Lead Generation: Everything to Know from Strategies to Metrics to Software Tools

Learn what lead generation is and some of its top strategies and software.

Zight | October 14, 2019 | 10 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 06, 2023

Lead Generation: Everything to Know from Strategies to Metrics to Software Tools

A thousand blog posts…

That’s what it would take to cover most aspects of lead generation.

And there would probably still be a lot left to write about. Lead generation is a massive topic with many different metrics, strategies, and processes.

But in today’s post, we’ll attempt to boil down all the major aspects of lead generation into understandable chunks to give you a solid introduction to the subject.

Let’s start where all lead generation starts:

With leads themselves.

What Is a Lead?

A lead is any person who’s shown interest in your product or service.

That means they’ve at least heard of you or your solution. And if you contact them, they’re somewhat willing to listen to what you have to say.

But how do these people discover you?

That’s what lead generation is all about.

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of converting strangers into potential buyers of your solution.

You’re “warming up” these people to what you do and how it can help them overcome some problem or achieve some desire.

Once they’re warm, you can better sell them on your product or service.

There are 2 major types of lead generation:

Inbound and outbound.

Inbound lead generation is the newest form and it relies on people finding you and choosing to engage with you. An example of this is someone searching for tennis shoes, finding your blog post on the best ones, and choosing to sign up to your email list.

Outbound lead generation is you going out to create demand for your products even though the people you’re reaching out to haven’t heard of you. The classic example of this is a telemarketer calling your phone or receiving an email from a company you didn’t subscribe to.

Why Does Lead Generation Matter?

A “warm lead” is more likely to become a customer than someone who is “cold” – that is, they don’t know anything about you and don’t care (this is one of the reasons why “cold calling” is so risky and doesn’t convert people into customers that well).

Lead generation is all about giving people a reason to want to know more about you and your business, and then providing them the opportunity to get to know you and your solution better.

To do this right, it’s crucial to take them through a specific process that makes it more likely they remain a lead and become a customer.

What Is the Lead Generation Process?

Since there are many approaches to lead generation, your processes will vary.

We recommend using the inbound marketing approach as much as possible – where you entice and encourage engagement, instead of the outbound marketing approach where you invade people inboxes and cell phones with cold emails and calls.

A common inbound lead generation process may look like this:

  • A random person is scrolling through Facebook when they see your FB ad pop up. They click on it.
  • It takes them to a landing page that details the offer: a free ebook (or checklist, or recipe book, or case study, etc.).
  • The person enters their name and email in the form on the landing page to receive the free offer.
  • They receive an email in their inbox delivering their freebie and you now have a warm lead who was interested enough in the small gift you offered to provide you with their basic contact info you can use to follow up.

From there, the lead can be added to your sales pipeline.

Simple, right?

Well, this is just one example of hundreds you’ve probably experienced first hand.

And while they vary greatly, the basics are almost always there:

Getting people’s attention.

Offering them something for their information.

Following up after they give you their info.

This is the path to one type of qualified lead…

But there are many different types of qualified leads you may generate.

What Are the Different Types of Qualified Leads?

What makes a lead “qualified” is that they’ve had some kind of positive interaction with your company and have shown interest in knowing more or engaging further with you.

There are 3 main types:

  • Marketing qualified leads (MQL)
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
  • Product Qualified Leads (PQL)

Let’s quickly run through each:

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.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is about building relationships with the people who have shown interest in your solution to close them on becoming a customer.

The moment you receive a lead’s contact information, you can and should start nurturing them toward a sale.

Just because someone was interested doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy. Most consumers need a lot more than a free sample or downloadable pdf.

They may need you to tell them about all the problems your solution solves, how it was developed, what makes it different from the competition, the story of the company.

They may be waiting for a coupon, an update, a change in price, or a holiday.

They may need to hear customer stories, read reviews, compare your solution to your competitors.

Or they may have to do all of that and more before they buy.

That’s why, once you have a qualified lead, you have to continue nurturing that relationship, providing more value, and consistently persuading them to inch closer and closer to buying your solution.

What Is Lead Scoring?

Lead scoring is a way to rank and prioritize leads based on the values you assign them.

Many top CRM platforms offer lead scoring capabilities because it’s proven to be a very effective tool in helping salespeople nurture the leads with the highest potential of closing first.

