Whether you’re about to dig into a steak or deal with a family crisis, cold calls always come at the worst times. No sooner have you answered the phone than they’re trying to sell you a product, all the while reading from a script. “Does this ever work?” you wonder.

It’s a good question. What’s the point of cold calls?

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Businesses turn to cold calling to generate leads. The theory goes that if you ring up enough people, someone will eventually say “yes.” Except, you’ll annoy all the other potential customers who aren’t interested in the disruptive cold caller who stopped them from eating their juicy steak.

There is a better way of generating leads. In fact, with the advent of digital media, lead generation strategies have become a lot more advanced.

Ultimate Guide to Sales Lead Generation

Let’s get started: we’re explaining the basics, from what a lead is to some of the best lead generation strategies – so you can transform your business without annoying the customer.

What is a lead?

Whenever any person expresses interest in a company’s products or services through their actions or words – that’s a lead.

Most leads typically express interest in a company before contacting or visiting the business. They may hear about a product from a friend or see an advert on TV. Rarely do people become interested in a cold call.

For example, say you visit a site to investigate how to fix a broken wing mirror. When you’re on the site, you sign up for their emails. Later, the company contacts you with a deal for car repairs or a car insurance offer. Such an email isn’t as intrusive or unexpected as a cold call – in fact, it’s useful.

Even better, companies can analyze how to hone their opening communication by tracking their site traffic or conducting online surveys: what works and what doesn’t. That saves you time, as there’s no point contacting the leads who aren’t interested.

In the simplest terms, a lead is about the transition from visitor to customer. For some individuals, that’s substantially easier than for others – not all leads are equal. A key technique in lead generation marketing is time management, learning which leads are most likely to be converted into customers.

Inbound leads vs. outbound leads

What are inbound leads?

Inbound leads are the dream of marketers. They’re leads who initiate contact with your business through a marketing channel. Think blog articles, social media posts, or even a referral from existing customers. Broadly, there are four types of inbound leads:

  1. Marketing qualified leads perform simple actions like visiting your website or signing up for a newsletter.
  2. Sales qualified leads show interest in your products and services. Say asking about the product’s price or an ongoing offer.
  3. Product qualified leads are customers who used your brand through a promotion, e.g., a free trial.
  4. Service qualified leads are prospective customers or contacts who’ve indicated they wish to become paying customers. For example, requesting to upgrade a product subscription.

What are outbound leads?

Outbound leads do not reach out to your business; you reach out to them through cold calls, email, or social selling. Unlike inbound leads, where the customers demonstrate some interest in your brand, for outbound leads, you have the difficult task of convincing a stranger to take notice.

That’s why outbound lead strategies rely on persuasion tactics, like TV commercials or radio ads. It’s about grabbing a viewer’s attention and making a bold promise.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is a journey, beginning with finding a prospect for your business, increasing their interest in your products, and ending by converting them into a customer. The journey begins the moment a customer first interacts with your business – be it a blog post, live event, video essay, or social media account.

In modern marketing, lead generation often means content. The term is a catch-all for any consumable media used by your site to attract and engage current and future customers. Other methods for generating leads involve advertising like pay-per-click. Such techniques are reliable for boosting traffic, but they’re more expensive and have less longevity.

In contrast, SEO content marketing works to generate leads at a lower cost by building a backlog of reliable, informative content that customers want to view.

Think of it like this: lead generation involves breaking the ice and generating interest over the medium- to long-term. It’s the path to the eventual purchase.

Lead generation process

Lead generation, as part of inbound marketing, occurs after the first interest from a potential customer. It’s the stage when you convert these visitors into leads for your business.

Let’s go through the steps:

  1. A visitor comes across your content. They could read a blog post, like a social media post, or watch a how-to video.
  2. The visitor clicks the call-to-action (CTA) – e.g., “become a member,” “see our other products” – demonstrating greater interest in your product or services.
  3. The CTA links to a relevant landing page designed to funnel a customer into a purchase – for example, through an offer.
  4. Your visitor then fills out a form in order to access the offer. That’s a new lead. Going forwards, you’ll want to capitalize on that lead to create a sale.

In short: a visitor clicks on a CTA that links to a landing page where they fill out their details to get an offer, therefore becoming a lead.

8 Best lead generation strategies to try out

Simplify your lead generation website

When a customer arrives on your website, within 30 seconds, they should know what you do and how. Endless paragraphs and a convoluted user interface will likely put off prospective customers.

