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A Simple Introduction to Lead Generation

“Lead generation” may seem like a bit of a buzzword concept, and it’s certainly gained traction in recent years, but in reality it refers to a concept that’s potentially as old as marketing itself. But what exactly is it? Let’s take the plunge and find out how lead generation works, as well as a few…

Scratching your head over the term “lead generation”? Wondering what all the buzz is about and what it involves? Wonder no longer with this simple guide!“Lead generation” may seem like a bit of a buzzword concept, and it’s certainly gained traction in recent years, but in reality it refers to a concept that’s potentially as old as marketing itself.

But what exactly is it? Let’s take the plunge and find out how lead generation works, as well as a few examples of how you can use it to encourage fresh interest in your business.

What’s a Lead?

A lead is generally someone who has expressed interest in your company, or its products or services. Generally opinion differs with regards to how interested a person has to be in order to count as a “lead”; but in the context of lead generation it’s fairly simple. The person needs to have expressed interest in doing business with you by way of sharing some kind of contact details with you, usually with the expectation of receiving further communication (including marketing) from your business. The term can therefore be used somewhat interchangeably with a “prospect”, but again this is open to interpretation.

When someone shares their details in this way it’s generally a statement of “I would like to keep this company on my radar because I might need them in future”. Overall a good position for your business to be in!

What is Lead Generation

Lead generation is therefore any practice that you carry out to generate new leads and have them share a few vital contact details with you. It’s great if someone is exposed to your marketing materials and becomes interested in what you do, but it’s understandably more valuable to capture their contact details so you can keep in touch and market to them further.

It’s that ongoing marketing and relationship nurturing that is key here, but that obviously can’t take place without their contact details! Whichever way you capture the details of interested parties, the intention is to initiate further contact, and nudge them closer towards a sale.

Where Can I See Lead Generation in Action?

You’ve likely encountered more than a few websites that display pop-over windows persuading you to download a useful resource or whitepaper in exchange for your email address; this is online lead generation out in the wild. The resource that they’re offering is like a carrot being dangled in front of you to persuade you to part with your precious details. The resource is therefore called a “lead magnet”, and this is arguably one of the most popular methods of generating leads online.

Offline vs. Online?

Though online lead generation efforts seem to get a lot of the spotlight in our digital age, there are also ways of generating leads offline too. Let’s take a look at a few examples of each:

Online Lead Generation Examples

  • Pop-over windows persuading readers to download a free “lead magnet” resource in exchange for a few details.
  • Free webinar, online demonstration, or workshop relating to your product or service that people need to register for.
  • Targeted social media ad campaign, potentially pointing to a lead magnet or method of collecting data from interested parties.
  • Encouraging readers of your blog to become email subscribers by offering an update by email every time you release a new post (this one’s great for putting at the top and bottom of individual blog posts!).

Offline Lead Generation Examples

  • Networking or exhibiting at business events and capturing the details of interested parties.
  • Hosting a free workshop or networking event that people have to pre-register for.
  • Giving a talk at a relevant business event and offering a free discovery/consultation call to interested parties.
  • Advertising on TV, radio or print media, and taking advantage of PR opportunities to encourage people to get in touch.
  • Running a postal or leaflet drop campaign offering a free taster session or launch event.

Whether you pursue online or offline methods (or a mixture of the two) will depend heavily on your budget and your audience. Online channels are generally perceived as cheaper than getting materials printed and delivered; although this may not always be the case, printing and distribution costs in particular can scare away some businesses that don’t have a lot of money to play with. Therefore, online channels may be seen as more desirable when a company is struggling with cash flow.

If money isn’t quite so tight, you may alternatively be persuaded towards digital marketing channels because of the increased reporting and measurability.

However, as well as budgetary and reporting concerns, you also need to weigh up what your audience is likely to see and respond to. If you provide services to the elderly for example, you are more likely to yield results from more “traditional” methods like leaflet drops or TV/radio advertising.

Done correctly, both online and offline channels can yield great results. If you can, why not test a few things out and see what works out best for you?

The Value of Genuine Leads

Qualified leads that have shown genuine interest in working with you are incredibly valuable. If you are trying to grow your list of leads, there may be a temptation to simply purchase calling or email lists, but this does not often yield great results. If you were to contact people from a purchased list, they are unlikely to have heard about you before, they may not even be in the market for what you’re selling, and will likely see any totally cold contact as an annoyance – not a good image when you’re trying to raise your profile!

However, when you use leads that have explicitly given consent to receive materials from you, you have a much better chance of building a rapport and potentially closing a sale. Spending time on those contacts is a much safer gamble than spending valuable time calling strangers!

Sidenote: There is also upcoming data protection legislation (GDPR) that could land you in hot water if you start marketing to people who haven’t agreed to hear from you – more on that from the ICO here.

I’ve Got Some Leads – What’s Next?

So you’ve got some leads – you’ve broken the ice with them, tempted them with an offer, and persuaded them enough for them to register their interest. That’s excellent, but the work doesn’t stop there. Obtaining interest is only part of the battle. Maintaining a gaggle of interested leads is the key thing here.

Just because you have their interest now doesn’t mean it will always be that way without added work. You need to nurture those leads to stay on their radar and incite further interest, driving them closer towards a sale. Lead nurturing is just as important as generating leads in the first place; and it’s a whole topic all of it’s own which I’ll be tackling next time, so watch this space!

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Do you carry out any lead generation activities? What do you do to incite new interest? Is there a way you can use that to collect contact details from interested parties? Let’s have a chat in the comments!

Image Credit: Jack Moreh at FreeRangeStock

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