Lead generation encompasses a series of actions that enable you to reach new potential customers: here is a simple explanation of how it works and why it is so important.

Imagine the scene: you picking up the yellow pages and scrolling through the list of names and phone numbers, choosing (somewhat at random) the next person to contact to propose your fantastic offer...

Yes, I know, it sounds like something from another era!

Yet until a few decades ago this was the norm: after all, without the Internet, what other way could you have to find new customers for your business than to search for them one by one?

Lo and behold, fortunately, the digital age we live in brings with it the fantastic opportunity to attract your prospects super easily and quickly by harnessing the flood of information we are all exposed to when we surf the Web.

It is what is called lead generation: I guess you've come across this term before!

Maybe you are not sure what it means (or simply would like to understand it better): well, this article is for you!

This is one of the main techniques of inbound marketing and consists, precisely, of the Generation of new contacts, with the goal of converting them into paying customers and thereby increasing your sales.

But let's look at everything in detail: I'll explain in full what a lead is, what lead generation is and how it works, why it is so important, and what are the main sources you can tap into.

Happy reading!

Everyone does lead generation--but what is a lead?

Okay, as is my wont, I want to start right at the bottom: let's try to understand exactly what a lead.

We can roughly translate this as "potential buyer"-that is, any person (or company) who shows interest in your product or service, and who by virtue of that interest shares a name, email address, or in some cases even a phone number with you. 

Considering the consumer life cycle, a lead lies between the user who, for example, visits your website and the customer who purchases your offer.

Ah, did you know that not all leads are the same? There are different types based on various factors.

For example, some leads may find you independently (coming across your blog), while others you can acquire through precise strategies (I'll tell you which ones later); of some you can only get the name and email, of others you can manage to get secondary contact details to use for even more personalized communication.

Based on the type of qualification and stage in the sales cycle, however, four types can be distinguished:

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): is a contact who has interest in you but is not yet ready to establish a more consistent, sales-oriented relationship. Let's say he subscribed to your blog newsletter or signed up in exchange for that free pdf. 
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): has expressed a real interest in your product or taken an action that explicitly indicates this; he or she is therefore one step closer to becoming a paying customer. This is the case, for example, with someone who fills out a form to get more details about your product.
  • Product Qualified Lead (PQL): the one who has taken steps to become a paying customer. This is similar to SQLs, but with a slight difference: it is usually typical for companies that provide a free trial version of their product. These leads might use the latter, but then ask you about some of the features available only in the paid plans.

Clearly, depending on the type of leads you want to get or target, your strategies and communication will change. 

What is lead generation?

Okay, if a lead is a potential customer who has not yet purchased from you but may want to in the future, doing lead generation simply means increasing the number of these users so that you have a pool to draw from for all your promotional and communication strategies.

Lead generation is a true process of finding everyone who could potentially be interested in your offer; it coincides with the first step in the consumer journey: the awareness stage-and for many companies, lead generation is the initial stage of the sales funnel.

The idea is to offer them "goodies" that are interesting enough to intrigue them and bring them closer to your brand, with the ultimate goal of converting them into buyers.

In online marketing, this involves. Attract traffic to your website and persuade visitors to exchange their contact details (usually name and email) with you via a form to be filled out.

You can generate leads through a number of different strategies (content marketing, ads, social campaigns, etc.), always with the intention of making connections with your potential customers so that they can establish a trusting relationship with you right away.

There is no need to emphasize how critical lead generation is to business growth: having a large base of contacts to draw on allows you to increase the likelihood of increasing revenue from conversions.

Being successful in lead generation can in fact make the sales cycle much more efficient and lead to an increased success rate in customer acquisition.

How does lead generation work?

Like all things, doing lead generation done well involves a whole range of digital marketing knowledge and skills-most importantly, it is not a matter of randomly collecting contacts and, in an equally disorganized way, bombarding them with information to stimulate them to buy.

Also because, what matters is always the quality, more than quantity: better fewer contacts, but valuable ones (i.e., more in line with the characteristics of your offer and therefore more likely to be predisposed to a future purchase), rather than lots of names of people who don't actually get much of a kick out of you.

Do you agree?

Well, having said that, I still want to make it simple for you to understand tout court How lead generation works.