You want to reduce the work your visitors need to do. According to HubSpot, 76% of consumers want an easy-to-navigate website. With evermore people accessing the internet via smartphones, creating a responsive design will generate more leads.

Even small changes – like moving a CTA button to the top of the page – can have an outsized effect. Think about what you could do to streamline your site, funneling visitors into sales.

Implement an SEO strategy

Search engine optimization (SEO) has among the highest ROI of all online sales lead generation strategies. By targeting certain keywords and creating content, your target customers search for terms relating to your business.

Your site’s organic traffic can skyrocket through a steady flow of content, leading to more sales and brand awareness. Generating content continually is quite time-intensive. For inspiration, you could always see what your competitors are doing.

You’ll also want to select your keywords carefully. Balancing factors like search volume and competitiveness is critical; choosing a keyword with loads of search volume isn’t always the best option. Sometimes a long-tail keyword (three to five words) allows you to target your ideal customer more precisely.

Consider search intent

When a person searches for something on Google, there’s a specific intent behind their actions. For example, if someone searches “how to fix a bike chain,” it’s clear what they’re after. Although potentially interested in bikes, that person is less likely to purchase a new bike than someone searching “best mountain bikes in 2022.”

Search intent is about choosing keywords that demonstrate the searcher’s mentality. Normally, in marketing, you’d need to raise awareness, get them to consider your product, then convert interest into a sale. You can leapfrog the first two stages through search intent, jumping straight to the conversion stage.

Launch a pay-per-click campaign

In contrast to SEO, which gradually builds exposure, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising promotes your content and quickly boosts your brand. The logic is the same whether you use Google Ads or Facebook ads. Choose keywords and customer interests; produce an advert or search link; decide your marketing budget and bids. That’s it!

The downside of this approach, however, is that if you stop paying for advertising, the benefits stop immediately. On the other hand, SEO content marketing creates a catalog of content that continues to produce results.

Think about your message

Whether you’re writing meta descriptions, blog articles, or a how-to guide, you’ll want to think about your brand voice. What are you trying to say to a customer? What’s the message?

The answer may sound simple: buy our products. But consider the content funnel; you may only wish for a first-time visitor to subscribe to your newsletter or download a free trial – it’s all about the incremental steps towards a sale.

From this perspective, you could rework some of your calls to action to match your message. Think about what you want this specific customer to do – and whether that action works towards a sale.

Run a retargeting campaign

Retargeting campaigns are designed to engage the leads most likely to make a purchase. If converting a viewer involves multiple interactions with a brand, targeting individuals who’ve already interacted with your brand will result in greater sales.

In a retargeting campaign, the Google Display Network will target customers who previously visited your site. Given that 97% of people who visit your site for the first time leave without buying anything – this is your secret weapon to get them back.

Additionally, you can use the data collected about your target market to find new business leads who share similar characteristics. Try Audience Expansion on Google or Lookalike Audience on Facebook.

Ask for referrals

Part of lead generation is harnessing your existing satisfied customers. Nothing prompts us to try out a business more than a glowing referral from a friend. We trust their opinion. But you don’t have to wait for customers to spread the word naturally.

Asking customers to tell their friends and family is a simple yet effective way to generate leads – and they’re inbound leads! That means there’s no hard sell needed; they’re already ready to sample your product or service.

Referrals are perhaps the most successful lead generation strategy available. In very little time, you can get the word out about your company – just remember to keep your existing customer happy.

Use email marketing

There’s a classic rule in marketing: existing customers are worth more than the old ones. While it’s not strictly inbound lead generation, following up with previous customers and subscribers via email newsletters or email marketing campaigns is critical to capitalizing on past success.

Talk about new deals, the latest products, or a beta trial of a new service. Send a special deal through on a customer’s birthday or keep your customers up-to-date with a monthly newsletter.

Email marketing campaigns have one of the highest ROIs of all sales lead generation strategies. While building brand awareness is important, never forget about your existing customers. They’re your greatest asset!

Final thoughts

Generating leads should be the primary goal for your digital marketing – be it writing blog articles, creating social media posts, or producing videos. Whenever you’re trying to generate leads, think about the customer’s perspective. Is it the first time coming across your product or service? What are they likely to search for online? Can you continue to market to them after they leave your site?

Answering these questions will help you create a lead generation strategy suited to your target market. Remember, the best strategy is perseverance: few sales are made on first contact. You can build your brand awareness, generate leads, and convert them into sales through SEO content marketing, optimizing your landing pages, and PPC advertising.

For more information about generating leads, please speak to our team about SEO content marketing and PPC campaigns.