A detailed look at lead generation

Lead generation is not easy, but it’s not rocket science either. Whether it is a big business or small, B2B or B2C, lead generation is key to making sales. If you’re a salesperson, you’re always looking for more leads. If you’re a marketer, you’re discovering new ways to generate them. In this page, take a deep dive into all aspects of lead generation.

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What is a lead?

Let’s first understand what a lead is before we dig deeper. Lead is a person or company who has shown interest in your product or solution but has not yet made a purchase. Lead can also be a person or company who fits a target group or buyer persona of your product or service.

Lead is a person or company who has shown interest in your product or solution but has not yet made a purchase. Lead can also be a person or company who fits a target group or buyer persona of your product or service.

Types of leads

Marketing Qualified Lead

An MQL has a certain level of engagement with your business as a result of a marketing activity. MQLs are a result of lead generation techniques employed by the marketing team and are handed over to the sales team for nurturing. An MQL typically performs an activity, like downloading your ebook or has attended your marketing event, which is a clear indication of their interest in your business. MQLs are ready to be nurtured, but they’re not ready to buy just yet. 

Lead Generation MQL Lead Generation MQL

Sales Qualified Lead

When an MQL displays sales-ready behavior, like requesting for a demo or signing up for a free trial, they become a sales qualified lead. These leads are usually handed over by the sales team to an Account Executive (AE). SQLs are close to making a purchasing decision, so the quicker the AE acts, the higher their chances of conversion. A good way to identify an SQL is by applying the BANT framework—do they have the Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe to buy from you?

Lead Generation SQL Lead Generation SQL

What is lead generation?


Lead generation is the process of finding and attracting people (leads) who are likely to become your customers immediately or in the future. “Finding” people implies finding information about people, like their name, email ID or organization’s name, all of which you can use to initiate a business relationship with them. You can generate leads organically and/or by spending money, depending on your resources.

If you meet fifty people at a conference, request them for their email ID, and they share it with you, that’s an example of lead generation.

If a visitor to your website fills out your signup form, that’s lead generation too.

Or let’s say you’ve posted about your product/service on social media. A visitor leaves a comment, expressing interest in your business. This is also lead generation.

These examples might make it seem like lead generation is pretty easy; it is not. One of the biggest challenges of lead generation is to get people to divulge information about themselves. The elusive lead can be generated only if you can articulate the value in your business solution and be present in channels closest to the lead. However, there are specific channels you can tap into when it comes to lead generation, and that’s where we’re heading next.

Why is lead generation important? 

Acquire new customers 

While it's great to have repeat customers who are loyal to your brand, you need to generate interest among new people and increase your target audience to make more sales. Lead generation increases the pool of potential customers in your sales funnel and therefore, increases chances of a sale.

Grow your business 

Lead generation helps you grow your business by bringing in quality leads who can be converted into customers. Lead generation tactics intrigue prospects with bite-sized information about how your products can solve their problems so that they are ready to go to the next stage in your sales funnel

Build credibility and value 

Lead generation is about give and take. It hints at the value that your company will provide. Lead generation helps you get into the minds of prospects, with the help of useful content. Since you provide something of value to them, they develop trust and an affinity towards your brand and are ready to take the next step with you. 

What are lead generation channels?


Broadly speaking, there are two channels of lead generation: inbound and outbound. Both lead generation channels are obviously aimed at generating leads for your business. But there’s a slender difference in the way they work.

The outbound lead generation method involves a proactive attempt to reach out to your audience. This usually begins with purchasing lead lists. You then contact these leads through cold calling. For a wider reach, businesses look beyond lead lists and use billboards, print ads, television ads, and radio ads. The emphasis here is on budget, media connections, and how much marketing muscle you can flex.

In outbound lead generation, your pitch is quite apparent and there are fewer efforts made to educate your audience.

The inbound method attracts leads using online content. You create a website, or you write a blog, and you optimize it for online search through SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. This means the content has the appropriate keywords and answers the questions your target audience is asking. When your content is easily discoverable and begins to engage your readers, they become your leads. Depending on how you interact with them from then on, they can become your customers too.

In inbound lead generation, you educate your target audience through a carefully planned content strategy. This takes time and involves very little budget spend. Two keywords here: content and SEO (search engine optimization). And the domain is largely digital.


outbound vs inbound lead generation table image outbound vs inbound lead generation table image


Lead generation stages: Classifying your leads

In B2B, inbound is the preferred channel of lead generation. The whole process of drawing a lead into doing business with you—by educating first and selling later—matches the B2B business model. Which is why inbound marketing in B2B takes leads through three levels of the sales funnel: ToFu (top of the funnel), MoFu (middle of the funnel), and Bofu (bottom of the funnel).

