Lead Generation

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what is lead generation

Lead generation is the power source for all B2B companies, as is the subsequent nurturing of these leads into sales-qualified leads. According to statistics, 78% of marketers predict an increase in their demand-generation budget. 

Is your lead generation contributing over 9% of your gross revenue? Closer to this number? 

If not, then it seems like you are tired of chasing leads that barely convert into customers and are wondering how to attract qualified leads that drive your business forward. 

Well, you’re in the right place! 

Lead generation is like planting seeds that will have the potential to grow into loyal customers. 

We have tried our best to make the topic of lead generation simple. So let’s first understand the meaning of lead generation. 

What is Lead Generation? 

Lead generation is the process of identifying, attracting prospects, and getting them interested in your product or service. It involves a set of strategies and actions you use to find and connect with your target audience or ideal customer profile.

This involves various tactics such as creating engaging content, running ads in the right places, hosting events or webinars, and making your online presence as inviting as possible.

The main aim of lead generation is to grab the attention of your potential customers and get their contact details, like emails, phone numbers, etc. 

Once you have this info, you can keep in touch, provide more information, and guide them to becoming loyal customers. 

For many B2B companies, lead generation is crucial to their sales process

Since B2B companies sell high-value products or services, it’s rare for web visitors to make immediate purchases directly from the website. 

So lead generation serves as a bridge, enabling businesses to guide and inform potential customers before engaging qualified leads through personalized sales interactions.  

If you still haven’t got a drift, then it’s best we understand the definition of a lead and the types of leads; this will give you a better picture. Otherwise, you could directly jump to the importance of lead generation.

What is a Lead?

Lead as someone who’s shown interest in what you’re offering—whether that’s buying a product, signing up for a service, or simply looking for some information.

A lead could be someone who visits your website, fills out a form, downloads an ebook, or even follows your social media page. 

Let’s say someone from your target market downloaded a guide and signed up for your newsletter. This shows that the person is interested in getting more information about your product. They’ve provided their contact details, indicating they’re open to hearing more from you. 

So, this person is a lead for your company. Your job now is to engage and nurture the lead into a sales-qualified lead

Types of Leads

Leads play a crucial role in the journey from website visitors into loyal customers. However, not all leads are identical. 

Leads can be categorized based on,

  1. Level of engagement and their readiness to buy
  2. Qualification and their stage in the sales funnel

Let’s understand each category of leads.

Leads Based on Engagement

Cold lead is a prospective customer who has not yet expressed any interest in your product. He may not even be aware of your company’s existence. Cold leads are typically at the top of the sales funnel, and they require more nurturing and education than warm or hot leads.

Warm leads are those who have checked out your company’s blog posts, downloaded a guide on optimizing workflow efficiency, or signed up for your updates. They’re not quite at the buying stage yet, but they’re definitely warming up to the idea of what you offer. 

Hot leads are leads who not only visited your website but also reached out to you requesting a demo of your product, inquiring about your pricing or asking specific questions about its implementation. They show clear signs of interest in your product & readiness to make a decision.

Leads Based on Qualification

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) 

These are those who visit your website, download helpful guides, or subscribe to your newsletter, they show some initial interest in your product. They are identified as being more likely to become a buyer than other leads.

They are curious about what you offer, but they might still be window shopping, checking out options without an immediate plan to buy.  

Product Qualified Lead (PQL) 

Is like the visitor who not only walks into the car showroom and takes a test drive but also gets a feel for the car’s performance on the road. 

PQLs are based on measurable actions that indicate that a lead has experienced value from the product, such as signing up for your product’s free trial, or has taken certain actions that indicate that they are interested in becoming paying customers. Like asking for the features and their pricing. 

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) 

A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is a potential customer thoroughly researched and approved by the sales team as ready for the next sales stage. 

SQLs are recognized by their interactions with the sales team, their grasp of the product or service, and how well they match the company’s target market.

MQL Vs. PQL Vs. SQL

This difference would give you a clear idea about the three types of leads.

CriteriaMQL (Marketing
Qualified Lead)
PQL (Product Qualified Lead)SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)
DefinitionShows initial interest in the product/service through marketing efforts (e.g., downloads, subscriptions)Shows interest after experiencing the product through a trial or free version(e.g free trial, engaging with feature)Shows intent to buy, engaged directly with sales channels (e.g., demo requests, detailed product inquiries)
Stage in Buyer’s JourneyEarly stage, exploring optionsMid-stage, experienced the productFurther down the funnel, closer to making a purchase
Interaction TypeMarketing interactions (e.g., website visits, content downloads)Product usage or trial experienceSales interactions (e.g., demo requests, direct inquiries)
Readiness to BuyShows interest but not fully ready to purchaseMore likely to convert due to product experienceMore inclined and likely to buy soon
Marketing/ Sales HandoffPassed from marketing to sales for further nurturingPassed from product/user experience to sales for conversionIn the hands of sales for closing the deal

Now that we have understood the difference between a sales-qualified lead and the other types of leads. Let’s jump into the importance of lead generation.

Why is Lead Generation Important?

