Lead generation

Attracting potential customers has always been a marketing and sales professional’s aim. In the past, goods were exhibited at trade fairs and markets, or even traditionally sold door-to-door. Originally, lists containing customer information were used, but they have nothing on the data and information that is currently circulating in e-commerce of many digitized business fields. Lead management has become one of the most valuable disciplines in online marketing as it helps manage this flood of data, satisfy every potential customer, customize content for them, and lead to successful conversions.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation comes at the start of the lead management process and is central to how potential customers are won over. It all begins by addressing those who have shown some interest in your product or service. Before you even begin to work with the leads and qualify them as 'sales ready' and hand them over to the sales department, you first need to contact them.

A lead is basically a data record with relevant personal data and contact information that the potential customer has voluntarily provided. Lead generation promotes active acquisition of these contacts in the B2B as well as the B2C areas.

Merely acquiring these data records is rarely the goal of lead generation, since the quality of them also plays a part. It deals with high-quality contacts and qualified leads, which are very likely to develop into new customers. While those taking part in competitions often leave their contact details without any interest in the company or its offers and services, signing up for a newsletter shows, more often than not, that the reader does actually have an interest in the company. We discussed the difference between 'cold leads' and 'hot leads' in the first part of our series.

Different strategies and methods of lead generation

There are different approaches and practices in lead management that later determine which methods and strategies to use. To begin with, you should decide on the strategic direction of your campaign, which will determine which lead generation tactics need to be implemented. The key questions that need to be answered are:

  • Which media and channels can be used? Which media should you use to communicate with your customers? It could make sense to center these around more traditional methods, such as telephone acquisition and print ads, or it could be that potential customers are more likely to be found online i.e. on social networks.
  • Should you follow the push or pull principle? How do you plan to implement the campaign in principle: according to the classic push or pull principle? How are leads actually generated? Direct marketing is when you contact the customer, but inbound or permission marketing is when the customer comes to you.
  •  Should you put more emphasis on the quality or quantity of leads? The answer to this question depends on the nature of the products and offers. While a single, high-quality lead is worth a lot when it comes to expensive products, in other areas it makes more sense to have a large number of leads to make the process profitable. The point of lead scoring is to assess the quality of leads. 

Types of lead generation

There are different types of lead generation – they differ significantly when it comes to the type of communication. The basic types include:

  • Face-to-face: when it comes to face-to-face lead generation (also known as offline lead generation), it concerns the classic efforts used to attract prospects e.g. participating in trade fairs, promotions, price draws, or events. Company employees or promoters are often the ones who approach passersby or trade fair visitors in the hope of turning them into customers. This form of lead generation is very complex and often proves costly.
  •  Print: leads can also be generated using ads in newspapers or magazines. Response advertisements containing a prominently placed telephone number or a reply coupon are often used. Mail sent out in bulk is also a classic way of lead generation in the print sector.
  • Telephone: a distinction is made between inbound and outbound calls when generating leads over the telephone. Service hotlines and call centers play a central role, since they accept inbound calls and can then attempt to win over prospective customers. Outbound calls are also possible, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has strict rules e.g. people on the 'do not call list' cannot be contacted, nor can anyone outside the hours of 8am and 9pm.
  • Online: online lead generation takes place on virtually all channels: via e-mail, social media, on one’s own website or blog, or via banners and advertisements that lead to specific landing pages. Central elements include various content formats, such as white paper, e-books, or other incentives.

The benefits of online lead generation

Online lead generation or any kind of electronic lead generation in general (e.g. offline competitions on tablets) means that you can process data directly. If users fill out a survey or enter their data in a registration form, a data record is automatically generated and stored in a standard format. When it comes to the offline and print sectors, processing data is a little bit more of an effort – especially if the information is complex – since segmenting it is difficult and scatter loss could occur.

Push vs. pull: from classic dialogue marketing to inbound solutions

A simple way to understand the difference between pull and push marketing measures is to ask yourself who takes the first step: the company or the customer? In the case of direct or dialogue marketing, the company makes the first move, addresses potential customers, and starts the dialogue. In the case of pull marketing, the marketer takes the indirect route by investing in high quality content, which aims to pull the customer in.

Dialogue marketing: a traditional approach to lead generation

Dialogue marketing is a form of direct marketing, whereby company employees approach potential customers directly with individual offers. In the past, contact was made almost exclusively by telephone, therefore dialogue marketing is almost always associated with call centers. Dialogue marketing generally includes all measures that are taken to establish a conversation. This includes e-mails and mailings, as well as attempts on social media. It’s crucial for the customer to have a response element i.e. a way for them to answer.

Unlike traditional advertising, the main aim of dialogue marketing is to get a reaction from the customer, which makes them want to start a conversation. If dialogue or direct marketing is used during lead generation, the aim is to gain access to a potential customer’s contact information.

Increased use of inbound and permission marketing

E-commerce is an increasingly important industry in the US. The shift in revenue from stationary to online trading is continuing. The e-commerce boom has also influenced lead management and created new opportunities.

Instead of directly and actively addressing potential customers, the aim is to try to gain interest through indirect marketing measures.

With inbound marketing, the aim is to attract the attention of potential customers through good content. You publish valuable, interesting, and useful content online, and make sure it’s easy to find. If a potential customer is looking for information or answers to specific questions, you can help them by using e-books, white papers, advice articles, or videos, to respond to their queries and their needs.

It is therefore all about being easy to find and about convincing potential customers of your company’s expertise, as well as about indirectly showing off your products. The right content strategy and professional search engine optimization are the main success factors of inbound marketing. However, if the strategy is successful, the first result of successful inbound lead generation is a high-quality, qualified lead.

Apart from traditional push channels, permission marketing is also an option. The term describes a marketing approach where you first need to get the recipient’s permission before you can show ads to them. In this day and age, it’s not a good idea to bombard customers with unwanted advertisements. Many internet users have become very sensitive to advertising messages. The barrage of advertising in recent years has led to banner blindness, which is when readers consciously or subconsciously hide and ignore ads or anything banner-like.

To increase the chance of customers accepting your marketing measures, and to be able to reach customers again and gain their attention, it’s becoming more common to ask for their permission. Incentives play an important role here. Using giveaways, discounts, free samples, and competitions as incentives, the user may be more willing to enter their contact information. The user should feel as if they have benefited from disclosing their data. If a company succeeds in doing this, then successful lead generation is possible.