Lead generation has always existed, but people are talking about it now more than ever.
Unfortunately, we often talk about it without knowing much. Especially since it entered the jargon of digital marketers, and they have started abusing it as if they were the repositories of the truth.
But lead generation was already existing before the internet and Google and Facebook, and this article is our first contribution to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
You are about to discover:
- What is a lead generation strategy;
- What is lead generation for;
- how many and which are the phases of an effective lead generation process;
- the differences between lead generation, marketing, sales and their similarities;
- the different types of lead generation, i.e. how it can be classified, how many “specialisations” exist;
- and finally, an overview of the most common lead generation methods and techniques
So, you are finally going to read a super-concentrated excursus that was missing on the web: synthetic notes with all the most important, and above all CORRECT, information.
By the end you will have a series of useful information to start reflecting upon the following aspects:
- whether or not lead generation is appropriate for your company;
- if what you’re already doing is right, wrong, or so-so;
- and whether it is convenient for you to continue working alone instead of relying on a lead generation agency that offers outsourced services
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is lead generation?
- 2 What is lead generation for?
- 3 How many and what are the phases of an effective lead generation strategy?
- 4 What is a lead generation funnel?
- 5 Components of a lead generation funnel
- 6 Differences between Lead Generation – Marketing – Sales
- 7 Types of lead generation
- 8 B2C and B2B Lead Generation
- 9 INBOUND and OUTBOUND Lead Generation
- 10 ONLINE and OFFLINE Lead Generation
- 11 Final remarks
- 12 Do you want information on our lead generation services?
What is lead generation?
As the name implies, lead generation is defined as the activities aimed at generating “leads”, i.e. the search for POTENTIAL customers.
The word “lead” deserves a separate analysis, but for the moment we can say that a “lead” can be understood as:
- a business opportunity;
- a contact with a potential new customer;
- a request for contact from someone who asks you for information, or to him/her call back;
- or a real physical appointment;
- today, finally, more and more often, when we talk about lead we simply mean an email address.
Typical example: an anonymous visitor lands on your website, fills in the fields of a form to receive your online newsletters, and in that precise moment, when s/he sends you the data back, s/he becomes your “lead”.
A lead is someone who “raises his hand” and shows an interest in your product or service or has a problem that your product or service can solve or asks for an aspect related to your product or service.
Starting from this definition it is clear that there are different levels of lead, but we will come back to this in another article.
For the moment, let’s just define a lead as someone who raises his hand:
When a visitor shows up in front of you and/or your business and seems like someone who could become sooner or later a customer of yours, that’s a lead.
What is lead generation for?
Lead generation has two purposes.
The first one is obvious, and is inherent in “what it is”:
- it must generate leads and business opportunities.
The second one is much less clear, but it has a fundamental, strategic importance for any business:
- it must generate leads in a constant, predictable way, in order to provide SAFETY to your business.
Thanks to this continuum, in fact, sales negotiations are no longer the result of chance, nor of an occasional word of mouth… but instead something that can be planned and built by default.
The impacts are obvious. The simple equation
Lead Generation = More income
is in fact absolutely correct, for sure. Of course, we all want more income.
But what are we going to do with a peak in income if this increase is occasional and cannot be replicated?
Casual results never allow us to achieve lasting growth, nor to make development plans.
Our goal must instead be the systematization of growth, constant growth. Enough with the last-minute chases to boost desperate negotiations in order to close the next quarter with a + sign.
Well, this constant growth can only be achieved through lead generation, which is used to create constant flows of new sales cycles every month.
How many and what are the phases of an effective lead generation strategy?
Usually there’s big confusion when talking about lead generation. Some would even expect lead generation to carry LEADS on a silver platter; ready-made customers, of course.
If only it were always like that. Of course, it’s possible. But these are fortunate exceptions, especially when the sale is made through direct contact, in person, between a potential customer and a salesperson.
A perfect and effective lead generation strategy must integrate these steps:
- It is not enough to ATTRACT or “DISCOVER” a lead (you will understand the difference later);
- We also must CATCH it, i.e. GIVING IT AN IDENTITY;
- Finally, we must CONVERT it into a potential new customer.
