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What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the heart‑pumping life into your sales funnel. Learn how to get higher‑quality leads to make actual conversions.

A lead is any person who has an interest in your company’s products or services. Lead generation is the process of attracting prospects who may be interested and converting them into potential customers who are interested in your company’s offerings.

So how do you find the leads who will increase marketing ROI and skyrocket sales? With fine-tuned marketing practices that create a competitive advantage from marketing tools, software, and social media platforms.

What is a lead?

A lead is someone interested in what you are selling. That definition throws a wide net, so think of lead generation as guiding prospects from passively viewing your social media posts to following you. A lead has taken the initiative to share contact information. The goal of lead generation is to find potential customers and develop them through the process until they are ready to buy. When a customer is ready to buy, then you pass them to sales as a highly qualified lead.

Some potential customers will fall away during this process. As customers learn more about your business, they may decide it isn’t the best fit for their needs. This type of attrition is good because it allows your sales team to focus on the most likely candidates. The top of the sales funnel is wide by design. But that funnel narrows considerably as lead gen progresses.

Types of leads

IQL – Information Qualified Lead

An information-qualified lead (IQL) is just entering the sales funnel. An IQL (sometimes called a cold lead) is a potential customer just entering the buyer's journey. An IQL is looking for essential information about your business to see if it may be a solution to her problem. A cold lead will trade his name and email to find out more. This is the entry point to the sales funnel.

MQL – Marketing Qualified Lead

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) has shown a continuing interest in the business. These warm leads are looking at ways to use your company’s products to solve their business problems.

SQL – Sales Qualified Lead

A sales-qualified lead (SQL) has indicated readiness to make a purchase. These are the hot leads that your sales force is ready to turn into committed customers.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is a marketing process of generating and capturing interest in a product or service. The purpose of the lead gen process is to guide prospective customers into the sales funnel and through the sales pipeline until they are ready to make a purchase. The prospects move through each level of qualification until they reach “hot leads”.

Lead generation is a complex process that increases brand awareness, builds community relationships, generates high-quality leads, and completes a sale. Your lead generation marketing process will be unique to your company’s needs but there are four essential stages: lead awareness, lead education, lead sampling, and lead conversion.

How to generate leads

Lead generation marketing uses multiple channels to get potential customers to a landing page with a form to collect contact information. After filling out the contact form, the customer receives an offer (more on that in a minute) and a lead is generated.

Each promotional channel will target people in unique ways. If you are a tutoring service, you may reach out to school teachers by email inviting them to refer students. At the same time, you may reach out to parents with web content on preparing kids for SATs or ACTs. You may use Tik-Tok to reach students. The lead gen process gets complex quickly, so let’s look at some ways to generate leads.

Email marketing

How does automating potential leads work? Let’s say a parent reads your Tweet offering students a free study plan for the SAT. When they click through the link on the Tweet, they arrive at a landing page with a simple form. Mailchimp automatically adds the information to your database.

By submitting their email address, the parent automatically receives a PDF with the study plan, but also a welcome package with pricing, service menu, success stories, and a call-to-action coupon. If the parent clicks the link on the coupon, they arrive at your booking calendar.

The booking calendar notifies the tutor and confirms the appointment. All this happens automatically. Even better, it is invisible to the customer. It takes time to set up the automation chain, but once it's set, it saves hours of missed phone calls, checking calendars, and confirming appointments.

Landing pages

Landing pages are crucial for lead generation. There are many types of landing pages available. Mailchimp offers two categories of landing page templates. The basic template uses a drag-and-drop editor to make customization simple and there is room for your company logo.

Each template is mobile-responsive, so your landing page will look professional on any device – smartphone, computer, or tablet. Themed landing pages are also drag-and-drop and mobile-responsive, but you can add background images and response buttons.

Social media

Social media gives marketers unprecedented opportunities to connect with consumers. A presence on social media platforms makes it easier for customers to find you by following hashtags or searching for keywords. Social media companies work to keep their customers actively engaged and marketers can build on this advantage. The result is increased brand awareness and a consistent marketing message.

Zapier’s Facebook Lead Ads generates leads by making it easy for users to sign up for ad campaigns. When a potential customer clicks on the lead ad, Facebook automatically loads their contact information. The Facebook leads information is saved to transport over to your Mailchimp list.

From your Mailchimp list, you can match new subscribers with relevant marketing campaigns. You can even create a poll to see what marketing is most useful to your subscribers. This is a simple data-driven approach to segmenting your audience and micro-target campaigns and special offers.

Zapier is just one of more than 250 platforms you can integrate with your Mailchimp account for data-driven marketing campaigns. Let’s look at Mailchimp for LinkedIn lead gen forms. These forms sync your LinkedIn contacts with your Mailchimp audience.

When a user clicks on a call to action, LinkedIn fills in her user information. This information transfers to your Mailchimp list. You can classify leads with predefined fields, hidden fields, custom questions, and consent fields. You can connect or disconnect Mailchimp for LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms in the Mailchimp integration directory.

Blog content

Blog content is a proven method of guiding users to your landing page. A blog gives the user free, no-commitment information about a problem they want to solve. Relevant and useful content builds authority and trust. It empowers visitors to self-select and decide if they want to move into the sales funnel. You can put calls to action anywhere in the blog to connect visitors to your landing page and become information-qualified leads.

Qualify your leads

So, how does a consumer get through the qualification process? The first stage is information qualification. A lead qualifies for this level by sharing contact information. Information qualification casts a wide net, but it sets the minimum for a potential customer.

You may disqualify some leads at this stage. Age is a common example, especially if you sell any product aimed at adults like vitamins or wine. The next stage, marketing information qualification, requires continued interest. This may be repeated trips to your blog, retweeting social media, or asking for more information. When your customer is ready to buy, they become sales leads. They may indicate this by initiating a chat session or making an appointment.

Your qualification process will be unique, but ideally, most of it will be automated. You will also find that it needs constant tweaking. Social media platforms change, new marketing tools become available, or your competition may release a campaign that blows you out of the water.

Why should you be generating leads?

Generating leads is a crucial part of a successful business. A dependable lead gen process increases the credibility of your marketing process. It is an effective way to show tangible results and demonstrate a return on investment (ROI).

One drawback is that if your lead generation process doesn’t show positive results, your company will lose sales. This can lead to budget cuts or staffing cuts, including your own job. But focus on the benefits, lead generation allows consumers to develop organically as they follow your marketing path. The result is happier customers, happier sales reps, increased sales, and recognition for your marketing professionals.

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