Lead generation is a cornerstone of business growth. It’s great to have customers interested in your products or services, but those leads don’t mean much if you can’t convert potential customers into paying customers. The key is to nurture your leads so their interest increases to the point that they convert.
This article explains what you need to know about lead generation and how you can make it work for you.
- What is lead generation?
- How does a lead generation strategy work?
- Lead generation strategy components
- Best lead generation strategies
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is the process your business uses to attract potential customers and nurture them through the sales funnel until they convert and become paying customers.
Lead generation has a variety of forms, but all strategies demonstrate that your business has the products or services to answer your customers’ pain points. Lead generation also involves capturing key information about a potential customer, including their name and contact information, to continue the engagement and keep your lead interested.
How does a lead generation strategy work?
Lead generation works by using online and offline channels to build interest in your business and its products or services. Your industry knowledge and experience should give you an intimate understanding of your target audience’s pain points and what they want to see from your business.
Your inbound marketing campaigns should have some way of collecting customer information to generate leads. For example, you might have a sign-up form for online events or offer gated content.
Once a customer has expressed interest in your business, your salespeople can actively work to engage, nurture, and move them increasingly closer to making a purchase. Along the way, your team works to understand the needs of the prospective customer to provide personalized information and attention—hopefully encouraging them to make a purchase.
Lead generation strategy components
A quality lead-gen strategy has four main components that can help build interest in your product or services.
Lead capture allows you to collect information on a lead. If you offer people the chance to opt-in and sign up for your newsletter, the lead capture is the form they fill out.
The lead capture provides you with important information about your lead, such as their name and contact information. You can also create a lead capture that asks for information that’s relevant to your business. For example, a Business-to-Business (B2B) company might ask about the lead’s job title and the size of their organization.
A magnet attracts magnetic objects. The same concept applies to lead magnets. This term describes offers or incentives you might give to encourage prospects to provide you with their contact information and become a lead. These magnets should live on well-designed landing pages that use a strong Call To Action (CTA) to encourage potential customers to sign up.
You’ll follow the lead qualification process internally. When qualifying a lead, try to evaluate the likelihood that this particular lead will convert into a paying customer. Make this evaluation based on the information the lead has provided and any interactions your team has had with the lead.
Lead segmentation helps you classify your lead according to a particular buyer persona. You can then provide prospects with better personalization, as you can target the materials you send them and the interactions you have with them.
Determining a lead’s segment requires taking into account all the information you have collected on them, including the webpages they’ve visited, the content they’ve downloaded or subscribed to, and any information they’ve provided about themselves.
Best lead generation strategies
Now that we’ve covered those fundamentals, we can explore some key lead generation tactics you can incorporate into your digital marketing strategy for generating leads.
Make sure to track your conversion rate, which can tell you how your strategies are performing and when you might need to make adjustments. See which of these Business-to-Customer (B2C) or B2B lead generation strategies might work for you.
- PPC advertising
- Gated content
- Social media ads
- Valuable newsletter
- Promotions and coupons
- Email marketing
- Free trials
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the third biggest source of inbound leads, making this an important strategy.
To use SEO effectively, identify the keywords that your target audience is likely to use when they’re at the top of the sales funnel. Then, optimize your webpages and content marketing materials with these keywords. Just make sure they fit organically.
You can combine the development of quality content and targeted topics with techniques and strategies that make your site particularly appealing to search engines and customers alike. Easily scannable content, clear headings, quality images, and fast-loading pages can all help boost your SEO efforts.
These strategies help your content obtain higher ranking positions on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). You can create evergreen content around critical keywords or create a blog content strategy surrounding those terms.
When people who are early in the buying process make relevant searches, SEO will help them find your business. This enables you to attract potential buyers into the top of your sales funnel.
Fine Cooking magazine has an excellent SEO strategy. The query “How do I learn to cook better?” brings up a featured snippet with tips for cooking better food.
Their content is straightforward and specific, so those interested in cooking can start to implement it right away. Additionally, customers can access a wealth of resources related to cooking as they click through the site. Site visitors may become encouraged to subscribe.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising refers to the ads you buy to appear on the SERPs. PPC works similarly to target keywords in that you want to capture the attention of customers early in the buying process. This strategy can be particularly helpful for terms that you may struggle to rank for, such as keywords that have high levels of competition.
You can see a great example of the Cabinets.com store using PPC advertising for top-of-the-funnel keywords when searching “How can I redesign my kitchen?” Cabinets.com has ads related to this question and appears at the top of the SERP, bringing in its target customers by offering an online 3D design tool.
Consumers can even start designing their new kitchen, and are then encouraged to purchase the cabinets from Cabinets.com when they’re ready to implement their kitchen redesign.
With gated content, you create material that people can only access if they fill out a form—the lead capture. Gated content can take a variety of forms. You might produce white papers, ebooks, or guides for people who want an in-depth analysis of a topic, your business’s unique research, or other valuable information. Other types of gated content include:
- Case studies
You can see several examples of gated content by browsing HubSpot, a marketing SaaS company. It offers a variety of free marketing tools and resources that potential leads can get only by filling out a lead capture form.
Social media ads
Social media ads can also play a valuable role in lead generation. However, social media ads work a little differently than ads on SERPs.
Rather than targeting particular keywords, you target people based on demographic data and behavioral information, such as where they live, their age, or their interests. Ad options are available across major social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
By building social media ads around particular demographics, you can create ads for particular buyer personas. The ads entice people to learn more about something you have to offer—the lead magnet—and you can encourage them to enter your sales funnel.
