use your current customers to generate leads.
You can offer incentives to customers who refer new leads to your business.
For example, you could offer a discount or a free trial for every new lead they bring in.
The idea is to get your current customers to put a positive word for you and direct their friends and families to your landing page.
Events and Webinars
Organize events or webinars and use them as an opportunity to generate leads.
You can promote your event or webinar on your website and social media platforms and then include a CTA that leads users to your landing page.
On the landing page, you can include information about the event or webinar and a form for people to sign up.
Offer potential customers a free trial of your product or service.
That is a great way to get them to experience the value of your offering and see how it can solve their problem.
On the landing page, you can include a form for people to sign up for the trial.
And once they’re signed up, you can follow up with them and offer additional resources or information to help them get the most out of the trial.
Write relevant blog posts to your target audience and include CTAs that lead users to your landing page.
The goal is to attract the right readers to your blog and then give them a CTA that encourages them to take the next step with you.
Offer free resources, like eBooks, templates, or checklists, in exchange for users’ contact information.
You can promote the free resources on your website and social media platforms and then use a compelling CTA to lead users to your landing page.
On the landing page, you can include a form for people to sign up for the free resources.
And once they’re signed up, you can follow up with them and offer additional resources or information to help them get the most out of the free resources.
Why Not Just Buy these Lead?
Marketers and salespeople are always eager to fill their sales funnel with leads.
But sometimes, they’re so eager that they’re tempted to just buy a list of leads from a lead generation company.
However, this is not something we’d recommend.
For one, you don’t really know much about these leads. The leads could be outdated, or the contact information could be wrong.
These people don’t know you. Nor have they heard of you before. So, it will be much harder to convert them into customers.
There’s also a higher likelihood that your messages might be flagged as spam since they come from a stranger.
So, while it might be tempting just to buy leads, it’s not something we recommend.
How to Qualify a Lead?
A lead is anyone who’s shown interest in your product or service.
But not all leads are created equal. Some leads will be more interested than others, whereas others will be further along in the buying process.
That’s why it’s important to qualify your leads. By qualifying your leads, we mean prioritizing the ones more likely to convert so you can focus your marketing and sales efforts on the right people.
There are a few different ways to qualify a lead:
The first way is by looking at their interest level.
Do they seem like they’re just casually looking around? Or do they seem like they’re ready to buy?
Gauging a Lead’s Interest Level?
Below are a few ways you can gauge a lead’s interest level. Each example shows the amount of information you can collect about a lead at each stage of the buying process.
It also shows the level of interest a lead has at each stage.
Let’s assess different scenarios:
You can collect a lot of information about a lead when they apply for a job.
That includes their name, contact information, resume, and cover letter.
And since they’ve taken the time to apply for a job, it’s safe to say they’re interested in working with you.
However, their true interest isn’t your product or service. It’s in being considered for a position in your company.
So, they’re not going to be as engaged as someone specifically interested in your product or service.
When someone visits your website, you can collect information like their IP address, the pages they visit, how long they stay on each page, and what actions they take.
Based on this information, you can make an educated guess about their level of interest.
For example, if someone spends a lot of time on your pricing page, they’re likely interested in learning more about your product or service and how much it costs.
On the other hand, if someone only visits your home page and then leaves, likely, they’re not that interested.
Downloads a Resource:
When someone downloads a resource from your website, they give you their contact information in exchange for something of value.
That means they’re more interested in what you have to offer. They just need more information before they’re ready to buy.
When someone fills out a contact form, they’re likely interested in your products or services.
That’s a strong indication that they’re interested in your product or service and are looking for more information.
Request a Demo:
Sometimes a user will want to see your product or service in action before they’re ready to buy.
That strongly indicates interest and usually means they’re further along in the buying process than someone who’s just downloaded a resource.
Unlike the job application, a coupon sign-up indicates that the lead is interested in your product or service.
They’re just looking for a discount.
That doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy, but it’s a step in the right direction.
A content upgrade is an offer for more information specific to the blog post they’re reading.
For example, if someone is reading a blog post about lead generation, you could offer them a PDF with more tips on generating leads.
It strongly indicates interest, considering they’re looking for more information on the topic.
Purchases a Product:
At times, users may land on your website and be ready to purchase a product without going through other steps.
That’s the best-case scenario and usually means they were already familiar with your product or service before landing on your website.
As you can see, there are a few different ways to qualify a lead. And each one can give you a better idea of a lead’s interest level.
Now that you know how to gauge a lead’s interest, how do you know which lead to prioritize?
That’s where lead scoring comes in.
Lead scoring is a way to prioritize leads by assigning them a numerical score.
Leads are assigned a numerical value to determine where they fall on the scale from not interested to ready to buy.
This score is based on the lead’s behaviour, demographics, and engagement.
It can also be based on the action they have taken, the information they have given, their engagement levels, and their job title.
For example, you may score someone higher because they have engaged with you on social media or if their demographic snugly matches your ideal customer.
