What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the marketing process of stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service for the purpose of developing a sales pipeline.

Lead generation usually uses digital channels, and has been undergoing substantial changes in recent years from the rise of new online and social technologies. The abundance of readily accessible information in the palm of our hands has given rise to the “self-directed buyer” and has required the use of new techniques to develop and qualify leads before passing them to sales.

Why is Lead Generation Important?

The buying process has changed, and marketers need to find new ways to reach buyers while being heard through the noise. Instead of simply focusing on capturing customers with mass advertising and email blasts, marketers must now focus on being found and learn to build a continuous relationship with potential buyers.

TMI (Too Much Information) and the Attention Economy

With the exponential growth of the internet, the world has changed in what almost seems overnight into one of information scarcity to one of information abundance. According to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, “there was 5 Exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization and 2003, but that much information is now created every two days and the pace is rapidly increasing”.

There is so much information available to digest that it leads to attention scarcity, also know as the attention economy. Attention economics has transformed the buying process. Buyers are overwhelmed with noise and are getting better at ignoring messages they don’t want to hear and researching what they do want to learn about on their own.

A New Buying Process

In the old world of information scarcity, “lead generation” meant marketing found the names of potential buyers and passed them to sales. Buyers expected that they would need to talk to sales and sales expected to educate early stage buyers that may not yet be qualified. Everything has changed, as buyers today can do their own research online and find a variety of educational resources simply by “Googling”,  asking Siri or Alexa, through social media, and many other online channels. Through content resources, today’s buyer can learn almost everything about any product or service before ever having to speak to a sales person. Businesses today must ensure that they build their digital presence.

According to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor. The reason this is happening more often is because buyers have so much access to information that they can delay talking to sales until they are experts themselves.

Down The Funnel

With the new buyer it is important to note that your marketing efforts don’t end once a new lead comes into the system.  Many companies do a good job at generating leads, but the problem is that most new leads are not ready to buy yet. And if a sales rep does engage and the lead isn’t ready to talk with them, it reinforces the notion that marketing sourced leads are not great. As a result leads get lost, ignored, or snatched up by your competitors.

To prevent this from happening, good lead generation marketers will invest in lead nurturing and other Middle of the Funnel techniques to build relationships and trust, earning the lead’s business once he or she is finally ready to buy. Engage these leads through relevant content and make sure that you get your timing right. Keeping in mind that every industry is different and some products or services that might take a few days or weeks to sell in some industries might take a few months up to a year in others.

The Basics of Lead Generation

Let’s begin with the definition of a lead. What does a lead mean to your company? Many companies have different definitions depending on their sales cycle, but standard definition is a qualified potential buyer who shows some level of interest in purchasing your product or solution. For the leads that fill out a form, they often do so in exchange for some relevant content or a compelling offer.

You can break lead generation up into two main categories: inbound and outbound. And as discussed above, you need to make sure that you think about your nurturing and customer retention marketing strategies as part of a holistic strategy.

Inbound Marketing is the process of helping potential customers find your company, often before they are even looking to make a purchase, and then turning that early awareness into brand preference, and ultimately, into leads and revenue.

Content and SEO Because search engines equate high-quality content with a high-quality website, creating content with value is very important. Conduct a content audit to see how many of your assets fall into the thought leadership vs. promotional category.

Website This is the place where your audience needs to convert. Whether it is encouraging prospective buyers to sign up for your newsletter or fill out a form for a demo, the key is to optimize your website for converting browsers into actual leads.

Blog  Readers can stumble upon your blog from all over the web, so you want to make sure it is search-engine optimized. Remember that someone reading the blog may not want to immediately sign up for a demo, so highlight the Calls-to-Action that ask your reader to subscribe or to follow you on social channels.

Social Media Through social networks, buyers have been able to research and learn about products and services through influencers and peers. By tapping into all the social media channels, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google+, you can be where your customers are and create that trust.

