What Is Lead Generation?
We have come a long way from listening to the home phone ring every night around 6 PM with a telemarketer trying to nab a sale or get you to sign up for something.
(…and then listening to them on the answering machine with absolutely no motive to pay attention or call back.)
It was like clockwork.
Lead generation has shifted dramatically from those landline days. (Thank goodness.)
Now, lead generation is strategic. We can acquire inbound and outbound leads digitally, and lo and behold… it actually works.
First, let’s talk about leads.
A lead is someone who shows an interest in your product or service in any way, shape, or form.
Leads are typically contacted by an organization after they’ve made some sort of communication or indicated interest in the brand—for example, by submitting personal information in exchange for an offer, free trial or subscription.
They do not become leads by getting a stray cold call, cold email, or DM from a company who purchased their contact information (like those pesky circa-2010 telemarketers).
Your organization can collect people’s information via many different means and then reach out a few days later to follow up on their initial interest.
And thus, a lead is created.
Just like people, snowflakes and eyebrows, no two leads are created equal.
Therefore, they are not all qualified the same way. There are different kinds of leads that result in different kinds of outcomes.
Marketing Qualified Lead
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are contacts who have engaged with your marketing team’s efforts and indicated an interest in your offerings but are not ready to receive a sales call. Basically, an MQL has taken the first steps to become a customer and is primed to receive additional contact from the marketing team.
For example, an MQL could be a contact who fills out a landing page form for an offer, submits their email address to receive a newsletter, adds items to their shopping cart, visits your website often or is spending a lot of time on your site.
Sales Qualified Lead
Sales qualified leads (SQLs) have taken actions that indicate their interest in becoming a paying customer—for example, filling out a form to inquire about your product or service and is ready to become a customer (whereas an MQL still might need some more convincing).
Product Qualified Lead
Product qualified leads (PQLs) have used your product or service and taken actions that show their interest in becoming a paying customer. (🎉)
PQLs typically exist for organizations that offer a free trial or a short/freemium version of their solution. This also may include options to upgrade or continue using the product/service. Once the trial ends, this is where the sale comes in.
An example of a PQL is a customer who uses the trial and then inquires about getting more features or continuing their usage, which is only possible by paying.
PQLs are more likely to become customers than other types of leads.
How To Acquire Leads
Plain and simple: Social media is an attractive place to hunt for leads.
With 3.48 billion social media users in 2020—up 288 million (9%) from the same time in the previous year —I cannot stress enough how many potential MQLs, SQLs and PQLs are out there (!!).
Obviously, not every one of those hundreds of millions of users is in your target audience. Certain platforms are better for reaching certain audiences, and the different platforms can generate leads using different tactics.
Let’s jump into these tactics.
Basic Lead Generation on Social Media
Typically, users will arrive on your site through a social media platform or by a search engine.
The site visitor must provide personal contact information in order to access the content they want to view or download—typically an article or video. Many sites require mobile or home phone numbers, email addresses or other basic info.
Given that approximately 80% of marketing assets are gated, you’ve probably seen gated content before.
The main pro of gated content is pretty clear: It is a straightforward approach to capturing leads. But there are cons as well. If your brand is not well-known and widely trusted, gating all your assets might be a deterrent to users who are looking for quick answers—especially if they land on your page via a Google search.
Bottom line: Do not over-gate your assets.
You definitely shouldn’t gate all your blog content. But if you have a whitepaper, long-form ebook, interactive checklist or other more complex content, then gate away.
Social Network Remarketing
You know when you check out a bicycle on Amazon, or you do a quick Google search for a bike, and then that bike (and bikes in general) seem to follow you around on social media for the next few days?
Well, this is actually just another basic lead generation strategy.
It is simply putting out a sponsored ad on social media to capture your target audience’s attention and hopefully turn them into leads. Organizations all over the world use this tactic to reach more prospective leads who are the main target audience but still have the potential to become customers.
Like, OK bike, I see you, I’ll do some more research and make a purchase decision.
Content-Based Lead Generation on Social Media
Webinars, Live Video Streaming and Hangouts
Video content on social media is seriously taking off. And marketers are well aware that a well-executed webinar, livestream or Hangout/Zoom/Skype is a goldmine for sales leads.
Don’t believe me? Check this out:
- 79% of buyers say they will share information in exchange for webinars
- 73% of B2B marketers and sales leaders say a webinar is the best way to generate high-quality leads
- 44% of marketers have hosted or participated in a webinar and 87% of those marketers found it to be an effective strategy
Before jumping right into hosting a webinar or livestream on a social media platform, you need to learn a few basic insights about your audience first (👇). These are crucial for ensuring that you are attracting an audience with a higher potential of converting to leads.
To attract more sales-ready leads, use the data you know about your ideal buyer to determine:
- Who to invite and advertise to
- The topic and how in-depth your coverage will be
- The length of the webinar or livestream
- Guest speakers, presenters and co-hosts
- Social media platforms you will use to promote the webinar
- The date and time you will hold the webinar or livestream
- Key points to highlight on the registration landing page
The attendees will be required to provide their contact details so you can narrow down strong potential leads afterwards.