When your prospect is really interested in what your product offers, helping them buy feels right. It’s like you are solving their problem. But when your prospect isn’t interested, and you still try to make them buy, it can feel like you are forcing them. 

This might make them think you are trying to push your product without understanding their need. Hence it’s important to help those who are interested and not push those who aren’t.

Some of the benefits of lead generation are:

  • Increased sales opportunities which means more prospects and more chances to sell your product. Lead generation isn’t just about finding customers; it’s about creating more opportunities to make sales and grow your business.
  • Targeted marketing is like knowing what your prospects love and showing them exactly what they want. Instead of trying to talk to everyone, you get to target only a specific group of people, where the chance of conversion is higher. 
  • Building relationships is when you turn a prospect into a long-lasting friend for your business.  When you get to know potential customers through lead generation, it’s like laying the foundation for long-lasting relationships
  • Cost efficiency means showcasing your product in front of your target audience without spending a fortune. It’s a smart move that makes every bit of effort count, giving you more bang for your buck. 
  • Enhanced Brand Awareness is when your prospects get to know your brand, what you offer, and why it’s the right fit for them. This bigger brand presence means more chances for future connections and recommendations. 
  • Improve your sales team efficiency and productivity by providing a sales pipeline full of leads that are ready to close. With lead generation your reps can put their energy into closing those deals and building rapport with potential customers. 
  • Strengthen your brand’s reputation and credibility by consistently pulling in new sales-qualified leads. When you’ve got that consistency going, you are the cool kid on the block. It’s that extra oomph that makes you super appealing to not just customers, but also potential partners who want to join your winning team! 
  • Provides a competitive advantage. Lead generation is a big competitive game where everyone’s trying to stay ahead. By keeping that steady flow of high-quality leads and nurturing them, you’re not just keeping up, but also leading the pack.
  • Drives Innovation and Market Adaptability. Lead generation helps businesses to get new product or feature ideas based on your customers’ needs & requirements. With such info and recommendations at your fingertips, you are not just keeping up with the trends,  you are setting them. 

What is the Lead Generation Process?

Lead generation is not merely about collecting your prospect’s contact information; it’s about nurturing relationships, building trust, and converting prospects into loyal customers. 

It’s a delicate mix of marketing and sales, where each step is carefully planned to guide potential customers through the sales funnel.

The lead generation process typically involves the steps below.

Step 1: Define the Target Audience

This is where you get to know your ideal customer inside out. You get an understanding of who they are, what they like, what is their pain point, what they love buying, etc. 

Armed with this info, your marketing transforms into a personalized conversation that strikes the right chords with your ICP.  It’s like sending out an invitation they can’t resist saying “yes” to!

Step 2: Identify Lead Generation Channels

When it comes to finding potential customers, you have got a bunch of options. You can use content marketing, where you publish valuable content in the form of blogs, newsletters, ebooks, etc. Here your prospects are ready to share their contact details in exchange of some useful resources. 

You can use social media to share engaging posts, reels, put ads, etc. One of the most basic channels is search engine optimization (SEO), where your website speaks the same language as search engines, so they can recommend it to people looking for what you offer.

Step 3: Create compelling lead magnets

Lead magnets are the giveaway that your company can give in exchange for your prospect’s email or LinkedIn profile. Lead magnets can be in any form, like free e-books, whitepapers, masterclasss, etc. 

Discounts or coupons are something that everyone loves. Offering those can nudge people to think, “Hey, I should check this out!” 

And how about a sneak peek? Offering free trials or consultations is like saying, “Come on in and try it out!” It’s a way for your prospects to experience what you offer firsthand. 

Step 4: Capture Lead Data

You need to have SEO-optimized landing pages with clear call-to-action buttons or forms. When your prospects click on these, they have to enter their contact details like email, LinkedIn profile or phone number. 

Once you have found a way to grab people’s attention and got something awesome to offer them, the next is to get in touch with them. 

Step 5: Nurture & Qualify Leads

Now you have the contact details. You should keep the conversation going. 

You should send them valuable resources like helpful tips, interesting stories, or even special offers tailored just for them. You should personalize these emails or LinkedIn messages that will make your prospects feel that you are directly talking to them. 

With this process, you are also building trust and understanding among the prospects.

Yet another awesome thing is you can automate the entire process of lead nurturing by using sales engagement platform  like SmartReach.io. 

Tools like SmartReach.io help you create multichannel outreach sequences using channels like Linkedin, WhatsApp, calls, emails, and messages. 

Multichannel sales engagement helps to reach a wider audience, increase your engagement rate, build stronger relationships and increase conversions. 

Step 6: Measure and optimize

The last step of the lead generation process is to keep a close eye on the entire process and check how your prospects are responding. If any rectification is needed for the process. 

You have to keep a check. on how many potential customers are coming in, how many of them are turning into actual customers, and how much it costs to get each new customer. By doing this, you can figure out what’s working super well and what might need a little tweak.  

With these insights, you can make your strategies even better. 

How to Qualify a Lead after Lead Generation?

Do you know how qualifying leads could make a huge difference in hitting those sales targets? 

When you take the time to really dig into leads, you get to know which of them that are most likely to convert into sales and you put in the right effort. 

