Lead generation is like fishing:
You should follow a reliable process for consistently baiting, hooking, and reeling in the fish you’re trying to capture. You shouldn’t drag your boat out to any ol’ lake and bring a hodgepodge of poles, nets, and bait. You should know where the fish are and what you’ll need to get them.
This is called your lead generation process. Too often, you probably find yourself using one strategy, hearing about another you can use and trying that, before cycling it out for the next big idea.
Shiny object syndrome. You may catch some leads doing this, but not routinely. And you’ll struggle to grow your business long-term without following a proven, reliable strategy and systematically improving it when you need to.
We’ll walk you through a useful lead generation process you can put into action immediately, and we’ll give you helpful tips for implementing it smoothly.
Let’s start where all lead generation starts: qualifying leads.
How to Qualify a Lead
Lead acquisition requires you to qualify leads to make sure they’re a good fit for your business and have the potential to become customers.
This is the foundational step in your lead generation process.
At this stage, you’re trying to gather as much relevant information about your contact as possible. Some of the information you should collect is:
- Full name (or at least a first name) to personalize your communication with leads.
- Email address and/or phone number to contact them in the future.
- Company name (if you’re generating B2B leads) and their role in it so you can research them and find out quickly if they’re a good fit.
- State and country in case you need to qualify your services for specific regions.
Depending on your business and target market, you may need more information than that.
But the majority of businesses operating online usually only need to obtain a name and email address. That’s typically sufficient to begin nurturing the lead, putting them into your sales pipeline, and winning them as customers.
Obtaining this information will allow you to qualify your leads.
Now, there are 3 common types of qualified leads:
- Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
- Sales qualified lead (SQL)
- Product qualified lead (PQL)
Let’s take a look at each below:
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
MQLs are contacts who have interacted with material put out by your marketing team. Our example in the previous section is an illustration of an MQL. The marketing department put together an ad and landing page and got a lead.
Another example would be your marketing team creating a blog post, someone entering a search into Google and finding the post, then that person enjoying the post enough to subscribe to your email list.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
SQLs are contacts who have engaged in some way with your sales department and have shown interest in continuing that relationship.
For example, a person may search for a new transformer they need for their steel mill. They land on your website, look at your range of products, and decide to fill out a form on your website or call your number for more information.
In this scenario, they’ll be handed off directly to a salesperson to follow up with them.
Product Qualified Lead (PQL)
PQLs are contacts who have used some version of your product and are now more interested in becoming a customer.
An example in the SaaS space would be a free trial of a productivity app, like Basecamp’s 30-days risk free trial.
An example in the food space would be a free sample of a new protein bar or pill supplement in exchange for your info to get it.
Using the product in some capacity qualified that person as a lead.
Steps in the Lead Generation Process
Obvious disclaimer: we can’t give you the exact lead generation process your business requires.
But, what we can give you is a general process that is proven to work for the majority of online businesses. It’s an inbound strategy, which we recommend for most businesses to use instead of, or in addition to an outbound strategy.
With that out of the way, here are simple, reliable, effective lead generation tactics organized in a systematic process:
- Deeply research your target market. Determine their pain points and identify the most urgent and pressing ones.
- Use your insights about your customers to create content that solves some of their problems, such as blog posts, videos, and case studies.
- Promote that content through a variety of channels to reach your target audience. This means using SEO tactics to rank the content in Google, pushing it out on social media, alerting your existing subscribers about it through email, and using a host of other options.
- Use some of your content to lead your prospects to a low-risk offer (usually some other form of content that’s highly valuable and useful) in exchange for a lead’s contact information. Use this to gain more email subscribers and plug them into your CRM.
- Nurture your new leads using automated and manually sent emails to engage them, prove you’re an authority in your niche, and connect their pains to your solution.
- Give each lead you generate a score so you can focus on the highest-value leads who display the most interest and possibility of converting into a customer.
- Provide more detailed content such as trials, demos, sales calls, on-site visits and anything else you need to do to close the sale.
How to Implement the Lead Generation Process
Applying the lead generation process in the last section requires you to do a variety of things to make it work properly, which is what we detail for you below.
Research Your Target Market and Understand Their Pains and Desires
Lead generation starts with understanding everything you can about your leads.
The better you understand your potential customers, the better content you’ll create to attract them, and the better leads you’ll generate repeatedly.
One of the first places you could start looking is your website’s analytics. Plenty of demographic data can be extracted and analyzed from Google Analytics.
You could also look at your existing or past customers.
And if you’re just starting out, you can spy on your competitors to see the type of leads they’re generating.
But figuring out who your customers might be is just the start…
Next, you should figure out why they would be interested in your solution.
In other words, you need to dig into their deep-seated pains, fears, wants, and needs.
