Lead generation is the fuel that keeps a business in operation. It involves capturing the attention of potential customers (or leads) and attracting them into the sales funnel.
This process is important to maintain a sales pipeline with fresh, highly qualified prospects. Harness the lead generation techniques outlined in this article strategically to identify new business prospects, increase brand awareness, better understand your target demographic, and improve lead quality.
What are Leads?
A lead is a potential customer who’s demonstrated interest in your company’s products or services. Businesses classify leads according to their level of interest or qualification.
Leads by interest
You can segment leads based on their interest level:
- Cold leads – Prospects who’ve never interacted with the company before and are new to the sales pipeline
- Warm leads – Prospects who have interacted with your business and are aware of your offers but require additional information to make a purchase decision
- Hot leads – Potential customers who are well informed of your product or service and are ready to buy
Leads by qualification
B2B companies also qualify leads by comparing prospects to their ideal customer profile (ICP) or buyer personas and evaluating their readiness to buy. Taking this approach, potential customers are classified as:
- Information-qualified leads (IQLs) – Leads who provided their contact details in exchange for your offering. Most IQLs are in the early phases of the buyer journey and will require extra effort to become sale ready.
- Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) – Prospects who’ve engaged with marketing materials and are aware of your product. Salespeople offer them product demos, trials, and personalized consultations to nurture them toward conversion.
- Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) – The highest priority for sales follow-up, as they’ve expressed a clear intention to buy your product or service.
Inbound Versus Outbound Lead Generation
Lead generation falls into two broad categories: inbound and outbound.
Inbound lead generation
Inbound lead generation includes strategies that focus on attracting high-quality prospects. They seek to increase visibility and make it easier for potential clients to find your company. Common tactics include content marketing, search engine optimization, social media, and lead magnets.
The overall goal of inbound marketing is to create content that anticipates the demands of potential consumers at various phases of their buyer journey. While the strategies in this category are powerful, they take time and effort to achieve a consistent supply of qualified leads for the sales funnel.
Outbound lead generation
The outbound method captures leads in a more direct manner and is frequently regarded as the primary strategy for landing new clients. It involves reaching out to potential buyers through cold prospecting and target advertising.
Many companies choose outbound strategies because they shorten the sales cycle, expand business reach, and increase revenue quickly.
SDR Lead Generation
Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) play an important role in lead generation, as they’re responsible for prospecting and identifying potential customers. They bridge the gap between the sales and marketing departments on a daily basis, ensuring the pipeline is filled with highly qualified leads for Account Executives (AEs) to close.
SDRs may specialize in either type of lead generation or both, depending on their organization’s needs.
SDR inbound lead generation
Sales representatives can work with marketing teams to find and draw leads into the sales funnel using the following inbound strategies:
- Content marketing – SDRs create useful content in different formats to influence potential buyers in their decision-making. Content can range from blog articles to lead generation offers such as white papers, ebooks, tutorials, and templates.
- Email marketing – Email is an effective medium for informing potential clients about promotions and special offers, as well as news about your products and services.
- Social media marketing – SDRs leverage social selling skills and conversational marketing to generate high-quality leads through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Inbound SDRs combine these techniques with lead qualification processes to validate MQLs’ suitability to become SQLs and be forwarded to the AE.
SDR outbound lead generation
SDRs also generate leads by engaging prospects through cold outreach methods like:
- Cold calling – This involves calling prospects in a particular audience segment and introducing your company and products to them. Cold calling is used to acquire data for prospecting prior to making a sales pitch.
- Cold email – This strategy relies on emails to engage unknown prospects, introduce your company, and gauge their interest in a prospective deal.
Differences between inbound and outbound SDRs
Many companies merge both roles into one, but inbound and outbound SDRs have key differences that may discourage this practice, which we’ve highlighted in the table below.
|Point of Comparison||Inbound Lead Generation||Outbound Lead Generation|
|Target prospects||Diverse||Specific demographic|
Organic Lead Generation
Organic lead generation increases qualified lead volume in the sales funnel without incurring advertising costs. It attracts prospects through non-paid methods like search engines, social media, and blog content.
Businesses can either execute these strategies with an in-house team or outsource the process to a reputable sales and marketing firm.
Search engine optimization
Implementing search engine optimization (SEO) tactics can boost your website’s visibility on the internet. You should focus on keywords, backlinks, and site speed and design.
Incorporate industry-specific keywords that have a high search volume and are relevant to your company’s offering.
Backlinks help search engines rank your website. The more authoritative and reputable the links are, the higher your site’s position will be on the search engine result page (SERP).
Refine your website’s front and back ends for fast loading times. If the site takes too long to load, visitors may become annoyed and leave.
An optimized website improves your user experience and ranking. Tweak the details of your site, like making it mobile friendly, simplifying navigation, and cleaning up cluttered pages.
High-quality blog content
Blog content targets customers at all stages of the buyer journey and is an excellent avenue for acquiring organic leads. Businesses can cover the essential topics in their industry, making their blog a credible and reliable source for decision-makers in their target audience.
