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A lead is a potential customer, prospect, or sales contact with whom you have made an interaction at the start of the lead generation process. Like Gretsky said, you miss all the shots you don’t take. Likewise, you will miss all the potential customers you don’t find and engage. Lead generation is a purposeful connection with potential customers. When you engage people based on interest and capture their contact information, you have the opportunity to build a relationship journey that transitions the casual visitor into a buying customer.
Let’s begin by defining a lead then we’ll talk about the best way to find opportunities for lead generation.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." -- Paraphrased and attributed to Lao Tsu and John F. Kennedy
Finding a lead is often the beginning of your customer experience journey. A lead is someone who has an interest in your product and gives you their contact information to continue the relationship. This is the first step in moving toward that customer relationship, which continues with managing or nurturing the lead that will ultimately become your customer. Generating and building a relationship with a lead puts you miles ahead of beginning with a ‘cold call’ because you’re starting the journey with someone who already expressed interest in your product. So, it all begins with lead generation.
Lead generation is the process of attracting potential customers into a marketing software system with the anticipation of cultivating a relationship throughout the buyer’s journey, enticing them to your products or services and converting them into paying customers. Simply put, this process is like a machine that converts strangers to potential buyers. Lead generation is a key step in the process of inbound marketing. The process begins when a stranger is introduced to your business through one of your marketing channels like your website, social media, or blog. Your new visitor responds to a call-to-action (CTA) and becomes a lead.
"We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better." -- Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon
Now that you have a lead, you can begin nurturing or building a relationship with that person to provide valuable, audience-specific content that is likely to move your lead toward becoming a customer and ultimately, a champion for your business and product. This process is creating your customer experience journey. As your customers move from leads to devoted ambassadors, you’re building credibility, trust and momentum toward a platinum customer experience.
In the lead generation process, there are two main categories to consider: inbound and outbound marketing.
The inbound marketing lead generation process involves helping potential customers find your company, ideally prior to making a purchase, then transitioning that initial familiarity into brand preference, and ultimately, into leads, then devoted customers. Inbound marketing is carried out by building your personal brand via content creation including topical blogs, social media campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), ebooks, Search Engine Optimized (SEO) web text, viral videos, and webinars.
Outbound marketing employs outbound channels to broadcast your brand’s content to your prospects with CTAs, for example. This is typically done through media such as TV/radio advertisements, telemarketing/cold-calling, email marketing, trade shows, newspaper ads, press releases, direct mail, websites, blogging, and social media. Think of outbound marketing as a lead magnet in the customer lead generation process.
The imperative aspect of sales pipeline generation is that it depends on your small business’ ability to target your desired customers. Whether they’re in different demographic locations or you’re gathering important data about prospects’ preferences, this information will contribute to how you customize the value of your product or service to meet their wants, needs and/or interests. For example, check out the following business types and how they may leverage lead generation tactics:
To learn more about lead generation and management for your small business, check out Keap’s Free Demo.
Lead generation can occur through a variety of channels or activities. Most marketers agree that digital marketing is the most popular and productive means of generating leads. Leads can also come from personal referrals, events, advertising and telephone calls.
According to ZoomInfo, the three most common lead generation strategies are:
ZoomInfo also states that 68% of B2B marketers use strategic landing pages for lead generation.
"It’s not business to consumer, it’s not business to business, it’s people to people." -- Brian Solis, Altimeter Group
With a variety of creative ways to capture leads you have many options and excellent resources to develop a strong lead generation strategy. Keep the customer lead generation process at the center of your planning. When you have your future customer in mind, you will create an engaging journey that draws new visitors to your business and takes good care of them so they become customers and promoters!