Lead Generation: A Definition, The Benefits and How It’s Done
A person going up a ladder with a megaphone, representing lead generation.
A person going up a ladder with a megaphone, representing lead generation.

What Is Lead Generation?

It’s happened to everyone: your phone rings right around dinner and a random salesperson tries to sell you something. Not only is this approach annoying, it’s ineffective. That’s why businesses have to be a bit more creative when it comes to finding prospects. Lead generation is a big part of this.

Generating leads is an important objective for any organization. However, determining the quality of your leads can be a challenge. In this post, we’ll clearly define lead generation, outline the main benefits and problems solved by lead generation, and explore some lead generation strategies for a variety of marketing channels. 

What is lead generation?

Before we dive into defining lead generation, it’s important to clarify exactly what we mean when we refer to a lead. A lead is any person or business who has an interest in the product or service your company is offering. Not all leads are of equal value to a business, so understanding the quality of every lead is a crucial part of the sales process. 

Lead generation, on the other hand, is the dedicated process of acquiring these leads by capturing a prospect’s interest in a company’s product or service. The key purpose of lead generation is to create a sales pipeline so that the relationship between the lead and the business can begin. This allows businesses to communicate with and nurture these leads until they fully convert to a paid customer. In other words, lead generation is the first step in moving future customers through your sales pipeline or the buying process. 

As it’s harder to make a sale if someone isn’t ready to buy what you are selling, a high-quality lead is a lead that is actually in the market to make a purchase. For example, if you have one lead who has signed up for your newsletter and opens each email, attends your company’s webinars, and has reached out to your salespeople with questions, their engagement with the business makes them a more valuable lead than someone who has signed up for your email newsletter but rarely opens it.  

Instead of traditional marketing methods such as the dreaded cold call, good lead generation happens through digital channels. These include inbound and outbound strategies such as email signups, content marketing, website forms, and SEO. 

Why lead generation? 

Lead generation comes with many benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why lead generation is so important for any successful business — and the problems solved by a solid lead generation strategy. 

 The benefits of lead generation 

Targeting the right customers

While sending mass email blasts might get you traffic, if these website visitors aren’t actually making a purchase or converting into leads you’re wasting your time.

A carefully-crafted lead generation strategy focuses on the quality of customers. When the purpose is lead generation, businesses create content and use tactics meant to appeal to their target audience and demographics. When you know exactly who your ideal lead is, it’s much easier to create branded content that is of value to these specific individuals or organizations. 

Boosting brand awareness

When you create content your target audience actually finds valuable — and you can reach them effectively — you’re able to create more visibility and awareness for your brand overall. 

In the process of lead generation, businesses are able to connect with audience members they may not have reached in the past — plus are given the opportunity to share more information about specific products, services, or features your brand offers. 

Eliminating cold-calling (or emailing) 

With a proper lead generation strategy, your sales team can stop wasting time and effort on ineffective cold-outreach practices. 

Instead of spending time on awkward phone calls that do more damage to your brand than benefit it, your team will have the opportunity to build relationships with individuals and other businesses who are receptive to the message they’re trying to share.

Increased revenue

By focusing on high-quality leads rather than individuals or businesses who have shown no interest in your product or service, lead generation naturally increases ROI and revenue. This happens directly, through more business and sales, and indirectly through the time saved by your salespeople. 

When you’re targeting your messaging to focus on the pain points your audience cares about most, you make it much easier for your sales team to convert leads into paying customers. 

Problems solved by lead generation 

  • Problem: Not knowing your target customer. With a good lead generation strategy, you’ll be able to gather key information and data about your prospective customers. For example, when you ask a website visitor to fill out an online form in order to receive your brand’s eBook, they’ll usually give their name, industry, geographical location, the size of their organization, and their email address. This is all information you can use to target your lead generation strategy even further. 
  • Problem: Not being sure how to prove the value of your marketing team. With a successful lead generation strategy, you’ll be able to show how your marketing team is bringing in high-quality leads, increasing the number of leads in the sales pipeline, and boosting business revenue overall. 
  • Problem: High customer acquisition cost. When you have a solid lead generation strategy in place, you can lower your customer acquisition cost. By identifying the campaigns that are bringing in high-quality leads and putting more resources towards those while simultaneously removing campaigns that are bringing in poor quality leads, you’re able to reallocate budget to better performing channels and reduce the cost of bringing in new customers. 

