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A stylized illustration of a landing page with a magnifying glass hovering over the page's search results looking for qualified marketing leads. Lead generation is a process that requires analyzing who is engaging with you marketing campaigns, emails, and ads in great detail.

A Marketer's Guide to Lead Generation (New Tips & Strategies)

Brian Peters

Aug 18, 2021

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Lead generation strategies have evolved tremendously over the past several years. Today, marketers have an abundance of tools, tactics, and campaign channels available to them to generate high-quality leads for their organization. Employing an effective lead generation strategy is useful for businesses of all sizes, including businesses in the B2C and B2B industries.

Of course, that's easier said than done. The B2B marketing is more competitive than ever and thousands of organizations around the world are utilizing robust lead generation campaigns to attract new customers and prospects. And many of those customers and prospects are likely the ones your organization is looking to target and nurture. 

Luckily for you, a sizable chunk of those organizations are relying on outdated lead generation tactics. That opens the door for a new era of professionals to thrive. This guide is designed specifically for marketers and sales teams looking to get the most out of their lead generation campaigns.

Table of Contents

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is defined as the multifaceted process of identifying, attracting, and cultivating potential customers for an organization's products or services. Once a person shows interest in a product or service (i.e., signing up for a newsletter or attending a webinar) that person can be considered a lead.

Lead generation marketing has been around for decades, but the types of activities have changed dramatically in the new age of abundant information. Simply relying on cold calling, emails, and webinars (though still relevant) does not make for a successful B2B lead generation program.

Strategies and tactics will differ greatly based on your end goal and target audience. What works for a B2B manufacturing company will likely not be the same as what works for a B2B wholesale company. It sounds like an obvious point, but all too often B2B lead generation techniques look like they are "copied and pasted" from peers and competitors.

Customers are more informed, savvier, smarter, and more driven than ever before. Your business must keep up with the now-much-higher bar set by the world's leading organizations.

Important Lead Generation Terms and Definitions

Before we dive into the marketing funnel and specific strategies B2B organizations can implement to generate significant sales, let's cover key lead generation terms and definitions.

1. Marketing qualified lead (MQL)

Marketing qualified leads are users that have engaged with any number of marketing activities or high-intent product activities. For example, completing a lead gen form on your website, engaging with a seasonal campaign or landing page, or registering for an upcoming webinar.

A screenshot of a demo request form is an example of a lead generation marketing activity. The form has fields for a lead to enter their: first name, last name, email address, phone number, company name, country and product interest.

2. Product qualified lead (PQL)

Similar to MQLs, product qualified leads are users that have engaged with any number of activities. However, these are specific high-intent product activities. For example, signing up for a free trial, visiting a specific section within the product, or sharing the product with a friend or colleague.

3. Marketing qualified accounts (MQA)

Put simply, an MQL is an individual user, while a marketing qualified account (MQA) is an entire company, made up of multiple users (MQLs). B2B and enterprise SaaS companies understand that the more MQLs that exist within a larger MQA, the better the chance they have at company-wide product adoption.

4. Sales accepted lead (SAL)

Sales accepted leads are users that have been "accepted" by the sales team to move on from the marketing qualified lead stage into a sales qualifying stage (below). At this point, teams are working together to determine whether or not the user or account fits the qualification criteria.

5. Sales qualified lead (SQL)

Sales qualified leads are very high-intent users that have been deemed as "qualified" by the sales team. These are users (and broader accounts) that the sales team is actively engaging within an attempt to either close or upsell the account.

You can likely see that the above is a type of funnel — turning prospects into leads and eventually into customers. Let's explore the idea of a funnel and the lead generation process below.

The Marketing Funnel and Lead Generation Process

Effective lead generation starts with a deep understanding of the marketing funnel. Every single piece of content you create or email you send should "funnel" your audience towards eventually converting — i.e., making a purchase.

There are all sorts of terms to describe a funnel, including this widely-used graphic:

An image of the marketing funnel. The stages of the marketing funnel are as follows: Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Intent, Evaluation, and Purchase.

But one of the easiest funnels to understand and implement in B2B businesses is top-of-funnel (TOFU), middle-of-funnel (MOFU), and bottom-of-funnel (BOFU).  

Top-of-funnel (TOFU)

The first stage, top-of-funnel, is all about awareness. Generating awareness is getting as many potential buyers "aware" that your product, service, or solution even exists. It is your organization's very first contact with a potential customer and so it's critical that you make a good first impression.

Content during the TOFU stage consists of social media campaigns, blog posts, advertising campaigns, podcasts, newsletters, videos, webinars, and so much more. Ideally, the content is compelling enough to generate hundreds, or even hundreds of thousands, of visits to your website or landing page.

What is a landing page?