And this CONVERSION activity also consists of two sub-phases:
- QUALIFYING the lead, to understand if it is ready to become a customer
- CUDDLING it, FEEDING it, INFORMING it, INSTRUCTING it: that is, depending on its proximity to the purchase decision, and its preparation, it is nurtured until it becomes a possible customer.
Let’s set an example from the world of commerce.
a stranger enters your shop because he has just seen something in the shop window that attracted him.
If a potential customer wanders into the store, looks around at the products on the shelves, and leave before the shop assistant has approached, you may have lost him forever. It’s not even a lead, it was just a visitor, because he didn’t give any personal information.
If, on the other hand, your saleswoman immediately approaches the customer to help him, the phase of CONVERSION can start: she can QUALIFY the customer’s interests so as to understands if you have the product he is looking for. The saleswoman can also “EDUCATE” and “CUDDLE” the customer, making him understand that he might need product B instead of A.
If the customer buys, you’ve converted him in one fell swoop. Congratulations, you did very good.
If the customer doesn’t buy, the good saleswoman should anyway get the name, phone, and email out to send a note when the right product arrives. You have generated a lead, to which you can sell something later. Congratulations also in this case…
Now let’s look at a typical case taking place in the digital marketing world. It is very common today, because digital marketing has recently “taken over” the word “lead generation”, due to the increasing pervasiveness of the Internet, social media, and “mobile” (that is, access to the web and social from smartphones).
- Step 1:
You ATTRACT a visitor by placing an ad on Google or Facebook or LinkedIn.
- Step 2:
You drive the visitor to a landing page in which you try to CATCH at least his email address.
- Step 3:
You CONVERT the visitor by leading him/her through another series of web pages where s/he is given all the information necessary to buy something, or to pick up the phone and call you for more information
What is a lead generation funnel?
The process we have just described in the video above, namely ADS > LANDING PAGE > CONVERSION PAGES > EMAIL, configures the so-called lead generation funnel.
The word funnel has been adopted since the very beginning because it is effective to visually illustrate:
- both the path taken by a visitor, from lead to prospect (qualified lead) to customer
- and the fact that the numbers are getting thinner and thinner in every passage.
Components of a lead generation funnel
An effective funnel consists of the following elements:
- one or more ads to attract the attention of potential customers;
- a lead magnet, a promotional bait that is interesting for the visitor, to the point of inducing him/her to “barter” his data (especially the email) to receive the lead magnet back. A lead magnet can be an eBook, a video course, a checklist, a self-assessment quiz, an automatic calculator, a trial version of the product, etc.;
- a web page, called landing page, where you can introduce the lead magnet to the visitor;
- on the landing page a registration form or webform must also be present, to capture the data of the visitor, or to convert him/her into a lead;
- one or more additional sales pages (in addition to the landing page) to try to sell the product immediately, or to induce the lead to contact for more information;
- The funnel must also include the possibility to continue communicating with the lead and to cultivate the relationship. This process can be carried out in many ways: the most effective are e-mails.
But we will come back to funnel in more detail, because it is one of the key concepts of lead generation and sales.
Differences between Lead Generation – Marketing – Sales
Who is responsible for lead generation in a company?
Once, it was thought that everything related to customer acquisition was Sales’ department responsibility, and that Marketing had to deal with fairs, brochures, advertising in newspapers and magazines or on television, and so on.
This is no longer true.
Salespeople DON’T HAVE TIME to hear hundreds of NO’s before they have a useful conversation with a potential customer. They therefore must invest all their time in negotiations, not prospecting.
This, of course, is our vision.
There are companies that still think that salespeople should look for customers.
If this strategy bear fruit, good for them.
Instead, we believe that a salesperson’s precious time should be used for sales appointments, the formulation of offers and studies, for negotiations and closing of orders.
In our philosophy, Marketing takes on a new role: it is responsible for Lead Generation strategies.