Lead generation strategies by marketing channel 

Lead generation is not one-size-fits-all. Each marketing channel will have its own strategies, goals, and tactics when it comes to generating quality leads for your business. Here are some tips and common strategies for a variety of key lead generation marketing channels. 

Email 

Email lead generation usually consists of asking website visitors to sign up through a lead capture page. Here, a business will often offer an incentive such as a free guide, download, or discount code in exchange for the subscriber’s email address and information. 

Since someone will need to have entered their email address somewhere in order to receive an email from your business, it’s a very effective way of generating quality leads. Email subscribers and recipients have already taken the first step in showing that they’re interested in your product or service, so the focus here should be on keeping them interested — and driving them towards making a purchase. 

Using information you’ve gathered through your email capture forms, create compelling and targeted email content that provides actual value to your recipient — and don’t forget a CTA. You want to ensure every step is taken to encourage subscribers to convert. 

Online ads 

According to a recent report from Statista, U.S. spending on digital ads with the purpose of lead generation will hit 3.15 billion US dollars in 2022.

Thanks to major digital ad platforms like Facebook and Google, generating online leads has never been easier. Facebook and Google both provide thorough analytics businesses can use to reach their target audience as efficiently as possible. 

With Facebook and Google, you’re able to better understand exactly who your audience is — which results in more high-quality leads. For example, a tool like the Facebook Pixel lets you track your website visitors’ behavior so that you can then show them more directly relevant ads on Facebook and Instagram. 

Facebook also helps you reach lookalike audiences (those who have similar attributes to your current audience) who haven’t interacted with your brand yet, allowing you to reach brand new prospects. With all of the tools available through online ads management, businesses are able to laser-focus their efforts and gather more highly-qualified leads. 

Blog 

An online ad doesn’t have a lot of space to convince someone to take action. A blog post does. With blog posts, you have a lot of room to truly show the value of your product or service and lead your reader to your intended goal. 

With that in mind, the main goal of any blog post should be sharing content that’s of actual value to your reader. Well-researched and industry-relevant content will always win over SEO-stuffed blog posts with no real information. Once you have a comprehensive content plan in place, you can use a range of lead generation tactics such as CTAs, hosting giveaways and contests, offering content upgrades or resources, and interactive content. 

If you are not a great writer, consider partnering with an outside writer. Hiring a ghostwriter can typically take keywords and your outline to create not only valuable content, but also have the technical ability to help your SEO without keyword stuffing.

Social media

Social media can help you both generate leads for your business both directly and indirectly. For example, social media lets businesses gather demographic data so they can understand their potential customers better — a huge part of successful lead generation. 

Through a practice such as social listening, where your social team monitors social media for mentions of your brand or the conversations happening amongst your target audience, you’re able to discover exactly what matters to your key demographic. You can then tailor your messaging and content to appeal to this audience and align with their core values and interests. 

In addition to indirectly helping the lead generation process, social media allows organizations to generate leads through tactics such as form fills, in-app sales, or CTAs that lead to landing pages. According to a recent study, 87% of social media users said that they took action after seeing product information on Instagram, “such as following a brand, visiting their website or making a purchase.” As soon as users take any of these actions, you’re able to add them to your sales pipeline and start the process of determining the quality of these leads.

Pro tip: Start your pipeline off right with a template

Pipeline management software can cost hundreds of dollars a month. And although you might be ready to supercharge your sales pipeline, you might not necessarily have the budget for a whole new tool. With the right template, you can build your sales pipeline right into Excel. Check out this free sales pipeline template to get a head start.

Take the lead

As the first step in the buyers’ journey, the process of lead generation might be the most important component of any business. While the dreaded cold call may have been the preferred lead generation tactic of the past, today’s businesses are able to generate high-quality leads more efficiently thanks to the introduction of modern marketing tools. By understanding your audience, creating targeted content, and using multiple channels to reach prospects, you’re on your way to developing a successful lead generation strategy.