To drive leads effectively with blog content, sales and marketing teams should take the following actions.
Develop valuable lead magnets
Craft content around potential customers’ pain points and take the opportunity to collect their contact information. Powerful lead magnets include ebooks, guides, white papers, kits, and templates.
Discuss unique topics
Introduce fresh perspectives on the relevant subjects in your industry. This will help your blog stand out from the multitude of competing voices.
Maximize calls to action (CTAs)
Strategically place your calls to action in your posts to encourage visitors to follow specific, converting directions on your website.
Share content across channels
Share blog posts and other digital content with prospects via social media, email, and other platforms to expand your reach and draw in more leads.
Prospects today appreciate deeper relationships with brands and frequently interact with them before making a decision — usually on social media. Maintain an active social media presence to warm up prospects and advance them to the sales stage.
Sharing helpful content like images, videos, and short articles on various social media outlets produces organic engagement, which increases your lead acquisition.
Best practices for organic lead generation
Explore these key practices to develop a high-yield organic lead generation plan.
Identify the buyer journey stage
Knowing where each prospect is in your buyer journey helps determine the kind of organic content to create and push to draw them further down the sales pipeline.
Push quality content regularly
Quality content is the bedrock of an organic lead acquisition strategy. Besides grabbing leads’ attention, it cultivates a positive company reputation and improves customer retention. You can also use it to measure your campaign’s effectiveness by tracking engagement metrics.
Collaborate with marketing
Sales and marketing collaboration is vital to boost lead generation. Marketing teams are in charge of nurturing leads, and they can leverage sales information to better understand prospective customers’ needs and tailor their approach.
Targeted Lead Generation
As the name suggests, targeted lead generation strategies allow businesses to focus their sales efforts on different consumer segments. These tactics are excellent for optimizing marketing resources and improving lead quality.
Market segmentation splits a target audience into small, approachable groups based on specific characteristics. This practice is useful for both sales and marketing teams: Sales teams analyze segments to uncover unique buying signals and business opportunities, while marketing develops content for each group.
Types of market segmentation
Depending on the type of product or service your company provides, your target audience may fall into one or more subsets. As a sales executive, you must understand the various market segments and their qualifying criteria.
Common categories are behavioral, demographic, geographic, psychographic, firmographic, value, seasonal, life stage, and generational. The following table highlights the variables used to categorize prospects into each segment.
|Behavioral||User status, brand interaction, buying habits|
|Demographic||Age, income, gender, occupation, family status|
|Geographic||Area code, neighborhood, city, region, country|
|Psychographic||Attitudes, opinions, interests, social status, lifestyle, personality|
|Firmographic||Number of employees, location, revenue, industry|
|Value||Purchase frequency, quantity, quality|
|Seasonal||Holiday- or time-specific behaviors|
|Life Stage||First-time parents, students, graduates, etc.|
|Generational||Gen Z, Baby Boomers, Millennials, Generation X, Silent Generation|
Targeted lead generation strategies
Most targeted lead generation strategies utilize outbound techniques, as they concentrate on capturing specific groups.
Social media marketing
Along with organic engagement, social media is a great avenue for sales and marketing teams to run targeted lead generation campaigns. These platforms provide tools and features that enable businesses to engage with various market segments and connect quickly with their audience.
For instance, B2B sales teams use LinkedIn to hone in on decision-makers in their industry. The professional social media platform also lets businesses run specific ad campaigns to reach their targets and increase visibility.
Other social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have premium business suites designed to market brands. They offer capabilities for tailoring outreach efforts, segmenting audiences, and tracking campaign results.
Email is a versatile lead acquisition tool. Businesses segment the addresses on their mailing lists to nurture warm leads.
Sending relevant content then nurtures these segmented prospects, depending on their sale readiness. Thanks to that focus, targeted email campaigns reduce bounce rate and improve engagement and click-through rates.
To streamline this strategy, you can adopt customer relationship management (CRM) software with segmentation features to split emails automatically according to preset lead qualification parameters.
Contact form optimization
You can optimize your website’s contact form for lead acquisition with a simple qualification mechanism. The most qualified leads are those who match your company’s ICP or buyer persona.
Incorporate questions about a prospect’s industry, revenue size, solutions they use, and their number of employees to determine how well they fit your company. Make contact forms concise, asking only relevant questions (prospects are more likely to complete shorter forms).
Appointment Setting Lead Generation
Appointment setting is a direct lead generation strategy where sales representatives cold call prospects to book sales meetings with AEs. This approach focuses on engaging potential customers individually after the lead qualification process.
Scheduling meetings with prospects contributes to increased revenue, a stronger company reputation, and improved lead quality. As an in-house process though, appointment setting lead generation requires a significant initial investment, which may be an expensive burden for your company to bear.
Additionally, according to the Bridge Group’s 2023 Sales Development Metrics & Compensation Study, it takes three months for new SDRs to achieve results. This lack of expertise hinders appointment-setting results for the first few months of implementation.