In short: today there must be an ideal bridge between Marketing and Sales, and this link bridge is the Lead Generation process:
So, what is the dividing line between Marketing and Lead Generation?
Actually, today the two terms are used as synonyms (we ourselves on our site and social pages sometimes do so).
But, strictly speaking, they are not the same thing: Lead Generation falls under the umbrella of Marketing, it is a branch of Marketing, but Marketing is NOT all about lead generation.
Lead generation is, in fact, a form of direct response marketing: that is, a type of activity that aims to generate an immediate, measurable response.
Marketing, however, does not end with lead generation, and includes activities that do not have the purpose of generating a direct response, but instead to create a brand, to give visibility. These activities include communications, P.R., a certain type of institutional advertising in magazines, the creation of brochures and catalogues, product launch activities, product pricing…
And in addition to all this, Marketing is now also responsible for generating leads.
Marketing i.e. GENERATES demand through Lead Generation. Sales satisfy demand by taking orders on leads generated by Marketing.
Types of lead generation
Lead generation can be classified:
- according to the target audience: B2C and B2B
- according to the strategy on which it is based: Inbound and Outbound
- depending on the tools you use: Online and Offline
B2C and B2B Lead Generation
B2C (Business-to-Consumer) Lead Generation targets a group of consumers, i.e. private individuals.
If, for example, my company is an insurance company, for me B2C lead generation means setting up campaigns to obtain the names and email addresses of car owners interested in changing insurance.
B2B (Business-to-Business) Lead Generation is the lead generation process for companies.
Or more precisely, for those business partners who decide to purchase my type of product or service.
If, for example, my company sells long-term car rentals to companies, the B2B lead generation process consists of trying to get in touch with the managers of the corporate fleets of companies in my region.
INBOUND and OUTBOUND Lead Generation
Inbound Lead Generation is when I try to ATTRACT potential customers to my company.
Just like a fisherman does:
For example, this happens through online advertising on Google, or Facebook, or LinkedIn.
I create online ads to attract the potential customers, and I make them land on my website or I invite them to pick up the phone and call my switchboard to ask for more information about my product or service.
In the example above, the bait for attracting potential customers could be a free quote that is directly created online. The potential customers see my ads, click on them and end up on a page where they must enter car’s details, the type of insurance coverage they want, and the site automatically gives them the quote.
Outbound Lead Generation, on the other hand, is when I go IN SEARCH OF potential customers. That is, instead of trying to attract them with a bait, I go out and look for them to find them one by one.
Just like a hunter does:
For example, this happens when I buy a list of companies that could potentially be my customers and contact them one by one by phone to talk to the company’s fleet managers.
ONLINE and OFFLINE Lead Generation
The tools of ONLINE (or DIGITAL) Lead Generation are those related to the digital world, the Internet, and social media.
- SEO (Search Engine Marketing) – SEM (Search Engine Marketing) – PPC (Pay Per Click, Paid Advertising);
- Directory – Portals – Marketplace;
- Facebook/LinkedIn/other Social media;
- Article Marketing;
- YouTube – Video Marketing;
- E-mail Marketing;
OFFLINE (or TRADITIONAL) Lead Generation tools are those that have always existed.
- Advertising on magazines, radio, TV;
- Press releases;
- Yellow Pages;
- Reseller channel – Partners;
- Direct sellers;
- Direct Marketing (mailing);
- Dimensional Mailing;
- Fax Marketing;
We’ve put too much on the plate, and it’s better to stop here for the moment.
But as we said lead generation is a huge subject, and we’ll be happy to go back over it with more details on the individual aspects.
From now on, when you hear about lead generation, you will be probably more informed than 95% of all those who talk about it. And you’ll have the right information.
All that’s left is for me to urge you to make these reflections again:
- whether or not lead generation is appropriate for your business;
- if what you’re already doing is right, wrong, or so-so;
- and if you want to continue to do it alone or rely on a lead generation agency that offers outsourced services.
Do you want information on our lead generation services?
Book a free phone consultation with an expert from our team: