What Is Lead Generation?

Jill Conway


February 24, 2020 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Three young men working together at one desk in an office

Reaching out to prospective customers in creative and effective ways is one of the focuses of a successful marketing team. In today’s digital world, cold calls and spam-like emails are becoming less desirable for the average marketing campaign. Anyone interested in learning how to effectively attract, engage, and convert loyal customers needs to understand the concept of lead generation. Today, we’re covering everything you need to know about lead generation with the following topics:

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting marketing prospects into customers who indicate interest in a company’s service or products. To reach out to prospective leads, companies use a variety of lead generators. Several examples of lead generators include internet ads, coupons, blog posts, original online content, and live events. All of these generators extend opportunities for prospective customers to interact with the brand and its sales or marketing teams.

The initial action that turns a visitor into a lead usually requires them to share their contact information in exchange for some benefit. An example of this would be a lead clicking on an advertisement that offers a free sample of a product. To receive their sample, they must input their name, email, and perhaps their home address into a field on the product’s website. Instantly, this lead becomes a valuable prospective customer.

The responsibility then falls on the company’s marketing and sales teams to capitalize on the lead’s interest and provide opportunities for them to purchase a specific product or service. This typically involves contacting the lead through email, post, or by phone. It is important for the lead to feel like their business is valued and that the company understands their needs. Oversaturating the lead with communication or offering them irrelevant products is likely to dissuade the lead from becoming a loyal customer.

One significant benefit of lead generation is the fact that leads, as opposed to the general public, are more likely to be receptive to communications from the company. If a lead initiated the connection with a brand by signing up for a free sample, they will likely expect and be receptive to follow-up emails, flyers, or texts. Using the information from the contact form, the company is also able to personalize its communications. Each of these factors contributes to the company making a positive impression on the lead.

Read more: All You Need To Know About B2B Lead Generation

What Is a Lead?

A lead is someone who has taken a specific action that shows they are open to becoming a customer. This action can be anything, including clicking on an ad, signing up for a free trial, or asking a question about a product. You can find business leads using a variety of methods, including online ads, email marketing, and even social media marketing. Leads can be someone who’s using a product for the first time or someone who’s familiar with a product already but hasn’t yet become a paying customer.

Leads are typically open to follow-up communications and marketing messages. Something that sets leads apart from the general public is that they are not usually contacted by a brand or company until after they have already expressed interest. This means leads are interested in hearing about and engaging with your offers. After they’ve made the first move to engage with your brand, you can reward this interest with high-value offers.

Leads have already been introduced to the brand and are somewhat familiar with its products and purpose. Therefore, the goal when interacting with leads is not to promote the brand but to persuade them to invest in a specific product or service. There are several specific types of leads. Understanding the differences between them will help you know how to market a product or service to each effectively:

Marketing-Qualified Leads

Marketing-qualified leads are contacts who have been the subject of the marketing team’s efforts but have not yet shown interest in making a purchase. An example would be someone who enters their email address in order to receive a free sample of a product. MQLs have the potential to become paying customers but aggressive sales techniques will likely annoy them or drive them away. To encourage further interaction with an MQL, you could send an email thanking them for their interest or include a discount coupon in the package with their free sample.

Sales-Qualified Leads

Sales-qualified leads are individuals who have clearly indicated their interest in becoming a paying customer, as evidenced by a recorded action. An example would be a prospective customer who reaches out to a customer service rep to ask a question about a product or service. SQLs are likely in search of more detailed information about the brand and its services. To connect with an SQL, you could send a personalized email with links to suggested products or invite them to sign up for the company’s loyalty program.

Product-Qualified Leads

A product-qualified lead is someone who uses a product and takes actions that show they want to become a paying customer. PQLs are common for companies that offer a free or limited version of their product or service. These free trials have an option to upgrade, which is handled by both the marketing and sales teams. An example of a PQL is someone who uses the free version of a service but has expressed interest in features that are only available to paying customers. To generate further contact with a PQL, you can invite them to join an online chat with a member of the sales team or offer them the full version of your service at a discounted price for a limited time.

Service-Qualified Leads

Service-qualified leads are contacts who have expressly informed your team that they are interested in being a paying customer. An example of a service-qualified lead is someone who tells a customer service rep that they want to upgrade their product subscription to a paid tier. Service-qualified leads often initiate contact with a brand or sales team. It’s important for your team to be equipped to respond quickly and efficiently to requests or messages from service-qualified leads. The quality of your customer service will significantly impact the likelihood of a service-qualified lead becoming a loyal customer.

