A beginner’s guide to lead generation

14 min

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Are you curious about lead generation?

Would you like to know the key definitions, tactics, and learn what a good lead generation process looks like?

Then stick with us and read this beginner’s guide to lead generation.

What is a lead

Let’s start by defining what a lead is.

A lead is someone who’s shown interest in your offer(s) and handed you their contact details so you can continue the conversation, for example, via email or phone.

Keep in mind that every company, marketer, or a salesperson may have their own definition of what a lead is or what makes a lead good.

What is lead generation

Lead generation refers to the process of attracting people who aren’t in your database yet, convincing them to provide you with their contact details, and guiding them through the buying process until they’re ready to talk to your sales team and/or make a purchase.

Editor’s note: Looking for a simpler way to generate leads? Thanks to all of the built-in tools and integrations, GetResponse is the only lead generation software you’ll need. Go ahead and learn more!

Why is lead generation important

To survive, your company needs leads.

Even if you have a big sales team that’s continuously reaching out to prospective customers on LinkedIn or Facebook, growing your business can be hard.

In the past, consumers used to contact salespeople to learn about the products or services they’re interested in.

These days, a lot of consumers choose to do their own research – they check review sites, community forums, social media, or test the product themselves if a free trial is available.

The answer to this is current reality is to establish a reliable lead generation process. If you’ve got one, you can grow your customer database in a cost-effective and scalable way.

Lead generation process

Lead Generation Process

In a nutshell, a lead generation process breaks down into four steps:

1. First, you need to capture a stranger’s attention and get them to visit your landing page or a website.

You can do this, for example, via a Facebook Ad or an engaging post on social media.

2. Next, you’ll want to convince your website visitors to provide you with their contact details.

You can do this by offering your visitors a piece of content that they can access after filling out a form on your landing page. Marketers refer to this as a lead magnet.

3. After the visitor fills out the form – and thus has become a lead – you’ll need to nurture them with your marketing communication until they’re ready to buy your product or service.

Usually, you’ll do this through a mix of channels, mainly email, webinars, paid ads, and in-app notifications.

4. Once your lead is ready to buy your product or service, you can direct them to a page where they’ll be able to place their order or pass them onto your sales team.

Naturally, the buyer’s journey doesn’t end here. Even if you’ve closed a sale, you’ll want to keep engaging your customers and turn them into loyal brand advocates.

This process is mostly done through the use of marketing automation and is a part of a broader concept, often referred to as lifecycle marketing. And while the process we’re sharing may seem simple, marketers often find lead generation problematic.

Types of leads in lead generation

Lead Quality - MQL and SQL alignment

As you can imagine, not all leads are the same.

We distinguish several types of leads based on how qualified they are and what stage in the buying process they’re at.

The two main types of leads are:

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

An MQL is simply a lead that your marketing team deems likely to turn into a sale eventually, and therefore qualifies for additional marketing, but isn’t yet ready to receive a sales call.

An MQL does not represent a done deal – the prospect is generally not ready to buy just yet. Nonetheless, marketing qualified leads are more likely to turn into customers compared to regular leads.

Some factors that help identify MQLs are as follows:

  • Lead requests information via email but doesn’t ask to be contacted.
  • Lead downloaded content from your website (ebooks, tip sheets, infographics, etc.)
  • Lead visited your website numerous times to look at relevant product or service pages.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

An SQL is a prospective customer that has been researched and vetted – first by your marketing team, then by your sales team – and is deemed ready for a direct sales push.

Some of the factors which help identify sales qualified leads are as follows:

  • Lead indicated they want to be contacted.
  • Lead is identified as a decision maker or key stakeholder in the buying process at the company where they work.
  • Lead indicated they’re willing to invest time in a meeting to discuss your products/services.
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Identifying which leads are sales or marketing qualified

The distinction between marketing and sales qualified leads may seem easy when we’re only considering the definitions.

In reality, many teams struggle when identifying MQLs, SQLs, and those who don’t fit in either category.

Research shows that as many as 90% of MQLs are not converted to SQLs, either because they were falsely identified as solid MQLs or because of faults in the marketing strategy at the MQL stage.

That’s why marketing and sales teams need to work together to analyze where each lead is in the buyer’s journey.

Your strategy at this point essentially is to determine which leads are already SQLs and can be passed on to the sales team, and which require further lead nurturing.

Using lead scoring is one of the best ways to do just that.