On that last point, you can gate the video content after it’s been recorded as well.
During video sessions, you can also link to landing pages, offers or any other channel that can generate leads.
Additionally, you can later open up the video for discussions and provide incentives for attending (free tools, tricks, tips, templates, etc.) while ensuring you connect with those who participated.
Engaging and Selling Socially
If you are not already using Facebook Groups, Reddit or Quora, I have to ask: What the heck?!
These social media platforms are built for sharing information, advice, and asking questions with niche audiences. The more communities you join, the more your target audience will grow.
But you have to approach these groups with caution: Do not just start tossing around links to your website or recommending your gated content. That is a quick way to make a bad impression and lose credibility.
Instead, ask questions, post insightful information, or offer helpful advice without attaching a link right away. This will help you get a better understanding of the group while proving your authenticity.
Once you have built a reputation for yourself (bolstered by things like Karma, post volume and connections), then you can start answering questions with a link at the bottom to further help your audience.
For example, you could provide an answer like this:
“Here are 2 ways to build a new audience base: X and Y. I’ve found that X works best. If you want more information on this, I just posted a blog about it: [URL]. Hope this helps!”
You can also embed a URL in the text of your message (see below).
Realistically, that blog post you attach should not be gated, but there might be a CTA or other type of lead capture method in case the user wants more information.
Other ways to benefit from these groups include holding surveys, inviting members to join a livestream, and asking for feedback about tactics you might be implementing.
Breaking Down The Social Media Platforms
X is one of the largest social media platforms. With so many users, it’s great for events like AMAs (Ask Me Anything) or X Storms. These events allow users to interact with your brand and leave them wanting to learn more.
"What's your Twitter strategy?"
I tweet about the things that are interesting to me (marketing, entrepreneurship, growth & software) and format them in a way that is easy on the eyes.
Oh. And I talk to people.
It's called "social" media for a reason.
— Ross Simmonds (@TheCoolestCool) April 30, 2020
If people have questions, you can link to your blog posts or other related content, where you can use basic lead acquisition strategies to collect their info.
Besides digital events, another incredible method to get in front of a large audience is by getting involved with influencers. Make sure you contact them first, though, because using their social handle in your posts without their permission is 1. uncool and 2. illegal. That can entice them to share or tag on your posts. This is an excellent opportunity for others to follow you through their influence.
Like X, Facebook is a great social media platform to engage in conversations with your target audience—especially using Facebook Groups.
Start by reading the room. Before you post your content all over, you want to engage with group members to get a feel for the audience and the vibe. Then you can craft content to share with them and ignite conversations by asking questions. This will help you build relationships and ultimately generate leads by driving the people to your site.
You can also ask your followers and friends to share your content on their own profiles, where it will reach more people who are likely to be interested in whatever you’re offering.
Since LinkedIn’s main purpose is to connect the business world, it makes sense that this platform is an excellent source for getting leads, especially for B2B companies and marketers.
Many users are on the platform to get knowledge and advice, creating an opportunity for you to step in and provide useful, engaging information that will grow your following. The stronger your following, the more people you can drive to your site and get their contact information.
One great tool for offering insights and collecting leads is SlideShare, LinkedIn’s internal platform for sharing presentations (including video presentations) and infographics. You can embed CTAs in your slide decks while sharing information that your audience will find valuable. Plus, you can link SlideShare to your LinkedIn profile to increase your visibility.
Another effective social media strategy for generating sales leads is to run targeted ads. LinkedIn, in particular, offers several targeting options that allow you to reach your ideal target audience, especially if you’re in the B2B industry. However, don’t skip out on tracking your marketing campaign’s effectiveness. If you’re using Salesforce, Salesforce and Google Analytics integrated data can help you identify the most profitable lead generation source.
When it comes to lead generation, Reddit functions similarly to Facebook Groups: You can target niche audiences by offering advice and information that sends the members to your site.
But Reddit’s a little trickier to navigate. Speaking from experience, not approaching subreddits the right way can be… detrimental.
Use Reddit’s search engine to find subreddits that relate to your brand, and start creating a persona for yourself in the group. As mentioned above, you do NOT want to start throwing links around on day one. Reddit is not as friendly as Facebook—if you walk in like you own the place, you will get trolled and maybe even removed from the group.
Get a feel for the group first by looking through the top posts and reading the comments to understand the voice and personality of the group.
THEN you can start dropping hints to get the members to peep your site to learn more and get their contact information.
Leads = Acquired
Once you have all those leads, it’s time to do some outreach and gain traction. But you have to get there first.
Creating gated content, joining and engaging with groups, lighting up your audience’s feed with conversation storms, and creating video content and webinars are some of the fastest and most effective ways to generate leads. These are lead generation tactics your brand can use—starting TODAY.
By the end of this week, I challenge you to join three Facebook Groups and make ONE post in a subreddit of your choice. (And then let me know so I can upvote it!)
Plus, check out these content distribution strategies to ensure your lead gen content is being viewed by the most people on social media