Lead Generation

Lead Generation –  is the process by which a business or advertiser creates interest surrounding a business or brand. Leads can serve different purposes depending on the intended use. 

 

Leads can be attracted to a brand organically through word of mouth, social media, ebooks, or a google search. While organic leads are common, the majority of leads created online are attracted through digital marketing. 

Businesses and digital marketing agencies have many ways by which they can attract leads. Two of the most common methods, that have many differing ad placements, are Facebook and Google. Both platforms can create leads on a scale that tends to dwarf traditional advertising methods.  While traditional advertising is good for creating brand awareness it’s next to impossible to follow up with that lead. 

Digital advertising generates leads through interactive content that can send cold leads directly to the TOF (top-of-funnel).  Additionally, information can be pulled from users that interact with ads.  Information such as age, occupation, interests can be used to fine-tune advertising in an effort to generate leads that are very interested in a product or service.  

Lead generation is a common term in sales and digital marketing, but what does it mean and how can it impact a business’s growth? In the simplest terms, lead generation is a strategy to get more potential customers into a company’s database. It is a process to attract people and convert them into prospects and eventually become leads. This may sound easy but in truth, it involves more than just that. 


The success of lead generation has helped companies grow their revenue stream as it naturally attracts buyers and improves their sales journey. Using lead generation, organizations are able to target audiences using multiple approaches including customized messages, personalized short video messages, and more. Businesses vary their approach and use different channels to connect with potential customers wherever they are, in social media platforms, in their emails, and others. The goal is to turn them into customers and eventually repeat buyers. 


Before diving into the whole process, it is best to understand lead generations’ core concepts. 

What is a lead?

A lead is a person who shows interest in a company’s product and/or services in a way, shape, or form. This means downloading the free guide, completing a contact form, opting-in for the email list, following social media accounts of the business, and others.  Leads are usually accounted for after an offer from an organization in the form of trial, subscription, and the likes. Leads are approached in a less intrusive way, they aren’t cold-called for a certain product or service. 


Organizations gather information from surveys and feedback. These data help them create personalized campaigns to open communication lines and address the prospects’ problems. They use lead generation to create a clear path for their site visitors and not waste their time, effort, and resources in going after people who will not be interested in purchasing their products and/or services. 


The Kinds of Lead

There are several kinds of leads – this article will discuss the basic kinds. 


Information qualified Lead (IQL)

Converted sales leads give sales reps contact information in exchange for company and product details. These leads do not have any idea about the company and thus, still don’t have any interest in becoming paying customers. The information qualified leads are directed to more information and given access to the company’s catalogs, samples, and seminars. 


Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

This kind of leads are the contacts who have interacted with the marketing team’s campaigns but haven’t made the decision to make the sales call. They have completed and submitted the contact form or downloaded the free guide. Marketers need to provide more information and descriptions of the products or services they offer to further fuel the leads’ interest in buying. This includes free trials, free consultations, coupons or quotes, and demos. 


Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Sales qualified leads are those who have reached almost the end of the sales funnel. They have shown interest and acted upon their interest. They placed the request to speak with the organization’s sales representative to help them in their sales journey. Studies have shown that a faster follow-up with a sales qualified lead results in a higher closing rate. CRM is now a commonly used tool to manage and nurture a sales qualified lead. 


Product Qualified Lead (PQL)

Product qualified lead is the contact who already used the products and/or services and have shown interest in turning into buying customers. Companies offering free trials or the limited version of their products often have product qualified leads. 


Service Qualified Lead

These are contacts/customers who have shared to the service team their interest in becoming repeat paying customers. They have already paid for your products/services but are looking out to upgrade their subscription such as internet plants or cable subscription type. 


Qualifying the Lead

Qualifying the leads means determining whether the lead meets the standard requirement of purchasing the company’s products or services. Not all leads are good leads, it is important to sift through the leads and decide which ones should be pursued. It is a good way to avoid wasting time, effort, and resources. Qualifying leads begin with asking a series of questions to learn more about the prospects’ needs, financial ability to buy, and their level of interest. The questions also aim to ascertain the qualities of the prospects if they fit the company’s ideal customer. 


This process is a daunting task as it involves asking questions that may come across as an aggressive marketing strategy. It may cause discomfort and sales teams aren’t comfortable in risking their leads because of their qualifying questions. 