Figuring this out requires a bit more work and creativity. We recommend running a survey using tools like SurveyMonkey. The survey can be shared on social media, through your email list, or displayed on your website.
You can also talk with your sales team, customer support team, and any other customer-facing team in your company who can provide insights into the psychology of customers.
Create Content Your Leads Care About That Encourages Them to Give You Their Contact Info
When you know who your leads are and what they care about, you can craft content that solves their problems, alleviates their pains, and promises to help them achieve their desires.
Each piece of content should have a single objective:
Turn the user into a lead.
But you’ll need different pieces of content that all do different things to accomplish this.
For example, you may start a blog and write blog posts on a weekly basis. You share those blog posts on social media to invite people to click the link and read the post. But just reading the post isn’t the goal…
At the end of the post, you announce a free case study that details how one of your customers overcame their biggest problem using your solution. In exchange for the case study, the reader simply has to enter their email address and first name.
The key to making this kind of strategy work is making sure the blog post and lead magnet are similar in content, so you know readers of the post would be interested in it.
And make sure the free offer like a case study is actually valuable, demonstrates real wins, and is fun and engaging to consume.
Use Lead Scoring to Track the Best Leads
Not all leads are equal.
Your salespeople need a way to quickly identify which leads are worth pursuing on any given day and which ones need to be nurtured further or are just not ready to buy yet.
This can be accomplished with lead scoring.
Lead scoring ranks and prioritizes leads according to whatever values you assign them.
It works like this:
Create the criteria that makes it easy to determine where a lead is in the buyer’s journey, from awareness to consideration to decision, and all the fuzzy areas in between those major stages.
As leads perform different actions, update their lead score accordingly.
If someone reads your blog post and subscribes in order to get your case study, they’re now in the awareness stage. If they open a good portion of the emails you send, they might be further along the awareness stage, warranting a higher lead score.
If they sign up for a free trial of your app, their score would increase again (according to the values you’re using) to reflect their movement from awareness to consideration or decision.
With this system in place, you can visualize your sales funnel and better target leads with your content and communication.
Also, if you find that you typically lose leads after they subscribe to your email list, that might be an alert that you need to improve your email campaigns.
So lead scoring tells you how ready someone is to buy, but it also informs you about other parts of your lead generation process that may or may not be working the way you want it to.
Nurture Leads Toward the Sale
Once you have a lead’s contact information you can start nurturing them toward the sale. This means continually providing valuable, engaging, useful content and support to convince them to buy your solution.
The type of nurturing we’ve already mentioned is email marketing.
Email is still one of the most powerful marketing and sales tools in your arsenal. You get $44 ROI on every $1 you spend on email marketing and 144% more conversions through email than social media, according to Campaign Monitor.
There are many ways to nurture leads through email.
One way we highly recommend (and every top marketer in the universe recommends) to nurture leads through email is to setup multiple automated series of messages. These are called drip campaigns.
So after someone reads your blog and subscribes for your case study, a series of emails should automatically start sending to them that welcome them to your list, inform them more about you and your business, solve more of their pain points, and prove you’re the right solution for them.
Messages should be dripped out across a number of days, 3-5 being the average.
But you could have automated messages after a subscriber almost buys your product but abandons the cart, or when someone renews their subscription to your service, or even after they’ve become a customer and you want to send them helpful info about how to use your product in the best way.
Use Proven Lead Generation Strategies
Earlier, we provided you with a generic lead generation process to get you started. As you work with that process and improve upon it, you’ll inevitably want to expand your process to include several other strategies.
This is a good idea because there are many out there.
Here’s a list of the top lead generation strategies we recommend using (we’ve already discussed a few of them):
- Build a User-Friendly, Mobile-Optimized Website
- Start a Blog and Post Regularly
- Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Your Website
- Publish and Promote Excellent Content
- Create Landing Pages to Get More Email Subscribers
- Connect to Your Subscribers Through Email Marketing
- Post Daily on Social Media
- Run Paid Ads
- Host Webinars
- Try Direct Mail
- Offer Deals and Discounts
- Add Live Chat to Your Website
One Tool to Help Improve Your Lead Generation Process
Obviously, a large part of the lead generation process is creating excellent content and meaningful messages.
So far, we’ve discussed mostly text-based type of material. But like the rest of internet users, your leads prefer video communication over any other.
According to Smart Insights, 72% of online consumers prefer video over text when learning about a product or service.
This means creating webcam videos for a more personal connection, helpful GIFs to demonstrate a task, or a product walkthrough captured on your screen.
We can help you do it through Zight (formerly CloudApp).
We’ve been ranked by G2 Crowd as one of the top sales enablement tools.
Our software is easy to use and simple to share.
See how Zight (formerly CloudApp) improves your lead generation process today.