Which do you think is easier, talking to someone who’s never heard of your product, or someone who already has your product on their radar?
Broadly speaking, lead generation is finding people who are more likely to engage with you because they’re interested in some aspect of your product or industry.
Think about it. Faced with these two scenarios, which situation would you respond to more positively?
- You get a call from an unknown number. Against your better judgment, you pick up. The person at the other end starts pitching a household cleaning product.
- You get an email from a company newsletter you’ve subscribed to. They tell you they’ve just launched a new household cleaning product and you get a discount if you’re interested.
Most people would say A is harassment and block the number right away. In sales, this is called cold calling. Without any previous relationship, you’re contacting that person out of the blue and have no way of knowing whether they’d be interested in your product or not. But you give it a shot anyway.
In the case of B, the person you’ve sent the email to may or may not already be a customer of your company. But they’ve expressed interest in your products by signing up for your newsletter. Therefore, this person is a lead.
So, what is a lead, exactly?
Let’s start with a very basic definition. A lead is someone who might be interested in your product or services.
Now, that could cover a very broad range of people that have:
- Heard of you online, either through your own marketing efforts or word-of-mouth
- Met you in person at events or conferences
- Responded to one of your surveys once
- Clicked on one of your blog posts in the past
- Engaged with you on social media
If you want to play the numbers game and consider every one of these people as your lead, that’s one strategy. But remember that contacting leads is very time-consuming, and because it doesn’t necessarily lead to sales, the number of leads alone isn’t a good measure for success. Having thousands of leads isn’t very valuable if they never become customers.
According to LinkedIn’s B2B Lead Generation Trends report:
- 68% of B2B professionals cited improving lead quality as a major priority.
- 55% of respondents said increasing lead volume was a top priority.
- 59% said their biggest challenge was improving lead quality.
The answers of the survey reveal an emphasis on creating quality leads as opposed to simply increasing the number of leads.
A qualified lead is someone who’s more likely to convert based on things like customer persona or purchase history. The truth is, you might be able to generate 100 leads, but if only two of them can actually convert, you don’t want to waste time reaching out to the other 98.
That’s why it’s important to nail down customer personas to pursue qualified leads. Starting with clearly defined leads can minimize time spent chasing after those that don’t fit the customer profile at all.
Manage more leads in less time.
You shouldn't have to spend hours managing all your leads. Learn how to automate the repetitive stuff + speed things up.
Who’s responsible for generating leads?
The usual process for most companies goes like this: Marketing generates a list of leads, then passes it off to Sales. Sales then converts those leads.
In an ideal world, every lead that Marketing passes onto Sales would be a qualified lead, but the reality is very different. According to Gleanster Research, only 50% of leads are qualified, and only 25% are ready to buy.
This is why it’s helpful to divide up the leads into two categories:
- Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- Sales qualified leads (SQLs)
MQLs might be qualified prospects in the long-term but have to be nurtured for later conversion. By contrast, SQLs are leads that Sales can talk to right away to close deals.
The more your teams understand the difference between MQLs and SQLs, the better Marketing and Sales can achieve alignment and help one another toward the ultimate goal: conversion.
Here are five effective ways to generate leads:
Social media lead ads
According to a Wordstream study, the average conversion rate for Facebook Ads is 9.21%. That spans all industries, from apparel to real estate.
The highest industries with conversion rates over 10% included fitness (14.29%), education (13.58%) real estate (10.68%), B2B (10.63%), employment/job training (11.73%), and healthcare (11%).
The study also found that the average cost-per-click (CPC) across all industries was $1.72, with the highest at $3.77 for financial services and the lowest at apparel ($0.45).
If you’re not already using Facebook for lead generation, these conversion rates and costs might convince you that it’s worth the investment, especially if you’re in an industry with higher conversion rates on the platform.
Though Facebook offers different types of ads from offer ads to messenger ads, it also has lead ads for marketers to create ads designed specifically to get leads through customized sign-up forms.
The information can be synced up with your CRM so your sales team gets the information right away and can reach out to prospects.
