Lead Generation and Business Development

What is Lead Generation in Digital Marketing?

There are many ways that businesses find new sales opportunities. A favorite source of new business is that “word of mouth” sale – a friendly referral from an existing customer that produces a new customer, shiny and happy, and enthusiastic. These make us feel so good, and so appreciated. But if you’re relying on word-of-mouth referrals, then you’re missing out on many other opportunities to find new customers.

Generally, sales reps can be expected to do a great job in getting existing customers interested in new services. An important source of revenue growth for companies is serving existing customers in new ways and growing the relationship so they get more value from our work for them. Relying on an existing customer base for new business is a mistake many businesses make.

Effective lead generation should include a portfolio of methods, so an underperformance in one area is balanced by profitable activities in another area. A lead generation strategy underwrites a business’s growth plan, providing a measure of control over the attainment of growth targets.

Smaller businesses often struggle with lead generation. The sales team can find themselves swamped during peak periods filling incoming orders, which is precisely when the planning and development for new business should be taking place. Then when the peak period subsides, things slow down more than anticipated because a pipeline of new opportunities was not being developed and nurtured.

Smaller businesses have a lot to gain from digital marketing campaigns that generate interest in your product or service with lead-generation tactics.

Why Lead Generation is Important

Lead generation is a vital digital marketing strategy to support revenue growth, and healthy profitability and as a defense against unseen (and seen) competitors.

Growing your online presence is the ultimate goal of all digital marketing activities. The stronger your business online presence, the better the quality and volume of leads that will come to the website.

The range of inbound marketing activities aimed at generating leads also results in a healthy volume of traffic to the website.  As an additional benefit, this website activity sends signals to search engines that your business is a key player in the industry. Over time your website will gain higher domain authority, which also helps increase traffic and leads to the website.

Lead generation activities fill the sales pipeline to meet growth goals, protect against the loss of large customers, as a defense mechanism in a highly competitive industry, or provide replacement customers in businesses that experience a frequent turnover of their customer base.

Lead Generation in Digital Marketing

In today’s online world, consumers use search engines, social media platforms, and a range of other internet resources to research products or services they need. Lead generation in digital marketing involves mining these opportunities to bring new consumers and buyers to your business website. It is a highly cost-effective method for finding new customers for both B2C and B2B businesses.

Leads and Types of Leads Defined

A business lead is a person who is interested in your business’s product or service. Often your business is not aware of this person until they are ready to make the purchase and contact your firm.

Prior to the purchase, that person is carrying out research, often online, to identify the best product offerings available, and to become informed about features, pricing, and all the other considerations that go into making a decision.

Lead generation refers to the work involved in finding and developing new sales opportunities – or leads – for a business.

In B2C lead generation, the tactics involve addressing the information needs of the end-user consumer. Consider someone shopping for a new air conditioner for their home. They will research models, features, warranties, availability, installation options, pricing, and online testimonials. They will do all this work often prior to contacting a supplier to begin a sales process, They will select a few suppliers out of this research to contact directly and begin the next stage in their buyer journey. Lead generation involves understanding this process and implementing tools and tactics to identify these potential customers earlier in the process to increase your chances of winning the sale.

In B2B lead generation, there can be many decision-makers involved such as the department head whose people will use the product or service, other departments such as IT or HR who will be impacted by a decision, and a financial decision maker.

As an example, consider a company undergoing sales automation. The sales teams will be involved as they will be tracking their activities in the tool. Marketing will be involved as they will be implementing offers within the tool, and IT will be determining how the tool will be integrated with the website as well as the accounting software the company uses. And a financial decision maker such as the Controller or VP of Finance must approve the expenditure.

Both B2C and B2B lead generation have their differences in how lead generation campaigns should be built and executed. A good digital marketing agency is as much a social psychologist as is an expert in all these activities supporting a lead generation campaign.

Types of Leads – Not All Leads Are Equal

One way that a lead is measured is by the buyer’s readiness to make a decision. Since some leads are generated from marketing activities and others from sales activities, a convention of naming them in this way has emerged.

Hubspot has developed a handy way to identify leads. Here’s what they use, which we find suitable for a range of both B2C and B2B businesses:

Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL) 

These contacts have been identified thanks to the marketing team’s efforts. Often these leads are in the early stages of evaluation. They may have visited a landing page and filled out a form to accept an offer.

Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL)

These are leads that come directly to the sales team. The buyer may have called the business or filled out a “contact us” form in order to speak with a representative. Upgrading existing customers to additional services is also an SQL, as is a word-of-mouth referral.

SQLs are much closer to signing a purchase agreement. While not all SQLs end up closing, the timeline to closing is usually sooner than other types of leads.

Product (PQL) and Service Qualified (SQL) Leads 

To respond to product versus service-based businesses, these leads have expressed a specific interest in your offering. Sales organizations will dictate any further characteristics of these leads so there is measurement consistency across sales teams.