Lead Generation Process

Generating leads is a multi-step process that can be adapted to suit a particular product, service, and client base. Here are the steps in the order they typically take place:

  1. Attract audiences: A company’s marketing or advertising team shares an attention-getting piece of content that invites interaction. This content is published publically, online, in print, or through radio, or television.
  2. Engage audiences: Next, a visitor engages with the business through one of its marketing channels. This can happen through a company’s website, publication, or social media page.
  3. Entice interest: Then, this potential customer clicks on a “call-to-action,” typically a banner, button, or message, which asks the visitor to take some sort of action.
  4. Collect qualifying information: Next, the call-to-action redirects the visitor to a secondary landing page which is designed to collect lead information in exchange for an offer or reward. Offers can be anything from a free trial to the promise of an email containing a coupon code.
  5. Acquire leads: Finally, once on the landing page, your visitor enters their contact information in exchange for the offer. At this point, it is now the company’s responsibility to pursue the lead and secure a sale.

Related: Marketing 101: A Guide to Winning Customers

Why Is Lead Generation Important?

All leads have the potential to become committed, paying customers. Generating leads who understand the mission, appreciate the product, and want to promote the brand to others can boost a brand’s audience and bottom line. Companies that can reach out to and connect with leads using a variety of channels have the opportunity to appeal to potential customers outside their target demographic and location.

An organic lead who has been successfully pursued by the brand is more likely to follow up and make a purchase than someone who passively viewed a commercial or scrolled past a mobile advertisement. Being proactive in acquiring leads can greatly increase a brand’s relevance and influence in the marketing sphere. Companies that have a reputation for reaching out to customers in inventive and entertaining ways are likely to be more popular and well-received by the public.

Additionally, producing content that is specifically geared toward lead generation helps marketing teams to stay focused on securing new customers. Maintaining a successful lead generation process challenges marketing professionals to consistently innovate effective methods for reaching out to new and old leads.

Creating a Contact Information Form

One of the key steps of the lead generation process is acquiring contact information from the lead. The moment a lead submits their email address or phone number, they agree to receive further marketing efforts and sales pitches from the brand. Creating an appealing and effective data collection form will help the lead feel comfortable and engaged during this step of the process.

When creating a contact information form, it is crucial that you make sure to get as much valuable information as possible without overwhelming or frustrating the lead. Some leads may be hesitant to supply detailed contact information if they are not overly familiar with the brand. It is important to establish trust through transparency and to inform the lead exactly how their information will be used.  Most contact information forms contain some variation of the following:

  • Full name: You need the lead’s full name so that you can personalize any correspondence or communication you send them.
  • Email: Email is the primary method of contact for most marketing teams. You can use a lead’s email address to send coupons, supply information, or suggest products.
  • Company: If your lead represents their company or employer, it can be helpful to know who they work for.
  • Role: It may benefit you to know your lead’s job title, particularly if you are in the habit of B2B lead generation. The more you know about your lead, the more accurately you will be able to meet their needs.
  • Country: If your company provides a physical product, it will be helpful to know where your lead lives so that you can estimate shipping costs. If you only ship domestically, it will also help you determine if a lead is viable.
  • State: Some practical details like shipping prices, tax rates, and product regulations differ by state.
  • Phone number: It is becoming increasingly acceptable to contact a lead by sending a text. Given the option, many leads will opt-in to an automated text service that regularly sends them coupons or announcements.
  • Home address: If you are offering a free sample or free trial to potential leads, you will need their home address for shipping purposes. Be sure the lead understands to expect a package and let them know how long it will take to arrive.

Related: How To Build a Website for Lead Generation

Lead Scoring

As lead generation has become a more common practice, methods have developed to qualify leads using a numeric scale. This involves assigning a number to each lead that correlates to where they stand on a scale from “preliminary interest” to “ready to buy.” The precise criteria that designate each step of the scale will depend on the specifics of your product or service. The scale must be uniform so that every member of the marketing team evaluates leads consistently.

Leads can be qualified according to how much information they have provided, which actions they have taken and which products they have shown interest in. For example, leads who have interacted with the brand’s social media accounts would rank higher on the scale. Depending on your specific industry, there are many points of reference that would be beneficial. As your team’s specific lead generation process develops, it will become easier to determine exactly how to score your leads effectively. The ultimate goal of qualifying leads is to be able to use your resources more efficiently.

