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What is lead generation?

To grow your business, you need to make people interested in your products or services. Lead generation goes beyond cold calling to identify and reach out to individuals who will be most likely to make a purchase. Keep reading to learn more about the latest lead generation strategies.

Understanding lead generation

How do you convert strangers into customers? Lead generation helps businesses source prospective clients from a range of sources, both online and off. The process not only involves identifying these prospective customers, but also providing them with incentives to generate natural interest in the business. Essentially, lead generation is what sets individuals on the path to eventually making a purchase from your company.

Types of leads

To get started with understanding the answer to what is lead generation, you first need to know who qualifies as a ‘lead’. A lead can refer to any person who expresses interest in a business’s product or service. They’re part of the path that consumers follow as they transition from stranger to customer. There are a few different types of leads to be aware of:

  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL): A marketing qualified lead is a contact identified through the efforts of your marketing team. This could be someone who’s filled out a form for a special offer or newsletter, for example.

  • Sales qualified lead (SQL): By contrast, a sales qualified lead has gone a step further to have taken a proactive step in becoming a customer. They might have contacted your business to find out more information about your products.

  • Product qualified lead (PQL): Product qualified leads have already used your product. Perhaps they have accepted a free sample or product trial, so they’ve had some experience with the product. However, they haven’t yet taken the leap into paying for the product.

No business can grow without attracting paying customers. This is why lead generation is so important. Rather than wasting time on attracting strangers who haven’t shown any interest in your products, you can focus efforts on those who are more likely to pay.

How does lead generation work?

The lead generation process follows several steps as part of the inbound marketing method.

  1. The visitor is initially attracted to your business through one of your marketing channels, such as your social media profile, business blog, or company website.

  2. The visitor follows through on your call to action, either signing up for a free trial of your service or registering for more information.

  3. The visitor clicks through the call to action to end up on your business landing page, where they provide their customer details.

At this stage when the visitor has provided contact details, they’ve transitioned from stranger to qualified lead. This is the stage when your sales team needs to take over to convert them into a paying customer.

Lead generation tools in marketing

There are multiple channels you can use as lead generation tools. These are designed to attract visitors, who can then follow through with the call to action and become a lead.

  • Web content: This includes any type of website content or blog posts.

  • Emails: Targeted emails can be sent out to leads that have already signed up for your mailing list.

  • Social media: Social media provides an easy platform for linking to blog posts, landing pages, and special offers.

  • Free trials: Consumers are drawn to anything free, so a product trial offers an effective way to entice someone to learn more about your business.

  • Retargeting campaigns: Don’t give up on a website visitor who didn’t convert to a lead the first time. The fact that they’ve shown interest in the past means that they might be easier to lure in with an enticing retargeting offer in the future. Try to engage again with a personalised message or special offer.

  • Lead generation software: Automated lead generation software offers an easy solution to attracting qualified leads. These work by automatically tracking data about website visitors, breaking down data and user interactions. This allows you to focus your efforts on the visitors who have engaged the most with your site.

No matter the channel, lead generation strategies should also take the lead’s level of interest into account. A customer that has signed up for a product trial has a direct interest in your business, while someone who’s clicked through to a webinar might be a more indirect lead. In the second case, you’d need more information about them to gauge whether they’re likely to convert to a sale.

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