You might have heard the term lead generation quite often recently, as attracting more leads is basically a goal of any business nowadays. But do you know what lead generation actually means?
According to Hubspot, 61% of marketers rank lead generation as their number one challenge. So, let's have a closer look at what's so important about the lead generation campaigns and namely how to generate more leads.
Since marketing and sales departments have different approaches to generating leads and are constantly arguing whose job it is. We will also try to give you some insights on who we think is responsible and what a lead is to each of them. There are terms like SQL or MQL that define leads in each step of the process and they are called Sales or Marketing qualified leads for a reason...
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is a process of attracting consumers' attention to your products and services with the end goal of turning them into a sale. A 'lead' can be anyone who has shown any kind of interest in your product but has not yet become or qualified to become a customer.
In online marketing, a lead means data, data of a potential customer with the help of which later you can get a qualified lead - people that can be directly approached by a marketing or sales team. Put real simply, generating a lead involves collecting the contact information of your website visitors via a web form.
Benefits of lead generation
Very often businesses market their products to people who show no interest in their offerings, losing money and time. This also hurts their brands' reputation, as by annoying non-target customers with abusive marketing they make their brands look less trustworthy.
And that's why you need lead generation - to make an organic, natural transition from a stranger to a customer. This way, you do not push people indifferent to your product or service to spend money but get the most out of your marketing campaign.
Lead generation helps you to reach out to your target audience only and guarantees a good match between your company and potential customers, which in turn increases your return on investment (ROI).
Among other benefits of online lead generation are:
- Increased brand awareness - lead generation introduces your target audience to your brand. It also makes a prospect think of your company when he or she considers purchasing a product or service related to yours.
- Cost and time effectiveness - speaking of money, you can control your spending by targeting only the most relevant target audience. You can easily track how expensive every single lead is by calculating the Cost per Lead.
Since online lead generation targets your potential customers based on the preset features, the software will keep finding new leads on its own also saving you lots of time of manual work.
- Easy campaign results tracking - you can track all the results and measure the success of your campaign. You can see what works best and what does not attract an audience at all, and therefore after analyzing this data you can further run more successful campaigns.
How can I generate online leads?
There are multiple strategies how to generate leads which can be split into several categories: earned, owned, and paid media.
For example, presence on social media and content creation is one of the ways to generate online leads (this is called owned media, whereas interaction on your social platforms counts as earned media). First, evaluate which social media channels are the most suitable for your type of business. Then, build up your profile, and fill it with valuable and interesting content, which will attract new leads basically at no cost. Social media also serves as a double-proof for credibility for prospects that consider buying your product or service.
Another option would be to use targeted paid advertising. It has become extremely easy to set up an online ad. Once you get your ad live, the social platform or Google will immediately assign an algorithm to your content to reach leads based on your goals. Probably one of the easiest and the most popular types of paid advertising at the moment is Pay per Click ads (PPC). They let you run a campaign where you literally pay for the number of clicks.
PPC is also very useful for lead generation because they allow you to target very specific key phrases. For instance, if you sell chocolate cakes with raspberries, you can create an ad that will appear when these words are searched.
Once you do advertising you can take it a step further and retarget as well. Once you know who actually spends time on your website, it becomes easier to retarget them with new visual advertisements for your products. Allowing you to keep them top of mind for a while. This is the reason why when visiting a site you will notice that it feels a bit as if it keeps following you around on the internet for a while.
Of course, there are many other things you can use for lead generation. For example, you can work on email marketing or organise live events and webinars and once you have a customer, why not ask for a reference or some referrals? A happy customer still is your best advocate.
Last but not least, let's not forget about SEO - optimising your website for better visibility and optimising conversion rates to grow leads on site. Search engine optimisation is actually the very first thing to do to increase your website leads.
Marketing vs Sales
Now we are coming to the main question of this article: does lead generation in the end belong to marketing or sales? The answer would be that it really does depend on the definition of qualified leads a company uses, and that in fact marketing and sales managers can (and we think should) be partners and work together on lead generation.
Whereas a sales lead gets to the sales team directly and quickly, usually before that happens marketing lead must become a qualified marketing lead. However, there are some debates that sales should be left out of lead generation, as they only work with the "good" leads provided by marketing that does the main job.
So first, let's figure out what qualified lead means and what's the difference between marketing and sales qualified leads.
Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
MQL is a site visitor that your marketing team considers a potential buyer. Such leads fit your buyer persona but lack a few features to be a good match for your sales department. In other words, they are match all criteria to be your customers but are not yet ready to make a purchase.
If the scoring of a lead on purchasing behavior and overall fit with the firm is good, then this lead becomes qualified and can be passed on to sales.
Sales qualified lead (SQL)
SQL is a sales lead that your sales managers have deemed as worth pursuing. This means that a person is at the end of the consideration phase of the customer journey and at this point would appreciate some sales-oriented support.
So, what's the difference between MQL and SQL?
The main difference is in the purchasing intent. If MQL indicates a good match between a prospect and a company, SQL is ready to make a purchase and maybe just needs a small push from the sales department to do so.
Speaking in terms of customer journey, MQL and SQL can be differentiated by the point on the customer journey map. A marketing lead can be a person who visits your website for the first time and therefore is at the earliest stage of the journey.
A sales lead is a person who comes back to your site. If after visiting your website once and browsing others he returns multiple times to consume more of your content, this person can be considered an SQL.
How a transition of a lead from MQL to SQL happens?
This is probably the hardest part of the process.
First of all, a lead should be correctly categorized which is already a big step closer to success. Create clear definitions for MQL and SQL criteria and do not rush into transitioning your marketing lead to a sales lead!
Secondly, your departments should work together closely and have aligned definitions of whether a lead is ready to qualify for a sales lead. Once your MQL has taken enough actions to qualify as an SQL, the marketing team should transfer all data acquired on that lead to the sales team.
The sales department, in turn, reaches out to this lead and as a result qualifies it (or not) as an SQL.
Both Marketing and Sales are extremely important
Based on our experience at Digital Leap, we reckon that lead generation rightfully belongs to both marketing and sales. Of course, there are nuances and it depends on the size of your firm, but we would not exclude sales from the lead generation race, as you can only achieve the end goal of turning a lead into a customer with the cooperation of two teams.
Furthermore, historically lead generation has been more on the sales side but with the rising impact of digital marketing the latter now takes the largest share of work in generating a lead in the first place.
Marketing does carry the toughest part of the job to help sales be more focused and effective but imagine that marketing is solely responsible for leads. Yes, it would contribute to more qualified leads as well as more focus on conversations and good customer-company fit. However, it would also mean a slower collaboration with sales and less time-effective and efficient results.
On the other hand, sales cannot fully take over lead generation either anymore, because a quality of leads would substantially decrease despite a greater sales force.
So, we recommend sales and marketing teams reconcile here and work out an efficient collaborative approach. Very often, a lead never becomes SQL because it was defined as an MQL too soon. In this case, both teams should look into this problem, and we'll repeat it once again, identify clear criteria for qualifications.