On the other hand, you may score someone lower because they have only visited your website once or if they work in a completely different industry than your target market.
Lead scoring allows you to focus on the leads most likely to convert and close a deal.
The higher the lead score, the closer they’re to become a sales-qualified lead (SQL), which means they’re only one step closer to becoming a customer.
And it’s a necessary step in any effective lead generation strategy.
What Information Do You Need for Lead Generation?
How much information is enough? How much is too much?
That’s a common question people always ask when generating leads.
The answer, unfortunately, is that it depends on your business.
Some businesses only need a name and email address to generate a lead. Others may need more information like phone number, job title, or company size.
The best way to determine the information you need is to think about your sales process.
What information do you need to progress a lead through your sales funnel?
That tends to vary from business to business, but some common examples include name, email address, phone number, job title, company size, and budget.
Once you know what information you need, you can start collecting it.
That said, here are a few things to remember when collecting information for lead generation.
Don’t Ask for Too Much Information:
Stick to the bare minimum. Only ask for the information you need.
The more information you request, the less likely people will fill out your form.
And if you’re not getting any submissions, you’re not generating any leads.
Make It Easy to Fill Out Your Form:
Your form should be easy to find and easy to fill out.
You don’t want to make people search for the form or struggle to figure out how to submit it.
Make the process as smooth and straightforward as possible.
Use Progressive Profiling:
Progressive profiling is a way to collect more information over time.
With progressive profiling, you only first ask for a few pieces of information.
Then, as people engage with you more, you can ask for more information.
That is a great way to get the information you need without overwhelming people by asking for too much.
Now that we’ve covered lead generation basics and how it works, let’s look at the information you need to get started.
Full Name: The most basic information you need to personalize your communication with each lead you attract.
Email Address: A must-have if you want to reach out to leads directly. It’s the unique identifier that allows you to communicate with leads one-on-one.
Phone Number: Helps you connect with leads quickly and easily, whether for a sales call or appointment setting.
Company Size: Another way to help you determine whether a lead is a good fit for your products or services.
Budget: Helps you understand what kind of solutions a lead is interested in and whether they’re able to invest in your products or services.
Country: Useful for understanding what time zone a lead is in and whether there are any language barriers you need to be aware of.
State/Province: Helps you understand what region a lead is from, which can be helpful for sales tax purposes or shipping.
Lead Generation Strategies
Now that you know the information you need to generate leads, let’s look at some of the most common lead generation strategies.
#1. Creating a Lead Magnet:
A lead magnet is an irresistibly attractive free offer that entices people to give you their contact information.
The goal of a lead magnet is to convince leads that your offer is so valuable that they can’t pass it up.
To be effective, a lead magnet needs to be relevant to your target audience and offer them real value.
Some examples of lead magnets include eBooks, checklists, cheat sheets, templates, courses, etc.
#2. Running a Contest or Giveaway:
People love free stuff. So, running a contest or giveaway is a great way to generate leads.
To run a successful contest or giveaway, you need to offer a prize relevant to your target audience and entice them to enter.
It would help if you also made it easy for people to enter, usually by having them submit their contact information.
#3. Offering a Free Trial:
A free trial is another great way to generate leads.
With a free trial, you’re offering potential customers a chance to try your product or service before buying.
It’s a great way to generate leads because it allows potential customers to experience the value of your product or service first-hand.
#4. Creating a Landing Page:
A landing page is a specific page on your website designed to convert visitors into leads.
A well-designed landing page will have a headline, subheadline, and form that encourages people to give you their contact information.
#5. Using Pop-ups and Welcome Mats:
Pop-ups and welcome mats are forms that appear when someone visits your website.
Exit-intent pop-ups only appear when someone is about to leave your website, which makes them a great way to capture leads who might otherwise be lost.
Welcome mats are forms that appear as soon as someone visits your website.
They’re a great way to generate leads, but you must ensure they’re not intrusive or annoying.
#6. Adding a Chatbot:
A chatbot is a software program that simulates human conversation.
Chatbots are a great way to generate leads because they can engage with website visitors and collect their contact information and other details.
Tools and Templates to Help You Get Started with Lead Generation:
#1. OptinMonster: OptinMonster is a tool that allows you to create pop-ups, welcome mats, and other lead generation forms.
#2. HubSpot’s Lead Generation Templates: HubSpot offers a variety of templates to help you generate leads, including landing page templates, content templates, and chatbot templates.
#3. LeadPages: LeadPages is a tool that allows you to create landing pages to generate leads.
#4. Drift: Drift allows you to add a chatbot to your website.
#5. Hotjar: Hotjar is a heatmap tool that lets you see where people click most on your website. That can help optimize your website for lead generation. The tool creates a colour-coded representation of how users navigate your website. Red represents areas where people spend the most time, while blue represents areas where people spend less time.
#6. Form-scrapping Tool: A form-scrapping tool collects submitted information on all the existing forms on your website before consolidating them into your contact’s database.
Example: Leadformly, Wufoo