Lead generation 101: Your go-to guide

What lead generation is all about, how you can do it, and where lead management fits in

A detailed look at lead generation

Lead generation is not easy, but it’s not rocket science either. Whether it is a big business or small, B2B or B2C, lead generation is key to making sales. If you’re a salesperson, you’re always looking for more leads. If you’re a marketer, you’re discovering new ways to generate them. In this page, take a deep dive into all aspects of lead generation.

What is a lead?

Let’s first understand what a lead is before we dig deeper. Lead is a person or company who has shown interest in your product or solution but has not yet made a purchase. Lead can also be a person or company who fits a target group or buyer persona of your product or service.

Lead is a person or company who has shown interest in your product or solution but has not yet made a purchase. Lead can also be a person or company who fits a target group or buyer persona of your product or service.

Types of leads

Marketing Qualified Lead

An MQL has a certain level of engagement with your business as a result of a marketing activity. MQLs are a result of lead generation techniques employed by the marketing team and are handed over to the sales team for nurturing. An MQL typically performs an activity, like downloading your ebook or has attended your marketing event, which is a clear indication of their interest in your business. MQLs are ready to be nurtured, but they’re not ready to buy just yet.

Sales Qualified Lead

When an MQL displays sales-ready behavior, like requesting for a demo or signing up for a free trial, they become a sales qualified lead. These leads are usually handed over by the sales team to an Account Executive (AE). SQLs are close to making a purchasing decision, so the quicker the AE acts, the higher their chances of conversion. A good way to identify an SQL is by applying the BANT framework—do they have the Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe to buy from you?

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the process of finding and attracting people (leads) who are likely to become your customers immediately or in the future. “Finding” people implies finding information about people, like their name, email ID or organization’s name, all of which you can use to initiate a business relationship with them. You can generate leads organically and/or by spending money, depending on your resources.

If you meet fifty people at a conference, request them for their email ID, and they share it with you, that’s an example of lead generation.

If a visitor to your website fills out your signup form, that’s lead generation too.

Or let’s say you’ve posted about your product/service on social media. A visitor leaves a comment, expressing interest in your business. This is also lead generation.

These examples might make it seem like lead generation is pretty easy; it is not. One of the biggest challenges of lead generation is to get people to divulge information about themselves. The elusive lead can be generated only if you can articulate the value in your business solution and be present in channels closest to the lead. However, there are specific channels you can tap into when it comes to lead generation, and that’s where we’re heading next.

Why is lead generation important?

Acquire new customers

While it's great to have repeat customers who are loyal to your brand, you need to generate interest among new people and increase your target audience to make more sales. Lead generation increases the pool of potential customers in your sales funnel and therefore, increases chances of a sale.

Grow your business

Lead generation helps you grow your business by bringing in quality leads who can be converted into customers. Lead generation tactics intrigue prospects with bite-sized information about how your products can solve their problems so that they are ready to go to the next stage in your sales funnel.

Build credibility and value

Lead generation is about give and take. It hints at the value that your company will provide. Lead generation helps you get into the minds of prospects, with the help of useful content. Since you provide something of value to them, they develop trust and an affinity towards your brand and are ready to take the next step with you.

What are lead generation channels?

Broadly speaking, there are two channels of lead generation: inbound and outbound. Both lead generation channels are obviously aimed at generating leads for your business. But there’s a slender difference in the way they work.

The outbound lead generation method involves a proactive attempt to reach out to your audience. This usually begins with purchasing lead lists. You then contact these leads through cold calling. For a wider reach, businesses look beyond lead lists and use billboards, print ads, television ads, and radio ads. The emphasis here is on budget, media connections, and how much marketing muscle you can flex.

In outbound lead generation, your pitch is quite apparent and there are less efforts made to educate your audience.

The inbound method attracts leads using online content. You create a website, or you write a blog, and you optimize it for online search through SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. This means the content has the appropriate keywords and answers the questions your target audience is asking. When your content is easily discoverable and begins to engage your readers, they become your leads. Depending on how you interact with them from then on, they can become your customers too.

In inbound lead generation, you educate your target audience through a carefully planned content strategy. This takes time and involves very little budget spend. Two keywords here: content and SEO (search engine optimization). And the domain is largely digital.

Lead generation stages: Classifying your leads

In B2B, inbound is the preferred channel of lead generation. The whole process of drawing a lead into doing business with you—by educating first and selling later—matches the B2B business model. Which is why inbound marketing in B2B takes leads through three levels of the sales funnel: ToFu (top of the funnel), MoFu (middle of the funnel), and Bofu (bottom of the funnel).

ToFu: Leads at the top of the funnel need awareness. They know nothing about what you offer and what domain you operate in, so you’ll need to create a conversation around both these focus points—without selling your product up front. If you sell CRMs, you attract ToFu leads by talking about how SDRs (sales development representatives) can do their job better using CRM software. Blogs, ebooks and guides are content types that work well at this lead generation stage.

MoFu: Leads in the middle of the funnel need nudging. They’re not completely clueless about what you do, but they’re not ready to buy either. They have many questions about your business, and they’re also starting to compare you with the competition. Be prepared to share lead generation content like case studies, testimonials and videos that continue to educate and yet make a strong case for your brand.

BoFu: Leads at the bottom of the funnel need your product/service. They’re past the education stage, they know exactly what you can give them, and now you’re making a clear pitch. This is the right time to offer a trial, demo, or a discount and bring them into your business. The leads that get to this stage are way fewer than those who step into the funnel, so make sure your lead generation tactics offer maximum value here.

How to manage leads?

Once your leads are generated, what do you do with them? You need to have a robust lead management system in place to convert leads into paying customers. You need to collect all the information you can on your leads, track the level of engagement or interest in your business and assign them to respective salespeople.

Lead management is the process of capturing leads, tracking their activities and behavior, and qualifying and engaging them until they are ready to be passed on to quota-carrying sales executives.

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