In a competitive market, your business needs to meet its bottom line, and that involves consistently growing sales by getting prospects into the funnel. To put a spin on an old saying, the buyer’s journey begins with a single step. This step is where lead generation comes in.
Lead generation is the process of reaching out to strangers to get them interested in your company’s product or service. Marketers have cited email marketing, event marketing, and content marketing as the most commonly used strategies for generating leads, with 49% of B2B marketers saying that articles are the most effective at helping prospects move through the sales funnel.
Additionally, over 51% of smartphone users reported having discovered a new company or product while searching the net on their mobile.
This strategy for generating sales—and nurturing them to become an eventual customer—is a must for businesses of every size as it fosters an organic relationship between the brand and its prospects, making it more likely for them to convert to loyal customers. The industry numbers don’t lie: with nurtured leads, businesses saw a 20% increase in sales opportunities, making 50% sales at 33% less of the cost than non-nurtured prospects.
Indeed, lead generation plays a significant role in business expansion. This guide will cover all you need to know about lead generation, identifying quality leads, and how best to apply the lead generation process for your brand.
What is a Lead?
A lead is any person who has shown interest in a company’s product or service in any way, shape, or form.
Think of it this way: You searched online for tips on how to train your dog. You came across a blog that offered a free one-hour training session. You fill out a form on the site and give your contact information to avail of the offer. This is the ideal way someone goes from a mere site visitor to a lead.
The difference between this and cold calling is that leads will hear from businesses after initiating the exchange. Going back to the scenario above, the transaction begins once you give your contact information. From there, the blog’s representative can send you an email to further discuss the details of the training and such.
Unlike a random call about an item you may not care about, this email about a service you are already interested in is less jarring and more likely to convince you to buy in down the line. From a business perspective, the form the prospects fill out will provide information that allows them to better tailor their communication with you to best address their interest.
Below is a more detailed breakdown of a typical lead generation process:
- A prospect discovers your business through a marketing channel, like your website, blog, or social media page. In the example, it was a search query that led the visitor to your blog page.
- The visitor clicks on your Call-To-Action (CTA)—an image, button, or message that encourages website visitors to take some action. This could be a link or a pop-up on the blog site with an offer.
- That CTA takes the visitor to a landing page or a page that will ask for his or her information in exchange for an offer.
- Once in your landing page, the visitor fills out a form in exchange for the offer. This form can be as simple or as detailed as needed.
What are the types of leads?
Leads are just one part of the journey where consumers go from visitor to customer. It’s essential to be able to distinguish the different types of leads based on how qualified they are and what stage of the buyer’s journey they are at. Generally, there are two types: Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
- What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?
Marketing Qualified Leads are leads who have responded to marketing efforts but are not ready to make a purchase. For example, leads who have filled out forms for an offer qualify as MQLs. This kind of leads may have found an offer from your business that solves their problem or have subscribed to your content. They may not seem ready to buy in, but their actions demonstrate that they fit your target audience.
- What is a Sales Qualified Lead?
Sales Qualified Leads are leads who have taken actions that clearly demonstrate their interest in buying in. SQLs are leads that have filled up a form to ask about your product or service. This type of lead is ready to buy and need the right kind of push to make their purchase with your business.
How to Qualify Leads?
Once you have leads, it’s important to have a framework to decide how qualified they are. Returning to the buyer’s journey, being at different stages means different approaches to get them to convert. Pushing the sales process with underqualified leads can result in wasted efforts. With 67% of lost sales being attributed to the lack of qualified leads, you want to make sure your business is using its resources effectively.
Qualified leads should have:
- The need to purchase
These leads have a problem, and your business is in the position to offer them a solution. Your team must be able to accurately gauge the scale and urgency of your lead’s problem. This will help them push the appropriate product or service that best fits their concern, if applicable. Otherwise, you run the risk of putting effort to pitch a product or service that your lead doesn’t see value in.
- The ability to purchase
The difference between qualified and unqualified leads is that the former has the budget to close the sale and are waiting for more compelling reasons to make their purchase with your business. The latter is more interested in getting information and need more nurturing—either through content or other marketing efforts—before they are ready for a sales pitch.
- The authority to purchase
Put yourself in this situation: your sales team has nurtured a lead and is finally making the pitch, and your lead responds with “Let me just check with my boss.” Having leads that are either in direct positions to decide on a purchase or hold enough influence within their organisation to sway the decision on the sale will make closing the deal much more likely than with a lead who needs the approval of other superiors or departments.