Create a buyer profile 

The buyer profile is the kind of person an organization wants as its customer. They are the target audience and all the marketing campaigns are created to attract them to the company’s products and services. Look at the customers’ needs and wants and fulfill them. 


Lead scoring

Using lead scoring allows companies to avoid asking prospects too many questions. This strategy collects prospect information based on their brand engagement and the data field they previously filled. Higher engagement on website contents and more equates to higher lead score. Set a numerical value to gauge the prospects’ readiness or disinterest. The prospects who can reach the number means that they’re ready to contact. 


Companies may have different criteria – it may be based on the prospects’ level of engagement on the company’s social media account, their use of the company’s coupons, and other categories set by the sales team. 


Use BANT 

BANT stands for budget, authority, need, and timeframe. It is an effective lead qualification to understand the prospects more in a broader perspective. The sales team can assess whether the prospect has the financial capability (budget) to make the purchase, understanding the authority helps in assessing a chance for a close, and the timeframe is a tell-tale on the prospects’ urgency of purchasing a product. 


The key to using BANT is using clever questions and subtle questions. Going in with the “What is your budget?” is not only intrusive but may also be offensive for some. 


Spotting the bad leads

As already mentioned, not all leads are good leads. Sometimes, leads would go from one qualifying stage to another but drop in the end. It is important to see the red flags in every step when quantifying. Look for the inconsistencies in the prospects’ answers when asked the qualifying questions. These kinds of prospects aren’t completely outright with their answers and are often dishonest. 


Another way of spotting a bad lead is by paying attention to the context and not just the content. What is said and how it’s been said are two details that shouldn’t be ignored. Sales reps can get real information by creating a stimulating conversation. They should clarify with the prospects now and then to get a good grasp of what they mean.


What is Lead Generation?

Looking for leads then includes running a tv commercial, putting ads in print (via magazines or newspaper), or buying out an email list and then sending the list with promotional offers. These traditional marketing approaches still work today, however, the rise of competition has pushed many to look at other options. Companies now have definite goals and it’s not just bombarding prospects with ads, the aim is to improve visibility and invite as many customers as possible. 


Companies are having a much harder time tracking, reaching out, and engaging potential customers. Lead generation was created to capture site visitors’ interest in a product and/or service and eventually allow the company to target and nurture the visitors until they’re ready to make the purchase. 


Lead generation is helpful for all kinds and sizes of businesses for both B2B and B2C space. About 60% of marketers shared that lead generation is a key point for their company. Using lead generation increases brand awareness, helps in relationship building, generates qualified leads, and increases the closing rate. There’s more to lead generation than just cold-calling and sending emails to a list of contacts. It involves a complex process with a multitude of effective strategies. 


Importance of Lead Generation

Marketers agree that lead generation is the key to successfully run a business as it’s an important aspect for increasing sales and ensuring business expansion. Businesses today depend on lead generation to increase site traffic and convert the traffic to paying customers. It also allows companies to specify their niche, target the right people, and get new sales leads. 


Without these leads, a company will fail to sell their products and services. A study by Genius.com states that 66% of buyers said that consistent emails influenced them to make the purchasing decision. Lead generation is how companies stay afloat and fight against their competition. Aside from that, implementing a good lead generation system shortens the sales cycle and increases closing sales. 


Small businesses and new start-ups that are unfamiliar with lead generation can think of it as another way of advertising their organizations. Technological advancement continues to push lead generation forward. More tools and strategies are created and available for marketers and sales teams. 


The Lead Generation Process

The process may vary from one team to another. Here is a quick bullet form of the basic steps in two perspectives – the marketers and the prospect


From a marketers’ perspective: 


1. Research the audience 

Marketers need to research the audience and determine the audience’s most pressing needs. Identifying the target audience is important as the entire generation process depends on their needs and whether those needs are addressed. The more information marketers have, the better they are able to understand the customers and serve them accordingly. 


Audience information, including demographic data, is available in Google Analytics. The sales team can also ask other customer support teams who have experience in customer handling. Support teams have the most direct contact with customers and have more knowledge as to the customers’ queries and concerns. Sales teams can also observe their competition and see who they are targeting and how they do it. 


2. Analyze the data

The audience data show the customers’ concerns which may change over time. This data isn’t a one-time deal, thus, the actions toward it also change. Marketers often use polls, surveys, and talks to the customer service teams to create possible solutions to the customers’ concerns. 