ToFu: Leads at the top of the funnel need awareness. They know nothing about what you offer and what domain you operate in, so you’ll need to create a conversation around both these focus points—without selling your product upfront. If you sell CRMs, you attract ToFu leads by talking about how SDRs (sales development representatives) can do their job better using CRM software. Blogs, ebooks, and guides are content types that work well at this lead generation stage.

MoFu: Leads in the middle of the funnel need nudging. They’re not completely clueless about what you do, but they’re not ready to buy either. They have many questions about your business, and they’re also starting to compare you with the competition. Be prepared to share lead generation content like case studies, testimonials, and videos that continue to educate and yet make a strong case for your brand.

BoFu: Leads at the bottom of the funnel need your product/service. They’re past the education stage, they know exactly what you can give them, and now you’re making a clear pitch. This is the right time to offer a trial, demo, or discount and bring them into your business. The leads that get to this stage are way fewer than those who step into the funnel, so make sure your lead generation tactics offer maximum value here.

Leads Classification Chart Leads Classification Chart

Lead Classification

6 ways to generate sales leads online

Content marketing

Create and distribute content with a primary focus on education, not selling. Content can be produced in various formats—blogs, infographics, videos, case studies, white papers.

Social media

Depending on your business, every social media platform can be a precious lead generation channel. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are essential for B2C; LinkedIn is elementary for B2B.


With email, you get to initiate a one-to-one conversation with your recipient, while sharing a blog, inviting them for a webinar, informing them about a product update, or offering a discount.


Webinars require people to share their email ID, which makes it an ideal lead gen activity. Timely webinars, with relevant topics and quality speakers, can build a brand around your business.

PPC (pay-per-click) ads

Clicking on a PPC ad takes the visitor to a landing page, which collects the lead’s information. PPC ads work because they contain keywords relevant to your audience, plus they appear on page one of Google.

Display ads

Also called banner ads, display ads are like print ads for digital. Crisp copy, a persuasive CTA (call-to-action), illustrations and animation are effective elements in display ads.

How to manage leads?

Once your leads are generated, what do you do with them? You need to have a robust lead management system in place to convert leads into paying customers. You need to collect all the information you can on your leads, track the level of engagement or interest in your business and assign them to respective salespeople. 

Lead management is the process of capturing leads, tracking their activities and behavior, and qualifying and engaging them until they are ready to be passed on to quota-carrying sales executives. 

how to manage leads how to manage leads

Key lead gen metrics

When you’re generating leads, you measure your efforts and results based on a set of metrics.

These metrics are applicable to both B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer). Here’s a list of 6 metrics that are fundamental to your lead gen activities:

Website visits

This is the number of visits to your website from unique URLs, not including your own employees. A higher number of website visits means more people are landing on your site. This traffic is acknowledged by Google (and other search engines) as an indication of your website’s authority. As a result, your website starts ranking higher for keywords you’re targeting. One way of getting more visitors to your website is by promoting it extensively on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

Source of visit / Lead source

In Google Analytics, lead source is classified based on the following default channels:

CTR (Click-through rate)

CTR is an important lead generation term. It can be defined as the number of clicks on your CTA button, versus the total visitors to that landing page or ad. If 1000 people visit your landing page/view your ad, and 650 people click on the CTA, your CTR is 65%. A high CTR depends on a number of factors, chief among which are the value proposition on your page/ad, your CTA’s placement, and the relevance of your content vis-à-vis your target audience.


Click-through rate (CTR) Formula Click-through rate (CTR) Formula


ROI (Return on Investment)

ROI is probably the most important metric in lead generation. The calculation is fairly simple: it’s the profit or loss you make from investing in a lead, compared against your initial investment. Let’s say you spent $15 capturing each lead, and a lead is worth $20 to you. Your profit from a lead ($5) against your initial investment ($15) gives you an ROI of 33%.


Return Of Investment (ROI) Formula Return Of Investment (ROI) Formula

So you’ve worked hard, created a great lead generation strategy, and gotten a ton of leads. What next?

With a lot of leads flowing in, it is easy to lose track of the most interested leads and they slip through the cracks. Hence, it is imperative that you rank them, based on the level of engagement with your business and their readiness to buy your product or service.

Leads are broadly scored on the basis of the interest they show in your product/service, their current place in the buying cycle, and their fit in regards to your business.

Quickly see how your contacts are interacting with your business by filtering contacts based on lead score and enjoy the benefits of lead scoring.

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