Businesses employ several methods to boost their brand image, generate leads, and promote sales. They need to take proactive steps in order to get a reasonable share of the market. When it comes to getting customers to buy products or patronize services, there are effective ways to do so. One of them is the generation of business leads.
Lead generation is broad in scope just as marketing is. As there have been changes in the marketing strategies that companies have been adopting in recent years, so have lead generation services and strategies evolved. You will get updated information about what a lead is, how to generate leads, and so on here.
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What Is a Lead?
The answer to this question is crucial to understanding what lead generation is. Actually, the question is not about “what” but “who”. A lead is a person that is interested in buying your product or utilizing your services. It is as simple as that.
For example, a potential customer may call your company’s hotline after seeing the contact information in a blog post. Learn about the different types of leads below.
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
- Product Qualified Lead (PQL)
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
- Services Qualified Lead
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
Marketing qualified leads are potential customers that have engaged with your marketing tools one way or the other, but are not ready to be contacted through direct means like phone calls. For example, a contact that fills out a form on your website in order to benefit from an offer. Be careful not to confuse MQL with the sales qualified lead.
Product Qualified Lead (PQL)
Product qualified leads are potential customers that have tested your product or service, and are willing to pay for them. An example can be seen in a scenario where a person wants to buy the paid version of a free trial software. Of course, it could be that the paid version has more or all the features of the product.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
As mentioned earlier, this may be similar to the marketing qualified lead, but it is not. The sales qualified lead is a contact that has shown interest in becoming a paying customer by taking some considerable steps. For example, filling out a form to make enquiries about your products and services.
Services Qualified Lead
A services qualified lead is a contact that expresses interest in purchasing your products or upgrading a service by contacting your customer service team. An example is a customer that wants to upgrade his or her pay TV subscription.
The customer service representative would guide the contact on the steps to take, or may fulfil the request without referral. However, this should not be confused with product qualified leads.
What is Lead Generation?
By now, you may already have an idea of what lead generation is based on the above explanations. Still, there is more to learn. So, what is lead generation? Simply put, it involves attracting and converting the target audience of your marketing campaign into potential customers.
You can refer to your target audience as prospects. As a business, your objective is to get them to indicate interest in purchasing your products or utilizing your services. For example; you can use blog posts, coupons, broadcast shows, and so on as lead generators.
Lead generation may require you to go the extra mile in getting a customer. An example is the sending of follow-up emails to sales qualified leads. It will be a good idea to learn more about follow-up emails later.
Why do you need to generate business leads? You would want to do so in order to increase your customer base naturally. Your target audience should not have to feel “hounded” by cold calls about offers that they are not interested in.
Such intrusive methods in outbound lead generation may not be as effective as inbound lead generation in your industry. Besides, outbound leads are known to cost almost 40% more than inbound leads.
Outbound business leads are generated by disseminating messages or reaching out to a target audience irrespective of them not requesting for such. To be clear, this guide is based mainly on inbound lead generation.
Do you know what the successful conversion of business leads can do for your company in the long run? Your customers can also be converted to your promoters! It happens after the whole process of attracting, converting, satisfying, and retaining customers. Strangers become visitors, visitors become leads, leads become customers, and satisfied customers may go on to tell others about your brand! There will be a detailed explanation of this process in the next subheading.
How Do You Generate Leads?
You are about to learn how to generate leads. The process is based on the marketing funnel which consists of the 9 steps in the list below:
The process of fostering business leads starts from creating awareness. Here, your aim is to project your brand image in the hope of getting noticed by as many people as possible. Your marketing campaign will kick off with the implementation of a variety of attention-grabbing strategies.
Online, you may use search engine optimization, social media, blogging, etc. Offline, you may organize trade shows, pay for ads in print media, etc. Think about outsourcing your marketing campaign to companies that offer lead generation services. This will be elaborated upon later.
Those captivated by your promotion efforts may show interest. It is left to you to satisfy their curiosity by providing information about your brand. You should not just have the primary need to increase sales in mind. You should also be aiming at building a relationship with your customers, establishing trust, and maintaining loyalty.
How do you generate leads that will retain the interest of your potential customers? By projecting value in the information that you are disseminating. It will help in building the right opinions about your brand in the minds of your prospects. Employ the idea of putting up online content through media like blogs, newsletters, webinars, etc.