Leads in the Sales Funnel 

Sales teams use sales funnels to measure their ability to reach their sales quotas. Leads are defined based on the stage they are at in their buyer’s journey. Digital marketing has increased collaboration between sales and marketing teams. The currently popular 3-stage model is a reflection of this collaboration:

  1. Top of Sales Funnel (ToFu) – These buyers are in the Awareness stage of their buyer journey, seeking to better understand the problem they want to solve.
  2. Middle of Sales Funnel (MoFu) – These buyers are in the Qualify stage of their buyer journey, actively looking for solutions and potential vendors or companies who offer solutions.
  3. Bottom of Sales Funnel  (BoFu) – These buyers are in the Decision stage of their buyer journey, evaluating proposals from vendors, and are in the process of making a final decision.

Outbound vs Inbound Marketing

Outbound marketing refers to initiatives to identify potential buyers, capture their interest, and then count them as a lead. Traditional sales approach such as cold calling, word of mouth, trade shows, email marketing, and paid advertising (print, out-of-home, experiential, TV, radio) are all examples of outbound marketing.

Outbound marketing is often called “push” marketing because you employ effort to push, or influence, the prospect toward your business.

Inbound Marketing 

Inbound marketing emerged as digital marketing matured as a tool to generate business leads using online methods. These online methods include SEO, content marketing, PPC, social media including paid social, and email marketing (with a website component).

Inbound marketing uses a range of content types to draw potential customers to your website with the aim of capturing the website visitor’s name and details in exchange for a valuable offer. Often called “pull” marketing, Inbound’s methods capture the buyer’s attention and draw or pull them to the website.

Alignment of Sales and Marketing 

The relationship between sales teams and marketing is often not a harmonious one, unfortunately.

There can be the geographical difference that results in communication issues.  Marketing is often located in a head office, and sales personnel can be located across a number of other locations.

The classic sales complaint is that marketing sends sales bad leads, while marketing complains that sales teams do a poor follow-up job.

Leadership comes from above so when the CMO and CRO align, then the company can see these benefits from collaboration:

  1. Generate 32% higher revenue
  2. Retain 36% more customers
  3. Achieve 38% higher win rates

There is a lot to gain from aligning your sales and marketing teams. Hiring a digital marketing agency partner solves this issue. A clear benefit for SMEs who have limited in-house marketing resources is that an agency partner will work closely with the sales teams, building on and strengthening the work of the marketing department.

ABM in Inbound Marketing

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a powerful approach to strengthening existing or new relationships with large, important B2B clients. ABM has been successfully used for major account management for decades. With the emergence of digital marketing, companies have discovered that an Inbound Marketing fueled Account Based Marketing strategy is a powerful combination that delivers better results.

As a first step in developing an AMB strategy, a target list of clients is established. This is a limited list of large clients who offer significant strategic value in your establishing, strengthening, or growing your business presence in them.

ABM is a cross-organization set of activities involving both sales and marketing teams. To be effective it requires collaboration between the two and is best executed when there is executive buy-in including a clear understanding that results take time. Account Based Marketing challenges both sales and marketing teams to abandon traditional funnel thinking and instead focus on strengthening the relationships with the clients on the target list.

Account Based Marketing is an advanced, complex lead generation toolset that can be very powerful in specific situations where businesses wish to strengthen their position within their major accounts.

Top Strategies to Generate Leads

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential first step in strengthening your website’s ability to generate leads. A website that has low traffic will not generate leads. Therefore the first step is applying good quality SEO strategies to build a healthy volume of organic traffic to the website. Once a critical mass of monthly traffic has been attained, the business can start to see leads coming to the website.

Search engine optimization is a general term that refers to a wide range of practices involved with growing website traffic. SEO can include both on-page and off-page tactics. The most valuable work at the outset is on-page SEO, improving the quality and performance of each of the main website pages and their role in contributing to the buyer journey.

Content Marketing

Some of the most effective lead generation campaigns involve developing valuable content for each stage of the buyer journey. The content can take a variety of forms: videos, long-form blog content, and white papers. The key to making this work is the ability to produce high-quality content. Often businesses have subject matter experts in the house but getting them to write is a challenge. Another option is to hire an agency that provides the writing. An ideal solution can come in the form of a strong digital marketing agency partnership, which can take the bullet from gems from your in-house subject matter experts and transform them into high-performing pearls of wisdom on your blog.

Paid Ads

Using PPC advertising gets quick results. A business can target audiences to advertise its offering across search engines, social media, and more. Online paid ads are generally based on a pay-per-click model where what you pay is a function of the number of “clicks” to your landing page or website. In contrast, traditional advertising can be much more costly and less flexible.

Email Marketing

Setting up Email Marketing campaigns is an essential component of lead generation for both B2C and B2B clients. The cost to implement is low compared to other marketing channels and the ROI is incredibly high. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42 (DMA Report, 2021).

Social Media Marketing

Social media channels are used to develop and engage a follower base. While this is a great place to develop leads, it can be a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Despite this, a well-crafted campaign backed by a budget for paid social ads can deliver excellent results in bringing new leads to your business.

Get lead generation in digital marketing working for your business. Drive traffic to your website blog and generate high-quality leads and convert them into paying customers more easily and profitability.

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