These caveats are important to consider before adopting any appointment-based strategies.
Outsourced appointment setting
Most companies that use appointment setting to capture leads outsource the task to sales agencies, as they provide a team of dedicated and highly trained SDRs for the campaign.
Outsourcing lead generation offers the following benefits for your business.
Flexible & affordable costs
Appointment setting companies usually allow businesses to pay for their services in a flexible manner: You can pay per appointment or set up retainers for the entire campaign. Companies avoid the cost of training SDRs, which makes it a cost-effective solution.
Appointment setting companies create custom solutions that match each business’s purposes. This tailored design ensures the solution fits your specific needs and goals and will yield more valuable results compared to cookie-cutter campaigns.
Less time and effort
It takes several months to hire and train a new appointment setting team, and even longer for the process to yield desired results. However, with an outsourced partner, you can launch stress-free campaigns and see results in as little as a few weeks.
Account-Based Marketing Lead Generation
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic framework that employs personalized sales and marketing treatments to ignite customer accounts.
The ABM approach is different from traditional lead generation strategies in that it creates a targeted list of accounts and builds tailor-made communication plans to reach those customers. Relying on this customization, ABM lead generation can increase customer lifetime value, shorten the sales cycle, and boost lead generation.
Account types for ABM lead generation
Customer profiles are divided into account groups based on their preparedness for sales engagement and the level of attention they’ll receive from the sales and marketing teams. Salespeople need to know the different types of accounts in ABM lead generation to provide better service and customize the client experience accordingly.
ABM accounts are classified into three types:
- One-to-one accounts – These are the topmost priority because they fit directly into your ICP and possess high lifetime value. They have the highest chances of becoming paying customers and so receive the most attention. Select the most relevant accounts for this group, as one SDR will be assigned to each account.
- One-to-few accounts – Accounts in this group have a lower chance of converting than one-to-one accounts. Most times, they require some nurturing to become ready to buy.
One SDR can be allocated to about five of these accounts to send them offers and invite them to webinars or custom presentations and demos. One-to-few accounts can be promoted to one-to-one as soon as they show signs of sales readiness.
- One-to-many accounts – The remaining accounts on your list should be treated using the One-to-Many approach. That entails one SDR handling about 10-30 similar accounts, using email campaigns, targeted advertising, and direct content to reach out and move them along the sales funnel.
How to implement an effective ABM strategy
Businesses can supercharge their lead generation efforts by implementing a solid account-based marketing strategy with these three simple steps.
Define your ICP
Your ICP helps you identify warm prospects for your strategy to focus on. ICPs for ABM lead generation are specific in nature and have the following characteristics:
- High customer lifetime value
- Low acquisition cost
- Little support needed after onboarding
- High potential to become a brand ambassador
Your marketing team’s input is essential to build well-honed ICPs, as they provide helpful insights on the best prospects.
Determine target accounts
The next step is to select accounts from your lead database that fit the ICP you created. ABM focuses on high-value accounts with the highest likelihood of converting, so this process may produce a short list of targets.
Assign accounts to sales reps
For effective customization and personalization of sales engagements, segment the accounts into one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many accounts.
Omnichannel Lead Generation
The omnichannel lead generation approach has proven to be an incredibly effective strategy for acquiring high-quality leads consistently. It accelerates revenue by enriching the customer experience and producing a seamless system for contacting buyers.
Many businesses mistake a multichannel approach for an omnichannel strategy. Multichannel lead generation engages customers through various portals like email, social media, phone, web, and physical touch points. However, an omnichannel approach integrates these channels to produce a buyer experience that feels like a single point of contact.
Omnichannel lead generation engages prospects throughout the buyer journey, launches targeted offers, builds customer loyalty, and improves revenue. It also streamlines data collection, which you can use to improve your lead generation efforts and the overall customer experience.
Tips for effective omnichannel lead generation
An excellent omnichannel lead generation strategy features consistent brand messaging and smooth data flows across sales, marketing, and customer support. It prioritizes speedy, 24/7 responses, transparency, technical expertise, and consistent monitoring at all points in the funnel.
Here are some omnichannel tips for each stage of the sales funnel:
Top of funnel – Awareness stage
- Collect and analyze client data from all lead channels and use them to optimize and evaluate your current strategy.
- Focus on your strongest lead channels, starting with social media, websites, and customer support.
Middle of funnel – Engagement stage
- Arm your sales, marketing, and IT departments with the necessary tools to refine the customer experience and boost conversion rates.
- Synchronize customer data across channels to ensure fluidity as they move from one platform to another.
- Share quality interactive content to boost engagement and maintain brand messaging on every channel.
Bottom of funnel- Advocacy stage
- Strengthen and expand customer support on all channels.
Lead generation is essential for sustainable business growth. You can attract qualified prospects more easily and consistently with a powerful lead generation strategy suited to your industry, customers, and products and services. Implement the lead generation techniques we’ve discussed to build a strong process that’ll ensure a consistently full sales pipeline for your company.