As potential customers become more interested in what you are offering, they may decide to give your products or services a try based on the promised value. What need does it meet in their lives? Do not forget that your competitors are also planning how to generate leads successfully. You have to explain why your brand is the best choice for your potential customers.
Emphasis must be laid on the unique selling point (USP) of that product. What makes your brand different from others? Your sales team should have great persuasion skills to take the prospect to the next stage.
Potential customers may base their decisions on some personal criteria before making a decision. The criteria may vary from individual to individual. Uncover some patterns by using means such as surveys, follow-up emails, social media feedback, and so on.
Once you are able to have a range of the important things that prospects look out for, your marketing tactics will be well-guided. You will know how to generate leads with a more focused approach.
Lay emphasis on those crucial features when describing your offerings. Examples of the important features that customers are usually most concerned about are pricing, quality, durability, appearance, etc.
The stage being described here has to do with whether or not your contact will decide to make a purchase. Remember that it is not always the person that is making the purchase that will also use the product. For example, a parent thinking of buying LEGO toys for his or her child.
If you put this aspect into consideration, you will realize that the potential buyer (parent) can decide not to purchase your product even if the potential user (child) wants to. You have to keep this in mind for a better approach at generating leads. It gets more complicated when it is the second parent that will have to go to the store to get the toys.
Now that you have understood how a shopping decision can involve two or more people—depending on your offerings/industry—you will have to apply tactics that take care of such situations. What is a lead generation effort if it does not get to this stage? One word: ineffective.
Of course, purchasing is supposed to come after decision making. However, there is more to the stage of decision making leading to a purchase. It needs to be looked into if you are to fully understand the essence of generating leads. There was need to discuss this step because of the following reasons:
- A possible distinction between the potential buyer and the potential user as highlighted earlier
- The possibility of a change of mind even if the prospect was willing to make a purchase earlier
For the second reason, an issue may arise such as the inability of a shopper to find your online store. How about issues with making a payment even if the store was found? This is why the effectiveness of your marketing campaign is also dependent on ensuring a hassle-free customer experience all through.
For many businesses, their marketing funnel may actually end in the previous step. If it does for your company, now may be a good idea to add “repeat” and the last two stages to the mix. How do you generate leads when you have this stage as part of your marketing funnel? By implementing tactics to retain customers.
This is advisable for companies in highly competitive industries. You cannot just “use and dump” your customers. You have to keep in touch with them to ensure that they “repeat” their patronage. Great customer relationship management (CRM) can help you do this. Depending on your offerings, rendering after-sales services is also a good idea.
Another effective tool is the aforementioned sending of follow-up emails. SuperOffice conducted a study that involved 1,000 companies where only 3% of respondents claimed to be sending follow-up emails. Also, a study carried out by Harvard Business Review revealed that about half of the respondents (customers) complained about lack of follow-up from companies they patronized.
You can decide to employ direct means such as phone calls and face-to-face meetings—any way that works for you. Although direct means are considered more effective. The bottom line is for you to get customer feedback, and see if they will be interested in future patronage.
Loyalty is a deep stage of customer relations for your business. It is when you know that you have done a great marketing job. However, attaining this goal is easier than maintaining it!
You should ask yourself this question: What is a successful lead generation strategy that involves following up if customer loyalty is not achieved? The answer to that question is not pleasant, isn’t it?
Loyalty means that your customers prefer your brand to others. They would continue patronizing you because they sincerely like what you are offering—not because of your incessant phone calls, emails, visits, and so on.
What loyalty also entails is that some people may still be willing to patronize you regardless of some problematic issues of public knowledge about the company. You can establish such relationship by doing the following:
- Organizing community development projects
- Connecting with your customers on a personal level
- Setting up loyalty programs
Now, your loyal customers have become promoters. They are telling others (family, friends, colleagues, etc.) about your product/service. This means positive reviews on social media! What is a lead that converts others to leads? An invaluable asset in your marketing strategy!
Lead Generation Services
There are companies that specialize in executing lead generation services for others. They might be useful to your business if you lack the adequate manpower to perform such tasks. Examples of such companies include CIENCE Technologies, Belkins, Yodel Technologies, VSA Inc., Martal Group, EBQuickstart, OutboundView, etc. Watch a tutorial video to learn how to choose one.
You will surely be on the right track if the marketing funnel discussed in this guide is incorporated into your strategy. The task can be outsourced to a company that generates leads professionally, especially if your budget can handle it.