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  • Writer's pictureDenis Sinelnikov

What Is An Effective Lead Generation Strategy In Digital Marketing?

You spend hours crafting a beautiful newsletter. You have everything you need: a catchy headline that will draw people to open your email, informative and valuable content, and a solid call to action to funnel them from your email to your landing page to close the sale. The only problem: they’re not opening your email. Or worse, when they open it, they don’t click through. Your problem isn’t your email; your problem is your lead-generation tactics.

What Is Lead Generation In Digital Marketing?

Lead generation is the process of targeting and nurturing potential customers to grow their interest in your brand and products or services. The goal of lead generation is simple: pull in new consumers from your target audience by focusing on their interests and converting them into paying customers to increase your sales.

So, Lead Generation Is Just SEO, Right?

This is a common misconception about lead generation that leads to marketing failures. While search engine optimization and lead generation have the same goals (increasing sales), they don’t have the same processes. SEO focuses on positioning your website in search engines to drive traffic organically. Meanwhile, lead generation focuses on increasing the number of high-quality leads you can bring in.

Where Do Leads Come From?

Lead generation occurs through multiple channels, from social media marketing to PPC to content marketing to email marketing (and yes, even SEO). How those channels are utilized by digital marketers determines the categories lead fall under:

Information-Qualified Lead (IQL)

This is a lead that has been offered something based on their interests. Basically, they exchange their information for some knowledge. For example, someone who signs up for a mailing list to download a free eBook about real estate would be an IQL. This can be an offer they saw on a social media platform or an offer on your website.

Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL)

This is a lead who responded to marketing activities. These are leads who have a high likelihood of becoming customers because they have engaged with your brand through e-commerce. Examples of this kind of engagement include:

  • Voluntarily submitting contact information

  • Opting into programs

  • Giving your their email through a pop-up

  • Adding items to their shopping cart

  • Visiting your site repeatedly

Marketing-qualified leads can come through social media posts and ads, digital marketing campaigns, and other channels.

Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL)

This type of lead has expressed their desire to become a customer. While MQLs may demonstrate similar behaviors to SQLs, they are not the same. An MQL has an interest in your marketing and your brand, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready for a sales pitch. SQLs are leads that your marketing team has vetted and are ready for your sales team close.

The Importance Of Qualifying Leads

Qualifying leads based on how they interact with your brand, your digital channels, and your marketing is key to knowing where they are in the marketing funnel and if they’re ready for a hard sales pitch. If you’ve ever pushed a mortgage lender’s marketing call to voice mail because all you did was download a simple brochure about saving, then you’ve seen how things go wrong when you don’t market to leads appropriately.

Consider our opening example. You have the perfect newsletter that hits all the bullet points of what a newsletter should do, but no one opens it or clicks. Your problem isn’t the newsletter. The problem is how you qualified your leads. Did you draw your leads in with an informational download? If we moved this to a real-world equivalent, you drew them from the sidewalk into your shop with free cookies, then jumped immediately to the sale rather than giving them time to browse the store.

Some B2B marketers take this one step further and leverage lead scoring to accurately follow up with leads at the right time in the sales funnel. The more robust your lead scoring and qualification process, the higher your conversion rate and the more website visitors you’ll turn into customers. If you really want to go above and beyond, consider optimizing your lead generation campaign with marketing automation.

Revisiting The Marketing Funnel

We’ve touched on the marketing funnel a few times. Let’s look at it in terms of lead development. Where a new lead fits into the tunnel will depend, in part, on how it became a lead. Information-qualified leads are going to be in the widest part of the marketing and sales funnel. They’ve become aware of your brand and what you have to offer, but they’ve not shown interest in specific products.

Marketing-qualified leads usually sit somewhere between Interest and Desire. Because they’ve responded to specific digital marketing strategies, you know they have an interest in specific products and services. They’ve begun the evaluation process, comparing you to competitors and seeing if you match their needs within their budget.

Sales-qualified leads sit in the Action portion of the funnel. These are prospects who are ready to buy. While IQL and MQL leads will often fall into their spots in the funnel the moment they come onto your lists, you usually have to develop SQLs. That isn’t to say that they don’t happen. A strong SEO and marketing strategy can pull in SQLs right away, but you can’t build your business on that strategy. You must know how to market to your leads to move them down the funnel and into a sale.

An Effective Lead Generation Strategy

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at how to build an effective lead-generation strategy. As you can see from our discussion, it isn’t just about getting a name and phone number or email address. It’s also about determining where they are in the marketing funnel and how to move them down to the Action stage. A good lead generation strategy starts with Acquisition.

Lead Acquisition

How you get your lead is just as important as how you market to them once you have them. Avoid buying leads at all costs. While a purchased list will fill your marketing tunnel, you’re going to be marketing to people who don’t know your company or how you acquired their information. You’ll become spam and find yourself on block lists.

Instead, use your digital marketing channels to draw in leads who will be willing to give you their information. This means utilizing your social media, blogs, video marketing, and even your advertising to bring in new leads. Make sure that each time you engage in a lead acquisition you focus on interests that will both showcase your quality and expertise and help you funnel new leads to products and services later.

Free offers note: While free offers like eBooks, white papers, and brochures can be a good way to get people on your list, they’re not always a good indicator of interest. You should ALWAYS treat leads generated this way as Information-generated leads sitting in the Awareness section of the funnel. When you offer free items, make sure that what you offer is as informative to you as it is to your potential lead. Create informative and useful offers, but make sure that they relate directly to the products and services that you offer.

Lead Development

Once you have the lead and know their place in the marketing funnel, it’s time to move them along. How you market to each lead qualification will differ. The higher up a lead is in the funnel, the more you will need to focus on value, brand awareness, and trust-building. Those in the Awareness and Interest portions should always see content that demonstrates expertise and value, with a call to action to learn more about you and what you offer.

Those in the Desire portion should see how products and services build upon the information and knowledge you have already shared with them but should never see a hard sale push. Their call-to-action will invite them to learn more about products and services, but will still fall within education/storytelling. You’re not selling them a widget. However, you are telling them how your widgets have helped consumers and businesses like them. As you further develop the leads in the Desire portion of the funnel, consider enticing them towards Action with free trials of products or services.

It’s not until they reach the Action portion of the funnel that you will give the sale push. That is when the call to action is to buy a specific product or service. If your leads have come into the Action portion through a free trial, remember, the free trial is not the action. You still need to demonstrate how your product is worth their investment.

The Marketing Funnel Doesn’t Always Move Down

Unlike a real funnel, leads don’t always move down the marketing funnel. Sometimes you might misread customer engagement and qualify them too early. Other times, they show interest, and desire, or indicate action, but change their mind or pull back to re-evaluate. While the sales instinct is to push, consider how they were engaging with your brand or products and consider instead letting them fall back higher in the funnel for a little longer. A sale that comes later is better than a sale that never happens.

An effective lead generation strategy brings in leads who have genuine, specific interest in your brand and services. Consider how you bring in your leads and research their engagement to ensure you qualify them and place them effectively into your marketing funnel. Then develop that relationship with them with targeted calls-to-action that move them towards sales.


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