But Facebook isn’t the only social media platform to offer lead ads to marketers. Here are some sample lead ads on Instagram and LinkedIn:
Pro-tip: Since these ads are designed for mobile, keep in mind that sign-up forms should be minimalistic. Ask for only the most basic and necessary information like their email address and products they’re interested in so that people can fill them out easily on their phones.
There’s an excellent study by Unbounce that used AI to analyze nearly 65,000 landing pages created on their platform.
While all industries can benefit from a great landing page, the results of this study indicated that some industries might rely more on landing pages than others to convert visitors into customers.
For example, travel had a 25.1% conversion rate, more than double the 11.2% of real estate. This makes sense because real estate sales involve more field visits and direct contact by nature, while in travel, people tend to do most of their booking online and are probably used to filling out longer forms.
So if you’re in an industry where sales happen primarily on the web, it’s even more important to pay attention to your landing pages for maximum conversion.
Here are some more fascinating findings:
- 6 out of 10 industries benefited from having copy at a reading level at or below 9th grade. They include legal, healthcare, and finance—industries dealing with complicated information.
- Almost all industries experienced a correlation between shorter copy and higher conversion rates.
Regardless of conversion rates, landing pages are one of the biggest resources for people to either discover or find out more about your product and services. This means that optimizing your landing pages’ copy and design to attract more leads should be a core part of your lead generation strategy.
Using our own landing page as an example, you can immediately see some key choices aimed at generating leads:
- Try Free buttons
- Request Demo button
- Sales Support chat box
The copy is short and followed by CTA buttons that are immediately noticeable. There’s a popup chat box to engage visitors who might have questions.
All these avenues are an opportunity for interested visitors to establish a connection and give Sales and Marketing a way to follow up with them.
Pro-tip: Use shorter, easier copy to increase conversion rates. Especially for mobile viewing, people aren’t going to do much more than skim through the pages to get the information they need.
Fluent, Inc., a performance marketing company, details some interesting insights into how American consumers use email to buy products in their Inbox Report:
- 42% of consumers are likely to visit a brand’s website after receiving an email
- 38% of consumers are likely to make a purchase after receiving an email
- 47% of purchases happen on websites; 45% in stores; 38% on mobile
Emails are a great source of leads because anyone who has given you their email address has already expressed interest in your products or services. The study confirms this with the top four reasons people sign up for email lists:
- Special offers (34%)
- Discounts (29%)
- Learn about products (22%)
- Like the brand (15%)
Need a reference? Here are some creative uses of marketing emails that offer a clear value proposition for the recipients:
Pro-tip: Most purchases happen on websites, so make sure your email campaigns and landing pages work together closely to drive conversions. Also, be sure to send your subscribers periodic discounts and offers—that’s the main reason they’ve signed up after all.
Tracking and converting your leads
Once you’ve captured your leads, the real work begins. We’ve gone over some ways to optimize conversions above but nurturing your leads long-term can bring that rate up even more.
In order to nurture your leads, you’ll need to track them diligently through a CRM. This makes the transfer of information from Marketing to Sales instantaneous, which is important as online leads tend to go cold very fast.
Researchers determined in a study that those who responded to leads within five minutes were seven times as likely to qualify those leads (defined as having at least one conversation with a key decision maker).
A CRM with an integrated email tracking tool will also make it easier for you to track hot leads so you don’t miss out on opportunities and can identify when to follow up.
The best lead generation strategy combines quality and quantity.
No matter which lead generation channels you choose, investing in compiling as many qualified leads should be a priority to minimize costs and efforts. That way, you’re not just building up a list of people to contact, but a list of people who are genuinely interested in your product or services. But that’s not to say that marketers shouldn’t strive to attract as many leads to sign up as possible.
Even if those leads can’t get passed onto Sales for conversion right away, they can be nurtured long-term.
There may also be other benefits to getting a lot of exposure, including word-of-mouth marketing and increased brand awareness.
To make sure you’re targeting qualified leads, spend some time thinking about your customer profiles before creating an ad, sending out an email campaign, or building a landing page. Making a customer journey map can help you think about the buying process for your leads and come up with strategies to optimize your marketing efforts.
Once you have a clear picture of who your qualified leads are, you can build an effective marketing strategy to fit those customer segments. From there, you can aim to generate as many qualified leads as possible and drive up conversion rates.