Lead generation is a multi-step process that is crucial to gain new customers and expand your company’s reach. While years ago lead generation was often considered solely the responsibility of the sales department, it has more recently been shown to work best when sales and marketing are working together on it. So what is lead generation today?
What Is Lead Generation?
Basically, it’s the steps taken to identify a potential customer or business aware of your product or services and convert them into a loyal customer. When dealing with sales to businesses over individual customers, it’s referred to as B2B (business to business) lead generation. Think of this all like a sales funnel. This is how you’ll develop your marketing and sales lead generation for your overall lead generation strategy.
The first and largest part of the funnel is awareness. Building awareness is done by casting a wide net through advertising to identify prospective customers using strategies that include traditional and digital advertising. This is part of why marketing is so important to lead generation.
Now that you have prospects, you can start identifying leads. This is where you’ll get more personalized in your communications. An example of this could be digital advertising to lead prospects to receive an e-book or sign up for a mailing list. Now you can continue communications with prospects beyond more passive digital ads and target your products or services that would appeal to groups of prospects with more focus.
Signing up for a newsletter is part of what could move someone from being a prospect to being a marketing-qualified lead, or MQL. These are prospects that marketing have identified as low hanging fruit. This includes high social media engagement, filling out web forms and surveys on your website, signing up for an account on your website, having items in your virtual cart, and other similar activities. Getting prospective customers to find and interact with your website is referred to as inbound lead generation. This is part of how marketing drives lead generation.
Once enough engagement has taken place, those MQLs that satisfy the necessary criteria are handed off to sales as sales-qualified leads, or SQL. These prospects vetted by marketing are reviewed by sales, and if they’re promising, sales will move forward in contacting the prospect. Unlike marketing, which is building awareness of the products or services offered, sales will be reaching out to close those leads and identify sales opportunities.
A sales opportunity is more than just a lead; it’s a customer or account that’s close to making that purchase. To become a sales opportunity, the lead will likely have needed 7 or more points of contact with your business in an 18 month period. That’s the average amount of interactions before prospects move to becoming customers. Depending on how strong the opportunity is, you may have opportunities to upsell or may need to negotiate to move your sales opportunity to being a customer. The sales team’s job isn’t done once you have a customer though. From there work has to be done to maintain brand loyalty with your new customer to have them come back for more of the same products or services, and to find opportunities to cross-sell.
What Is A Warm Lead Vs A Cold Lead?
Not all leads are equal. Marketing helps your prospects become leads through their marketing lead generation as described above. Those leads generated that they can pass on to sales and are vetted would fall under warm, like if they are active on your website and have items in their cart. Marketing will also have data on cold leads. These are leads that haven’t expressed any interest in necessarily buying your products or services, but in this case they may have visited your website and have had low level engagements with your brand.
Depending on your business, cold calling may be an option for you with your cold leads. In fact, 82% of customers surveyed in 2019 said their eventual meeting with a sales rep started from a cold call and over 1 in 4 sales reps say that cold calls are still an effective step in B2B lead generation.
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