3. Promote content across channels

Content marketing is an effective lead generation strategy. Businesses use content to answer frequently asked questions and solutions to their problems. These articles are then shared across channels for more awareness and discovery. The content may be optimized to capture interest. An article can be turned into an interactive video, cut down into chunks, and be used in Tweets, quotes can be shared on Instagram, and more. The goal is to get more leads and input more emails into the company’s CRM. 


The content is used to engage the audience. Aside from social media platforms, the content can also be shared with partners and influencers. 


4. Consistent communication with the leads

As mentioned already, customers value communication and they feel valued with consistent outreach. Email automation makes the process simpler, however, emails must be personalized. Lead scoring allows marketers to see whether the lead fits their requirements or not. Marketers drop prospects that don’t show any indication of interest. 


From a prospects’ perspective:

  • Brand discovery
  • Clicks CTA
  • Directed to the landing page
  • Fills out a form in exchange for the offer

      Prospects discover the brands via websites, blogs, or social media pages. Website visitors click on the CTA to indicate their interest, this call-to-action directs them to a landing page which is designed to collect their information in exchange for an offer (free trial, demos, limited offer, etc)


      Lead Generation Marketing

      The birth of the internet has made it possible to create various channels for lead generation marketing. These channels drive site traffic to a company’s landing page to start the generating process. Here are some of the few channels available now. 


      Content

      The content provides information about the company’s products and services. Some call-to-actions are inserted in between paragraphs, on the side panels, or at the bottom of the post. 

      Content isn’t only articles, these can also be whitepapers, infographics, podcasts, videos. The content may differ to the audience and the things that resonate with them. Millennials favor short-form video content over long written articles. Businesses need to adjust their kind of content every once in a while. 


      Referrals

      Research shows that 90% of marketing agencies point out referrals are the primary source of leads. A company, however, should not only box itself and depend on referrals for leads. The leads from referrals don’t always turn out to be the right audience. 


      Direct emails and email list

      Ascend’s reported that email marketing is the most effective lead generation channel. It’s a platform to reach out to people who are already familiar with the brand. These people have subscribed to the list and consciously decided to willingly receive newsletters and other announcements. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools made email marketing more efficient. CRM enables marketers and sales teams to send automated, targeted, and personalized emails. 


      Social Media Marketing

      Businesses are able to reach out to new customers and build relationships regardless of what social media channel they use. Social media is a critical component, especially in B2B marketing due to its broad reach. This can be LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. 


      Ads and Retargeting

      Ads aim to capture peoples’ attention and encourage them to take action. LinkedIn Ads, Google Ads, and Facebook Ads are some of the most popular ads platforms today. LinkedIn is the go-to platform for B2B businesses based on a 2016 Content Marketing Institute and Facebook came in third. Facebook Lead Ads is housed in the world’s biggest social media channel and it’s highly targeted and customizable. 


      PPC Lead generation

      Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are focused on a wide range of paid advertising platforms –  Google AdWords and Display Network are the more popular platforms. AdWords has a conversion rate of 2.70% while Display Network has an average conversion rate of 0.89%, however, this rate depends on the type of industry. PPC and organic marketing work hand in hand, it is unwise to drop one for the other. Other PCC lead generation includes affiliate marketing, trade media display ads and B2B review directories. 

      Challenges in Lead Generation 

      Lead generation is complex and marketers say that it’s one of their company’s key pain points. Sales teams face numerous obstacles for their lead generation campaigns. Here are some of the few. 


      Inaccurate data 

      Information is key to a successful campaign, inaccurate data impede the process and render the campaigns useless. Salespeople must have the right information to generate conversations and plan their approach. A strong database is the first step towards effective lead generation campaigns. 


      Not getting enough qualified leads

      This is one of the most common complaints in lead generation, the ‘there’s not enough leads’ line. Study shows that companies with a good lead nurturing system in place have a 45% ROI compared to other companies. The sales team must listen to the concerns of their top customers to hear their stories and their needs. This helps in creating a picture of who the company’s qualified lead really is. Another solution is to narrow down the specifics and to optimize the marketing campaigns in place. 


      Hiring the right salespeople

      Accurate data and the right campaign aren’t enough. The company must have competent people working in the team to ensure high-quality service. Many companies provide training and evaluations to shape their sales team. They need the right tool, the right scripts, and the right quota to excel in their job and bring in qualified leads. 