Girlboss produces regular social media ads that target people who are interested in particular offers, such as their finance e-class. These ads can be targeted to the buyer personas most likely to be interested in these classes using social media demographics.
Chatbots have become increasingly common in recent years as a means of providing customer service. In 2019, customer retail spending for chatbots reached about $2.8 billion. That number will increase to $142 billion by 2024, illustrating the rapid adoption rate among businesses.
When people have a question, they appreciate the ability to ask their question immediately rather than having to sit on hold or wait for someone to get back to them.
Since chatbots engage directly with customers to help answer their questions, you can customize them to offer opportunities for the customer to continue chatting with someone at a later date. The lead might feel inclined to learn more about your business if the chatbot has been helpful. Your chatbot can help them schedule a follow-up call or provide their contact information.
The software company Intercom has a well-run chatbot that can answer a variety of customer questions and concerns. Once the chatbot provides customers with an accurate answer, it’ll then prompt the user to see if they want to chat directly with the company’s customer service team, setting the stage for a personal meeting.
A newsletter can be a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader. It can also encourage people to stay engaged with your brand. You can use your newsletter to promote:
- New blog posts
- Articles by other thought leaders
- Special offers
- News on your products or services
- Upcoming events
The marketing website Search Engine Watch (SEW) does a good job of producing a valuable newsletter. It provides leading tips and information about digital marketing, making it a resource for businesses that want to improve their online presence. It brings together information and advice from established industry leaders and offers guides, advice, and the latest developments in a single spot.
The link is right on their homepage, making it a valuable and clear lead generation tool. In exchange for providing them with valuable information about you and your company, you can customize the type of information you want to receive from SEW.
Promotions and coupons
Promotions and coupons can be valuable incentives for potential customers to hand over their contact information and become leads.
For example, you can offer exclusive coupons and promotions to your social media or email list subscribers. You can track which promotions people download the most, which can provide you with more information about their needs. Use the coupon deeper within the buyer’s journey by offering qualified prospects free trials to encourage them to make a purchase.
Bed Bath & Beyond is a great example of a business offering coupons exclusively for people willing to hand over their contact information. They offer 20% off one single item for those who provide their email address, allowing them to build their email list further and bring customers deeper into the sales funnel.
Once someone has signed up for your email list, you’ve already secured them as a lead—you have their contact information to engage with them.
However, email marketing plays an important role in the lead generation process because it allows you to regularly appear in the prospect’s inbox so they don’t forget about your business. Additionally, you can gain information from your email list about which marketing leads are most likely to become paying customers.
You can learn about which email people open, which links they click, and what they prioritize when engaging with your company. You can then incorporate this information into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, which provides a central place to track lead behavior, including which email they engage with.
Putting all this information into a central location can help you identify high-quality leads. Your sales team will also better understand the needs of a given lead and what topics seem to interest them most, which can improve conversations your leads have with your sales team.
Email marketing can also be used for cold emailing customers. In this scenario, you email people who haven’t signed up for your email list. Instead, you obtain their contact information from a third-party source. With this strategy, you want to make sure your email stands out and offers a unique value proposition that will likely appeal to this particular person.
B2C and B2B marketers can also use marketing automation with their email marketing, setting up certain triggers to make sure email gets sent when customers view certain pages on the website. This follow-up catches the lead as they express interest in the brand, encouraging engagement with the email received.
Airbnb is known for sending highly personalized emails. The site notes which destinations interest you and will send tailored messages regarding places to stay and things to do in the area.
Retargeting involves reaching out to people who have interacted with your brand in the past but didn’t make a purchase. You can use retargeting ads through platforms like Google Display Ads, and the promotions will appear on websites hosting ads as the person moves around online.
These ads remind customers of what you have to offer. You might remind them of what they almost purchased or offer them a freebie to try and convince them to come back.
You can also create retargeting ads on social media platforms. These work the same way, with you targeting customers who’ve already visited your site but didn’t make a purchase. Customers may need to see your brand and interact with your business a few times before purchasing, so this strategy can produce strong results.
Shopify regularly runs retargeting ads, sending out promotions that appear across the digital ecosystem for those who’ve engaged on their site before. The ads themselves look like other paid ads; the difference is that they’re sent to a targeted audience that previously showed some interest. These ads present an appealing offer that aims to get potential customers clicking and signing up.
Free trials or free tools
Free trials can help you give the final “push” for leads that are very close to becoming paying customers and just need to see the potential for your services. Providing people with a chance to enjoy all you have to offer, then telling them they can lose these advantages without becoming a customer, can also inspire many to make a purchase.
Free trials and free tools can also be paired with other lead generation strategies, such as offers through email, special deals for followers on social media, or increased access for subscribers to your newsletter. Leads like the opportunity to “try before buying” so they feel more confident in their decision.
Audible is known for offering a free month to customers who want to try their audiobooks. This gives people plenty of time to try their favorite books before they start regularly paying for the service.
Need a hand? Hire an independent lead generation specialist
Finding qualified leads and building brand awareness is important to the long-term success of your business. However, you might not know where to start when developing lead generation campaigns.
That’s where independent lead generation specialists can help, offering their expertise to produce results. Explore the best independent lead generation experts on Upwork today and get help turning potential customers into paying customers.
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