- The intent to purchase
Being interested in a product or service and intending to buy a product or service are two different things. An interested lead could be accessing your content and engaging with it, but a lead with intent might be more focused on product details and prices. Qualified leads want to buy in because the need to solve their problem must be addressed soon, while interested leads are still testing the waters or may have other methods of resolving their problem.
In addition to these factors, a good practice is to revisit your Ideal Buyer profile. An Ideal Buyer profile is created based on your previous customer base and some assumptions on the market and your industry. Qualified leads are the closest you can get to your Ideal Buyer and will need the right kind of approach to get them to convert. Less qualified leads may need more time to be cultivated through content and other offers but not as intensely as qualified leads.
Getting the information needed to better qualify your leads will depend on how well your landing page and forms are designed. A general rule to keep in mind is, the more detailed your form is, the more valuable the offer should be. For example, interactive general surveys or quizzes can work for new visitors and low-level leads while industry-specific benchmark calculators will suit more qualified leads.
What Are Some Proven Lead Generation Strategies?
Lead generation is all about getting visitors to warm up to your business on their own so that they will be more likely to convert. Picking the right strategies can make all the difference in getting visitors to trust your company. Below are some lead generation strategies that have consistently worked across all kinds of industries.
- Create testimonials
Testimonials and customer success stories are powerful tools that show prospective customers your business’ capability and reliability to deliver results and ultimately, solve their problem. In fact, 89% of B2B marketers believe that testimonials are the best marketing tool available to them. This is because testimonials align with a psychological phenomenon known as ‘social proof’, where people conform to the actions of others because they assume those actions are correct.
- Offer unique and valuable content
Content marketing is one of the most effective strategies out there. Providing free content—like a white paper, a blog post, or even a podcast—can establish your business’ credibility in your industry and attract the attention of possible customers. If your offer is compelling enough, these visitors will be happy to give their contact information and subscribe to your blog or download your eBook.
Making sure your content is search engine optimised can also ensure that your content is reaching a market that is already looking for you. Content marketing metrics can also help you better determine the qualified leads from those who need more nurturing.
- Build relationships with an email newsletter
Most industries have become fast-paced, and your possible leads may require more information to make educated decisions for themselves or their organisation. Email newsletters are an extension of content marketing, where you can offer prospects bite-sized information from your company or industry delivered directly to their inbox.
Additionally, other compelling reasons for signing up to an email newsletter can include exclusive sales, experiences, or even information. The key is to find the balance for regular updates: too few updates can make your prospects uninterested while too many updates can drive them away and potentially land your newsletters into their spam folder.
- Take advantage of social media
Social media gives your business a unique opportunity to connect with your possible leads and interact with them. With the right social media plan, your business can create good impressions on your target market, leading to more leads and conversions.
Establish a social media presence on different platforms, depending on the demographics of your target market. From there, you can publish more content, particularly ones that best suit the format of your chosen platforms. Your business can even create conversations with them to better gauge their needs and wants, giving you more information that can help qualify leads.
- Start a referral system
People are more likely to trust their peers’ recommendations than most types of marketing. 62% of B2B decision-makers say that peer recommendations have been a strong purchasing trigger, making this strategy indispensable for business growth.
Incentivising referrals with future discounts or exclusive offers can both nurture already-established relationships between you and your customer base and help you reach more leads close to your successful conversions.
Lead generation, in essence, is the first step for businesses to connect with their target market. For businesses, this move is crucial to getting prospects into the sales funnel with the hope of closing sales with them.
What sets lead generation tactics apart from cold calling is that these prospects have already expressed interest in the products or services you have to offer. From there, it’s a matter of qualifying and nurturing leads until such time that they decide to purchase from you.
Indeed, these tactics are a vital part of business growth. With the rise of digital marketing and the fast-paced exchange of information on the internet, what your target market needs to go from a stranger to a lead is a compelling reason to trust you. From that moment of trust, the right strategies and techniques can help leads complete their buyer’s journey by making their purchase with ease.
Integrating lead generation as a long-term and continuous strategy for your operations means continuous improvement of methods, and testing to see what works and what doesn’t. At the end of the day, a more efficient and streamlined lead generation strategy can lead to better quality leads and eventually, an increase in sales.