Lead generation is the prospecting process of attracting and converting complete strangers into someone who would be interested in your company’s products or services.
This is a topic that’s getting a lot of debate in the business community right now…
Let’s start with defining a lead, and then we’ll get into what online lead generation is, why you need lead generation, how you qualify someone as a lead, how you generate leads, and why inbound lead generation is much more effective than simply buying leads.
What Is a Lead?
Let’s start with the basics. A lead is a person who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service in some way, shape, or form.
In other words, instead of getting a random cold call from someone who purchased your contact information, you’d hear from a business or organization you’ve already opened communication with.
For example, maybe you took an online survey to learn more about how to take care of your car. If you got an email from the auto company that hosted the survey on their website about how they could help you take care of your car, it’d be far less intrusive and irrelevant than if they’d just called you out of the blue with no knowledge of whether you even care about car maintenance … right?
And from a business perspective, the information the auto company collected about you from your survey responses would help them personalize that opening communication to meet the existing needs of the potential client.
What Is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into those leads we just talked about.
Whenever someone outside the marketing world asks me what I do, I can’t simply say, “I create content for lead generation.” It’d be totally lost on them, and I’d get some really confused looks.
So instead, I say, “I work on finding unique ways to attract people to my business. I want to provide them with enough goodies to get them naturally interested in my company so they eventually warm up to the brand enough to want to hear from us!”
That usually resonates better, and that’s exactly what lead generation is: It’s a way of warming up potential customers to your business and getting them on the path to eventually buying.
Why Do You Need Lead Generation?
By showing an organic interest in your business, it’s those strangers and prospects that are initiating the relationship with you — versus you, the business, initiating the relationship with them. This makes it easier and more natural for them to want to buy from you somewhere down the line.
Within the larger inbound marketing methodology, lead generation falls in the second stage. It occurs after you’ve attracted an audience and are ready to actually convert those visitors into leads for your sales team. As you can see in the diagram below, generating leads is a fundamental point in an individual’s journey to becoming a delighted customer of your business.
How to Qualify a Lead
As you now know, a lead is a person who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service. Now, let’s talk about the ways in which someone can actually show that interest.
Essentially, a sale lead is generated through information collection. That information collection could come as the result of a job seeker showing interest in a position by completing an application for the job, a shopper sharing contact information in exchange for a coupon, or a person filling out a form to download an educational piece of content, like an ebook, kit, podcast, tool, trial, or something else.
Below are just a few of the many ways in which you could qualify someone as a lead. Each of these examples also highlights the fact that the amount of information you can collect to qualify someone as a lead, as well as the that person’s level of interest in your company, can vary. Let’s assess each scenario:
- Job Application: Any individual filling out an application form is willing to share a lot of personal information because he/she wants to be considered for the position. Filling out that application shows their true interest in the job, therefore qualifying the person as a lead for the company’s recruiting team.
- Coupon: Unlike the job application, you probably know very little about someone who has stumbled upon one of your online coupons. But if they find the coupon valuable enough, they may be willing to provide their name and email address in exchange for it. Although it’s not a lot of information, it’s enough for a business to know that someone has interest in their company.
- Content: While the download of a coupon shows an individual has a direct interest in your product or service, content (like an educational ebook or webinar) does not. Therefore, in order to truly understand the nature of the person’s interest in your business, you’ll probably need to collect more information — you’ll need enough information for a sales rep to actually understand whether the person is interested in your product or service, and whether they’re a good fit.
These three general examples highlight how lead generation differs from company to company, and from person to person. You’ll need to collect enough information in order to gauge whether someone has a true, valid interest in your product or service, but knowing how much information is enough information will vary depending on your business.