Lead scoring requires collaboration between your marketing and sales teams. Both departments should discuss the lead generation process and agree on the points at which a visitor becomes a lead and a lead becomes a customer. As a lead becomes more likely to make a purchase, it may be beneficial for the marketing team to transfer responsibility and point of contact over to a member of the sales team. A good way to maintain organization throughout the process is to have this take place after the lead is assigned a particular number. For instance, a lead might be transferred to sales when it expresses interest in a particular product and becomes a level 8 lead.

Methods for Lead Generation

There are many different avenues you can use to generate leads. As modern media channels have developed, lead generation has become more internet-based. To maximize their lead generation opportunities, companies must be able to use a variety of web-based methods to secure new customers. Here are some examples of the most popular methods:


In today’s world of digital publishing, videos are an effective way to capture potential leads’ attention and guide them to a landing page. Using high-traffic websites like YouTube and Facebook can help you reach a wide audience. The content of your videos should be informative, concise and entertaining. You could shoot videos that showcase a product, explain a service or introduce members of your staff. Visitors who are impressed with your content are more likely to listen to your call to action and follow the link to your landing page.

All videos should be high-quality and well-produced. Many companies invest in hiring professionals to shoot, edit, and publish promotional videos. Maintaining a YouTube channel where clips promoting new products are posted regularly is one method for using video for lead generation.


Email marketing is a great option for reaching out to people who are already familiar with your brand and product or service. Typically, email leads have to have previously subscribed to be included in your email list, which makes them excellent candidates for guiding into the next stage of the lead generation process. Thousands of brands use email to distribute their calls to action, so be sure to make your communications stand out.

When contacting a lead, they need to notice your content as soon as the email arrives in their inbox. This means crafting an attention-getting subject line and an impactful introduction. You can also use brightly colored artwork, appealing design elements, eye-catching fonts, and high-quality photographs to keep the leads attention while they scroll through the body of the email. The most important content to include in an email is multiple links to landing pages and your brand’s homepage. If possible, create designated landing pages, especially for the leads that click links they receive through email.

Related: Email Marketing Agencies: What They Do and Why You Need Them


If you use the Internet regularly, you probably see dozens of ads every day. Advertisements line the edges of websites, play before videos, and pop up on your screen. Ads have the potential to reach a considerably wide audience, so making the most of your digital ads is crucial. The key to effective ads is making sure the information is eye-catching, accurate, and impactful. If the ad redirects a lead to a landing page, make sure the lead’s next course of action is easily noticeable and accessible.

The most effective way to employ lead generation ads is to use them to promote an offer. You can design an attention-getting ad that promises a free sample or discount to anyone who clicks on it. Depending on where the ad is posted, you may be able to use the GIF or video formats to maximize your impact. Once a lead clicks on the ad, they should be redirected to a landing page that is geared specifically toward the people who followed the ad. The page should include a welcome message, more details about the offer, and a contact information form.

Blog Posts

Blog posts are a simple and subtle method for lead generation. In fact, social blogging can attract and engage visitors, priming them for your call-to-action, which you can include in the post’s conclusion. The blog post’s title and content should be optimized for search engines and targeted toward a specific demographic or audience. Ideally, the visitors who click on the link to view your blog post should be in search of information or a solution that your service or product can provide.

For example, if your product is a laundry detergent, you might publish a blog post entitled “How to Make Your Laundry Smell Fresh and Feel Smooth.” The accompanying article will appeal to your target audience: people who are looking for high-quality laundry products. Your post might begin with a list of laundry tips concerning water temperature or the recommended amount of fabric softener. After you have successfully captured the visitor’s attention, you can then present them with a call to action. In this case, you could include an appealing banner that offers a free sample of your product.

Read more: How To Promote Your Blog

Social Media

Social media marketing is effective for brands to encourage their followers to interact with lead-generating content. Features like swiping up on Snapchat ads or Instagram stories, customizable Facebook banners, and short URLs on Twitter all make social media websites valuable platforms for launching lead-generation campaigns. Social media also makes it easy for your current customers to refer your services or recommend your products to their friend lists. A good method for taking advantage of this connection might be to offer rewards to loyal promoters when their friends transition from visitors to leads.