So let’s discuss how you can qualify a lead.

Set well-defined lead qualification criteria. 

You need to set some ground rules while defining your ideal customer. Start by jotting down what your perfect customer looks like. 

Think about the industries they’re in, their job titles, how big their company is, what kind of budget they’re working with, and who holds the decision-making power. 

Gather data on leads.

You can start digging for info on each lead. Check out their company website, scroll through their social media profiles, and peek into industry news about them. 

Don’t forget to check if you had any past conversations with them. The more you know about their needs, challenges, and how they make decisions, the better you can swoop in with the perfect solution.

Ask the right Questions to qualify.

It’s time to chat with your prospects. Ask them questions that really get them talking – things like what keeps them up at night, what they’re dreaming of achieving, and where they feel the pinch in their day-to-day. 

Open-ended questions will help you figure out if your prospects are your perfect match or not. 

Access lead fitment or suitability.

Take a good look at your leads and see how well they fit with your ideal customer profile. 

Check out their stats – things like who they are, what industry they’re in, how deep their pockets go, and whether they’re the ones calling the shots. 

Consider all the information you had gathered during your interaction with them.

Lead Scoring.

Here each of your leads gets a score based on how well they match up with what you’re looking for. We have described the lead scoring in depth, in the below section

Lead prioritization.

Now it’s time to pick your front-runners. Now you use the top scorer leads and focus your energy on those high scorers. 

By showering them with attention, you are nurturing the ones most likely to turn into your next loyal customers. 

Regularly update evaluation criteria.

As your business grows and the market changes, take a moment to revisit your criteria. As your business grows and the market does its thing, take a moment to revisit your criteria. 

Get into the details of your sales data. Adapting to what’s happening around you keeps your lead qualifications sharp and totally in sync with where your business is heading. 

Leverage Technology.

Get your hands on some lead qualification software or CRM tools that would make your life easier.  You can use these tools for sorting, organizing, and understanding all that lead data. 

They do the heavy lifting, so you can make those smart qualification calls faster than a snap. 

Align Sales and Marketing.

Get along with your marketing team and make sure you are on the same page. Share those lead qualification criteria and processes, like swapping notes with your teammates. 

When sales and marketing collaborate, time doesn’t get wasted on leads that don’t fit the bill. 

Nurture Unqualified Leads.

Some of your leads might not be all suited up and ready to buy just yet, but hey, they’ve got potential.  

Nurture them with top-notch content and those personalized touches that make them feel special. 

It’s like guiding them step by step through your sales journey until they’re all set to make that buying move. 

Measure and Optimize.

Keep an eye on how well your lead qualification is performing. Look at things like how many leads actually turn into customers, how long it takes for them to make that leap, and how much they stick around once they’re on board. 

Then you can make a decision on where a tweak is needed. 

Remember, effective lead qualification is an ongoing process that requires continuous refinement and adaptation to ensure you are investing your time and resources in the leads that matter most.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is like giving points to potential customers based on their interactions with your brand, helping you identify the most promising leads. 

You need first to define the criteria based on which you will be keeping track of. This can include website visits, email opens, content downloads, or specific interactions with your sales team.

Then you can assign points to each criterion based on its significance. For instance, a webinar signup might be worth more points than a general website visit. 

You should also decide on the score threshold that qualifies a lead for further engagement. Leads surpassing this score are considered ‘hot’ or ‘sales-ready.’ 

You should keep track of lead interactions and add up the points as they engage with your content, respond to emails, or interact with your sales team.

You should regularly review and refine your scoring criteria based on how well these scores predict actual conversions. 

When a lead reaches the predetermined score threshold, it’s time to pass them on to the sales team for direct engagement.

How does Lead Generation Work?

You can start lead generation by understanding your ideal customers and then offer something tempting to grab their attention. Using different strategies, you can get their information. Let’s understand those strategies.

Lead generation strategies in digital marketing

Lead generation via digital marketing is the means to attract potential customers through online channels such as websites, social media, and online advertising

There are various strategies which include sales engagement outreach, email marketing, blogging, web page optimization, mobile traffic optimization, Google Ads, personalized content, social media marketing, giveaways, marketing partnerships, cold outreach, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and A/B testing.

If you are interested in getting an in-depth understanding on each process, do check our blog on lead generation strategies in digital marketing

B2B Lead Generation Strategies

B2B lead generation strategies explore methods like sending emails to people who might be interested, using social media like LinkedIn to connect with them, and even making phone calls. You can also use newer methods like reaching out through WhatsApp and text messages. 

You should also emphasize the importance of personalization, valuable content, and tapping into emerging trends like video outreach and referral programs.

If you are interested in building a robust pipeline of sales-qualified leads, then check out our blog on B2B lead generation strategies for sales teams.

Getting lots of leads is awesome, but remember, for lead generation, quality matters more than quantity. Good-quality leads are super likely to buy what you are selling and keep moving through your sales process till they become sales-qualified leads.

Doing some homework to figure out which leads are top-notch is a smart move. 

Then, don’t just let them sit there; nurture those quality leads by sending useful resources and building relationships with them. These leads are the ones who will probably become your customers down the road.

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