Here’s how it works:

You set the criteria for how to judge if a lead is interested or ready to buy and everything in between. That could be taking certain actions, like using a coupon, or providing information, like their company’s budget for your solution.

Then you determine numerical values that match each stage a lead may be in and assign every lead a numerical value that matches the criteria you set.

Salespeople can then focus their attention on leads with the highest ROI and probability of closing.

Key Lead Generation Metrics

Lead generation can often be strange and mysterious.

Why do customers respond better to Instagram than Facebook? Why didn’t subscribers open that email? We had a verbal agreement, why didn’t they sign the contract?

Clearing up this confusion requires digging into the hard data, finding patterns, and using them to improve your lead generation process.

In other words, using metrics tailored to your business.

Here are a few we recommend tracking:

  • CTR (Click-Through Rate)
  • Conversion rate
  • Cost per lead
  • Number of Sales Qualified Leads
  • Time to conversion
  • ROI
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Lead generation rate by channel

Top Lead Generation Strategies

Lead generation strategies vary based on the business you run, your target market, your geographic location, and a host of other factors.

However, the following list of lead generation strategies should work for the majority of businesses.

Content Marketing

Content marketing has become a requirement in today’s business landscape, especially if you hope to generate leads online.

There are many different types of content you can create to attract people to your blog, website, or store, such as:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Case studies
  • eBooks
  • White papers
  • Checklists
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts
  • Knowledge base articles

Much of this is also used as sales enablement content.

Each piece of content you create should engage your audience and encourage sharing of the content to develop a deeper connection with the lead and to get word-of-mouth marketing.

Content also helps make your website, and your solution, discoverable by people using search engines through SEO.

But the most important thing content does is make it easier to turn strangers into qualified leads and customers.


Content marketing usually leads people to subscribe to your email list. This is a smart strategy because according to Copyblogger, “for every $1 spent on email marketing, you get $44 in return…Plus, email remains 40 times better at converting people than social media.”

It’s much easier to ask individual subscribers to take an action step directly through email rather than shouting at the crowd on social media.

Creating a regular email newsletter can go a long way in staying relevant, developing a deeper relationship with your leads, proving your authority in your industry, and giving leads one good reason after another to buy from you.

Paid Ads

Another way to bring people closer to your products or services is by paying for ads to display in front of your target audience on search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook.

Typically, the ads will entice people to click on them, redirecting the person who clicks to a landing page offering something for free, like a recipe book, in exchange for the person’s name and email address.

Now you have an email list full of leads you can start nurturing.

Top Lead Generation Software You Should Be Using

There are so many steps and tools used in lead generation, it wouldn’t make sense for marketers and salespeople to do everything on their own.

Thankfully, there’s a whole lot of awesome lead generation software they can rely on to generate leads.

Here are just a few:


OptinMonster is one of the big players in converting website visitors into subscribers.

Their biggest tool, by far, is the exit intent popup.

After someone is done browsing your website or reading your blog post and they move their mouse to click away from the webpage, a popup appears with an attractive offer they can download by entering their name and email.

This means that you may be able to generate leads from people who checked out some of your content and weren’t impressed the first time – giving you a second chance to pull them in.

Voila Norbert

Voila Norbert allows you to find virtually anyone’s email address.

This is highly useful if you’re doing a lot of cold emailing campaigns and instead of sending emails to a black hole address on a business’s website, you send it directly to the head of HR or the CFO or whoever you’re targeting.


SharpSpring is a cloud-based marketing automation tool that provides a CRM, mobile and social marketing, customer service, and a lot more in a single solution.

It offers lead nurturing and scoring tools that track a lead’s characteristics and demographics, the website pages they visit, and how engaged they are with your company and content.

It also helps you identify anonymous visitors to your site, providing you with crucial contact information.

And it helps you build high-converting landing pages and blogs.

Bonus Lead Generation Software for Visual Content Creation

Marketers have known for a while now that leads prefer visual content.

But marketers and salespeople need a tool that can quickly and easily create visual marketing materials that educate, entertain, and persuade.

Zight (formerly CloudApp) lets you create screen recordings, webcam videos, step-by-step GIFs, and a whole lot more.

It helps marketers like you:

  • Plan, draft, and revise marketing campaigns
  • Upgrade your content with easy to create visuals
  • Improve internal communication
  • Quickly develop A/B tests and update content

Want to learn more?

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