Lead scoring – a joint marketing and sales strategy

To identify whether you’re dealing with MQLs or SQLs, you’ll need to employ an effective lead intelligence strategy, including lead scoring. Lead scoring is a vital process as it helps you determine which leads are ready for the sales team, and which need more development from the marketing team.

Lead scoring can maximize the number of MQLs you can convert to SQLs, and it’s most useful when sales and marketing work closely together. You assign a value to each lead based on levels of engagement with CTA triggers on your website, automated marketing emails, and any other information you’ve gathered from your lead intelligence.

Lead scoring is essential for three reasons:

  • To avoid your sales team bothering leads before they’re ready to buy.
  • To identify which leads require more lead nurturing from your marketing team.
  • To allow your sales team to more easily identify leads who are ready to buy.

There are a number of ways you can score your leads, such as these five:

  1. Demographic information
  2. Company information
  3. Online behavior
  4. Email engagement and subscription status
  5. Social engagement
Example of a lead scoring system based on user behavior.
Example of a lead scoring system based on user behavior. Source

Lead generation strategies

Although there a lot of lead generation strategies you could choose from, not all of them will be the right fit for your business.

When considering which strategies you should apply, always consider your target audience.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • Where do they engage and communicate?
  • What are they doing there?
  • What do they hope to achieve there?

Take Facebook, for instance. Your target audience might be there, but they may not be looking to buy your products. Or they may be on the lookout for your product, but they’re logged into Facebook with their private email address and not the company one.

Below, I’ve listed several common lead generation strategies that work for most businesses.

Don’t worry if they seem complicated at first. In the last section of this post, we’ll show you a simplified version of this process that can start driving leads for you by the end of the day.

1. Create gated content

I’m sure you’ve seen marketers offer different content pieces like whitepapers, cheat sheets, checklists, or chapters of their ebooks in exchange for their website visitors’ information.

That’s what we call gated content and is sometimes referred to by other terms like lead magnets, opt-in incentives or content upgrades.

Gated content is one of the fundamental elements of lead generation. As you’ll see in a moment, many other lead generation strategies build upon it.

What’s the strategy here?

Rather than doing cold outreach, create enticing content that your target audience will want to access and exchange their contact details for.

Once they’ve engaged with your content, you can start nurturing them through your marketing communication until they’re ready to buy from you.

Gated content example – Email Course on Video Marketing

Editor’s note: Want to find out which opt-in incentives work best? Check out the Best Lead Magnets for Lead Generation study report.

2. Build landing pages and optimize them for conversions

Landing pages are specially designed pages built to help you achieve a single goal – conversion. For lead generation, that usually means new email signups.

By placing gated content on your landing pages, you maximize your chances of converting website visitors into new leads. If you were to place your lead magnet on your homepage instead, it’d most likely perform less effectively. That’s because homepages usually have more calls to action and aim to achieve more than one goal.

Once you’ve created a high-converting landing page and placed your content upgrade there, you’ll need to start driving traffic to it.

And that’s what the next point is about.

Ebook download landing page template from GetResponse
Example of an ebook download landing page template you’ll find in the GetResponse Landing Page Creator

Here, you can learn more on how to create a landing page and get inspiration from these landing page examples.

3. Drive traffic to your landing pages through paid ads

Although landing pages can be attached to your website and even appear in your main menu, most of the time, you’ll want to use them as standalone pages.

But how will people find your landing page if they can’t easily navigate to it from your website? The answer is through paid ads.

With your newly created a high-converting landing page, you’ll want to reach new audiences. The quickest way to do that is through Facebook and Google ads.

Here’s an article that explains how you can create a Facebook Ad in GetResponse. Below, I’ve listed some targeting options and ideas you could try to generate leads with Facebook Ads, and target people who:

  • Like your Facebook page but aren’t on any of your email lists
  • Visited your website in the last 30 days but haven’t signed up to your list
  • Are similar to your current subscribers (Lookalike Audience)
  • Are similar to your best subscribers or customers (Lookalike Audience)
  • Are interested in the topics you cover in your gated content

I realize you might feel slightly skeptical about using paid ads if you haven’t used them before.

That’s why I recommend that you start slowly and invest only a small amount of money (even as little as $50 can get you a long way). Test a few different approaches and play it safe until you see that your strategy is working.

For inspiration, I highly recommend you read this case study from InfoShare Academy, where they explain how they managed to get 1,200 new leads by promoting their ebook using Facebook Lead Ads.