Basically, what happens is this: a user comes to you through one of your marketing channels (website, blog, social media) and finds something that interests him or her (an infoproduct, a course, a webinar, a newsletter) that he or she can have for free, in exchange for a name and email address.

He clicks on the call to action (a button, message or image with which you precisely invite him to get his incentive) and finds himself on a landing page to fill out a form with the required information and download or access the product.

Et voila! You have acquired a new lead.

Needless to say, your offer must have a value perceived to be sufficient for the user to convince him to share his personal information with you.

What will you do with these contacts later?

All you need to build a relationship of trust and exchange, to keep them interested in your brand and business by offering them a series of opportunities to become your long-term customers.

For example, a database of contacts is the starting point of any email marketing campaign - which, as I explain in this article, is still one of the most effective methods to increase the brand awareness, conversions and sales.

Lead generation sources and tools

Well, so we can say that the stages highlight in the lead generation process are basically twofold: getting traffic to your site (or your landing pages) and then getting users to share their contact information with you.

Depending on your goals and the resources you have available, there are many ways to start attracting potential customers to your online domains; below are the main ones:

  • Search engine indexing: the goal in such a case is to appear among the first Google results, which you can do in two ways: paid ads (which appear first) or optimization of the site in optics SEO, to be facilitated by the algorithm and climb positions; in either case, make sure you have a curated blog with accessible and valuable content;
  • Social media: you can share content and links that then link back to your site or to certain landing pages, or even then pay for ads and sponsorships;
  • Affiliate marketing: promote your content through affiliate links, which your partners share with their community in exchange for recognition;
  • Referral marketing: even then, you harness the power of word of mouth to get quality leads, leading your customers to spread a positive image of your brand, through positive reviews and testimonials, in exchange for an incentive;
  • Email marketing: email campaigns allow you to qualify your leads and guide them within a sales path; a simple contact who has subscribed to your free newsletter, for example, may decide to follow up with one of your webinar, always free, in which you eventually propose the purchase of an online course.

Okay, now that you have their attention, you need to find a way to convince these people to leave you their email address (or, if you already have it, other information to qualify the type of lead). How? By offering them something in return, for free of course! This is what is called lead magnet and its consist of various things, including quality content (eBooks, pdfs, videos, newsletters), webinars or online courses.

Easy, isn't it?

Why is lead generation important?

Everyone is doing lead generation today.

How come?

Think about it: today people have an avalanche of information at the click of a mouse.

They can use search engines, social media, blogs and other online channels to research and become experts on your product, even before they communicate directly with you.

This means that no one is so well disposed to listen to a traditional sales pitch anymore: what they want is for their needs to be understood and then met, in a more immediate way than they may realize.

The truth, in fact, is that if your potential customers are not ready to buy what you propose to them, you will find it difficult to sell.

When someone starts a relationship with you by showing an interest in your business, the transition from "stranger" to customer is much more natural: you help them fulfill a need or solve a problem without making them feel "forced" to buy from you.

With lead generation, not only can you expand your pool of potential customers, but you can also better understand the characteristics of your target audience and tailor content and information to attract and qualify them. It's not only important to lengthen your list; you also need to develop and cultivate relationships with those already on it.

Let's look in detail at the reasons why lead generation is a fundamental part of any web marketing strategy.

#1 Helps you target the right people

Focus your resources on specific customers who are more likely to buy your product or service, which in turn will save you money and increase sales (improving ROI);

#2 Builds or consolidates brand awareness.

Lead generation always involves educating your leads about your business, both when they learn about you on their own and when you contact them to publicize the benefits of your product;

#3 You have a chance to get valuable data

Generating leads means gathering marketing information about your potential customers, their wants and needs, and your competitors. This helps you improve your product or service so that it has a competitive advantage in the marketplace;

#4 Increase brand loyalty

You can stimulate the creation and growth of a community of loyal customers, generating trust, visibility and credibility.

Conclusion

So what do you think?

As you may have guessed, doing lead generation is essential to see your business grow and succeed in the welter of digital competition.

Always remember one thing: What matters is that you offer real value to your audience and that you invest in building strong, long-term relationships.

Customers have become very good at blocking approaches and messages that do not resonate with them or are not well suited to their needs.

The leads generated are not an indiscriminate list of names (or at least, not anymore as perhaps they were in the past): focus on each of them and cultivate meaningful relationships.

It is more profitable to focus on the quality of leads than on their volume, isn't it?