      Not enough closed leads

      The sales process ends with closed deals. Seeing a few closed leads means an ignored issue in the sales process. The sales team along with other team players involved in every step of the sales funnel must come together to evaluate the funnel. It’s time to take a closer look at the sales process if 90% of the leads reach the proposal stage but only 10% proceeds to closing. 


      Lead Generation Practices that work

      Customers’ expectations then and now are different due to the changing purchasing trends. There are many ways for companies to attract their audiences and businesses may use multiple strategies at the same time. 


      Create free tools 

      People are drawn to free tools, limited trials, and product demos. This gives them the chance to try a product or a service before they decide to jump and make the purchase. It allows potential customers to see if the product/service is what they need. Marketing brands such as HubSpot offer free CRM to invite people and sign up for their service. 


      Offer something for free

      This is a classic strategy and has been around for decades but not all brands have the capacity to pull off. Most free offers available today don’t have much value and people are starting to doubt free offers due to hidden charges. Proposify is a proposal software for sales teams and one of its offers is a free target-specific proposal template. The goal is to convert the traffic to paying customers and it’s effective because free templates are useful for many sales teams. 


      Live chat

      Efficiency matters and the longer time people wait, the faster their interest dies down. Live chat is an effective way to engage customers the moment they click a website. A Forrester study revealed that 44% of online customers see live chat as an important website feature. This feature increases the conversion rate as visitors are quickly categorized as a well-qualified lead and start the sales journey immediately. Proactive chats also help rapport between customers’ representatives and prospects. Live chat can also be made available 24/7, which means the ability to cater to customers’ concerns at all times. 


      Create Interactive content

      Interactive content is fun, it sparks engagement, and it provides value. Customers more likely reveal information if they get something from it. The content may range from quizzes, contests, sweepstakes, and more. The goal may also vary from customer information, survey, or assessments. 


      Use the omnichannel approach

      Omnichannel means connecting with customers wherever they are, in emails, in-app, websites, stores, and others. Businesses that provide consistent service in various channels retain 89% of their customers. This strategy helps businesses gauge how their customers react and engage in specific channels. It provides insight into the necessary changes they need to make to improve their services across channels. 


      Effective Lead Generation Tools 

      Brands and businesses hire professionals to manage their lead generation campaigns. Aside from that, there are tools available to further improve the lead generation effort. Here are some of the tools available today. 


      OptinMonster

      OptinMonster is one of the popular lead generation tools. This tool is compatible with most email marketing and CRM platforms, making it easier for data integration. Marketers can create pop-ups that gather contact information from interested site visitors. OptinMonster is great for advanced targeting rules including lead sharing which allows a business to share its lads with co-marketing partners and joint ventures. 


      It also has Onsite retargeting to create special offers and promotions for repeat visitors. Other features are page-level targeting to run campaigns in separate pages and exit-intent technology to capture visitors’ attention before they exit the website. OptinMonster’s basic plan starts at $9/month, Plus for $19/month, Pro for $29/month, and Growth for $49/month. 


      Leadfeeder

      Leadfeeder tells an organization the companies, people, and others who visited the suite even without filling a contact form. The sales team can follow up with prospects and categorize them into their sales pipeline. This tool offers a 14-day trial and plans start at $55/month. 


      Constant Contact

      This is an email marketing tool with world-class support, a wide array of online training, and webinars to ensure success. Constant Contact starts at $20/month for Email and $45/month for Email Plus. It also offers a free trial to gauge if the service fits your needs. 


      Unbounce

      This tool is best for landing page builders and it starts at $79/month. It features a drag-and-drop builder for an easy landing page creation. It also supports A/B testing, AdWords integration, and more. 


      Customers today are more connected, more informed, and more influenced by society. It is harder to capture their attention when they are bombarded with so many things at once. Lead generation is an effective way to keep visitors on the company’s website. For businesses, this will only be successful with the right offers, attention-grabbing CTAs, landing pages, pop-ups, and forms. Lead generation is a developing process, this means, what works today may not work again in the next few years. 


      Companies need to evaluate their sales process every time. If there’s a need to tweak some of the campaigns, then do so. No one strategy is perfect, that’s why constant testing is important. With the many tools and channels available today, it is imperative to at least try some to see which of the tools works best for the company and could cater to the best service to the customers. 


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