A landing page is an entrance a user makes into your website, that is specifically designed to convert leads. Landing pages could be designed as blog articles, product pages, or a page dedicated to an event or contest. 

Users can land on these pages through a variety of means, from SEO to digital ads but it’s essential that your landing pages deliver on the why or what that made someone click through to your site from Google, an ad, or another article.

Middle-of-funnel (MOFU)

The second stage, middle-of-funnel, is focused on nurturing the (thousands of) leads that your business generated at the TOFU stage and turning them into more qualified prospects. Not everyone from the previous stage will want or even need your solution and so it's up to your to filter those people out of your funnel.

Lead generation techniques in the MOFU stage consist of niche guides and ebooks, webinars, expert interviews, white papers, analyst reports, industry reports, case studies, use cases, and more. This is where businesses should begin to target leads based on specific actions. For example, targeting a lead with an email marketing campaign based on their previous webinar attendance.

Bottom-of-funnel (TOFU)

The third and final stage, bottom-of-funnel, is where the rubber meets the road. It's the stage where your business finally converts interested prospects into paying customers. It's where conversion rates are measured and B2B marketers can truly understand which pieces of their overall strategy are most effective in generating sales. The conversion rates and cost per lead on BoFu campaigns may be higher, but the quality of the lead is also typically better.

No two prospects or leads are the same. Some will convert in a matter of days, while others will take months of lead nurturing. That's why it's important to constantly evaluate every stage of the funnel and understand how it impacts your B2B lead generation process. Where is your team seeing the highest conversion rates? Where are prospects dropping out of the marketing funnel? Which content marketing tactics can be improved along the way?

Even the seemingly smallest improvements to your TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU strategy can mean exponential increases in revenue compounded over time.

Tip: In order to track the progression of leads through your marketing funnel, you may want to use CRM or lead management software that can help you identify where a lead may be in the buying journey.

Marketing Strategies For Generating Leads

Now that you have a deep understanding of lead generation concepts, strategies, and funnels, it's time to put that knowledge into action. The following lead generation techniques can and should help to power your future lead gen campaigns.

1. Content marketing

When it comes to capturing the attention of potential buyers in a message-saturated environment, content marketing becomes paramount as it can be an effective way to introduce your company to new prospects without pushing them away. Put simply, content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract, retain, and create action with a clearly defined audience. It's where quality meets optimization.

A photograph of a camera that is filming a group of musicians. Here you can see the content marketing creation process in action.

2. Advertising and retargeting

Advertising and retargeting campaigns are meant to do two important things: attract potential buyers and move those buyers from consideration to purchase. Because you can target audiences based on very specific metrics such as website visits or demographics, it means you can align your Facebook ads to specific individual interests and actions. In other words, your ads and retargeting strategy should start broad at the top but then focus on very specific outcomes from very specific audiences as you move toward the bottom of the funnel. In order to be able to refine the targeting of your ads (or marketing in general), you may want to leverage social listening tools or consumer insights platforms. By developing a highly targeted advertising strategy, you will likely be able to reduce your cost per lead as the people that seeing your ads may have an interest in your product, follow you on social media, or have visited your website before.

3. Social media marketing

How social media fits into your lead generation mix depends on your buyer personas and your marketing objectives. But it’s an important channel that you can't ignore no matter how big or small of a role it plays in your overall strategy. For example, LinkedIn can be used in combination with software like Meltwater's Consumer & Audience Insights tool to provide organizations with a detailed overview of their audience. Other channels such as Instagram and Twitter can drive more top-of-funnel awareness around your brand.

An image of a phone tilted up toward the sky in Times Square of New York City. The phone is opened to the social meida platform Instagram.

4. Email marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most critical and effective lead generation tools at your disposal. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Potential buyers are inundated with emails and incoming messages these days. You need to make sure your emails are 1) timely, 2) valuable and/or educational, 3) fun to read, and 4) actionable. Don't just send an email to your prospects because you think it's what you should be doing. Create email marketing content that stands out — or don't send anything at all.

A image of a man's hands typing out an email marketing campaign on a laptop shot from above.

5. Referral marketing

A highly underused, but potentially lucrative lead generation strategy is referral marketing. According to data, 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a critical part of their purchasing decision. And a whopping 92% of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends. Word of mouth, or referral marketing, can help streamline your lead gen process. 

Importance of Working Together

Above everything, a successful lead generation program is predicated on sales and marketing teams working together around with a data-driven approach. Every member of the team must have an understanding of the full funnel — from TOFU down to BOFU. 

Without alignment internally, prospects, leads, and potential buyers will become confused about the overall message from your company. This disjointed experience might push them to explore other solutions on the market. 

That being said, there's no better time than now to get started on your lead generation campaigns.