Outbound Marketing is often highly targeted, with a call-to-action that is very obvious. As a result, good outbound marketing can push someone through the funnel at a faster rate, assuming they are closer to being ready to buy.

Email Marketing Email is a cornerstone and key component of every marketing campaign. Whether you are hosting an event, sending out a new piece of content, promoting a new service offering, or staying in touch with customers, email should be one of your main forms of communication.

Display Ads Select where you want the ads to be seen by choosing an online publication that you feel is a place where your leads spend time, or you can also leverage retargeting ads that can cookie a lead that views your site.

Pay-per-Click Ads With Pay-per-Click (PPC) ads you pay for each click on your ad which is displayed on a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, or on a website. For PPC on search engines, your ads show up as sponsored results on the top and side of the organic search terms.

Content Syndication Prospective buyers won’t always end up at your website as they start their journey so it’s important to establish a presence where they may show up. A content sharing strategy can be used to promote whitepapers, articles, news releases, etc. on other websites for greater reach and engagement.

Direct Mail A thing of the past but still something to consider as a content asset developed for high-level executives. It can be hard to get through to them via email and that means they may not come across the content you’ve developed with them in mind.

Events Events are a critical component of an outbound marketing strategy. Essentially, events offer you the chance to define your brand, clarify the solutions you provide, and establish personal connections with participants.

Sales Development Reps

Sales Development Reps (SDRs), also often called Inside Sales or Lead Qualification reps, are focused on one thing: reviewing, contacting, and qualifying marketing-generated leads and delivering them to Sales Account Executives. Simply put, SDR teams pass the baton from Marketing to Sales. Why do it this way? Because you want to make sure every single lead Marketing passes to your Sales team is as qualified as possible. Your SDRs should take the time to help each and every lead, offer them value, make a positive impression, create future demand, and become a trusted advisor. This step is critical in the lead generation process because you don’t want to treat your leads as blank faces to be simply questioned, qualified, and harvested.

Middle of the Funnel

The self-directed buyer’s shields are up, and they are ignoring your messages. Developing a relationship to cut through the noise is critical.  Not all leads that go to sales are ready to buy, so you have to make sure that you have in place a solid lead nurturing strategy to continue to build awareness and affinity for your brand while your prospect is self-educating. Through paying attention to your efforts through tactics such as lead nurturing, you can continue to have a relevant conversation with prospects long after your lead generation efforts.

Lead nurturing also increases lead to opportunity conversion rate, drives more revenue, and shortens the sales cycle. It is about finding the right buyers at the right time. Lead generation brings buyers into the funnel, but lead nurturing and scoring sends them to sales so that your sales team can close the deal at the right time. In fact, according to MarketingSherpa’s Lead Generation benchmark report, companies who leverage lead nurturing see a 45% lift in lead generation over those companies who do not use lead nurturing.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is a shared sales and marketing methodology for ranking leads in order to determine their sales-readiness. You score leads based on the interest they show in your business, their current in the buying cycle, and their fit in regards to your business. Lead scoring helps companies know whether prospects need to be fast-tracked to sales or developed with lead nurturing. Lead scoring is essential to strengthening your revenue cycle, effectively drive more ROI, and align sales and marketing.

For more information, learn more about lead nurturinglead scoringinbound marketing or outbound marketing.

Or, check out the following blogs focusing on lead generation:

Nurture Your Leads With 7 Effective Lead Nurturing Tactics

Outbound Marketing or Inbound Marketing for Lead Gen?

Lead Generation – Ideas

Beyond the Lead Score: Qualify a Lead in 60 Seconds

Combining Inbound & Outbound Marketing Strategies


RAVEN5 is a contest marketing agency, that works with clients in developing and administering consumer programs in Canada and the United States. RAVEN5 works with clients to develop strategies and tactics with a focus on both traditional, digital and online coupons as well as redemption solutions that work for both B2B and B2C consumers. RAVEN5 Ltd. are leaders in Consumer Promotions that produce results.