Example of a Facebook retargeting ad.
Example of a Facebook retargeting ad

For more inspiration, check out these great social media ad examples.

4. Use lead ads to simplify the opt-in process

Speaking of lead ads, this is the next lead generation strategy you’ll want to consider if you’re offering gated content.

The difference between using normal Facebook Ads and Lead Ads is that you don’t really need a landing page to run them. That’s because users can fill out the form and access your content directly from Facebook.

Another thing that’s different about Lead Ads is that Facebook will prepopulate the form for the user so they don’t need to type in their email address to receive your content.

This usually results in higher conversion rates and a lower cost-per-lead. At the same time, it may not be the best solution for everyone. Why? Because your audience might be B2B and most people are signed up to Facebook with their personal email address, not the company.

Keep this in mind when thinking about launching a lead ad campaign.

And if you’re thinking about giving them a try, here’s how you can set up and connect Facebook Lead Ads with GetResponse.

Example of a Facebook Lead Ad promoting an ebook.
Example of a Facebook Lead Ad promoting an ebook.

You’ll also want to know that “Lead Ads” aren’t just available on the Facebook platform. LinkedIn has Lead Gen Forms, Google has Lead Form Extensions, and Quora has Lead Gen Forms.

5. Host an online event

Video content tends to get more reach and engagement on all social media platforms.

Videos, particularly live streaming events and video ads, can be used to promote your gated content.

They can also act as a form of gated content if you host a webinar that requires users to register for it.

Whether you’re a content creator that works on your own, or you’re part of a bigger team, you can generate a fair number of leads using webinars.

Here you can learn more about how a webinar works and how you can make sure yours is a success.

Example of a webinar landing page that GetResponse hosted on building beautiful emails.
Example of a webinar landing page that GetResponse hosted on building beautiful emails.

6. Add calls to action

When advertising gated content, we must ensure that visitors (who are not yet leads) are suitably enticed to click the button that will take there.

For instance, let’s say we’re in the content marketing business. We’ve written a blog entitled “How to Get Started with Content Marketing.” We’ve promoted it on social media, and have attracted quite a few business owners who are now reading the post.

We’re careful not to give the whole game away in this article, because we want these business owners to download our piece of gated content: a free ebook entitled “The Complete Guide to Content Marketing for SMEs”.

So what we need to do is entice them to do so – and, in order to do that we need a strong call-to-action (CTA).

A CTA is a button, image, or sometimes a message that compels visitors to take some form of action. In lead generation terms, this action will be to navigate to a landing page where the gated content can be accessed.

It’s important, then, that our CTAs are enticing. More than that – unmissable. Even more than that – irresistible.

For the purposes of driving downloads of our ebook, perhaps the best practice would be to display a nice bright image of the ebook’s front cover that shows the title – “The Complete Guide to Content Marketing for SMEs” – and a button beneath that says something like “Free download”.

You can and should experiment with CTAs. You may find, for instance, that “Download now” produces better results than “Free download”, or that some images work better than others. The only way to find out is to experiment – so do that using the A/B testing capability available in GetResponse accounts.

Also, make sure your target audience sees your CTAs more than once.

When you’ve managed to convince someone to subscribe to your email list, show them a CTA to download one of your ebooks or join your online course on the thank you page.

After they’ve attended your webinar and you’re sharing the recording, show them a CTA that lets them take this relationship a step further. You’d be amazed how a simple CTA button can simplify the whole lead generation process, as it points your audience to the action you want them to take.

How Optimizely is using CTAs on their ebook download thank you page.
How Optimizely is using CTAs on their ebook download thank you page.

Lead generation marketing – your first steps

Now that you’ve learned what lead generation is and how it works, you can start applying your newly acquired skills so that your business can grow and thrive.

To make your first steps easier, we’d like to invite you to check out this video that shows you how you can build an entire lead generation campaign in one day.

As you’re about to see, it uses a solution called Conversion Funnels, which to put it simply, combines all the strategies we’ve listed above into the so-called marketing funnel.

Not only does it combine them, but it also simplifies the whole process and takes away the guesswork so you have more time to focus on what matters for your business.

John Waldron
John Waldron
Writer with markITwrite who regularly writes on lifestyle and technology. He is also a fiction writer who has penned a number of short stories, play scripts, and stories for children. He is the author of the foraging blog, First Time Foragers: Recipes and Stories for Beginners. He has a First-Class Honours Degree in English with Creative Writing and an MA in Professional Writing from University College Falmouth, Cornwall.