Most social media users enjoy interacting directly with brands using their social media profiles. For instance, you might host a Q-and-A session on your Twitter profile where you provide information about an upcoming product. You could also publish a short video on Facebook that offers a discount to any followers who use a particular link to subscribe to your service. Any posts that require your viewers to take some sort of action have the potential to convert casual followers into promising leads.

Product Trials

Marketing teams everywhere know that people love to get things for free. Offering free trials of your product or service allows potential customers to form an opinion of your brand in a very low-risk way. Once a lead is actively using your product, you can then work to win their commitment by offering additional deals, exclusive products, or other resources that will encourage them to make a purchase. When choosing how much of a product to offer, it is important to find a sample size that allows the lead to fully appreciate the product yet still feel the need to seek out the full-sized version.

A recent development in the product trial method is the inclusion of cheap branded materials in the trial package. For example, you could produce stickers, postcards, or notepads which sport your brand’s logo or slogan. Any leads who choose to display their free merchandise become free walking advertisements for your product.

Customer Referrals

Another effective method for generating new leads is to use the loyal customers you already have. Word of mouth is still one of the most efficient ways to promote a new product or service. Incentivizing your customers to share their experience with your product with their family and friends can quickly earn you hundreds of new leads. To encourage referrals, you will need to promise some sort of benefit to any customer who supplies you with a new lead. This could be a discount code, store credit, or even an entry into a drawing. The point is, it needs to be something that makes the effort worth their while and shows your appreciation.

You can make customer referrals, particularly appealing by offering benefits to both the existing customer and the new lead. One example of this would be to give a current customer a unique referral code that grants them and anyone who uses it a 25% discount off a product. The customer would be motivated to share their code with a friend in order to get the discount and the friend would be prompted to supply their contact information upon making a purchase. In this scenario, you have simultaneously made your customer happy and gained a new lead.

Related: The Complete Guide to Customer Acquisition

Tips for Effective Lead Generation

Lead generation could be the key to increasing your brand’s reach and influence. Here are some tips for how to generate leads effectively:

Find Efficient Tools

One of the most important parts of the process is choosing the right lead-generation tools. Your tool stack should include everything you use to find, contact, and secure business leads. Choosing tools that allow your team to use its time, energy, and resources efficiently will help improve productivity and the success of your campaign. The right tools can also help you connect with a wider audience and maintain a positive brand reputation. Check out some common lead-generation tools:

  • Professional lead generation services
  • Email delivery services
  • Data collection forms
  • Landing pages
  • Automated follow-up responses
  • Live chat windows or chatbots
  • Social media profiles
  • Contests and drawings
  • Video advertisements
  • Internet search results ads
  • Customer surveys

When choosing tools, it is important to consider your team’s goals and target demographic. Outreach tools like internet ads, digital content, and social media posts can be very effective in attracting attention to your offers. However, those particular methods may not be as effective if your target audience includes senior citizens. Paying for a professional lead generation service can help you meet your short-term sales objectives but may hinder your ability to achieve your long-term financial goals.

Deciding which tools to use and how best to employ them is a critical step in maximizing your team’s potential for lead generation. Do some research and consult with your team to determine which lead-generation tools are the best choice for your business.

Read more: 10 Creative Lead Gen Examples Sourced from Marketing Legends

Create Content for Each Stage of the Process

Each stage of the lead-generation process is valuable. When designing your team’s plan, you should carefully consider how to maximize the impact of each individual stage. A significant part of this is to use content to convert at each stage of the funnel, moving leads through the purchasing cycle.

For example, you might create a 60-second promotional clip and publish it on YouTube. This top-of-the-funnel content then attracts and engages your audience, moving them through the next stages of lead generation. Then, bottom-of-the-funnel content can convert leads through the buyers’ journey to interact with your brand.

Each step of this process should feature design elements and original content that adheres to a common theme. The content’s color scheme, fonts, artistic elements, vocabulary, and product photos should all remain consistent at each stage. No one stage of the lead generation process should be any less developed or refined than the others. Visitors should be able to see the effort and thought that was put into each individual step.

Follow Through on Promises

A key element in lead generation is providing the opportunity for visitors to receive a benefit if they become a lead. To appeal to visitors, you might promise a free trial of a service, a free sample of a product, or the chance to win a prize. These benefits must be something that you are capable of delivering quickly and efficiently. Applying for and receiving the benefit is the first interaction that a visitor will have with your brand and it is critical that you make a good impression.

