Lead Generation Marketing

What is Lead Generation in Digital Marketing?

April 27, 2021

It might be an exaggeration to claim that it’s easy to generate marketing leads. But it’s not an exaggeration to say that there is a big difference between volume and quality when it comes to lead generation. Quantity is a good deal easier to drum up than quality, and this is where data-driven marketing strategies and professional B2B lead-generation services prove their worth.

What is lead generation marketing?

Lead generation, as will not be a surprise to anyone trying to pique interest in their products or services, is all about attracting new leads into the marketing and sales funnel and sustaining the interest (qualifying and converting) in target audiences. These target audiences can run the gamut from the completely unknown stranger to the more seasoned prospect. Either way, you develop your marketing efforts to generate leads, and thus, a viable pool of potential customers.

Simple enough. But getting value from the leads you generate is a matter of fine-tuning your lead-generation marketing tactics and processes to drive qualified, and quality leads. Most online businesses, particularly in the complex e-commerce space, have experienced the rush of suddenly receiving a healthy volume of new leads when they launch a campaign, only to be disappointed by the quality of the leads and the lack of effect or movement further down the marketing funnel. Yes, generating any leads is step one. But if you can’t capitalize on or actively, effectively market to the leads you generate, there’s very little point in the lead-generation exercise. 

This is the stage where companies often get stuck — and frustrated. 

Generating value: Qualified leads

When it comes to B2B lead generation strategies, value always comes from quality over quantity. Most companies are aware that they are in the market for the best lead at the best cost. Just as quality leads are not based on quantity, the “best cost” isn’t necessarily the cheapest in the short term, i.e., you want to create long-term customer relationships and loyalty, building a lifetime customer value, meaning that your ROI might play out over a longer period of time. In theory, this is straightforward, but plotting out lead generation in digital marketing efforts, in reality, is a multifaceted, data-forward process. 

When we use the term “best lead”, we’re alluding to a “qualified lead”. Referring back to the example of companies flooded with a lot of irrelevant leads, we have to differentiate a “lead” from a “qualified lead”. What is a qualified lead? It’s basically what we have defined above: you want to find those consumers who are likeliest to become a customer based on information they have provided to you. The criteria you use to identify which leads from among all those you generate are qualified are unique to you and your business. Usually, you will have defined factors that separate the “wheat from the chaff”, or, in other words, those who are likeliest to convert and yield a return on your marketing investment. That is if you start a campaign, and thereafter your pool of leads is narrowed down to only those who have opted in and continued to interact/provide information to you, you have already created one stage. These leads will be minimally qualified (you’d probably call them marketing-qualified leads, or MQLs). But this isn’t really enough information to go on. 

Based on your business, your goals, your products, etc. you will further define what will qualify someone. While it’s tempting to use your experience and intuition to set these qualification criteria, this is where some of your historical data may come in handy, helping you to predict how the MQLs might behave and what they will respond to in trying to move them further down the funnel.  

There’s greater complexity at work in creating qualified leads, but the big picture remains the same: your upfront investment in time and cost might be slightly higher, but it will pay dividends by delivering the right customer, at the right time, for the right product — starting right at the beginning — by helping you separate who is genuinely interested from the cursorily curious. 

Lead generation strategies: Data first

For the vast majority of companies, generating maximum value from lead generation requires a deeper level of expertise in working with quantitative evidence and data analytics than most companies have on hand. In fact, many lead-generation digital marketing efforts are conceived backward. In practice, marketing campaigns are often planned on the fly and led by creativity, and while creativity plays a major role, data is critical at each step in the end-to-end campaign planning, measuring, and optimizing lifecycle. Data needs to be in the driver’s seat… or at least lead navigation.

In much the same way as you set business, marketing, or data analytics strategies, you cannot go wrong in developing a lead-generation strategy along with overarching goals you’d like to achieve. These goals should be accompanied by measurable performance metrics to describe how well (or not) you’ve done. That is, instead of a blanket goal that doesn’t really tell you much about the health of your leads (or the lead-generation effort itself) or of your sales pipeline, you can, and should, go deeper. For example, a generic goal stating that you need to get 250 marketing qualified leads in quarter two is at least quantifiable, but what does it really tell you? You need to know more about where those leads came from, what actions they took, what conversion points they hit in your campaign, what percentage of those leads advanced to become sales qualified leads, etc. Based on this information, you get a decent overview of current lead-gen performance, a window into improvement over past performance, and a barometer for how to optimize your campaign and how.

You cannot do these things without data. Both past data/business intelligence and predictive data can help you drill down into these more granular goals. The benefit of specific goals is that they can also help focus campaign planning and optimize-as-you-go activities because you have a data-driven understanding of what has worked before and with which target groups, which digital or offline platforms, etc. and can predict what is likely to work again (and adjust in real-time to optimize campaign resources and collateral in response to what the data reveals).

Essentially these are some of the building blocks you’d stack when trying to build a view of the complete customer journey or a comprehensive single customer view. These are somewhat more advanced functions of data analytics, but data-driven lead generation is an ideal starting place for homing in on your best leads at the best cost.

Evidence-based lead generation: Optimize lead gen with data 

If you’ve experienced disappointing results in your lead generation marketing, or you’ve found yourself running into dead ends in crafting lead generation ideas, it might be time to explore evidence-based lead generation and professional B2B lead-generation services. In-depth expertise with optimizing lead gen with data may be just the difference you need.

Let us help you understand and fine tune your digital marketing performance better with a comprehensive digital marketing audit, or by taking our data course, “Human-telligence“.