Lead generation x Min read

What is lead generation ?


You’ve seen the term lead generation pop up when people talk about sales or marketing. But what exactly is lead generation? From its definition to how to do it and who’s responsible for those initiatives, we’ll go over all the basics.

Lead generation is the process of attracting and identifying potential customers (also called leads). So for B2B companies looking to grow, it’s vital to have a constant flow of new leads that have the potential to be converted into paying customers.

Seems simple enough, right? Well, the above is a nice theory, but how does lead generation work in practice? And which team is responsible for this process? This blog will cover that and more.

The definition of lead generation

Imagine that you’re a top-tier football club based in Rotterdam. Because of your fame, many companies are eager to place your logo on their clothes or enter into a form of business partnership with you. These people are leads and potential customers.

The problem is, these companies may not know how to find you. And if they make it to your website, these users behave like tourists. All they do is look around but don’t buy anything, leave no contact details and remain anonymous.

Enter lead generation. A catch-all term that describes the process of attracting and engaging your target audience to the point that they want to give you their information.

In other words, lead generation is the first step in your sales process. The leads you attract end up in your sales funnel, where a strategic approach dictates whether or not they hand you their credit card information.

However, more leads is not always better. You’ll only be successful if you attract high-quality leads. And it’s up to you to define what you perceive to be a “quality lead”, as this will depend on your company, offering, industry of operation and target audience.

The evolution of lead generation

Lead generation is not a new concept. It’s been around since people started trading. After all, you needed customers who were willing to exchange meat for spices and textiles. During such periods in time, your reputation was everything. If you had a good product and treated your customers well, the news would travel via word of mouth.

This all changed with the rise of mass media. Companies began adopting a large scale approach to lead generation. Marketing teams would purchase a list of contact details which the sales team approached via cold calling.

Luckily, this situation was short-lived. The internet, social media and powerful adblockers put the power back in the hands of the consumer who’d had enough of aggressive marketing techniques.

Today, successful brands prioritise the needs of their customers and use a combination of inbound and outbound marketing for the best results. For example, a lead is attracted via content (inbound), and someone from your sales team follows up via phone (outbound).

How to do lead generation?

Before you start any lead generation activity, you need to know who you’re targeting. If you’re not sure about that, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities.

So, begin by creating one or multiple buyer personas—a representation of your ideal customer. Based on market research and data of your existing customers, list out demographics, the challenges these individuals face and how your product or service can help them be successful. Armed with this information, you can get started with lead generation.

The first step is to cast a wide net to gain exposure and increase your brand awareness among your target audience. You can do this many different ways, both paid and organically, but some winning strategies include:

  • Search engine optimisation
  • Google ads campaigns
  • Social media campaigns
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing

Choose a strategy that will resonate the most with your target audience. And when measuring progress, don’t focus only on engagement related numbers, such as likes and comments. Although those metrics do improve your reach, one of the most important numbers worth analysing is your number of website visitors. Because when a lead lands on your site, the odds are slim that they will immediately make a purchase. However, they now know of your existence, the first step in building a relationship with them.

Once people start gravitating towards your site, the next step is to find out more about them. How? Using lead magnets. A free resource or service chock-full of value which you give away for free in exchange for a person’s contact details. This could be:

  • How-to video series
  • Free trial
  • Webinar
  • E-book
  • Whitepaper
  • Interview with an expert

Once you’ve identified leads, time to decide on the quality of these potential customers. How likely are these companies or individuals to make a purchase? To sort through high and low-value leads, assign them a score. Assign a point value to every lead based on your buyer’s personas, firmographics, time spent on your site and the user’s level of engagement across all touchpoints. Most CRM’s and lead generation products have embedded a lead scoring feature. Allowing you to go after the hottest leads with confidence and discard low-value fruit.

Who’s responsible for lead generation?

Given that lead generation is about engaging with your target audience, who owns the process, marketing or sales teams? Traditionally, marketing departments create assets to raise a company’s awareness and generate leads. Top-notch leads are handed over to sales who try to close a deal.

But this strict division of work is not ideal. For the best results, marketing and sales should work together. A concept also known as smarketing.

What is smarketing?

It’s when sales and marketing teams are aligned and work together to achieve common goals with the aim of increasing your company’s revenue.

Livia Hirsch
Livia Hirsch Content Manager

Sales and marketing can reinforce each other across several points of the lead gen process. For example:

  1. Marketers are often responsible for defining a company’s target persona. However, sales also have a deep understanding of the ideal customer and know exactly who is buying and who is not. Working together ensures that marketing is targeting the right people for sales to qualify.
  2. Marketing teams are responsible for creating quality content that attracts attention. But sales hear the common questions, misconceptions and hesitations leads face before becoming customers. Work in unison to create tailored content that resonates better with potential customers.
  3. Your marketing team knows about the latest trends and events in your industry. Sales can take this information and weave it into their conversations with customers.

Marketers and salespeople should share knowledge and work together for optimum results. They keep each other accountable while bringing their unique expertise to the table. Resulting in more customers and a higher turnover for you.

For who is lead generation worthwhile?

We hope that we’ve conveyed the importance of lead generation. Without it, you have no leads, no clients or revenue coming in. But not every company needs to prioritise lead generation in the same way. Consider a five-star restaurant, a local supermarket and a clothing brand. Each of these organisations aims to draw people in and make a profit, but they don’t all need lead gen teams, departments or initiatives.

So which types of companies would benefit most from dedicated lead gen strategies?

  • Companies with an online presence: When selling products or services online, lead gen is crucial to building your visibility, credibility and interest among a specific demographic.
  • B2B organisations: B2B sale purchases are larger, more expensive and involve more decision makers than B2C sales. So one B2B lead is highly valuable and takes a lot more nurturing.
  • Brands with lots of competition: If you operate in a sector with lots of competition and a large target audience, you need to fight harder to get people’s attention, generate leads and convert them into paying customers. A solid lead generation strategy can make a difference.

Grow better with lead generation

Lead generation doesn’t have to be a mystery. It’s the first step of your sales process. You could even say it’s the most important step in your sales process.

If your sales and marketing teams are working together to define your target persona, raise your company’s brand awareness and develop meaningful lead magnets, you will have leads cycling through your funnel in no time.

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