Additionally, you must be able to follow through on any promises you made in your advertising materials. This is true of all types of marketing methods, but it is especially crucial when you are working to convert leads into paying customers. If your advertisements promise that your product will solve a particular problem or have a certain effect, you should make sure that your leads are satisfied both with the product and with your customer service. This involves offering the opportunity to leave reviews and feedback, reaching out to dissatisfied customers, and taking steps to correct any mistakes or miscommunications.

If your brand has a reputation for delivering on its promises, you are likely to cultivate a loyal, committed customer base. This process begins with lead generation and continues throughout every stage of production and delivery.

Pay Attention to Landing Pages

Convincing a potential lead to click on your “call to action” link can only be effective if the button redirects to a high-quality landing page. Some companies might dedicate time and energy to creating attention-getting banners or ads, and yet neglect the design of the landing page. The landing page is an important opportunity for a brand to promote itself to the visitor. If the banner succeeded in capturing their attention, the landing page must be equipped to persuade them to become a lead.

The most important piece of content to include on a landing page is the data collection form. This is your method for collecting visitors’ contact information, which will grant you access to their email inboxes or physical mailboxes. Your form should ask for their name, phone number, email address, and, if necessary, their home address. It is crucial that you explain concisely why you need their contact information, what you intend to do with it, and what benefits they will receive if they agree to share it.

A dedicated landing page is an extension of the original “call to action.” They should feature a similar design, restate the promise that was presented in the ad, and offer more details on the benefit that the potential lead will receive. Landing pages are typically much larger than ads and should contain significantly more information. Many landing pages feature promotional videos, links to product pages, contact information for the company, and background on the brand’s message.

Facilitate Marketing and Sales Collaboration

Lead generation is a process that ideally involves both a company’s marketing team and its sales team. In order to know which demographics to target, which products to promote, and what kinds of benefits to offer, the marketing team will need data and advice from the sales team. Similarly, the sales team will need to collaborate with the marketing team to determine exactly what qualifies a lead and at what point that lead transitions into a paying customer. If the marketing and sales teams are working together and assisting each other, the brand’s productivity and impact are both likely to increase.

It is almost important for marketing and sales to maintain communication as a brand’s lead-generation process develops. Inevitably, as cultures change and technology advances, new methods for lead generation will be introduced. It is important that the marketing and sales departments be able to discuss new developments and adjust their strategies accordingly. Refining and updating the path that visitors follow should be a collaborative, ongoing, and dynamic process.

Use Your Social Media Presence

In recent years, social media has become one of the leading tools for lead generation. Posting your “call to action” links on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular sites can greatly increase your brand’s reach online. These posts should feature a short blurb about your offer and a link to a designated landing page. To manage expectations, be sure to clarify exactly what you are promising and what your followers must do to get it. Social media content is short-form, so it is important that you keep your copy concise and your format efficient.

A well-maintained social media profile will grant you opportunities to connect with leads organically. Using your brand’s profile, you can answer questions about the company, provide links to certain products and promote your latest offers. An attention-getting social media post that features elements of original content has the potential to be shared, circulated, and viewed by thousands of potential leads in a matter of hours. Strategically planning offers to promote using social media platforms can be a highly effective method for drawing traffic to your website and securing new leads.

One of the most popular ways to use social media for lead generation is to host contests, raffles, or drawings. Offering a free product or a discount to a random follower can encourage new visitors to subscribe and can prompt your current audience to share content on their own profiles. To maximize the impact of the promotion, you can require your followers to follow your account, share your post with others or provide their contact information in order to win.

Be Adaptable

Lead generation is a constantly developing process. In the twenty years, the most effective tools for lead generation have shifted from being primarily print-based to predominantly digital. As modern society continues to evolve, it is important that you be willing to adjust your strategies to suit the current marketing climate. The flexibility necessary to adapt and improve comes from careful planning and intentional decision-making. An effective lead generation team is able to look at the current data, consider feasible options and innovate ways to reach out to new leads.

In certain situations, lead generation tactics can prove ineffective or insufficient. If this is the case, it is helpful for the marketing team to be able to learn from their mistakes and eliminate any practices that are not beneficial. This can mean taking several steps back or scrapping a current project entirely. In the business of lead generation, it is important to remain optimistic and determined, even when facing creative or practical challenges. Marketing teams who show resilience and drive are more likely to produce high-quality lead-generation results.

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Jill Conway

CopyPress writer

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